Pheasant hunting in South Dakota; photo credit: Travel South Dakota

What Hunters Should Know About South Dakota’s Extended Hunting Season

For the first time in the history of South Dakota pheasant hunting, the season will extend until the end of January. This is what the locals say about hunting late-season pheasants in South Dakota.

When it comes to the best places to hunt pheasants, South Dakota tops many lists. Each year, hunters harvest an average of 1.2 million roosters in the state, which boasts about 5 million acres of free-access hunting.

So while a couple of extra weeks at the end of the season may not be huge news, many upland game hunters took note. That extra time extends the fleeting fall hunting season enough for one last hurrah in the outdoors.

“The pheasant hunting is always excellent in South Dakota, but wild bird numbers can fluctuate year to year. This year, the mild weather and great cover have created some of the best hunting in a while,” shared Sal Roseland, owner of R&R Pheasant Hunting in Seneca, S.D. “The extended dates this year mean there’s still time to plan a hunt this season.”

We talked with experts from South Dakota’s pheasant guiding and tourism departments to learn more about how to harvest pheasants in the cold late season at the end of January.

Late-Season Pheasant Hunting Tips From South Dakota’s Experts

We caught up with Chris Hull, a guide and spokesperson for South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks. Hull answered a few questions for those interested in hitting the fields this fall.

GearJunkie: How is pheasant hunting in South Dakota this year? What can hunters expect later in the extended season?

Chris Hull: It really has been a solid — if not a great — year. Early harvest and great weather have helped hunters a ton.

What do hunters coming from out of state need to know about license requirements?

Our nonresident small-game licenses are good for two 5-day periods. Any license purchased after Dec. 15 would also be good for the 2021 season as well. So if you bought a license and hunted for 5 days in December or January, your second 5-day period could be used any time during the 2021 season.

What kind of land is available to the public for hunting in South Dakota?

There are several. Game production areas (owned by South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks), walk-in areas (GFP-leased private lands), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (GFP-leased lands in the James River Valley drainage), waterfowl production areas (federally owned), CHAP (controlled hunting access — private lands leased, but limited, scheduled access), school and public trust lands, BLM lands, and state park lands cover most of the list.

south dakota, pheasant hunting
Pheasant hunting in South Dakota; photo credit: Travel South Dakota

What resources do you recommend for finding land to hunt on?

Our Public Hunting Atlas is available in hardcopy, online, and via our GFP Outdoors mobile phone application.

What kind of cover should late-season hunters look for?

Once the snow hits, look for sloughs, stands of native grasses like switchgrass, etc., heavy tree belts, kosha weeds, and draws. Look for these areas that are close to available food.

If people are traveling from out of state, what are hotels and restaurants doing to prevent COVID transmission among guests?

That is a little bit of a moving target, but hunters should know that we are dedicated to keeping the outdoors open. We never closed any of our parks or hunting seasons. The towns in our “pheasant belt” do a good job of rolling out the orange carpet. For the most part, places are open and taking hunters with open arms.

Are there places where hunters can camp in the winter near pheasant hunting? Or sleep in pop-ups, RVs, or trucks?

Yes. Our state parks are open for camping and camping cabins. Comfort stations are closed, but vault toilets are open when possible. Places like Roy Lake State Park in the Northeast and Spring Creek near Pierre have cabins that stay open as well.

Do you have any special gear recommendations for late-season hunters?

Layer up. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not trying to shoot or try the fit of their gun with winter gear on. That gun might pull up beautifully with a sweatshirt and vest on, but if you need to add a jacket, it might hang up a little and cost you a bird or two. That can make or break a trip! Also, use hand and foot warmers!

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.