Bill would tighten residency rules for hunting licenses

By: - January 16, 2024 4:00 pm
Inside the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

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

A legislative committee in Pierre recommended the adoption of a bill Tuesday that would impose stricter criteria for resident hunting and fishing licenses.

To qualify as a “resident” under existing state law, hunters and anglers must live in South Dakota for at least 90 consecutive days before applying. Additionally, they must not claim residency in another state and are required to have their driver’s license and vehicle registrations in South Dakota.

Resident hunters are prioritized over non-residents in the awarding of some limited big-game licenses. Resident licenses are also less expensive and, for some game species, are awarded in greater numbers.

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The bill would add clarifications and further stipulations. The bill says people would lose their resident status if they apply for a resident license, register to vote or become a resident in another state, or if they reside outside of South Dakota for a total of 180 days in a year.

Plus, the bill would put into statute that possessing a mailing address in South Dakota, owning property or a business, or being employed in the state is not adequate proof of residency.

The bill was introduced at the request of the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. 

“The addition of these statements protects South Dakota sportsmen and women’s ability to obtain highly sought-after tags for elk, bighorn sheep and some of the other limited draw licenses,” said Sam Schelhaas, a law enforcement chief for the department. “And it protects it from nonresidents who are wrongfully claiming South Dakota residency.”

State law includes exceptions for people like resident students studying in another state and federal employees, like military personnel. 

Sen. Jim Mehlhaff, R-Pierre, questioned if the 180 days in a year requirement is too strict.

“How about a retired farmer who has kids back on the homeplace?” Mehlhaff said. “Likes to go back there, but lives in Arizona from October to April?”

Sen. Jim Mehlhaff, R-Pierre, listens to testimony during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Jan. 16, 2024. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)
Sen. Jim Mehlhaff, R-Pierre, listens to testimony during a state Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Jan. 16, 2024. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

“There may be some potential” for those people being left behind, Schelhaas said. But he added that the “intent is to address the individuals trying to fraud the system.” He said the 180-day number was inspired by neighboring states that have similar laws. 

The South Dakota Wildlife Federation, which lobbies on behalf of resident hunters and anglers, supported the bill. 

The bill was unanimously endorsed by the committee and now heads to the full Senate.

 

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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.

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