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Werner Promotes Waterfowl Hunting Privileges for Folks with Family in SD

While we debate why there aren't enough pheasants to shoot, Rep. Dick Werner (R-22/Huron) wants to turn more guns on our ducks. Rep. Werner plans to sponsor legislation that would expand non-residents' ability to get waterfowl licenses. Right now, we distribute non-resident waterfowl licenses by lottery. Werner would like to exempt from the lottery non-residents who have family in South Dakota. If you live in Minneapolis, but your dad lives in Waubay and wants to take you duck hunting, Werner wants to let Dad buy a resident license, then "sponsor" you to buy a non-resident license straight-up, guaranteed.

Werner hasn't floated his draft legislation yet, but he'll need to explain how far "family" would extend. Include siblings, cousins, grandkids, in-laws, and so forth, and one great-grandpa in Hurley could help dozens of non-residents with his DNA jump the waterfowl lottery queue. Stick with Marty Jackley's definition of family, and these privileged "Come Home to Hunt" waterfowl licenses would be limited to parents and children.

Determining the potential number of added hunters is important to determining the ecological wisdom of Rep. Werner's expansion of non-resident waterfowl licenses. Rep. Werner appears to want to increase our exploitation of a natural resource, but he has yet to make the case that there is more of this resource to exploit.

Rep. Werner's legislative neighbor Rep. Charlie Hoffman (R-23/Eureka) has expressed support for Werner's plan and invited discussion thereof on his Facebook page (participation points for Charlie!). He's drawn ayes and nays from constituents. Retired GF&P and National Park Service official John Wrede of Brookings expresses his diametrical opposition to any plan that...

  1. promotes recreational opportunity over conservation;
  2. considers non-resident opportunity over resident
  3. further privatizes a natural resource that belongs to everyone,
  4. increases commercialization of natural resources for personal gain, and
  5. fails miserably to follow the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and bares no resemblance to honest resource stewardship and protection for which government is duty bound [John Wrede, Facebook comment to Rep. Charlie Hoffman, 2013.12.22].

Wrede says that ducks don't cause farm depradation, numerous wildlife populations are in sharp decline, and handing out more non-resident licenses would only make worse a wildlife situation already damaged by a long trend of prioritizing the commercialization of public resources and the interests of the landed gentry (yes, Wrede says "landed gentry").

Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) responds by calling GF&P and conservationists "control freaks" and imputes to Wrede membership in fascist organizations (yes, Rep. May says "fascist").

Wrede recommends Reps. Werner and Hoffman and the rest of us review State v. Kemp, a 1950 ruling by the South Dakota Supreme Court on whether the state could outlaw all nonresident hunting of migratory waterfowl (the Legislature did that in 1949). The Court held that the state has "considerable leeway in analyzing local evils and in prescribing appropriate cures." The Court then called non-resident hunters evil (yes, they said "evil"):

The local evil in South Dakota was apparent. Thousands of nonresident hunters, lured to South Dakota by an abundance of pheasants, were putting in their idle hours, and their time after getting their limit of pheasants, hunting ducks and geese. There was real danger that natural flyways and breeding ground and nursery for ducks and geese would be subject to excessive hunting and possible destruction. From experience we know that there would be no such influx of hunters except for the pheasant. Obviously the local resident who had his business or profession to occupy him was in entirely a different class from the nonresident hunter who was in South Dakota for the single purpose of hunting. The extent of duck or goose shooting by the resident was not increased or diminished to any appreciable extent by the excellent pheasant hunting. He was at home occupied with his daily tasks, hunting when he wished, but not shooting ducks or geese simply to occupy time that otherwise was not occupied. It is also a fact, too well known in South Dakota, that many nonresident hunters, not all, who have made the trip to this state perhaps at considerable expense are not satisfied unless they get their limit of everything the law allows. We conclude, therefore, that nonresidents constitute a peculiar source of evil at which the statute was aimed. Whether the legislature could prescribe some other cure to meet the evil, to many is not an open question, but be that as it may, if there is to be any leeway left in the state to prescribe an appropriate cure we must conclude that the cure prescribed is appropriate and reasonable [Justice Herbert B. Rudolph, State v. Kemp, No. 9168, 44 N.W.2d 214 (1950), Supreme Court of South Dakota].

