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Commission sets waterfowl seasons

PIERRE — South Dakota's Game, Fish & Parks Commission agreed Thursday duck hunters should get to take two pintails per day rather than one and the duck season should start two weeks later than past years for six southern counties along the Missouri River.

The commissioners also moved Lawrence County into unit two for the main season of goose hunting. But they kept neighboring Meade County in unit one.

People who hunt in Meade County told commissioner Scott Phillips, of New Underwood, they feared cold weather could cost opportunities.

"I think it makes sense and the worry of freeze-up is legitimate," commissioner Doug Sharp, of Watertown, said.

As for moving the start of duck hunting to the fourth Saturday of October for the Low Plains South zone, the change was a victory for Kit McCahren, of Pierre.

McCahren testified at the public hearing Thursday that his preference would be an opening day as late as possible, but he would accept the first Saturday in November.

Last year the opener was the second Saturday of October. The commission originally proposed moving it to the third Saturday of October for this year.

The Low Plains South Zone covers much of Gregory and Charles Mix counties as the Missouri River flows south, then a relatively narrow strip of Union, Clay, Yankton and Bon Homme counties as the river turns east and separates South Dakota from Nebraska.

McCahren told commissioners that if ducks arrive earlier, they could "live in peace" until the season opened.

"They don't hit that big water until very late in the year," he said.

He also suggested opening day could coincide with the start of the dark goose season.

Sharp said the first Saturday of November in 2020 would be Nov. 7, late enough for a serious freeze to happen. "That would be my concern," Sharp said.

Commissioner Gary Jensen, of Rapid City, offered the fourth Saturday of October as a compromise that found unanimous support.