South Dakota Hunting Guide
South Dakota presents 5 million acres of huntable ground throughout the state. This combined with excellent pheasant populations and permissive firearms laws has made South Dakota a popular destination for hunters
What to Hunt
South Dakota’s large open landscape supports a very diverse population of hunter-friendly game species.
South Dakota is home to thousands of acres of ideal pheasant habitat. The state offers abundant public lands, and a long tradition of pheasant hunting for residents and non-residents alike. Pheasant season typically runs from September through January, with special dates for youth only and resident only hunts. There is a daily bag limit of three rooster pheasants, with a possession limit of 15 rooster pheasants.
South Dakota offers turkey hunting in two separate regions: the Black Hills and the prairie. South Dakota supports Merriam's, Rio Grande, and Eastern subspecies of turkeys. Most Eastern turkeys are found east of the Missouri River, while most Merriam’s turkeys will be found west of the Missouri River. Wild turkeys can be found on the prairie of South Dakota as long as they have enough grasslands and foraging resources.
Although deer populations once struggled in South Dakota, the state now offers a stable, healthy deer density for hunters to enjoy. Both whitetail deer and mule deer can be found throughout the state. Seasons are separated into archery, muzzleloader, and general seasons, with the season generally running from September through January, depending on the zone. Nonresident applications are generally due between March and June, though some run as late as September.
In South Dakota, elk are typically found in the Black Hills. Smaller herds have been reported in prairie landscapes across the state as well, however. Only South Dakota residents may apply for and receive an elk hunting license. There are approximately 6,000 Rocky Mountain elk in South Dakota.
Due to habitat changes, Alabama’s quail hunting practices have changed sharply over recent years. Today, most of Alabama’s quail hunting takes place on commercial hunting preserves.
Other South Dakota game species include: Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Mountain Lion, Buffalo, American Crow, Snipe, Cottontail Rabbit, Mourning Dove, Partridge and Chukar, Tree Squirrel and Sandhill Crane.
Where to Hunt
South Dakota maintains over 5 million acres of hunting property throughout the state. In addition, South Dakota leases large amounts of private land for hunting.
Game Production Areas
South Dakota has about 730 Game Production Areas (GPAs), which are managed for the maintenance and continued production of all wildlife. Certain areas may be managed specifically for certain species. GPAs total over 281,000 acres across South Dakota
Waterfowl Production Areas
Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) are managed specifically for the production of waterfowl. Other game species can inhabit these areas as well. South Dakota has about 1,000 WPAs, which comprise almost 150,000 acres of hunt-friendly land.
Bureau of Land Management
The majority of BLM lands are found in 13 counties west of the Missouri river. These lands are managed primarily for livestock grazing, mineral extraction, and forest management. BLM lands are generally open to hunting, but check with your local BLM office for any site-specific rules or restrictions.
All U.S. Forest Service lands are open to hunting and fishing in South Dakota. These lands total over 2 million acres. There are five areas of US Forest Service lands in South Dakota: the Black Hills and Custer National Forests, and the Buffalo Gap, Fort Pierre, and Grand River grasslands.
School and Public Lands
The state office of School and Public Lands maintains over 750,000 acres of land throughout South Dakota. These are mostly found in the western half of the state, and are available to the public for hunting.
Public Access Lands
South Dakota operates various public access programs throughout the state. These programs offer benefits to landowners in exchange for their land being open to hunting and recreation. Each area of public access land is subject to its own restrictions and regulations. Be sure to check with the appropriate office prior to planning your trip.
Generally, a license or permit is required to hunt in South Dakota. South Dakota’s license requirements vary widely based on the game being targeted, the season, and the hunter’s residency status.
|One Day Small Game||$12.00||N/A|
|Small Game (5-Day)||$121.00||N/A|
All hunters younger than 16 must complete hunter education certification in order to hunt in South Dakota. Generally, a hunter’s education course is required to obtain a South Dakota hunting license. The course can be taken independently or in a traditional classroom setting.
South Dakota offers a mentored hunting program to youth hunters. There is no minimum age to participate in the mentored hunting program. Through this program, children of all ages can learn to hunt safely under the supervision of an adult, licensed hunter. The mentored hunting program is only available to residents of South Dakota.
In addition to this dedicated program, South Dakota offers several youth hunts throughout the year for antelope, pheasant, duck, and turkey.
South Dakota considers the following mammals furbearers: coyote, raccoon, beaver, muskrat, bobcat, mink, and red fox. Nonresidents may only take these species during limited seasons. A furbearer license is required to take these animals.
Nonresidents have different seasons for many furbearers than residents use. It is not permitted to use barbed hooks, and body grip traps with a jaw spread of eight or more inches are only permitted in water sets.
|Game||Season Begins||Season Ends|
|Antelope*>||Aug 20 2022||Oct 31 2022|
|Bighorn Sheep||Sep 1 2022||Dec 31 2022|
|Deer*||Sep 1 2022||Jan 1 2023|
|Elk*||Sep 1 2022||Dec 31 2022|
|Mountain Goat||Sep 1 2022||Dec 31 2022|
|Mountain Lion||open year round||open year round|
|Non Trophy Buffalo||Aug 16 2022||Sep 6 2022|
|Trophy Buffalo||Aug 16 2022||Sep 6 2022|
|Turkey||Apr 2 2022||May 31 2022|
|Nov 1 2022||Jan 31 2023|
|American Crow||Mar 1 2022||Apr 30 2022|
|Sep 1 2022||Oct 31 2022|
|Common Snipe||Sep 1 2022||Oct 31 2022|
|Cottontail Rabbit||Sep 1 2022||Feb 28 2023|
|Mourning Dove||Sep 1 2022||Nov 9 2022|
|Partridge and Chukar||Sep 17 2022||Jan 1 2023|
|Pheasant||Sep 24 2022||Jan 31 2023|
|Prairie Grouse||Sep 17 2022||Jan 1 2023|
|Quail||Oct 15 2022||Jan 1 2023|
|Ruffed Grouse||Sep 17 2022||Jan 1 2023|
|Tree Squirrel||Sep 1 2022||Feb 28 2023|
|Ducks||Sep 10 2022||Jan 12 2023|
|Goose||Jan 8 2022||Feb 12 2023|
|Sandhill Crane||Sep 24 2022||Nov 20 2022|
|Tundra Swan||Oct 1 2022||Jan 6 2023|
*Hunting dates for this species may vary by zone, method of take, or subspecies of animal. Visit the state’s website here to find out more.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is not to be construed as legal advice or acted upon as if it is legal advice: it is provided for informational purposes only. While we strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content, we cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or currency of the information.