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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.

Forest Service

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.

Licensing Fees

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.

License Resident Nonresident
​Habitat Stamp ​$10.00 ​$25.00
​Small Game ​$33.00 ​$121.00
​Migratory Bird ​$5.00 ​$5.00
​One Day Small Game ​$12.00 ​N/A
​Small Game (5-Day) ​$121.00 ​N/A
​Furbearer ​$30.00 ​$275.00

Hunter Education

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.

Youth Hunting

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.

Hunting Seasons

Game Season Begins Season Ends
Antelope*> Aug 19 2023 Oct 31 2023
Bighorn Sheep Sep 1 2023 Dec 31 2023
Deer* Sep 1 2023 Jan 1 2024
Elk* Sep 1 2023 Dec 31 2023
Mountain Goat Sep 1 2023 Dec 31 2023
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 8 2023 May 31 2023
Nov 1 2023 Jan 31 2024
American Crow Mar 1 2023 Apr 30 2023
Sep 1 2023 Oct 31 2023
Common Snipe Sep 1 2023 Oct 31 2023
Cottontail Rabbit Sep 1 2023 Feb 29 2024
Mourning Dove Sep 1 2023 Nov 9 2023
Partridge and Chukar Sep 16 2023 Jan 7 2024
Pheasant Sep 30 2023 Jan 31 2024
Prairie Grouse Sep 16 2023 Jan 7 2024
Quail Oct 21 2023 Jan 7 2024
Ruffed Grouse Sep 16 2023 Jan 7 2024
Tree Squirrel Sep 1 2023 Feb 29 2024
Ducks Sep 9 2023 Jan 18 2024
Goose Sep 1 2023 Feb 18 2024
Sandhill Crane Sep 24 2022 Nov 20 2022
Tundra Swan Sep 30 2023 Jan 12 2024

*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.