By Kevin Burbach
FORT PIERRE (AP) — The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission finalized its goose, duck and turkey hunting season rules Thursday, approving changes that allow hunters to kill more than double the number of light geese this season but that reduce the number of licenses for available for fall turkey hunters.
At a meeting in Fort Pierre on Thursday afternoon, commissioners approved the changes of light geese bag limits as part of their effort to curb the exploding population.
Hunters will be allowed to bag 50 light geese a day this season, up from 20. The ideal population of light geese in North America is about 1 million, but there are currently about 15 to 25 million, according to the U.S. and Canadian governments.
About a dozen hunters who provided testimony before the meeting proposed closing the fall turkey season this year to allow the state's declining population to rebound.
"Fall is a good time to close the season on wild turkeys to give the flocks that survive winter a better base to build back to," wrote Mike Kervin, a turkey hunter from Brookings.
But the commission ultimately decided to allow two instead of the existing five licenses per person. The changes also mean the state will offer 205 more one-tag licenses and 650 fewer two-tag licenses for resident hunters on east river hunting areas.
It will offer 750 fewer one-tag licenses for resident hunters and 60 fewer one-tag licenses for nonresident hunters in the Black Hills hunting area.
Turkey season will run Nov. 1 through Jan. 31. That's one month shorter than last year, when it began Oct. 1.
Duck and goose seasons vary by breed and by geographical regions in the state. Both are unchanged from last year.
Commissioners also discussed a petition from Sal Roseland, who runs R&R Pheasant Hunting in Seneca. Roseland is pushing for the commission to remove daily bag limits for pheasants on private hunting preserves in the state and is proposing that any hunters wishing to take more than 20 birds per day on a preserve pay $120 license fee.
Roseland said the money from license fees would go toward helping preserve wildlife habitat in the state.
"We feel this restriction directly impacts how we market our product, and the resulting negative economic impact, when groups choose another state because of the lack of daily bag limits in those states," he said in a petition presented to the commission on Thursday.
After lengthy discussion from the commissioners and several questions about how the process would work, Roseland removed his petition and said he would bring it back to the commission in the future.
This year's trapping and hunting season for bobcats was also finalized Thursday. There were no recommended changes this year from wildlife officials.
The commission will hear a proposal from wildlife officials on mountain lions at its Friday meeting.