President’s message – George Vandel, Pierre
January 2022

At the January Commission meeting and based on a petition submitted by the Migratory Bird Association (a group of landowners and fee hunters in the Pierre area) the Commission proposed greatly expanding an existing Missouri River Waterfowl Refuge from Peoria Flats down river all the way to the end of Farm Island.  The new refuge above Oahe Dam would be a take line refuge (eliminating all waterfowl hunting on adjoining public land and water) the area downstream would be a waterline refuge.  It would close the entire area to waterfowl hunters (both boat and pass-shooters) in the blind hope it would creating more opportunity for pass shooters?  Note there will be a significant decline in public areas to hunt as there is no corresponding increase in new areas open to public hunting.

On a personal note, it would eliminate some great late season duck and goose hunting areas that I have enjoyed for 40 years.  Areas that I taught my sons and grandsons to hunt waterfowl.
I would be interested in your opinions on this refuge.  Unless I her some substantial blow back from our members, I intend to testify in opposition to the refuge on behalf of SDWA.  Please let me know if you support creating a new refuge.

Based on discussions with GFP staff some changes to nonresident waterfowl licenses are likely to be proposed at the March 2022 GFP Commission meeting in Pierre.  GFP indicated their desire to “simplify” the units for the nonresident 3-day permits.  No details as of now but it’s likely to involve the elimination of unit boundaries, or most unit boundaries for the 3-day permits.  At present some of the units don’t sell out leaving unsold licenses.  By removing unit boundaries, it would allow all the 2,000 3-day permits to be sold.

The GFP Commission and GFP staff are also considering using their legislated authority to “annually increase the 10-day (two 5-day) nonresident permits by 5% per year”.  For example, they can by rule increase the 10-day permits by 5% or 100 permits.  It’s a small increase but if they increase the permits by 5% every year for the next 10 years the increase will be substantial.

One reason you haven’t received much information from me for a while is I have been waiting for GFP to provide a “final” draft of their waterfowl access plan.  As of this writing, and despite numerous verbal requests, I have yet to receive a “final” plan.  GFP created about 20 access sites last year and another 20 or so sites this year.   Despite my numerous requests GFP has yet to publish any information on specifically where these sites are.  Nothing has been done to inform duck hunters about where this additional access is located.  It’s frustrating.  I will give GFP credit in that they have developed and have publicized additional Walk In Access sites, mainly in the northeast, for field hunting waterfowl, especially goose hunting.  I hope some of you have found and used these areas.

One thing we can all do is to be looking for more access sites, especially those involving US Fish and Wildlife Service WPAs.  If you know of an area that could be modified with a gate and a mowed trail to provide access to some huntable water, please let GFP know.

I’m not aware of any potential legislation for the 2022 session but am certain some unpleasant conservation legislation will be introduced.  It happens every year.

I have registered as a 2022 lobbyist for SDWA and with hopefully a reduction in COVID danger, be more willing to actively lobby.  I am fully vaccinated and am so far in good health.

Finally, I am looking to hand over the duties as SDWA President to someone else.  I don’t feel that I have the energy and ambition to give this job its due anymore and will no longer serve as President in 2022.  It’s time for new leadership and for SDWA to rejuvenate the Board and grow the membership.

Hope you are all healthy and found time to waterfowl hunt this fall.

Just a final note: I shot more ducks this year than pheasants!  That has not happened to me since the late 1970’s!  Pheasant numbers, at least birds on public land in Central SD is exceptionally poor.  I’m guessing bird numbers are down by about 80% this year.

Our main issues 1) expanding and increasing quality waterfowl hunting access opportunities in South Dakota 2) maintaining quality waterfowl hunting in our state by balancing nonresident waterfowl hunter numbers such that they do not create undue conflicts with resident waterfowl hunters and 3) to ensure that commercialization of waterfowl hunting in South Dakota remains low.

Board: John Simpson – Pierre, Spencer Vaa – Brookings, Tom Yseth – Brookings and Bill Koupal – Pierre.  Bobby Cox will serve as Secretary Treasurer and Chuck Dieter will serve as Past-president.