PIERRE -- The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission is mulling over a proposal that would add non-toxic fluted copper bullets to be used for big game hunting.

The proposal to allow non-toxic fluted copper bullets for big game hunting in South Dakota was discussed during the GF&P Commission meeting on Monday. The proposal was brought in front of the GF&P Commission after a petition that was submitted by Jeremy Silko, of Rapid City, which requested big game hunters to have more options to use non-toxic ammunition.

Tom Kirschenmann, deputy director of the GF&P Division of Wildlife, encouraged the GF&P Commission to consider the proposal, noting it gives big game hunters who use a handgun another alternative for using soft point bullets as ammunition. In South Dakota, big game hunters are permitted to use muzzleloader handguns with soft point and expanding bullets.

“Based on the facts of the physics of it, and the fact that it is another non-toxic alternative for a hunter to use for those who want to take advantage of the opportunity of using a handgun to hunt big game, we believe we should continue on and allow this for additional public comment moving forward,” Kirschenmann said. “We know right now that the ammo that is available is limited to handguns, and they are not available for long guns and rifles,”

Commissioner Robert Whitmyre addressed his concerns with the proposal, which centered around copper fluted bullets not clearly being defined as a qualifying performance pointed bullet used for big game hunting.

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In response, Kirschenmann said the GF&P will evaluate similar regulation changes for copper fluted bullets that other states have approved recently and explore ways of clearly defining the copper fluted bullet as an acceptable form of ammunition for big game hunting.

The Commission will officially decide on approving the addition of non-toxic copper fluted bullets for big game hunting at its upcoming January meeting.

“We just recently obtained all sorts of language that Wyoming used in their administrative rules related to this specific topic as well, and we will review that before we bring this back at the January meeting,” Kirschenmann said. “If there is something that we can further identify and further explain and articulate the language or description of it, we can bring that as a recommended change to your proposal before you consider finalization in March.”

Commission backs aerial hunting application changes

The GF&P Commission backed a rule change for aerial hunting during Monday’s meeting in Pierre, which would make it easier for hunters who use aircrafts.

The proposal -- which was approved -- will not require aerial hunters to submit documentation of their pilot license and medical certifications that’s been part of the aerial hunting application process. Kirschenmann said the proposal will simplify the application process for pilots who are hunting coyotes aerially, which would help the state’s efforts of controlling the coyote population in South Dakota.

“Applicants will still need the certifications, but will not be required to submit copies to GFP,” Kirschenmann said. “As we prioritize efforts for coyote control, this proposal simplifies the process for pilots to file their annual application with the Department to hunt coyotes from the air.”

According to Kirschenmann, the GF&P found that their agency does not have the authority to oversee the pilots certification and medical data that’s currently required by the GF&P.

While the proposal will still ask aerial hunters whether they have a pilot certificate and proper medical data, Kirschenmann said the GF&P will not require the official documents proving their responses.

“We currently ask for their hunting license number, their county’s that they plan to hunt in, but there are two pieces they are required to submit their pilot certificate data and medical data. But in looking at it, we understand the importance of it, but we are not the authority or the entity that has the authority to oversee those particular types of information,” Kirschenmann said.