We've moderated that 1949 ban to permit a limited number of non-resident hunters to exploit our resources. But we maintain that limit to prevent the "excessive hunting and possible destruction" of waterfowl populations foreseen by the 1950 Court. To make the case for his bill, Rep. Werner will need to go beyond the economic justifications about bringing more hunters and dollars to the state. He'll need to show that increased non-resident hunting is a sustainable activity that promotes conservation.


  1. interested party 2013.12.28

    Republicans begetting new Republicans: animal husbandry meets Big Love.

  2. John 2013.12.28

    This is not the nation the founder's created - rather, it is becoming the nation the Tories championed, or more precisely, a nation reinstating the feudal laws of yore. A nation with inheritances into perpetuity; a nation with blood-line "rights" to hunt on the property of the lords of the land; a nation that can effective shut out the commoners access to game and fowl.

    Werner's proposals are a preposterous throw-back to the gentrified laws of privilege and should never emerge from committee hearings.

  3. Rorschach 2013.12.28

    Reminds me of a bouncer at a ritzy club who lets in those special people while others wait in the rope line. Should government now tell out-of-staters who actually want to come here that they are unwelcome because they don't have relatives here? If Werner gets his foot in the door with ducks, pheasants are next.

  4. Les 2013.12.28

    More than likely most taking offense at non resident "Federal Waterfowl" licensing in SD think it is just fine an unlimited number of resident and non residents drive the gravel off our locally funded township roads hunting our locally raised pheasants to the last one.
    What part of "Federal Waterfowl" is not understood in SD?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.29

    John, have our Republican legislators been watching too much Downton Abbey?

  6. Les 2013.12.29

    It sounds like John believes it is his right to hunt over my land and fish over any public access to my flooded land I still pay taxes on. Whoopee, speaking of laws of gentrified privilege.

  7. Mark 2013.12.29

    This legislation is peanuts compared to the brawl that is coming with the meandering water rights legislation that is brewing.

  8. Charlie Hoffman 2013.12.29

    Great posting CAH. We already know that the SD Wildlife Federation will be against this piece of legislation and I respect their objection. I believe though that their using the sky is falling if we allow any more waterfowl hunters will not work for the exact opposite scientificly driven data. Resident duck hunters are disappearing and ducks are thriving along with every other waterfowl species. Pheasant hunter numbers will continue falling for a number of years causing budgetary problems for the GF&P. That shortfall will not be allowed to be put on the backs of resident hunters while we see much of SD's water not hunted over. The SD Legislature has historically been very opposed to adding general fund monies to the GF&P budget so the fix becomes quite evident. Either services will get cut, the Legislature will loosen its purse strings, or another revenue source will be found.
    M R Ducks OSAR........

  9. Rick 2013.12.29

    The characterization of the SDWF's position as 'the sky is falling' is false and insulting to its membership, who are resident anglers and hunters. History is on the SDWF's side. Landowners and businesses locked out resident hunters from key waterfowl hunting spots in northeastern South Dakota until the ban was implemented in the 50s. A worker in Webster couldn't hunt ducks within a half-hour of his home because all the productive hunting spots were tied up by so-called "hunting clubs." I've talked with a lot of old timers who remember those days and I hope some of them are still alive and could give the legislature a valuable history lesson.

    You can't compare pheasant hunting with duck hunting. Duck hunting depends on access to key flight paths between open water and fields where they find food. Pheasants live their entire lives within one mile of where they were hatched (or released). It doesn't take much to tie up duck hunting passes to reserve them for the rich.

    Hyper-intensive farming incentivized by high corn prices (ethanol) and the failure of CRP to keep acres idled is a major reason why South Dakota took a 80 percent drop in the pheasant population. A rough winter and a cold, wet spring which ruined clutches of hatchlings made survivability much worse. Between farming expansion and bad weather, we killed off a booming pheasant population in just one year.

    I do respect Charlie and commend him for sticking up for his legislation here, but I must strongly disagree about rushing to a solution to the pheasant downfall (state revenue problem) by opening the door to ruining resident South Dakotans' access to waterfowl hunting. Don't sell us out.

    Fix the pheasant population problem by fixing the lack of nesting and roosting habitat for upland game birds. It will cost money, but the entire public will benefit, including the wealthy hunters from 1,000 miles away. Tie up key waterfowl hunting spots for pay-to-hunt operations and it will take years to get back the public's access.

    The SDWF is the public hunters' lobby. Our state already gives a lot money to wealthy corporations, and we still have the lowest average paychecks. The Governor showers them and the VIPs with gifts at the state pheasant hunts every year, which excludes everyday public hunters. I think that's enough charity for the rich.

