In what can be characterized as an attack on nonresident deer hunters, the organization South Dakota Bowhunters, Inc. (SDBI) has petitioned the South Dakota Dept of Game, Fish and Parks to limit the number of nonresidents and increase tag fees to discourage nonresident hunters. The specific proposals are as follows:
1. “Eliminate Non-Resident (NR) Unlimited Archery permits. Cap the NR archery permits at 8% of the resident archers. In 2015 23,507 archery tags were sold to residents, 3,180 sold to non residents. By limiting to 8% it would drop the tags to 1,880 tags for nonresidents. Also, implement a point system with a nominal point fee. Other states charge $30-$50 for a deer point. This is primarily geared to assist resident bowhunters who are often outnumbered on our public lands during archery seasons. We continue to get reports from areas in eastern SD, along the Missouri River corridor and on public lands like the Custer National Forest about non-resident bowhunting pressure and it’s significance to the quality of experience resident bowhunters reap. With growing media attention from outdoor media and television featuring SD and a burgeoning ‘outfitting’ industry our great state is seeing a significant increase in NR bowhunting pressure. It’s widely known by traveling NR’s that if they don’t draw in another western state that they can simply drive to SD and pick up a deer or even antelope combination hunt on short notice. This has a significant negative impact on SD Bowhunters in many areas of our state.”
I will address each of these issues separately. First of all, they are correct in assuming that the number of nonresident hunters is growing anywhere good whitetail deer hunting is found. Bowhunters, especially, are mobile and many have the money and the time to travel and hunt new areas. The rise in outdoor TV over the past 20 years has shown many hunters in states with poor quality deer hunting that there are greener pastures. South Dakota has been mostly insulated from this, as states like Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri get a lot more air time. Most states have welcomed the nonresident hunters because of the significant tourism dollars they bring to the states. Some even actively promote these nonresident hunting opportunities because of the influx of money brought into the states. The small increase in nonresident hunters in South Dakota is a fraction of what is seen in many other states that are known as “destination” states for deer hunters. What South Dakota hunters see as high pressure is nothing compared to what hunters see on public lands in Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. If you want to see hunting pressure, visit the public lands in those states during the first three weeks of November. It will make South Dakota look deserted by comparison. Adding a drawing and a point system might actually increase pressure in the more desirable areas. The statement that the pressure is great along the Missouri river corridor is true because that’s some of the highest population areas and where most resident hunters also hunt. The average direct economic impact of a nonresident hunter is about $1,500, plus there is an indirect impact through jobs. With 3,180 nonresident deer hunters, that’s a direct economic impact of $4.77 million per year.