Hunting in South Dakota

South Dakota Hunting at Glance

South Dakota is a great place to hunt because of the many different types of game that are available. It is popular with Upland bird hunters due to its excellent pheasant and waterfowl hunting, and also has great opportunities to hunt deer, pronghorn antelope, and other big game.

Although the majority of South Dakota is covered in grasslands, much of its big-game hunting happens in the Black Hills, a region in the western part of the state with rolling, pine- and spruce-covered mountains that cover 6,000 square miles and have elevations ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 feet.

South Dakota ranks #1 in the nation for hunting license per capita and has a strong hunting culture with over 24.2% of the population classified as registered hunters.

Key Insights

  • South Dakota has a strong hunting culture, with 24.2% of the population classified as registered hunters.
  • Most of the land in South Dakota is private, with only 4.89% of the total acres being considered huntable public land.
  • The most popular game to hunt in South Dakota is deer, but other popular options include elk, pheasant, grouse and rabbit.
  • South Dakota is known for its excellent pheasant hunting and also offers opportunities for hunting small game such as squirrels, rabbits and grouse.
  • Nonresidents can obtain deer tags in most areas and seasons in South Dakota.
  • Hunters in South Dakota must follow specific seasons and requirements, including tag and bag limits, which can be found through the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Table of Contents

Hunters (Based on Hunting Licenses)
Population: 886,667
Hunters 214,573
Hunter % 24.2%
Hunters Rank 1

The state of South Dakota is predominantly private land and only 4.89% of the total acres could be considred huntable public land. In fact, South Dakota ranks #30 overall in acres of public huntable land.

Land Types (Acres)
Acres % Rank
Total 48,574,700
Huntable Public 2,376,000 4.89% 30
Private Land 42,513,820 87.52% 28
Tribal Land 2,401,100 4.94% 4

South Dakota ranks #28 for the percentage of private land vs total acres and number 4 in terms of acres of tribal land.

South Dakota Hunting Seasons & Requirements

For the most accurate information on South Dakota Hunting Seasons, along with the state’s requirements for tag and bag limits, it’s a good idea to check with the South Dakota DNR.  We’ve provided their contact information below, along with links to helpful resources, including licensing.

South Dakota DNR

20641 SD Highway 1806
Fort Pierre, SD 57532

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Popular Game to Hunt in South Dakota

The most popular game to hunt in South Dakota is deer. Other popular types of hunting include elk, pheasant, grouse, and rabbit. South Dakota is home to many different types of wildlife, so there are plenty of opportunities for hunters to find the perfect game.

Small Game Hunting in South Dakota

South Dakota is well-known for its pheasant hunting, and for good reason. The state offers some of the best pheasant habitat in the country, with a variety of landscapes that provide plenty of locations for birds to hide. In addition, South Dakota’s late season often coincides with peak pheasant mating activity, making for excellent hunting conditions. Squirrel hunting is also popular in South Dakota, as the state is home to several species of squirrels, including red squirrels, gray squirrels, and fox squirrels. Rabbits are another common target, and many hunters enjoy the challenge of pursuing these fast-moving and wily creatures. Grouse and partridge are also found in South Dakota, providing opportunities for those who enjoy hunting upland game birds. No matter what your preference, there is sure to be a small game species that will keep you coming back to South Dakota year after year.

Big Game Hunting in South Dakota

Whitetails and mule deer are the most popular big-game species in South Dakota, and nonresidents may obtain deer tags in most areas and seasons.Mule deer are found mostly in the center and western parts of Montana, while white-tailed deer can be seen almost everywhere. The pronghorn antelope is a common sight throughout most of South Dakota, particularly in the center and west. Other top big game includes anttelope, deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and elk. Each species offers its own challenges and rewards, making them all popular targets for hunters. Antelope are perhaps the most difficult to hunt, due to their keen senses and agility. Deer are more plentiful in South Dakota than any other state, making them a popular choice for hunters looking for a trophy. Pronghorn are the fastest land animals in North America, making them a thrilling challenge to hunt. Bighorn sheep are prized for their impressive horns, which can weigh up to 30 pounds. Elk are the largest of the five animals, and their meat is highly prized by hunters

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Where are the Best Areas to Hunt in South Dakota

South Dakota offers great hunting opportunities across the state, both on public and private land. We’ve included some of the best areas for public hunting below and as we have access we’ll be adding more private land too.

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We’re working with landowners all across South Dakota to provide private land access for more activities. Add your information below to stay up to date.

Popular Public Hunting Land in South Dakota

South Dakota is a popular destination for hunters, with quite a few public lands to choose from. The most typical public hunting spots in South Dakota include Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forest, Buffalo Gap National Grassland, Grand River National Grassland, and Bear Butte State Park. These areas offer a variety of hunting opportunities for deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and other game animals. Custer State Park is especially popular for deer and elk hunting, while the Black Hills National Forest offers good chances to bag a bighorn sheep or pronghorn. Buffalo Gap National Grassland is known for its diverse population of game animals, and the Grand River National Grassland is a good place to hunt deer and pronghorns. Bear Butte State Park is a great place to hunt for Elk.

1. Custer State Park
2. Black Hills National Forest
3. Buffalo Gap National Grassland
4. Grand River National Grassland
5. Bear Butte State Park

Hunting Private Land in South Dakota

Since the majority of South Dakota is private land getting access for hunting can be very appealing. When you hunt private land, it’s not only less crowded, the animals also tend to be less skittish and this means you’ll have a better day out in the field.  Traditionally, accessing private land for hunting has been complicated and expensive.  You either needed to join a club, hire a guide, or start knocking on doors.

Fortunately Wing It is simplifying this for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts of all types. We’re adding new land every day and if we have some in your area, you’ll see some options great below.

More Hunting on Private Land

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We’re currently building the ultimate app for outdoor access.  Add your name and details below to save your spot and ensure you get access before the general public. 

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