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PIERRE | The state House of Representatives agreed Monday the minimum age of 10 should be erased for hunting in South Dakota.

House members voted 44-20 to send SB 137 for the governor’s review. The Senate approved it 30-4 Feb. 4. Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, was prime sponsor. Lead House sponsor was Rep. Herman Otten, R-Lennox.

The minimum age has been 10 for mentored hunting. But 35 states don’t have minimum ages, according to Otten.

Parents could best judge children’s abilities, Otten said.

House members rejected an amendment by Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. He wanted 8 as the minimum age.

Rep. Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, asked Rhoden: “Why 8?”

“It was just a number,” Rhoden replied. “I had to swallow hard at 8.”

“Let’s just let the parents decide here,” Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, said.

“I would prefer the bill stays the way it is,” Otten said. “To me, 10 is arbitrary.”

Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, spoke against the bill. He read a state law that says licenses weren’t required for hunters of any age on their land for species such as fox, squirrel, cottontail rabbit and game birds.

“It’s already here, folks,” Lesmeister said. “I think we have a statute in place that’s good.”

South Dakota has many residents who don’t own rural land, said Rep. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford.

Otten said young hunters are eligible for youth permits for antlerless deer, antelopes does and fawns and turkeys.

Current state laws for mentored hunting say a South Dakota resident at least 10 and less than 16 years of age is not required to possess a hunting license in order to hunt if accompanied by a hunting mentor. The law defines a hunting mentor as the child's parent or guardian or any other competent adult who has the written consent of the child's parent or guardian.

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