SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Some hunters are giving a tentative thumbs up to a proposal to let South Dakota hunters have a head start on pheasant season.
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission is gathering input on a plan to let state residents hunt pheasants on public property for three days before the regular season opens in October.
Commissioners discussed the idea Tuesday and are expected to make a decision Sept. 14.
The change is needed to boost hunting among state residents, said Lee McManus, a hunter from Sioux Falls.
"I'd like to think this isn't just a token," he said. "I hope it's a sign that the commission is finally listening to the sportsmen of this state. We need to do something to get more resident hunters back in the field. This is a start."
A petition drive started last spring by Rapid City hunter Larry Werdin may be at the root of the latest proposal, McManus said. Werdin wants to ban nonresident hunters from public shooting areas during the opening weekend of pheasant season.
Supporters of that idea hope to have the issue on the 2002 ballot.
The growing number of nonresident hunters has angered some in the state who say they are hard pressed to find free hunting spots. Many landowners charge fees to let hunters try their hand.
Dean Strand of Mitchell is not so enthusiastic about the idea. Strand, who runs a hunting preserve, said commissioners should vote the proposal down.
"It's just to pacify some crybabies that are crybabying," he said. "Next year, they'll have something else to crybaby about."
Bob Frakes, a Luverne, Minn., hunter, said he understands South Dakota hunters' frustration and does not object to the early season exclusively for residents.
"I can really feel for the people who live out there," Frakes said. "I know a lot of the land has been taken over by all the commercialization. I think the commission's proposal is a great idea."
Kathye Miller, who runs a private hunting preserve near Plankinton with her husband, Mike, said she, too, does not mind the early season. It might make things safer on the first day of the regular season by alleviating the crush of hunters, she said.
"We don't have a problem with it at all," Miller said.
Wayne Haines, who runs a hunting preserve north of White Lake, said the state should be careful not to send the wrong message to nonresidents.
"I host a lot of hunters from out of state, and we need to make sure they feel welcome," Haines said.
The three-day early season would be Oct. 14-16. The measure would merge the existing early opener for hunters who are 12 through 15 years old with a special season for resident adults. Both youngsters and adults could hunt pheasants early on public lands and on adjacent rights of way.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.