Once again, some folks in the state legislature have made a decision that’s short-sighted at best and downright stupid at worst.

In mid-April, the budget-writing panel of the S.C. Senate removed from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ proposed budget $12,000 that would have been used for a bounty program aimed at getting hunters to kill more coyotes. It was money already approved by the S.C. House.

Under the program, SCDNR would have trapped and tagged 12 coyotes, then released them in different areas across the state. Any hunter shooting a tagged coyote and returning the tag to the agency would receive a $1,000 bounty.

Sen. Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington), chairman of a Senate Finance subcommittee, said the state has higher priorities for its money than to pay hunters to shoot coyotes.

“We want to talk about dealing with education, roads, health care and all those things versus paying someone to kill a coyote,” he said. “it’s all about priorities.”

Sen. Setzler, a 70-year-old father of four daughters from West Columbia, probably doesn’t have hunting high on his priority list, period. But drawing a line in the sand over $12,000 sounds like one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.

How much difference would $12,000 be in the state’s educational budget? It wouldn’t hire a part-time secretary at any public school across the state. It wouldn’t even provide a $250 raise for each teacher at one public school in, say, Greenwood. As far as infrastructure, it would pave about an 88-yard section of one two-lane, asphalt highway. Health care? Forget about it.

Setlzer’s comments about priorities are complete grandstanding. They have nothing to do with anything of substance. 

Now, as far as substance, let’s look at South Carolina’s wildlife. The deer harvest has dropped almost 35 percent since 2002, and the expansion of coyotes is credited as being a significant factor. SCDNR has reported that hunters are killing slightly more than 30,000 coyotes a year. There’s no way of telling, but it’s not a large stretch to believe that, with $1,000 out there to be pocketed if you shoot the right coyote, the harvest wouldn’t go up at least 25 percent. And 25-percent fewer coyotes translates into a lot more deer.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, five years ago, South Carolina had 196,000 deer hunters who spent 2,969,839 days afield per year. The economic impact was $533,088,951, with 14,324 jobs created directly by hunting activities. Those numbers will likely drop unless we can put more deer in hunters’ crosshairs, and taking out lots more coyotes is a big step.

A measly $12,000 will look like money well spent at that point. Even a politician can understand that.