GFP Commission Adopts Proposal to Cube Preference Points

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission recently finalized a proposal that gives significant weight to hunters who have accumulated a number of preference points for limited-draw licenses. Photo by Andrew Johnson

By Bob Mercer, American News Correspondent

PIERRE – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission gambled on the unknown during its January meeting in Pierre, changing the odds for how hunters are chosen for 36 sets of licenses. The new approach “cubes” what are known as preference points. Mathematically, it means the points will be multiplied to the third power.

The new system gives significant weight to hunters who have accumulated points for several years. Take the example of one hunter with two preference points under the current system. When those points are cubed the result is eight points. But say that hunter had four preference points under the current system. The resulting cubed number would be 64 points.

Hunters accumulate preference points when their names aren’t drawn by lottery for a specific license type. The goal of the change is to give a greater statistical advantage to people who have accumulated more preference points.

Hunters sometimes complained after they applied and didn’t get a license, especially those wanting a chance for trophy bucks or bull elk or bighorn sheep.

Commissioners received 440 pages of comments about the proposed change.

During the meeting none of the commissioners, or any staff members from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, seemed to know how or when the state began preference-point drawings.

“I shouldn’t have asked,” Barry Jensen of White River said. He is commission chairman.

No one admitted keeping score, either, for which side finished ahead in the comments.

The complicated task of explaining the change fell on Scott Simpson, GFP administrative resources section chief. He showed commissioners examples of how odds changed under the proposal. Each time, the statistics depended on the number of applicants, how many preference points were in play and the number of licenses available.

Simpson said many comments didn’t fit into specific for or against categories.

Jensen agreed.

Their impressions were comments ran stronger for the change.

Jensen said that also seemed true from what he’d personally heard.

“More people I talked to were in favor of it than not,” he said.

The commissioners voted 5-0 for the plan. Three weren’t there.

“It’s approved,” Jensen declared as he gave a little shrug. “We’ll see what happens with that, I guess.”

— By Bob Mercer, American News Correspondent. Follow @pierremercer on Twitter.