Bill would require trespassing hunters and anglers to pay landowners

By: - February 7, 2023 11:07 am
Inside the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Inside the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

A bill that would require hunters and anglers to pay a landowner for trespassing on their property, in addition to fines already enforced by the state, passed the South Dakota House Ag and Natural Resources Committee on an 8-5 vote Tuesday at the Capitol in Pierre. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Neal Pinnow, R-Lemmon, aims to deter unauthorized hunting and fishing on private land. Any hunter or angler found to be hunting, fishing or trapping on private property would be required to pay $150 for unknowingly doing so, and $500 for knowingly doing so. 

“This at least recognizes something was taken from them and attempts to compensate them for that loss,” Pinnow said of landowners.

Those fines would be atop the fines the state already charges trespassing hunters – anywhere from $100 for a game bird to $10,000 for a trophy elk.

Pinnow said the Department of Game, Fish and Parks told him there are fewer than 75 fines for hunters intentionally trespassing each year in the state. The state does not fine for unintentional trespassing, but a landowner can sue a hunter for doing so.

The bill not only received support from landowners, but also some hunter and angler groups.

With all the GPS mapping technology available, there is no justification for unknowingly trespassing onto private land, according to Paul Lepisto, South Dakota’s conservation coordinator for the Izaak Walton League of America.

“To say you don’t know where you’re at is not a valid excuse anymore,” Lepisto said.

While the bill received no opponent testimony, some committee members expressed concerns.

For example, in South Dakota, a hunter can shoot a pheasant in a ditch alongside private land. If the bird falls onto the private land, the hunter can retrieve it. Rep. Randy Gross, R-Elkton, asked how a hunter with the bird in hand would prove he didn’t shoot it on private land.

“If I understand, this bill presumes they’re guilty,” Gross said.

The bill will now move to the full House for a vote.

Conservation bill passes 13-0

Additionally, a bill that would return any interest earned in the state’s $2.4 million conservation districts fund back to that fund passed 13-0. 

The interest accrued in the fund currently goes to the state’s general fund.

The bill aims to ensure the state conservation districts’ fund remains sustainable and able to support its intended purpose, which is to conserve and protect the state’s natural resources.

There are 68 conservation districts that utilize the fund for habitat restoration and conservation efforts in South Dakota. 




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Joshua Haiar
Joshua Haiar

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.