Types of Game and Seasons

With so many types of game, South Dakota has diverse hunting opportunities ranging from small game like rabbits and fox, to larger game like deer.   And South Dakota doesn’t just feature many types of game, but it also boasts a concentration of game animals not seen in other states.  In short, South Dakota is a hunter’s paradise, with ample, varied game providing hours of recreation for novice and experienced hunters.

Small Game

When the big game seasons are closed, small game can give you a great hunting experience. Small game of all types, including coyotes, fox, grouse, partridge, dove, varmints, rabbits, and squirrel, can be found in abundance in South Dakota.  The range of each type of small game varies, with at least a few types found in each region of the state.

Typical Seasons:

  • Coyotes and Fox:  Year-Round
  • Prairie Dog:  Year-Round on private lands, June 15 to February on public lands
  • Rabbit and Squirrel:  September to February
  • Quail: Mid-October to December
  • Grouse, Patridge, and Prairie Chicken: Mid-September to Mid-December
  • Dove:  September to Mid-October
  • Duck: Early October to Early January
  • Goose: Early October to Early January


South Dakota is a paradise for pheasant hunters, and the fields are filled with blaze orange when pheasant season opens in the fall.  The eastern half of the state has the greatest concentration of pheasant, although they can be found throughout the state.  Pheasants can often be seen from highways and interstates, and prefer agricultural fields, wooded draws, treestrips, and wetlands.  Pheasants are generally spread out during the milder weather, but take cover and concentrate into larger groups as the weather gets colder.

Typical Seasons:

  • Eastern half of the state:  Mid-October to early January
  • Western half of the state:  Mid-October to late October
  • Preserves:  September through March


Like pheasant hunting, deer hunting is another popular activity for South Dakota. Although deer can be hunted all throughout the state the Black Hills area offers the largest abundance of deer, particularly the Black Hills deer.  In the western part of the state, prairie deer are plentiful, preferring to spend time in brushy creeks, cottonwood river bottoms, and adjoining prairies.  If it’s mule deer you’re seeking, they can be found in gullies and cedar draws of river banks, as well as in the Badlands.  In the eastern part of the state, whitetail deer can often be found near crops like corn, oats, sunflowers and soybeans.  Mule deer hunting in the eastern part of the state is limited to the banks of the Missouri River, where the deer are provided cover the local flora.

Typical Seasons:

  • Black Hills Deer:  Firearms – November, Archery – October through December
  • West River Prairie Deer:  Firearms – Mid-November to Late November, Archery – Late September through December
  • East River Prairie Deer:  Firearms – Mid-November to early December, Archery – Late September through December


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