News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel Why does hunting bother so many landowners?

Disputes between hunters, the government and landowners are as old as the idea of property ownership, and will probably continue for as long as the right to own private property exists.

Actually it is not the hunting that bothers us. What bothers us is a lack of respect for us and our property rights. A man who has worked his entire life to build a farm or ranch deserves a little respect for that.

Long ago, the public schools taught something called "citizenship" or civics. We received grades on it in various areas. One of the areas listed on every report card was "respect for the rights and property of others."

We presently have a landowner ban on hunting imposed in a large chunk of western South Dakota. We have had several cases taken all the way to our Supreme Court at no small expense to landowners seeking to protect their rights.

These disputes are not caused by any anti-hunting sentiments or philosophy. No such disputes would exist, if people were doing their best to "respect" the rights and property of others.

If we truly "respect" the property owner's rights, we will not go to the courthouse and search for a section line or other easement to gain access for hunting without permission.

Legalistic technicalities have nothing to do with respect. I do not have to like what you do to respect it, just as I don't have to like what some people say in order to respect their right to hold their own views and express their own opinions.

I may not like it, but I respect the fact that the state holds wildlife in trust for the people of this state.

I may not like it, but I respect the fact that wildlife numbers must be managed by professionals through controlled harvests called "hunting seasons."

What we farmers and ranchers really want, is the same "respect" from the hunters and government officials that was once taught in civics class. A good citizen has enough respect to ask, even if he doesn't have to do it.

You may not have to ask a farmer to hunt on the section lines across his property, but if you respect him and his property rights you will do it anyway.

You may not have to ask a lessee of public grazing lands for permission to hunt in his pastures, but a respectful citizen will do it anyway.

You may not have to ask the landowner who has opened a portion of his land to public hunting, but respect requires it when the law does not.

Most of these problems will disappear when we all remember the civics and good manners we were taught as children. Those who were never taught will then learn by example.

The only way to guarantee failure is to not try.

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