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Hunting in South Dakota

From the majestic peaks of the Black Hills to the rolling pastures of South Dakota’s prairies, hunting here is an unforgettable experience. From tracking down a white-tailed buck or waiting for pheasants to take flight, it’s more than just a sport – it’s a chance to reconnect with nature and savor its raw beauty. Whether you’re experienced in hunting or looking forward to your first time out in South Dakota, each hunt presents new opportunities for adventure and appreciation.

In this detailed guide, we have covered all you need to know about hunting in South Dakota. If you’re looking for SD hunting seasons or license information, you will find it right here. We will also list the best places to hunt in Mount Rushmore State. So, let’s get started.

Hunting in South Dakota

What Can You Hunt in South Dakota?

South Dakota has a wide variety of animals you can hunt. At the top of our list is the majestic whitetail deer. With their elusive nature and impressive antlers, these creatures are a staple in South Dakota’s wildlife. Over half a million can be found roaming across forests and prairies, making it an ideal destination for hunters to bag some game.

Next up is the iconic ring-necked pheasant; its vibrant colors attract birders from around the country who come looking for success on the grasslands. For those seeking something more challenging, wild turkeys are abundant here with both Merriam’s and Eastern subspecies present.

If you’re after bigger prey, then look no further than pronghorn antelope or mule deer – taking them on demands skillful planning as well as sharp aim when it comes time to pull off that successful hunt. Also, don’t forget about waterfowl hunting either – ducks, geese… whatever your preference may be; South Dakota’s got plenty of prime spots for seasoned duck hunters.


South Dakota is home to two main species of deer that make for an exciting hunt – the white-tailed and mule. The white-tail deer can be found in the eastern part of the state, while the mule deer lives out west. Both have their own unique characteristics and challenges when it comes to tracking them down.

White-tailed deer are notoriously elusive due to their sharp senses; they’re most active at dawn or dusk, so plan your hunts accordingly! They tend to feed on plants, fruits, and nuts which makes them more likely spotted among dense vegetation – look out for its telltale white tail as it bounds away quickly.

Mule deer on the other hand boast impressive antlers with a heightened sense of smell, these critters typically inhabit open grasslands or shrublands making them easier to spot than whitetails.

Don’t let its size deceive you though – they can still cover long distances faster than lightning strikes. For those looking into hunting either type, South Dakota offers plenty of options such as archery, muzzleloader or rifle hunts with licenses from the Game Fish & Parks Department required before entering any field.

Deer Season South Dakota

Season Dates
Resident Archery Sep 01 – Jan 01
Archery (Antlerless Whitetail) Sep 01 – Jan 01
Apprentice and Mentored Sep 09 – Jan 01
Nonresident Archery (Public Land) Oct 01 – Jan 01
Nonresident Archery (Private Land) Sep 01 – Jan 01
Black Hills Nov 01 – Nov 30
Custer State Park Nov 01 – Nov 30
West River Nov 11 – Nov 26
West River Special Buck Nov 11 – Nov 26
West River Landowner Nov 11 – Nov 26
East River Nov 18 – Dec 03
East River Special Buck Nov 18 – Dec 03
East River Landowner Nov 18 – Dec 03
Muzzleloader Dec 01 – Jan 01
Muzzleloader (Antlerless Whitetail) Dec 01 – Jan 01
East & West River Antlerless Dec 09 – Dec 17


South Dakota is a majestic place to witness one of the most impressive elk herds in the country, boasting over 6,000 animals that roam its hills and prairies. These mighty creatures always inspire awe with their massive antlers and intimidating presence, yet they are known for being shy and alert.

If you’re looking to hunt elk in the state of South Dakota, it’s important to know your stuff – from obtaining proper licenses to understanding sustainable hunting practices, as well as respecting both nature and wildlife. The Black Hills National Forest provides some of the best opportunities during the fall season when these animals become more active; offering an unforgettable experience full of fresh air and changing leaves against a rugged backdrop perfect for any hunter.

Hunting Elks in South Dakota

Elk Season

Season Dates
Archery Sep 01 – Sep 30
Black Hills Firearm Oct 01 – Dec 31
Custer State Park Archery Sep 01 – Sep 30
Custer State Park Firearms Oct 01 – Oct 31


The antelope, also known as the pronghorn, is renowned for its speed and agility. These creatures can reach speeds of up to 60 mph – making them one of the swiftest land animals in North America. Their lanky frames and long legs allow them to effortlessly traverse across grasslands; providing a challenging hunt for experienced hunters alike.

The Mount Rushmore State is home to over 100k antelopes, bringing many hunting enthusiasts from far and wide each year. The state offers various hunting options such as archery, rifle, or muzzleloader hunts which provide an unforgettable experience with its vast terrain and copious wildlife present throughout the area.

