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S.D. court upholds pheasant-hunt law
By Joe Kafka, Associated Press Writer
PIERRE - The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a 2003 state law allowing road hunters to shoot pheasants over private property.

The law was passed after the high court declared in 2002 that it is trespassing to shoot game birds over private property without landowner permission. Birds could be legally shot only within the right of way while road hunting, the justices said at the time.

That prompted the Legislature to pass a new road-hunting law in 2003, which says hunters may shoot birds over private property if they take flight from roads and ditches or fly over them.

Ranch couples from Tripp and Jerauld counties challenged the 2003 law, arguing that it is unconstitutional because private property is taken or made available to the public without paying landowners for that use.

By allowing people to fire weapons onto private property, the Legislature denied landowners the right to prevent trespassing on their land, the landowners said.

The lawsuit was filed by Bob and Judith Benson of Winner and Jeff and Tricia Messmer of Wessington Springs.

The couples, who also have lodges for people who pay to hunt, said problems with hunters have escalated since the 2003 pheasant season. They said more people are firing onto their land from roadways. Tuesday's 4-1 Supreme Court decision declared that the 2003 road-hunting law is legal, reversing an earlier ruling by Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl.

"We hold that there is no compensable taking ... under the facts of this case," Chief Justice David Gilbertson wrote. The high court majority agreed with state lawyers who had argued that the 2003 law merely decriminalized the shooting of pheasants that flee onto private property from roadsides.

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