Published June 18, 2008, 12:00 AM

Animal bounties were once a great source of income in South Dakota

The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department recently admitted that the current adult walleye numbers in the Francis Case Reservoir are down as past hatch numbers were poor. I’ll agree.

By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic

The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department recently admitted that the current adult walleye numbers in the Francis Case Reservoir are down as past hatch numbers were poor. I’ll agree.

Rather than go with reports that may not be accurate, I’ll tell you what I’ve observed. I’m catching a few 16-inch fish, but they are not plentiful. There are fair numbers of 14-inch fish, but I think that these numbers are exaggerated. I do believe that a trip to Mobridge right now to fish on Oahe would be worth the effort. By the time you read this, the results of the big pro tour at Mobridge will be out.

The Francis Case smallmouth bass numbers are good, and tournament anglers have done well on them. They have not yet spawned. It appears that the Francis Case white bass have made a good recovery from recent down years. I would call Francis Case northern pike numbers somewhere between rare and very scarce.

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While researching newspaper archives and courthouse records for story material, I’ve come across some bounty related information that I found interesting. South Dakota no longer pays bounties, but I do remember that when we lived in Burke from 1971-1976, seeing someone hauling a coyote to the treasurer’s office wasn’t uncommon. I remember the lower jaw was snipped off so the same animal couldn’t be bountied again.

Unfortunately, there was no way of distinguishing South Dakota coyotes from Nebraska or North Dakota coyotes.

In paging through issues of the 1924 Lake Andes Wave, I noted a story about crow bounties. The May 8 issue reported that Charles Mix County paid $291.40 in crow bounties at 10 cents a crow. The most successful hunter, Paul Pesicka, had been paid $24.90 for his 249 crows.

Today, older hunters are eager to talk about their crow hunt days of yesteryear. There was no limit to the creativity and ingenuity that went into this sport. To the casual observer, crows appear to be quite wily. If you see some crows, stop and step out of your vehicle unarmed. The crows remain unconcerned. Step out with a gun, and the crows take off.

Unfortunately for the crows, they have two weaknesses that make them vulnerable. They roost in trees at night, and once it is dark, they remain no matter what. The concussion from detonating dynamite or home-made black powder bombs could and did kill hundreds, if not thousands, of crows in one explosion.

Their second weakness is their hatred of owls. Get an owl decoy and an electronic caller, and play a recording of an owl-crow fight. If the crows send one forward scout, take him. If the entire flock comes, take as many as you can.

Ten cents in 1924 was a fair piece of change. By comparing the 1924 value of an ounce of gold, the price of a new car, and the wages for county highway workers as found in courthouse records with today’s figures, I’ve calculated that it takes about 45 of today’s dollars to equal a 1924 dollar. This puts a $4.50 value on a 1924 crow.

Now we can go to what I really wanted to talk about — coyote bounties. In 1924, the bounty on a South Dakota coyote was four dollars. This was a lot more than a day’s pay.

If we use the 45 times factor, a coyote paid the equivalent of $180 in today’s money.

You know what? If a $180 bounty was paid today for a coyote, and we could keep the hide, a lot of us would be coyote hunters. It’s easy to see why the bounty system was dropped. As you might guess, hundreds of coyotes were bountied in 1924.

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The shooting sports events mentioned in the last few columns were very successful.

In a future column, I’ll cover the South Dakota Black Powder Cartridge Rifle State Championship.

Now mark June 27-29 on your calendar. The James Valley Hunting Resort & Sporting Clays people will host the South Dakota 2008 State Sporting Clays Championship. Call 364-7468 or go to their website at for information. James Valley offers some very scenic and sporting shooting stations.

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My column a few weeks ago about the California lead ban, lead in venison, etc. generated a great deal of interest. I will be doing a follow-up. If you want the latest right now, Google lead and venison. There are some great articles. You can also go to for our state’s latest information which is very general and not nearly as complete as Google’s offerings.