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Legislatures divided again about waterfowl hunting for non-residents

PIERRE — By the barest margin, the state House of Representatives last week gave its approval to legislation that would allow more special duck hunting licenses for a special group of non-residents.

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To be eligible, they must have been born in South Dakota or previously lived and hunted in South Dakota.

Further, they would have to be sponsored for the special licenses by close family members who still make their homes in South Dakota, and they would have to hunt with those family members.

The family connection would need to be as a mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, grandparent, grandchild, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law or mother-in-law.

House members voted 36-32 in favor. The 36 yes votes are the bare minimum for a bill to pass in the 70-member House. The Senate takes up the measure next.

But because Gov. Dennis Daugaard opposes the bill, as shown by the work of Game, Fish and Parks Department personnel lobbying to defeat it, the bill might be already dead.

Overcoming a governor's veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, and the 36 yes votes in the House is far short of that threshold.

The legislation, HB 1185, now moves to the Senate where the fight promises to be just as intense and difficult for both sides.

The bill's prime sponsor is Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron. He describes the legislation's purpose as an avenue to bring more former South Dakotans back to enjoy hunting and help the economy.

State law already provides for up to 4,000 non-resident licenses for waterfowl to be distributed through a drawing.

Another amendment was added during the House debate to add two more safeguards. One would limit a hunter to one of the special licenses per season. The special licenses would be good for two five-day periods of hunting.

GFP's final sales report showed 31,105 migratory bird stamps were sold to South Dakota residents for waterfowl hunting in 2013, a slight gain over the 2012 total of 30,607.

For comparison, pheasant hunting is much more popular. About 86,000 licenses for hunting small game including pheasants were sold to South Dakota in 2013, while non-residents bought about 79,000 small-game licenses and about 11,000 shooting preserve licenses.