South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem made good on her promise to expand hunting and fishing access to kids under the age of 18, residents and non-residents alike. Noem signed House Bill 1034 into law last week, which allows people under the age of 18 to hunt, fish or trap without licenses or fees.
“2020 was a tremendous year for youth hunting and fishing in South Dakota, and we’re building on that for the future,” Noem said in a news release. “The goal of this legislation is to get more young people involved in our outdoor way of life at an early age so they continue those experiences long into their adulthood.”
The bill ends the state’s complicated age- and game-based licensing scheme and replaces it with two simple sets of rules for youth fishing and hunting. Now everyone under the age of 18 may fish without licenses or fees, and again, this includes visitors to the state.
Youth hunting is mostly the same. Hunters under the age of 18 will not need a license or pay any fees, however, hunters under the age of 15 will need to participate with a resident mentor, and their mentor must have the appropriate game licenses.
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Mentors include any parents and adults competent with hunting, having completed the appropriate hunters’ education courses. There are some restrictions on how the adults must be licensed and whether or not the child may take some large game, but as a whole, the new rule scheme is much more approachable.
The bill, backed by 34 legislators, passed with a 56-13 vote on the House floor with one abstain. Opponents argued that the loss in licensing fees could cost the state close to $300,000 per year, but proponents of the bill say parents and visitors will spend that much if not more getting out there hunting and fishing.
“Less COVID, more hunting, that’s the plan for the future,” Noem said last year as a way to promote social distancing in the great outdoors.
Prior to House Bill 1034 many youths simply didn’t engage in hunting and fishing, citing the hard-to-navigate licensing scheme.