KOTA News Extra: On the hunt - KOTA Territory News

KOTA News Extra: On the hunt

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In its 9th season, the popularity of mountain lion hunting in the Black Hills has grown significantly.

"I like to hunt because it gives me the chance to be outdoors," said hunter Sean Fulton. "Go see stuff and get some fresh air."

Fulton has been hunting for as long as he can remember.

"I've been hunting since I was a little kid following my dad around the woods," said Fulton. "Most the time I end up on a wild goose chase but once in a while I get that luck." 

Luck is something Fulton should be used to by now. He's killed four lions since he started hunting them several years ago, two of which with a bow.

"It's a phenomenal feat to get one on foot with a bow," said Fulton. 

But he adds it's important for him to be accurate.

"I don't like to see the mountain lion or any anima suffer," said Fulton. 

But some don't like to see the mountain lion killed period.

"Scientific studies have proven that sport hunting is not the best," said Tim Dunbar with the Mountain Lion Foundation. "Much less the only method of managing the species available to state game authorities. South Dakota's mountain lions-especially those in the Black Hills region of the state-represent a critical component in the natural reintroduction of the species."

John Kanta with the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks says hunting lions helps maintain the population at a manageable number.  

"Right now we're still looking to decrease the population," said Kanta. "Our population objective is 150 to 200 lions." 

To reach that objective, the current harvest limit is 75 lions, or 50 females, but Kanta says this may change in the future.

"Yea the assumption then is we would reduce harvest limits." 

But reducing the population doesn't come without its own controversy within the hunting community. 

"The most controversial issue with the mountain lion season is these kittens that are coming in," said Kanta. 

This season four kittens, six months or younger have been killed, but Kanta says this is usually not intentional. 

"I can tell you that in most cases that hunter is out there and believes that lion is bigger when they pull the trigger," said Kanta.

Pulling the trigger is something even some hunters want to see less of. 

"They're scarce," said Fulton. "There's not very many, but I hope that we can get it down a little bit more on the quota and still be able to have a hunting season." 

While some continue the fight to end the sport, Fulton reminds opponents why he hunts.

"I don't want them to feel that we're out there slaughtering the animals," said Fulton. "I want to get to the point that we're controlling the population of mountain lions in the hills to the point we're starting to see some of the smaller game come back into the hills that kind of got wiped out."

A bill in to repeal the 2012 law that authorized mountain lion hunting in Nebraska recently passed the first round of approval in the senate.

Dunbar says they tried to end the sport in South Dakota in 2005, but were unsuccessful.

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