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South Dakota: Wages Stink, But You Can Hunt and Fish to Feed the Family

Is South Dakota’s business model really so anemic that all we have to hang our hope and pride on is the killing and eating of critters?

In an undercard to Bart Pfankuch’s detailed article on the state’s failed attempt to enforce its own definition of residency on a guy who lives in Colorado (about the legal implications of which failure I will have much to say in a whole nother post!), South Dakota Wildlife Federation chief Chris Hesla says we better by gum protect what few carnal pleasures South Dakota living offers:

Hesla said the state must be vigilant in prosecuting residency scofflaws to protect the rights of bona fide resident hunters, but also because actual residents pay regular taxes and license fees that support their ability to hunt. He added that people who live in South Dakota endure things like bad weather and low-pay jobs in order to obtain the benefits of “quality hunting and fishing and clean living” in a great environment.

“There’s a big distinction between a resident and a non-resident, and the money has nothing to do with it in terms of the different price of the licenses,” Hesla said. “Hunting and fishing is the reason a lot of people stay in South Dakota, and there has to be benefits to living here, because it certainly isn’t our pay” [Bart Pfankuch, “S.D. Hunter Residency Investigation and Arrest Create ‘Nightmare’ for Retired Combat Veteran,” South Dakota News Watch, 2020.02.19].

South Dakota—You Get Used to It
South Dakota—You Get Used to It

Hard weather, low pay… but you can spend a couple thousand dollars to get yourself some home-cooked pheasant stew. Quick, Kristi—call Broadhead and get them put that slogan on a shirt!

But you know, we can’t all hunt and fish, and fewer South Dakotans are doing so. We could expand Governor Noem’s trapping bounty program to hand out free ammo… or we could look for ways to diversify our economy and raise everyone’s wages.


  1. jerry 2020-02-22 18:12

    Chronic wasting, is not like drinking to much beer while you hunt. Nothing to worry about except maybe some form of Coronovirus. What do the experts say about CWA (you know it’s pretty prevalent in South Dakota, right) “If CWD could spread to people, it would most likely be through eating of infected deer and elk. … In areas where CWD is known to be present, CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider having those animals tested before eating the meat.”
    China has proven that over and over.

    Fishing, chaa. If you don’t mind mercury and fertilizer consuming, eat fish and imagine what mercury looks like on a plate. Moves kinda funny when you touch it. Let’s see what the state says about the 150 plus lakes that are dangerous.

    So yeah, let’s all live off the land. Or maybe pay people enough so that they can make $40,000.00 a year. Oh my god, did I just suggest that we should be paying wages of $19.00 and hour? yep

  2. Porter Lansing 2020-02-22 18:23

    CO has it’s own form of “chronic wasting”. It’s when CIRD and grudznarc make a supply run and can’t get out of the car to get gas.

  3. Super Sweet 2020-02-22 19:21

    It’s easier to come into the state, get a drivers license , claim residency, register to vote as a full time RVer and full time out of state than to get a hunting license. It seems residency for the purpose to vote should be at least as stringent as to hunt.

    What impact do these out-of-staters have on state and local elections?

  4. Debbo 2020-02-22 20:23

    At least he’s pretty clear about how pitiful SD’s economy really is, unless you’re an SDGOP grifter.

    Really, aren’t Hesla’s words just about the saddest commentary you’ve ever read about a state?

  5. Mr. Sol 2020-02-22 21:31

    Red Dawn!

  6. mike from iowa 2020-02-23 08:48

    Seriously, would anyone really want to eat fish from contaminated rivers and lakes? Don’t we all know wingnuts ain’t the environment’s bestest buddy?

    koch bro is why America and South Dakota can’t have nice things.

  7. Steve Boltz 2020-02-23 12:18

    This is crap the wage here is fine. I live pay check to paycheck and I have lots of food and the bills get paid on time in fact I have money left over. We do have that added advantage of being able to hunt ad fish witch is nice, but we don’t need to.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-23 15:21

    Some people find it easier to yell “Crap!” than look at actual statistics, but it is generally recognized that workers get less pay for the same work in South Dakota than they do in other states.

    Let’s start with these stats: in 2016, median wage in South Dakota was $15.19. Median wage in Minnesota was $19.28. Punch those numbers into SD GOED’s own “real” wage calculator to play with magic cost-of-living and tax figures, and you find the median wage-earner in Minnesota had 15% more purchasing power than the median wage-earner in South Dakota.

    Steve, in Minnesota, instead of living paycheck to paycheck, you’d enjoy 15% more money in your pocket to save in the bank… or to invest in a deep freeze where you could stock up on fishwiches.

  9. JW 2020-02-23 17:19

    While I understand the comparative complaint, seems to me its a false equivalent. There are rules……. And some of those rules have been in place for more than a decade or two, and they’ve been applied to literally hundreds of people and similar circumstances previously without the same theatrical public outrage surrounding this alleged miscarriage of justice. This isn’t about fairness. It isn’t about government overreach and regulatory abuse. It isn’t about someone’s idea of individual liberty… What this is about is privilege and lawful discrimination of access to something that belongs to all this state’s citizen residents. It is tied directly to not only their permanent domiciliary in this state but also it’s cultures, politics, resources, economics, and heritage that can be easily shared when an immigrant demonstrates the full time committment to those faculties the same as one who has lived here all of his/her life or nearly so. Its about being connected and involved, on a daily basis, with those resources, systems and processes that provide the the opportunities for outdoor enrichment and cultural past time. As Chris mentiones it’s not about money. It’s about joining the local culture and supporting, through benevolence, The public trust responsibilities that sustain, from year to year, that “home cooked pheasant stew” that residents are being pushed away from the table on an ongoing basis. This guy and hundreds before him simply want to take advantage of what the rest of us have fought hard to preserve and then go home without lifting so much of a finger to help. What this also amounts to is yet another “landowner rights” conflagration wherein the landed gentry seek to assert their priority of fictional privilege over everyone else less inclined to own ag land for a myriad of reasons or conditions. We ought to understand that residency for the purposes of hunting and fishing is intended to be defined differently than driving, or voting etc. and it have nothing to do with financing state government, business economics, or diversifying the state’s economy.

  10. o 2020-02-23 17:27

    If SD continues to look to “others” to pay our taxes (tourists, pipelines, bank franchises . . .) why should we go all nationalist on who gets to use our resources?

  11. Clinton Brown 2020-02-25 13:40

    You complain about wages here but I see all the time hourly at $14/hour and higher for jobs that are pretty basic. Delivery drivers even make close to $20/hr and up. Then look at New York and the bitching from AOC and others for mandatory $15/hr. We already pay that here PLUS sooooo much cheaper to live. Hmmmmm

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