Before you begin hunting in South Dakota, however, there are some important things you must take note of: be sure that all necessary licenses and permits required by the Department of Game Fish & Parks have been attained while familiarizing yourself with their set regulations before setting off on your hunt!

When it comes to tactics, patience should always remain key, antelopes are highly alert animals who possess acute senses means stalking these creatures requires skillful precision. Studying their behavior patterns closely alongside utilizing natural cover will prove advantageous when attempting success on this quest!

Antelope Season South Dakota

Season Dates
Resident Archery Aug 19 – Oct 31
Firearms Sep 30 – Oct 15
Landowner Season Sep 30 – Oct 15
Mentored Firearms Season Sep 30 – Oct 15
Nonresident Archery Private Land Only Aug 19 – Oct 31
Nonresident Archery Public/Private Land Aug 19 – Oct 31


If you’re looking for a great place to go turkey hunting, look no further than South Dakota. Home to an abundant population of wild turkeys, this state is a prime destination for any bird hunter. With its diverse landscape and plentiful food sources, these majestic birds can be found in every corner; from the rolling prairies to the Black Hills.

Before heading out into the field, it’s important that you have all your licenses and permits sorted – regulations are in place by the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks Department to ensure sustainable hunting practices and keep these creatures safe for future generations.

Regarding tactics, there’s skill involved here too: decoys are often used as lifelike replicas that can draw curious turkeys within shooting range while calls mimicking hens will attract males searching for mates.

It’s always wise though not to underestimate your prey – wild turkeys possess keen senses so if they suspect something awry, their wariness kicks in quickly! To increase success, scout around beforehand paying attention to roosting sites, feeding areas, etc. Familiarize yourself with the terrain and listen carefully, patterns soon emerge giving away their whereabouts.

Turkey Season SD

Season Dates
Spring Prairie Apr 13 – May 31
Spring Mentored Archery Apr 08 – May 31
Spring Mentored Firearms Apr 08 – May 31
Fall Nov 01 – Jan 31
Fall Mentored Nov 01 – Jan 31
Spring Custer State Park Apr 22 – May 21
Spring Black Hills Apr 22 – May 31
Spring Archery Apr 08 – May 31
Adams Nature Area & Good Earth State Park Access Archery Permit Apr 08 – May 31

Mountain Goat

At the heart of South Dakota lies a rugged and stunning landscape perfect for mountain goat hunting. Their thick winter coats make them visible against the barren backdrop, making fall an ideal time to hunt these sure-footed creatures. However, it takes skill and patience as their agility makes them difficult prey – so don’t be fooled.

For those looking to take on this challenge, you’ll need quality hiking boots with excellent traction for traversing treacherous terrain and a powerful rifle scope for clean shots from long distances. Tactics are key when approaching goats; use natural covers such as boulders or trees to conceal your movements while remaining within range of getting that shot off without spooking them. Plus, temperatures can drop below freezing at higher elevations – so come prepared!

Hunting Mountain Goats in South Dakota

Mountain Goat Season SD

Species Dates
Mountain Goat Sep 01 – Dec 31


Dove hunting in South Dakota is the perfect activity for any adventurous hunter. With their swift flight and keen senses, doves provide a thrilling yet rewarding experience. Open fields, prairies, sunflower patches, and cornfields are all ideal spots to spot these graceful birds. During migration season they congregate in massive numbers, making it an excellent time for hunters to have a successful hunt.

Of course, you must not forget that skillful shooting is also required when hunting doves; you need lightning-fast reflexes plus pinpoint accuracy if you want to take them down mid-flight! But once you hit your mark after facing off against these agile creatures – there’s no better feeling than knowing all of your hard work paid off!

Dove Season SD

Species Dates
Mourning Dove Sep 01 – Nov 09

Bighorn Sheep

At first glance, the rugged terrain of South Dakota’s Black Hills may seem like an impossible challenge for any hunter. But if you’re up to the task, tracking down a Bighorn Sheep can be one of your most thrilling hunting experiences yet. With their impressive set of horns weighing up to 30 pounds and measuring three feet in length, these majestic creatures symbolize strength and dominance – but they also use them as tools for defense against predators.

And while it won’t be easy getting close enough to catch sight of one – with their keen senses and ability to scale steep cliffs, rest assured that all your hard work will pay off when you finally lock eyes with this magnificent animal.

Plus, thanks to conservation efforts regulated by South Dakota’s Game, Fish, and Parks Department through a lottery system offering only a limited number of licenses each year, you’ll have peace knowing that every hunt is contributing toward sustaining the population of around 350 individuals in the region.

