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I-90 Hunting Checkpoint Finds 147 Violations Among 1,253 Hunters

Slob hunters a-plenty: in a 24-hour checkpoint on I-90 near White Lake Sunday and Monday, Game Fish & Parks and assisting agencies caught hunters breaking South Dakota’s hunting rules at a rate of one violation for every 8.5 hunters:

According to preliminary stats from the stop, 3,342 vehicles entered the road check and about 80 percent of those went through with no game or fish. Twenty percent, or 679 vehicles, went through with game or fish, and 1,253 hunters or anglers were checked.

Officers tallied 147 violations, many of which were unlawful transportation of big and small game, illegal possession of big and small game, no license, over the limit and incorrectly transporting wildlife [Luke Hagen, “24-Hour Game Stop Nabs 147 Violations,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.11.16].

Sure to turn conscientious hunters’ stomachs: occupants of one vehicle saw the checkpoint coming and threw pheasants out their window to avoid being cited.

Curious: what’s the rate of lawbreaking among participants in other recreational activities in South Dakota?  One study finds that one fifth of alcohol drinkers report driving while near or above the legal limit, but that misbehavior is spread out over an entire year. A June 2015 sobriety checkpoint near Sioux Falls produced three DUI arrests out of 1,950 people stopped. A Halloween 2014 checkpoint on I-229 netted 21 alcohol/drug-related arrests and citations out of 757 vehicles checked.

I wouldn’t say there’s a policy conclusion here, just a community note: hunters, when you see all those signs  saying, “Welcome, Hunters!” we don’t mean you’re welcome to act like slobs. Enjoy your hunt, enjoy the big sky and wide open prairie, but follow the rules and respect the natural bounty we share for your sport.


  1. Dana P 2015-11-18 07:26

    Glad to see that this checkpoint occurred, and it is a head shaker about the violations report. But I have to wonder (ok, no, I really don’t) why this kind of enforcement action hasn’t been occurring on a routine basis? People are living on another planet if they think that the results of this checkpoint was just a fluke.

  2. Robert Braun 2015-11-18 07:28

    IT seems that hunting is becoming to commercial, we bend over to welcome out of state hunters. This year I have seen them surround a cattail slough and send a tractor in with a mower to scare out the birds. I have seen them repeatedly violate the 660 rule for housing and livestock even after being reminded and they seem to fuel the sex trade business. You see that the focus on Sturgis but the hunters are just as bad.

  3. Nick Nemec 2015-11-18 07:59

    Those of us who live out here on the farm are used to seeing slob hunters. I’m not even talking about game law violations but rather simple violations of respect and common courtesy. Things like trash dumped out on the ground and travel down dirt track trails leaving deep ruts when they are so muddy from rain that locals don’t go down them for a couple days.

  4. Daniel Buresh 2015-11-18 08:39

    They have done this in the past on I-90. I always come back on Monday so I always seem to miss it. The tagging violations seem to jump out to me the most. Those guys are looking to poach deer if they can get those home without tagging them. In-state or out-of-state, there are bad apples everywhere. I try to pick up trash when I see it, and it’s not always hunters throwing it there. I’ve found bags and bags of garbage dumped from house parties. Out-of-staters may tear up more roads, but i tend to see the locals tearing through fields chasing deer which is probably even more unethical.

  5. Daniel Buresh 2015-11-18 14:03

    By law, game must be visible when transporting. Visible game, weapons, or hunting equipment/attire is reasonable justification that a person is hunting and it’s all a warden needs to be able to check you for proper licensing and any game you may have harvested. Checkpoint or not, they can roll up on you at anytime, on public or private land and do an inspection if they have watched you do something wrong from miles away. Game wardens have a lot of power, especially federal wardens. I’ve never had a game violation in my life, but I still get a little nervous when they show up because of how much power they have. About the only time they need a warrant is if it is in your home and they want to check your freezers.

  6. bearcreekbat 2015-11-18 15:45

    Daniel, I think wardens are like any law enforcement – the 4th amendment requires “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity is underfoot or “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed before an officer can stop someone (although there are a few exceptions, including sobriety checkpoints to keep roads safe, emergency situations such as trying to find a terrorist or person who has committed a recent crime, and immigration checkpoints near the border).