    South Dakota's outdoor heritage will be ruined for generations if they put resident waterfowl hunting access on the auction block.

  10. Gduffy 2013.12.29

    Rick, please give me the documentation for the 85% drop in pheasant number. The information I got at the pheasant summit is we had a high of 10,500,000 in numbers less than 5 years ago down to 7,500,000 in 2012.

    If GFP had any number more recent than that they sure did not share them at the summit!

  11. Les 2013.12.29

    Your NE South Dakota problem of the 50's is known and continues controlling access by non residents statewide Rick.
    The facts you state on duck and pheasant leave out the fact that ducks nest statewide from my alfalfa to Oneidas winter wheat.
    Our children can come home and hunt pheasant for two weeks but they are not guaranteed any similar ability to hunt federal ducks you and the SDWF lay claim to. Our legis has tried to implement a few different options to repair this that would hardly destroy local access but has been fought by SDWF. South Dakota is one if not the only state in the plains with this limiting of non resident licensing.
    You tell us how to fix the pheasant problems, how about telling us what you are doing($50 DU membership aint it) to enhance the duck population and address the problems with the duck population. On a late October trip across I-90, I counted 2 ducks going and a half dozen coming back.
    Duck survival(hunting) "depends" on alfalfa and wheat farmers to keep your(our) duck populations up. Row crops won't do it and they didn't just knock out pheasant. SDWF should try and understand the landowner relationships necessary for them and us to survive in the coming corporatizing of our ag industry.
    Don't sell out the landowners relationship statewide because of a small area that was tied up for most likely a Mpls hunters club.

  12. Rick 2013.12.29

    Gduffy - Like you, I heard the summer pheasant count the GF&P does each year reported a 65 percent drop. In early November, I heard a news report on the radio (I think it was S.D. Public Radio) that the numbers were revised to show a lower estimate, and it cited regional numbers ranging from 75 to 90 percent drops. Of course, this is not the same as the official estimate from the state government agency. Anecdotally, I will tell you that as a pheasant hunter who each year hunts in the northeast and central parts of the state, the decrease was astounding. In areas around Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge where last year I saw pheasants as commonly as songbirds, I saw no roosters. I heard one in the distance, but zero seen. Around Selby, I saw two roosters in late October in a field where they were teeming only a year ago. The Pierre to Chamberlain area was equally as bleak.

    I'm a lifelong pheasant hunter and I've read an awful lot about habitat, their history in South Dakota and their reproduction issues. Between the massive loss of habitat and last spring's weather, we had a perfect storm for a massive loss. Charlie is correct about rebuilding the population against farming practices that maximizes every square foot for raising corn. My point is you better get used to a pathetically low number of pheasants or you better make really big investments in repairing habitat.

  13. grudznick 2013.12.29

    Mr. Rick is correct. It will take a big bite out of the arses and egos of a lot of "landowners" to fix this pheasant problem and we will need to pull the welfare for farmers at the same time to fix the budget.

    Mexican statehood for the tribes is step #1, that frees up a bunch of money to ween these millionaire farmers off their welfare too.

  14. Gduffy 2013.12.29

    Rick, I like you saw very few pheasants, what I did kick up during corn harvest were some broods that were only half grown. I am sure they will not make it!

    However after harvest was complete, I saw several roosters(5 per mile) but no hens!

    I still say if individual pheasant hunters are so concerned about habitat, they are more than welcome to buy some of the ground that is for sale and they can create as much as they wish on their OWN ground!

  15. grudznick 2013.12.29

    Mr. Gduffy, not a lot of federal welfare for you then?

  16. Les 2013.12.29

    Gduff@''I still say if individual pheasant hunters are so concerned about habitat, they are more than welcome to buy some of the ground that is for sale and they can create as much as they wish on their OWN ground!""
    What about those darn ducks I help create on my ground that my non resident kids can't even buy a license for Gduff? 5 roos per mile is no disaster. Not seeing many hens for sure but that doesn't always tell the whole story either.
    SDWF needs to listen to you Gduff, maybe if more of the locals they are protecting were involved with my(our?) habitat projects this fear of locals losing their hunting ground would dissipate. I'm all for everyone having a place to hunt and offer it to many but just popping for a license doesn't entitle you to a perfect place to hunt.
    A 60 year old solution for a couple of counties justifies a state response?

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