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Dennert’s Right-to-Hunt Amendment Back, Bigger and Badder!

If at first you don’t succeed, make it more complicated!

Such, apparently, is Representative Drew Dennert’s thinking in taking another swing at writing hunting, fishing, and trapping into our state constitution. Aberdeen’s rookie Republican representative brought a lifestyle amendment cribbed from the National Rifle Association last year to declare “hunting fishing, and trapping wildlife… a valued part of our heritage that shall forever be preserved for the people.” Dennert’s caucus bosses used the first committee hearing on his amendment to bat him around a bit, warn us not to “screw with the constitution” (advice Republicans apply selectively), and kill his amendment.

So Rep. Dennert gives his Republican caucusmates more to oppose with the wordier House Joint Resolution 1005:

Drew Dennert
Just what kind of hunting and trapping does Drew do… and where is that field?
  1. Unlike last year’s amendment, HJR 1005 directly declares hunting, fishing, and trapping a “right”.
  2. HJR 1005 adds the verb “harvest” to the things we have a right to do with wildlife. How else do we “harvest” wildlife besides hunting, fishing, and trapping? Does Dennert want constitutional protection for making roadkill stew?
  3. HJR 1005 declares that hunting/fishing/trapping/harvesting right includes “using traditional methods.” Hot dog—now I can get the fellas together and chase buffalo into a sinkhole!
  4. HJR 1005 makes clear our right to harvest critters isn’t absolute but limits regulation of that right to state laws and rules “prescribed by virtue of the authority of the Legislature to (1) promote wildlife conservation and management and (2) preserve the future of hunting, fishing, and trapping.” (Whoops! Drew! Your forgot “harvesting” in that last phrase!)
  5. The amendment also writes guidance for Game Fish & Parks into the constitution, telling our conservation officers that, whatever the science may tell them about a particular species or habitat, “Hunting, fishing, and trapping [but not harvesting?!] shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.”

Dennert’s additional verbal complications don’t change the oddity of adding parts of our “heritage” to the constitution. The South Dakota Trappers Association, which passionately supports Dennert’s amendment as a bulwark against the evil “west coast migration,” says the state sold over 4,000 trapping licenses last year. There are probably more church ladies who make lefse; why not write Norwegian cuisine into our constitution? I’m fairly sure South Dakota bicycle shops sold far more than 4,000 bicycles last year; where’s my right-to-bike amendment?

Speaking of hobbies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service figures that in 2016, Americans spent $46.1 billion on fishing, $25.6 billion on hunting, and $75.9 billion on watching wildlife. 35.8 million Americans went fishing, 11.5 million went hunting, and 86.0 million just went out to look. We should at least move to amend: strike the redundant harvest and insert watch.

I want to believe my neighbor Drew is just an honest outdoorsman who’s just a little too enthusiastic about writing his preferred sport into the constitution (a strangely governmental impulse for a purportedly conservative lawmaker). However, given the amendment’s NRA origins, I suspect another ploy, like Senator Stace Nelson’s militia expansion, to make it harder for the Legislature or local governments to regulate guns. What? Ban bump stocks? That’s hunting equipment, and Drew Dennert gave me a constitutional right to hunt!

I don’t need my hobbies in the constitution. Neither does Drew. Vote NO on HJR 1005, and let’s get back to patching the budget shortfall.


  1. o 2018-01-30 09:23

    And still no Constitutional right to a living wage or health care. I suppose those are frivolous compared to the right to hunt, fish, trap, (and harvest).

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-30 10:34

    Priorities! Yes, O!

    But hey, who needs a living wage when we’re all guaranteed the right to go catch our own food down by the creek? Self-reliance! Juche!

  3. James N 2018-01-30 11:55

    If we have a right to these things why do we owe the state a fee to do so?

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