Bighorn Sheep Season

Species Dates
Bighorn Sheep Sep 01 – Dec 31

Mountain Lion Season

Season Dates
Custer State Park Dec 26 – Apr 30
Black Hills Dec 26 – Apr 30
Statewide Dec 26 – Dec 25

Beaver Season

Season Dates
Statewide & Black Hills – USFS land Jan 01 – Mar 31
Black Hills – Non-U.S. Forest Service land Nov 01 – Apr 30

Badger Season

Species Dates
Badger Jan 01 – Dec 31

Coyote Season

Species Dates Bag Limit
Coyote Jan 01 – Dec 31 No Limit

Rabbit Season

Hunting Rabbits in South Dakota


Species Dates
Cottontail Rabbit Sep 01 – Feb 29

Bobcat Season

Season Dates
West River Dec 26 – Feb 15
East River Dec 26 – Feb 15
Non-residents Jan 14 – Feb 15

Fox Season

Species Dates
Fox Jan 01 – Dec 31

Gopher Season

Species Dates
Gopher  Jan 01 – Dec 31

Grouse Season

Species Dates
Grouse Sep 16 – Jan 07

Jackrabbit Season

Species Dates
Jackrabbit  Jan 01 – Dec 31

Squirrel Season

Season Dates
Tree Squirrel Sep 01 – Feb 29
Ground Squirrel Jan 01 – Dec 31

Marmot Season

Species Dates
Marmot  Jan 01 – Dec 31

Mink Season

Species Dates
Mink Resident: Nov 01 – Jan 31

Non-resident: Dec 01 – Jan 31

Muskrat Season

Hunting Muskrats in South Dakota

Season Dates
Shooting Season Apr 01 – Aug 31
Trapping Season – West River Nov 01 – Apr 30
Trapping Season – East River Nov 01 – Apr 30
Trapping Season – Black Hills Fire Protection District Nov 01 – Apr 30
Nonresidents Dec 01 – Mar 15

Weasel Season

Species Dates
Weasel Resident: Nov 01 – Jan 31

Non-resident: Dec 01 – Jan 31

Pheasant Season

Season Dates Bag Limit
Traditional Oct 21 – Jan 31 3 Roosters per day
Resident Only Oct 14 – Oct 16 3 Roosters per day
Youth Only Sep 30 – Oct 08 3 Roosters

Opossum Season

Species Dates
Opossum Jan 01 – Dec 31

Porcupine Season

Species Dates
Porcupine Jan 01 – Dec 31

Raccoon Season

Species Dates
Raccoon Resident: Jan 01 – Dec 31

Non-resident: Dec 01 – Mar 15

Quail Season

Species Dates
Quail Oct 21 – Jan 07

Skunk Season

Hunting Skunks in South Dakota

Species Dates
Skunk Jan 01 – Dec 31

Chukar Season

Species Dates
Chukar & Gray Partridge Sep 16 – Jan 07

Sandhill Crane Season

Species Dates Bag Limit
Sandhill Crane Sep 23 – Nov 19 3 per day

Crow Season

Species Dates
Crow Mar 01 – Apr 30

Duck Season

Season Dates Bag Limit
Low Plains North Sep 23 – Dec 05 6 per day
Low Plains Middle Sep 23 – Dec 05 6 per day
Low Plains South Oct 28 – Jan 09 6 per day
High Plains Oct 14 – Jan 18 6 per day
Youth Only Sep 09 – Sep 10 6 per day

Goose Season

Season Dates Bag Limit
Canada Goose – Unit 1 Sep 01 – Dec 16 15 per day
Canada Goose – Unit 2 Nov 06 – Feb 18 4 per day
Canada Goose – Unit 3 Jan 13 – Jan 21 4 per day
Canada Goose – Bennett County Oct 21 – Dec 21 4 per day
White-fronted Goose Sep 30 – Dec 12 3 per day
Light Goose Sep 30 – Jan 12 50 per day
Light Goose Conservation Order Feb 13 – May 15 No Limit

Youth Waterfowl

Species Dates Bag Limit
Youth-only Duck Season Sep 09 – Sep 10 Same as regular season

Snipe Season

Species Dates
Common Snipe Sep 01 – Oct 31

Swan Season

Species Dates Bag Limit
Tundra Swan Sep 30 – Jan 12 1 per permit

South Dakota Hunting License Information

Anyone hunting in South Dakota must possess a valid license. This rule applies to both residents and non-residents alike. The state provides plenty of options for different types of hunters, making it convenient for everyone.

Residents can purchase either the Resident Small Game License or the Resident Big Game License; these are only effective for one year from the date of purchase.

Non-residents have two choices too: The Non-Resident Small Game Licenses and Non-Resident Big Game Licenses which last 10 consecutive days upon buying them. To make sure young people get access as well, South Dakota offers a special license – the Non-Resident Youth Small Game License – dedicated solely to those under 16 years old.

