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Thanks to superb habitat made possible by decades of conservation and management efforts, South Dakota is home to more than 7.5 million pheasants and is widely considered the best destination in the world for pheasant hunting. Last year alone, hunters bagged more than a million birds during pheasant season.

SOUTH DAKOTA PHEASANT SEASON

  • Eastern Areas: mid-October to early January.
  • Western Areas: mid-October to late October.
  • Preserve Season: September through March.

RANGE AND HABITAT

Although pheasants are found statewide, the main pheasant range encompasses the eastern two-thirds of the state. Pheasants prefer agricultural fields, wooded draws, tree strips, wetlands and set-aside acres.

While most of South Dakota is privately owned, public lands do exist in areas like Game Production Areas and Walk-In Areas, where choice habitat for pheasants create great opportunities for those hunting on a budget.

Pheasants are usually scattered in small flocks during the early season, but winter pushes birds into heavy cover and concentrates them. Tree strips, cattail sloughs and dense weed patches holds lots of birds during this time of year.

WHERE TO HUNT

Redfield (Spink County)

There can only be one official “Pheasant Capital of the World,” and Redfield earns that distinction year after year with some of the finest upland habitat and top-notch lodges. For nearly 100 years, hunters have flocked to Redfield season after season for some of the world’s best pheasant hunting.

Book a hunt near Redfield

Pierre (Hughes County)

The capital of South Dakota is situated on the Missouri River between two reservation lands and a national grassland, making Pierre the epicenter of pheasant hunting in the United States.

Book a hunt near Pierre

PHEASANT HUNTING TIPS

  • Don’t under-gun.
  • Use a 1-1/4 ounce load of #4 lead shot or 1-1/8 ounce of #2 steel shot.
  • Use a dog.
  • Crippled birds can be hard to find without a dog. Concentrate on cover that complements the hunting style of your dog.
  • Hunt remote pockets.
  • Search for small, out-of-the-way pockets that may have escaped the hunting pressure of large groups. Small sloughs, plum thickets or even fence-line vegetation hold pheasants.
  • Aim for the front half.
  • Pheasants are not particularly fast, but many hunters shoot behind them. Lead the head, not the body, for a clean kill.
  • Prepare for the weather.
  • Fall can be a time of wide-ranging weather conditions. Plan to hunt in temperatures and weather from sun and 70 degrees to snow and below-zero wind chills.

RULES AND REGULATIONS

Be sure to review the Department of Game, Fish & Parks’ Hunting and Trapping Handbook before heading for pheasant country. Here are the highlights:

Daily Limit: 3 rooster pheasants

Possession Limit: 15 rooster pheasants, taken according to the daily limit. The limit accrues at the rate of 3 birds a day, and 15 birds may not be possessed until after the fifth day of hunting.

Shooting Hours: 12 Noon, Central Time for the first 7 days of the season; 10 a.m., Central Time, to sunset the rest of the season. NOTE: Central Time is used for opening shooting hours statewide.

License Requirements: Small Game License, or any Combination License, or Youth Small Game License; or 1-Day Small Game License for Residents. Small Game License, or Nonresident Youth Small Game License (each valid for two 5-day hunting periods; start dates must be identified before license issued) for Nonresidents.

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Robert Jones
About the Author

Robert handles Gunn&Hook's content marketing and is an avid bass angler and fly fisherman. He typically works remotely from the river bank.