Pheasant Hunting in South Dakota

Thanks to excellent habitat, along with conservation and management efforts, South Dakota is home to more than 7.5 million pheasants and is consistently the best state in the country for bird counts and harvests. In 2014, hunters bagged more than 1.2 million birds during pheasant season. For 2015, the season opens October 17, 2015, and runs through January 3, 2016.

Tentative future opening dates are October 15, 2016, and October 21, 2017. Please visit the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks website for updates.

Traditional 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.

Most of South Dakota is privately owned and permission is required to hunt, but public lands such as Game Production Areas and Walk-In Areas offer choice habitat for pheasants.

Early in the season, pheasants are scattered in small flocks, but winter’s fury pushes birds into heavy cover and concentrates them. Tree strips, cattail sloughs and dense weed patches hold pheasants at this time of year.

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' 2015 Hunting and Trapping Handbook.