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After previous two proposals killed, commissioners take third shot at deer licensing overhaul

A mule deer buck (not the one pictured) has initially tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Unit 3A1 of northwest North Dakota. If confirmed as expected, the finding will mark the first case of CWD outside Unit 3F2 of southwest North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department says. Ty Stockton, / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

PIERRE, S.D. -- After two unsuccessful attempts, state commissioners are taking yet another shot at making over the state's deer hunting licensing system.

The state Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission met in Pierre this week to discuss a third proposal after receiving public backlash on their initial proposals.

The commission is now proposing a system where hunters could apply to two of the state's six deer seasons -- East River/Special Buck, West River/Special Buck, Black Hills, Muzzleloader, Refuge and Custer State Park -- in the first draw. Only eight percent of the first draw licenses would be allocated to nonresident hunters for the West River, Black Hills and Refuge seasons.

In the second draw, hunters who have only drawn one license so far could apply for a season that they did not already draw. In the third, hunters could apply for each season for which they have not already drawn a license, and on the fourth draw, resident hunters could submit up to five applications. After the fourth draw, the remaining licenses would be distributed to residents and nonresidents on a first-come, first-serve basis.

There would be no limit to the number of licenses a hunter could ultimately get under the new proposal.

The commission's two initial proposals restricted applicants in the first and second drawings to submit one application for their preferred season of the state's most popular. The legislature's Rules Review Committee in November rejected the first proposal, and the commission in December amended it to add incentives for young hunters, which remain in the third proposal.

Even after the amendments, though, the commission continued to receive negative feedback. Commissioner Russell Olson of Madison said in a news release following this week's meeting that the latest proposal is a compromise with those who want to hunt both East and West River in the same year.

Public comment on the latest proposal is open until the commission's next meeting on Feb. 28, where attendees will also be able to comment in-person. The commission is set to vote on the latest proposal either on Feb. 28 or the following day, March 1.