Be aware of rules when duck season begins by Chad Morrow The opening of duck season is fast approaching and opens Oct. 11 for the Low Plains-South Zone region along the Missouri River. Please refer to your hunting handbook for the specific boundaries of each zone.
I've had numerous questions from local hunters regarding the current laws on the staking of islands in the Missouri River below Gavins Point Dam for waterfowl hunting. As hunters begin to prepare for the upcoming season there are a few things they need to keep in mind.
The Missouri River is a border water between South Dakota and Nebraska. Hunters licensed in either state may hunt anywhere in the flowing portion of the Missouri River as long as water separates them from the mainland. The only exception to this rule includes deeded islands.
In order to hunt these islands, hunters need a license from the state in which the island is deeded. Islands deeded to South Dakota include James River Island, Gunderson Island and Jones Island. Islands deeded to Nebraska include Mayfield Island and Elk/Rush Island.
The South Dakota portions of half of the Missouri River that is below the ordinary high water mark is public property. Therefore, any island or sandbar that has formed in the South Dakota portion of the river is considered public land and is open to public hunting.
The staking of a sandbar by any person does not allow them to "claim" an island or sandbar and does not reserve them the hunting rights to that island. Hunting these islands is treated the same as hunting any other public land in the state, which is one a first come first serve basis.
This also means that if a duck blind has been constructed on an island, it can be used by anyone on a first-come first-served basis. Any person who attempts to run another person off an island, who was there first, could be charged with hunter harassment.
Hunters are encouraged to use common courtesy and proper hunting ethics when hunting these islands. Islands of the Nebraska half of the Missouri River are considered to be the private property of the adjoining landowner and permission is required to hunt.
Another significant reason for not allowing hunters to stake sandbars is littering. These abandoned signs and blinds eventually end up being washed into the river during periods of high water, polluting the river. I encourage hunters not to litter, and to please pack out whatever they packed in. Please be considerate of other hunters and keep these laws in mind when heading out this coming waterfowl season.
Utilizing proper hunting ethics and good judgement when hunting these islands and sandbars will help ensure our hunting privileges for the future, as well as make for a more productive and enjoyable waterfowl season. Have a safe hunting season.