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The South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre.

Journal file

PIERRE | A proposal to remove the minimum age altogether, so parents or guardians could decide when their children are mature enough to hunt game in South Dakota under close supervision by an adult, has made it through one chamber of the Legislature.

SB 137 would eliminate the current minimum of 10 years for mentored hunting in South Dakota. Sen. Jason Frerichs had the Senate floor to himself Monday afternoon to talk about his plan. No one spoke against him and senators agreed to the idea 30-4.

Frerichs, D-Wilmot, explained the concept came from talking with Lowell Lundstrum Jr. of Peever.

Lundstrum’s child wasn’t 10 yet last fall but seemed ready, from his father’s perspective, to carry a loaded gun in the field if an adult was alongside. Lundstrum testified by telephone during the bill’s hearing Thursday morning by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

The panel endorsed it 9-0.

The senators added a small change after testimony opposing the bill from Ron Kolbeck of Hartford. He represented the South Dakota Hunter Education Instructor Association.

The measure now goes to the 70 members in the House of Representatives. Lead House sponsor is Rep. Herman Otten, R-Lennox. The building contractor is chairman for the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

During his six years as a representative Otten, 50, has emerged as a voice for sportsmen’s interests.

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Frerichs, 37, is serving his eighth consecutive year in the Senate. Term limited in that chamber, he doesn’t intend to seek election to the House this year.

A farmer and rancher, Frerichs told senators Monday the best way to spur more interest in hunting is get more young people in the field. This is “a great time” to put that power back into the hands of parents and guardians, he said.

The mentor requirement applies for hunters younger than age 16. He noted the person serving as a mentor can’t hunt while in the field with the young hunter.

Eliminating the minimum age would let each set of parents make the choice when their child is mature enough, according to Frerichs.

“Now is the great time to remove this barrier,” he said.

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