Tips for Hunting Pheasant in South Dakota

During the past week I hunted South Dakota for both deer and pheasant. The trip went well. I shot several pheasants over Nali, and she flushed many more. Deer hunting was a struggle, but I learned a lot that will be useful for next season. I understood that South Dakota was a world-famous pheasant hunting location, but how to find public lands and hunt effectively took time to figure out. Here are a few tips to help you save time and get on birds.

General Information

South Dakota sells a small game license to nonresident hunters for $180. The license allows you to hunt two 5-day periods, that do not have to be continuous. After ten days things become more expensive and complicated. The license allows you to hunt pheasant, prairie chicken, partridge, chukar and quail. Duck hunting is a separate license that must be applied for during the summer. During the first week of the season you may hunt from noon until sunset. After that, you may hunt from ten am to sunset.

Selecting an Area

There are a lot of statistics associated with pheasant hunting. I would focus on population estimates as well as acres of public land in an area. Certain towns may have had large harvests in the past few years but don’t necessarily have enough public land to sustain a trip. Winner, for instance, has been one of the highest producing areas, but offers little in the way of public land. I wouldn’t worry about the number of hunters in an area. I hunted one of the most popular GPAs this past week and never felt crowded. It’s not like elk hunting where listening to other hunters bugling can ruin a hunt. I would just call a regional officer and go from there.


OnXMaps offers a ten-day free trial that can be really handy. Also, the South Dakota Game and Fish website has useful maps. Most of eastern South Dakota has good cell reception, so you shouldn’t have a problem going online to check. I also carry a Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer that indicates all of Game Production Areas in the state. For several days I hunted only one large GPA, but later in the week I bounced around to smaller public land areas. Both strategies worked well, and it was good to switch it up. You shouldn’t have to drive more than forty-five minutes at any point to reach a new area, and the break gives your dog time to rest and drink water. Just make sure you’re organized.

Opening Weekend

I started hunting the Monday following the opener. Mistakes were made. I had been frustrated by other hunters during elk season and wanted to avoid them. What I really avoided was the opportunity to hunt the big, dumb, slow roosters. There will never be more pheasants than opening weekend.


Pheasants feed in cornfields during the day then go back into CRP in the evening to roost. For this reason, hunting near cornfields in the evening works really well. This strategy also works first thing in the morning because pheasants walk on the edge of the gravel roads to dry off from the dew.

You will likely come across pheasants while driving from one spot to another. It is legal to hunt the ditches, but hunters get in trouble when they forget to pull all the way over or don’t close their doors. Road hunting can be a great way to finish out a limit or get a young dog on a fresh trail.

Wrap Up

Don’t expect a super easy hunt. You will be comparing South Dakota public land to your state’s private land. Also, last year was a tough one for bird numbers. That being said, not many states have anywhere near as much public land that holds birds. You’ll be able to get on birds daily, and for me, I thought it was a great way to get a young dog a bunch of experience.

Thank you for reading.


Keys to Longevity in Hunting Camp

“Make it like home, or you’ll want to go home.” It’s the saying we live by in elk camp. If there are too many factors wearing you down, eventually you will quit hunting and return home. While some hunters may want to “rough it,” we believe life is hard enough. This blog lists the factors that, if controlled, will allow you to hunt all season, but, if neglected, will derail your trip. Continue reading “Keys to Longevity in Hunting Camp”

Strategies to Use When Crops are Still in the Field

Right now the 2018 harvest season looks like it is going to end sometime in 2020. This creates an obstacle for both hunting and scouting deer. Typically there are not a lot of deer to see until the crops get harvested, but this year there may be no other option but to hunt standing corn and beans. Here is a game plan for the 2018 week of the October lull and plenty of standing crops.

Continue reading “Strategies to Use When Crops are Still in the Field”

Mistakes to Avoid When Calling Elk

This past season I didn’t hear a bull bugle until the 16th of September. On that day two bulls responded, but I botched both opportunities. In one case I setup too slowly and in the other I proceeded too quickly. While every hunt is unique, there are a few variables that you should keep in mind whenever you get a response. The following blog explains why the approaches I chose failed to produce a shot and what would have been a better option. Continue reading “Mistakes to Avoid When Calling Elk”

5 Rules to See More Deer this Season

Growing up whitetail hunting I had about three hunting spots. Sometimes I would check the wind, but for the most part I just hunted a stand until I quit seeing deer and then started hunting a new location. If you are new to whitetail hunting it can be tempting to rush out to your best stands as soon as the season starts. Here are five rules you can follow to see more deer, and especially big bucks, this season.

Continue reading “5 Rules to See More Deer this Season”

The Official Elk Camp Playlist: Special thanks to Jo Dee Messina and Shania

With elk season coming to an end we felt it was a good time to release our official elk camp playlist. In reading this blog we ask that you please do not judge our choices until you spend a month at 10,000 feet gasping for oxygen. Because, with what little air you have remaining, you’re probably going to want to sing 90’s female country.  Continue reading “The Official Elk Camp Playlist: Special thanks to Jo Dee Messina and Shania”

Optimize the Final Week

September, the one month that makes the other eleven tolerable, has arrived. Many of you will head west in the next few weeks to chase bugles through the Rockies. September is the highlight of the year for many, and taking a bull elk has been written on almost every American hunter’s bucket list. On the flip side the financial investment combined with the time commitment can create an immense amount of pressure. In the weeks leading up to the hunt various factors are likely to pop up that feel as though they may derail the dream you have been looking forward to for so long. As the reality sets in you may feel anxious. Your thoughts slip from fantasies to the impending reality of putting your money where your mouth is. Here are a few tips for staying confident optimizing how you spend your time.
Continue reading “Optimize the Final Week”

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