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Commission broadens 'youth' definition to cover any new and long-absent hunters

CUSTER -- The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission made a potentially significant change Friday that could help attract more adults to deer hunting.

CUSTER - The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission made a potentially significant change Friday that could help attract more adults to deer hunting.

Commissioners expanded the youth deer season so all first-time hunters of any age can buy antlerless deer licenses.

In the past hunters had to be younger than age 18.

The apprentice season is Sept. 8 through Jan. 1, 2019.

The commission also accepted a recommendation Friday to offer apprentice licenses to hunters who hadn't held a deer license for at least 10 years.

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The 2017 Legislature removed the minimum age of 10 for hunting. An adult mentor must still supervise each youngster.

The commission decided Friday mentors, too, should be allowed to hunt during the apprentice season.

Assuming the Legislature's Rules Review Committee clears the plan June 4, the new regulations should be in place this summer.

Janet Loux of Spearfish asked the commission to consider the apprentice season.

"Newly certified hunters who are eager to hunt deer but are not eligible for a youth tag are forced to wait until the next year, where they must enter the lottery system and hope for the best," Loux wrote in her March 30 petition.

Tom Kirschenmann said the 10-year provision speaks to "the importance of re-activating hunters." He is terrestrial-resources chief for the state Wildlife Division.

"Hopefully that brings them back into the sport of hunting," Kirschenmann said.

Commissioner Cathy Peterson of Salem said it's "good to get people from all times of life" back into hunting "as easy as possible."

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Remarked Commissioner Scott Phillips of New Underwood, "I don't have a problem where we put the number."

Kirschenmann said it's OK to make additional changes to an outside petition.

"The proof of concept would be a year from now," Commissioner Doug Sharp of Watertown said.

Kirschenmann said the Wildlife Division would provide an annual report.

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