South Dakota Pheasant Hunting
Pheasant Hunting in South Dakota has definitely became the state unofficial pastime. When it came time to pick the design for South Dakota’s state quarter in 2005, it was a given that Mount Rushmore would be included. The only question was whether Mount Rushmore should appear alone, or whether it should appear with a buffalo or a pheasant.
Buffalo have roamed South Dakota since prehistoric times. They are a symbol of the state’s past and the nation’s western expansion. Pheasants – of the Chinese ring-necked variety – are not native to the state and were introduced barely less than a century earlier.
Despite the state’s long and storied connection to the buffalo, South Dakotans chose the pheasant. The choice said an awful lot about the degree to which those beautiful, multi-colored birds have become ingrained in the state’s culture and economy since the first pair was released into the wild near Redfield in 1908.
The greatest numbers of South Dakota pheasants live in the eastern two-thirds of the state. They’re most often hunted in farm fields, thickly vegetated conservation plots, draws, wetlands, and tree shelterbelts with 12- and 20-gauge shotguns.
From the traditional October opener (earlier openers are available to state residents and youth), the season extends into January in many areas. Pheasant preserves are allowed an even longer season, from September to March.
For the regular season, the daily limit is three male “rooster” pheasants, which have ringed necks and brilliant colorings that distinguish them from female “hens.” The individual possession limit is 15 roosters, taken according to the daily limit – in other words, 15 birds may not be possessed until the end of the fifth day of hunting. Shooting hours are noon to sunset the first few days of the season, and then 10 a.m. to sunset.
The choice of places to hunt is nearly infinite. Some landowners allow hunters on their land for free with permission, and some allow hunters for a fee. Hundreds of publicly owned areas are open to all hunters. And then there are preserves and lodges, which run the gamut from basic and affordable to extravagant – the kinds of places frequented by the likes of vice presidents and professional athletes.
Hunting Lodges and Guides
If you are a non-resident coming to South Dakota to hunt pheasants, aside from actually knowing somebody in-state, the next best thing is staying at and utilizing the pheasant hunting guide services of the many hunting lodges in the state. You will be provided with top rate accommodations and provided with some of the best hunting you will ever be a part of!
Learn more about South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Lodges. If you are interested in a guided service, most of the hunting lodges do provide that, but we have provided a page displaying the hunting lodges we know have guided hunts. Learn more about South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Guides.
Licensing and other questions
Pheasant-hunting licenses can be purchased online or from any of about 400 “storefront” agents, such as gas and convenience stores and department stores. Learn more about purchasing South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Licenses.
For other pheasant-related queries, most any South Dakotan is a good resource. If they lack the pheasant-hunting expertise to answer, it’s a safe bet they know somebody nearby who can help.
These are the people, after all, who put the pheasant on their state quarter.
A booming business
The modern numbers generated by the state’s pheasant hunting industry are staggering. In 2007, when there were an estimated 11.9 million pheasants in South Dakota, 180,828 hunters harvested 2.12 million pheasants and spent an estimated $219 million in the process.
Whole communities have come to depend on pheasant hunting as one of the most important parts of their local economy, often next to agriculture. Many farmers and ranchers manage their land with an eye toward pheasant-habitat production, and federal conservation programs have aided the boom in pheasant numbers.
Tour any South Dakota community in October, and you might be nearly blinded by all the blaze orange – the color that pheasant hunters wear to be safely identified by other hunters in the field. The traditional opening day on the third Saturday in October has become an unofficial holiday, marked by the gathering of families and an influx of out-of-state hunters.