Fees vary depending on residency status but remain affordable regardless. For instance, Residents pay $33 while non-residents shell out $121.50 maximum (seniors and disabled individuals receive discounted rates).

Purchasing your hunting permit can be done online at the South Dakota Game, Fish & Park site or through approved agents. You’ll need some basic information such as name, address, etc., and payment methods including credit cards or checks. Be aware that certain units may require additional permits – you’ll find all the details concerning this matter on their website.

Where Can You Hunt in South Dakota?

For those seeking a thrilling and unique hunting experience, look no further than The Mount Rushmore State. The Black Hills National Forest is the ultimate destination for elk, deer, turkey, and bighorn sheep hunters alike. Its rugged terrain and dense forests provide an exciting challenge for even veteran hunters.

The prairies of South Dakota are ideal for anyone after small game such as pheasants, grouse, or prairie chickens; featuring rolling hills with open fields allowing longer shots to be taken with ease.

Those looking to hunt waterfowl should head towards the Missouri River Valley – renowned for its large population of ducks and geese during fall migrations along the riverbanks or in one of many wetlands.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, why not try Custer State Park’s guided buffalo hunts? Here you can have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bag your own majestic bison under strict regulations provided by park rangers.

Public Hunting Places in South Dakota

Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills National Forest is an absolute paradise for hunters of all levels. Spanning over 1.2 million acres, this diverse terrain offers plenty of different game species, such as elk, deer, turkey, and even the rare mountain lion!

With its stunning views and easy accessibility via roads or trails no matter if you prefer to hunt on foot or with a vehicle – it’s easy to understand why adventurers from across the country flock here every year in search of their next trophy animal.

Safety should always come first before heading out on any adventure though – so make sure to brush up on all rules & regulations established by The Forestry Service before setting off into these wild lands full of life! And don’t forget: always respect responsible ethical hunting practices for both yourself and those who call these woods home.

Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge

Tucked away in the heart of South Dakota, Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge is a hunter’s haven. Spanning over 1,000 acres and boasting diverse landscapes including grasslands, wetlands, and forests – this refuge offers a unique opportunity to spot some of nature’s most iconic game species such as deer, pheasant, waterfowl, and turkey.

Take one step onto these grounds and you will be stunned by its beauty – as if it were built solely for your enjoyment.  Before heading out into the field, make sure you are well-prepared: get all necessary licenses or permits required by both state & federal government then arm yourself with optimal gear so that whatever challenge nature throws at you – you can take it head-on.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is an incredible destination for anyone hunting in South Dakota. With a vast selection of game animals, like white-tailed deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope, it’s no surprise that this park provides amazing opportunities for hunting. Not only can you go after big game such as bison and turkey with guided hunts but also explore its 71,000 acres consisting of lush forests to rugged mountains.

But what makes Custer State Park truly stand out is its commitment to conservation. It adheres strictly to state regulations and works hard to ensure healthy populations of wildlife are maintained. By participating in the hunts at this park you’re not only fulfilling your passion but contributing towards the preservation of these remarkable creatures too.

Waubay National Wildlife Refuge

Sprawling over 4,650 acres, Waubay National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of hunting experiences that any avid hunter will find irresistible. The terrain here is teeming with waterfowl, upland game birds, and big game species such as deer and turkey. There are wetlands, grasslands, and wooded areas, giving plenty of options to choose from when planning your hunt.

If ducks or geese are on your list, then Waubay has got it covered; boasting over 1,500 acres worth of wetlands that attract thousands upon thousands of migratory birds every year – mallards included! You can even reserve one (or more) designated hunting zones complete with blinds available on a first come-first serve basis if needed.

Upland game bird lovers won’t be disappointed either; pheasants, grouse quail & partridge abound in these rolling hills lined with prairie grasses providing ideal habitat for these feathered friends – making each hunt nothing short of unforgettable.

Private Hunting Places in South Dakota

If you’re looking for the ultimate hunting adventure, South Dakota is a great place to start. With vast acres of untouched wilderness and abundant wildlife, it’s no surprise that this state boasts some of the best private hunting places in the country.

Before heading out on your hunt, though, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, make sure you have all necessary licenses and permits from the SD Game Fish & Parks department – not having them could land you in hot water with both authorities and landowners!

Also, make sure you research any special rules or regulations specific to your chosen location. You must adhere to bag limits, weapon restrictions, and certain seasons for ethical reasons and to preserve the balance between hunters and nature.

When it comes time for gear-up: dress warmly with layers so you can handle whatever terrain or weather conditions come your way; don’t forget comfortable shoes either if hiking is involved! Bring along your trusty rifle or bow depending on preference (just remember that crossbows may require an additional permit).

Always respect the owners of these properties. They grant access by permission only, so leave their land just as you found it. Private hunting lands in South Dakota offer amazing opportunities so let’s treat them right!