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 more birds.
South Dakota sells a small game license to nonresident hunters for $120. In order to buy a license, hunters must also purchase a habitat stamp for $25. The license allows you to hunt two 5-day periods, that do not have to be continuous. Multiple licenses can be bought if you wish to hunt more than 10 days. 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. Legal shooting hours last 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. Furthermore, 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. Pheasant hunting is not like elk hunting, where listening to other hunters bugle can ruin a hunt.
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.
I started hunting the Monday after 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. So get out there and make the most of the opener.
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. Also, in the morning, pheasants walk on the edge of the gravel roads to dry off from the dew, so hunt road edges and field edges to get on birds in the morning.
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.
Don’t expect a super easy hunt. Most likely 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 bird-friendly public land. You’ll be able to get on pheasants daily, and I thought it was a great way to get a young dog a bunch of experience.
Thank you for reading.