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The Game Fish and Parks Department, on Friday Jan. 11, proposed an entirely new change to how deer hunting licenses are allocated to hunters.

The new proposal would ask hunter to pick two out of the seven deer hunting licenses that allow the use of guns to apply for in the first license drawing. Hunters could get two licenses through the second drawing. Nonresident hunters would still be eligible for a number equal to 8 percent of resident licenses in West River, Black Hills and federal wildlife refuge hunting units during the first drawing.

“It’s a good first step and it reflects, among other things, our willingness to listen and compromise with out customers which are the hunters,” said GFP Commission Chair Gary Jensen.

The seven license types hunters would have to pick from are East River, West River, Custer State Park, Black Hills, Refuge, muzzleloader and special buck. Special buck is only good on private land. The change would give hunters the chance to draw two licenses in the first draw, which eliminates one of the biggest complaints hunters have voiced about GFP efforts to change the deer license drawing structure. That complaint centered on losing the opportunity to hunt in both the East and West River seasons in a given year.

A hunter who didn’t draw two licenses in the first drawing would be able to apply for one license in the drawing for leftover licenses — the second draw. In the third draw hunters who were successful in the first and second drawing could apply for one license in a season they don’t already have a license in. Then, in the fourth draw, resident hunters could apply for up to five more deer hunting licenses. In the event of a fifth drawing licenses would be sold on a first come-first served basis to both residents and nonresidents.

The new proposal also allows hunters to use preference points for their first and second choices in the first drawing. Preference points also still will be accumulated separately for each of the seven license types. So, if a hunter draws a West River any deer tag on the first draw, they’ll keep all their points for the East River, Black Hills, refuge, Custer State Park and muzzleloader seasons.

Hunters under the age of 15 during the calendar year will get preference points for free that year. The fee normally is $5. First-time applicants under the age of 15 during the calendar year of the application, will get one bonus point, under the new proposal.

The new proposal likely would lead to 1,000 more individual hunters taking the field, said Kevin Robling GFP special projects coordinator. What he means by that is there will be 1,000 more individual hunters who have at least one license because there will be fewer hunters who have buck licenses for two, three or more seasons. That's down from projections of up to 3,500 more individuals in the field as a result of earlier, now defunct, proposals.

“The Commission is listening and they want to compromise,” Robling said.

Robling said this latest proposal is based on a compromise devised by Wayne Lloyd, a South Dakota deer hunter who has amassed a large following of hunters on social media.

Because the proposal is new it must go through the whole rulemaking process. That means it will be open for public comments until the next GFP Commission meeting. At that meeting, the proposal will get a public hearing and the Commission will vote on whether to make the rule change. If the Commission votes for the change it then will go before the state legislature's Interim Rules Review Committee for a review and final approval. That meeting likely will take place some time in late March or early April.

If the IRRC approves the changes, they’ll go into effect for the 2019 hunting season.

INFO BOX

TIMELINE of proposed deer licensing changes

June 2018: GFP Commission adopts first proposal

Sept. 2018: First public hearing on proposal, proposal amended

Oct. 2018: Second public hearing on proposal, GFP Commission passes proposal

Nov. 2018: Legislative Interim Rules Review Committee sends proposal back to Commission

Dec. 2018: GFP Commission amends proposal again, plans vote in Jan. 2019

Jan. 2019: GFP Commission scraps Dec. proposal, adopts current proposal schedules, public hearing, vote for Feb. 28, 2019

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