    In the words of the SCOTUS from the above link:

    “We have never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing. Rather, our checkpoint cases have recognized only limited exceptions to the general rule that a seizure must be accompanied by some measure of individualized suspicion. We suggested in Prouse that we would not credit the “general interest in crime control” as justification for a regime of suspicionless stops. . .”

  7. Daniel Buresh 2015-11-18 15:48

    You can go ahead and test that. When a warden pulls up in a boat for no reason and asks for licenses and does a life jacket check, or stops you on a gravel road when you pull out of the field, you go ahead and just tell him he has no right to check you. Let me know how it goes.

  8. bearcreekbat 2015-11-18 18:42

    Daniel, you have a great point – officers might not realize the limits of their power. It is like the advice to 1st year law students – if you challenge a cop, you might be right, but you might also be dead. Nevertheless, if you end up in court a judge would likely feel compelled to abide by the SCOTUS ruling and suppress any evidence that was illegally seized.

  9. Daniel Buresh 2015-11-18 21:53

    It’s been challenged in other states and the GFP always has come out on top. They do have power above your normal law enforcement when it comes to search and seizure.


    Why do game wardens have more search powers? The reasoning goes like this. Fish and game are public property. Unless you have stocked a lake with your own fish, planted raised game birds, or have a fenced enclosure where you have deer, wild boar, or other game animals that you have raised for hunting, wild animals are governed by the state and federal government. So, if a game warden suspects that you may be hunting or fishing illegally, he or she can come onto your land and conduct an investigation and it’s not trespassing.

    Compliance checks in the field also come with special powers. As you have supposedly purchased a license to hunt or fish legally, the warden can ask you to show that license, as well as accompanying identification. If you cannot prove who you are, you could be hunting or fishing with a fake license. And because you are supposed to follow the law, such as carrying no more than the limit of shells, or using barbless hooks and so on, you can legally be searched without a search warrant because of what is called “exigent circumstance.”

  10. Les 2015-11-18 23:25

    I was told that they can check your freezer without a warrant, DB.

  11. mike from iowa 2015-11-19 07:56

    If game wardens have extra powers,maybe that is why they are asked to help with drug busts. They can do more legal snooping than regular law enforcement.

  12. Daniel Buresh 2015-11-19 08:33

    Every case I have seen where freezers are checked, it was a drawn out investigation and they eventually obtained a warrant based on what they were investigating. They may have watched a person take multiple daily limits that would put them over their possession limit over a short period of time. On the other hand, if it is a violation that is currently in progress, I would guess they could follow you right into your home if they saw it happen. I just know they don’t operate the same as normal law enforcement. I’m not one to test it and I don’t think a person would win if a violation was found and you claimed a violation of your rights.

  13. BOHICA 2015-11-19 08:42

    If the goal is to catch game violators…why not set up the checkpoints on the 11th day after the pheasant opener…when people are heading home after their 10 day license expires. Could feed a lot of nursing home residents with that haul of confiscated pheasants.

  14. Daniel Buresh 2015-11-19 09:00

    This isn’t the first game check and it won’t be the last. They do them all the time, including during pheasant season. I have gone through one on highway 34 where it meets hwy 37 North of Mitchell and that was mainly to catch pheasant hunter violations. They won’t let the meat go to waste and they will auction off the antlers, guns, and other trophy’s this spring to support more conservation.

  15. BIll DIthmer 2015-11-19 09:07

    Game wardens have all the powers that an hp or a DCI agent has plus some powers that a fed has. They can go anyplace on your rural property and do just about anything they want to, withouteven telling the landowner anything. This includes window peeling, and if a door is open just a crack it is just like an invitation to come in and look around. Its called open fields, and there are no other laws that infringe on any other segment of society like that law.

    In town they need a search warrant, in the country they already have the evidence before they even ask a judge. My friend John Wrede and I have gone round and round about this law, him for the right to enter whenever a CO feels like it for a fishing expedition, and me for protecting my privacy.

    The Blindman

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