State panel leaves S.D. rules unchanged on muzzleloader scopes and trap-check frequency

Capitol News Bureau
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CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (KELO) — In the end, the story was much ado about seemingly not so much. Unless, that is, you’re one of the people affected.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission considered Thursday making changes to two sets of rules.

In the end, commissioners decided to leave both alone.

Both came from citizens’ petitions.

Nancy Hilding of Black Hawk wanted a half-dozen changes to South Dakota’s rules for people licensed to trap animals to sell the furs.

Hilding most wanted to require trappers to check their routes every 24 hours. She didn’t get her way — far from it.

Currently there are three rules about frequency of trap checks.

Trappers operating east of the Missouri River have to check every two-plus days, while west of the river the maximum time is three-plus days.

And people using submerged traps have to check every five-plus days.

Naturally several people on her side spoke in support, while leaders of South Dakota’s two major trapping organizations testified against.

Hilding, executive director for the Prairie Hills chapter of the National Audubon Society, lost in a meeting where nearly all in the audience were men, many of whom seemed to clearly like to kill animals and fish.

Then there was the state Wildlife Division, whose officials counter-proposed switching out eastern South Dakota’s two-plus days and making West River’s three-plus days the statewide rule.

The commission had made short work of Hilding’s proposals. They then considered what the division had put forward in an attempt to use the moment to get more freedom for trappers.

Keith Fish, who coordinates the division’s program for animal-damage control, said going to three-plus days statewide wasn’t as bad as critics portrayed it.

“If this was to move forward, not everybody is going to set a trap and not check it for three days,” Fisk said.

Commissioner Travis Bies of Fairburn said he liked consistency but wondered what was wrong with the east-west split. Bies eventually asked why the division didn’t recommend applying East River’s two-plus days standard statewide instead.

Fisk said the shorter time would take away opportunity for trappers accustomed to three-plus days in the west.

Commissioner Doug Sharp of Watertown came at the questiion another way. Sharp said he hasn’t heard hunters from either side of South Dakota complaining about the rules as they currently stood.

“It’s working in eastern South Dakota. It’s working in western South Dakota,” Sharp said. “It doesn’t hurt to change, but change isn’t always necessary.”

Sharp said he recently went on a route with a trapper in western South Dakota and discovered how much time it can take to get through terrain.

Commissioner Scott Phillips of New Underwood called for denying the division’s proposed change, acknowledging it would leave the rules where they already were.

Commission chairman Gary Jensen of Rapid City finished the job with one question: “This is a department proposal, not a trapper proposal, right?”

The question about the magnification power allowed for a telescopic sight on a muzzle-loader used during the muzzle-loader season for deer took an odd turn too.

A man didn’t like South Dakota’s current restriction that prohibits telescopic sights during seasons restricted to muzzle-loading firearms. He petitioned the commissioners, asking them to allow magnification of 1-4X or 1-6X (1-4 or 1-6 refers to the range of magnification; X refers to the multiplication sign).

The commission heard that muzzle-loading firearms can be used, with scopes, during other firearm seasons for deer, and that even archery equipment could be used during those seasons.

The muzzle-loader season for deer is one of the last of the year, coming after the normal firearms seasons and after the rut period when deer look to mate, and often after wintery weather has set in.

“It’s probably not a season for the wimps,” commissioner Jon Locken of Bath said, drawing laughs.

Commissioner Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton said she spoke to some of her area’s hunters who use muzzleloaders. “Their consensus is, leave it alone,” Boyd said.

Commissioner Sharp — one of four wearing glasses among the seven at the table — said technology has improved since muzzleloader seasons took hold in South Dakota some 30 years ago.

Tom Kirschenmann, the division’s deputy director, suggested the commission just eliminate the ban altogether and let hunters choose whether to keep open sights or put a telescopic scope on their firearms.

His idea failed. Voting for it were Sharp, Bies and Locken. Voting against were Boyd, Phillips, Robert Whitmyre of Webster and Jensen.

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