South Dakota pheasant hunting
SD Pheasant Hunting

Beginner's Guide to Pheasant Hunting

You’ve decided you want to try your hand at pheasant hunting. So, what now? Here are answers to some of the questions you might have before starting a South Dakota adventure.

Where Do I Start?

Do some homework before you hit the field. Your fellow hunters will thank you for it (and probably help you along the way). 

Hunter Education

Hunter Education

It’s not just for kids. If you’re new to hunting, sign up for a hunter safety course to learn general safety, firearm etiquette and hunting ethics. Even if they aren’t required, the classes are a great way to become a responsible hunter. Visit and find a hunter safety course approved by your state. Many courses are available online! Check out the South Dakota Hunter Safety schedule.

Ask Around

Ask Around

You’re not on this journey alone; there’s plenty of wisdom out there if you know where to look. Join an online forum and find out what people are saying about the upcoming season. Even better, you could connect with like-minded hunters and join your local Pheasants Forever Chapter


What Gear Do I Need?

Here are some basic items you’ll need for any outing. If you’re hunting at a lodge, many places will have gear you can rent while you’re there.

Pheasant Hunting_Shotgun


Without a shotgun, you’re just a birdwatcher. The most common sizes—and the easiest to find ammo for—are 12 or 20 gauge. While the 12 gauge is most common, many prefer the shorter, lighter 20 gauge, especially kids and women. The firing style (double-barrel, semi-automatic, or pump-action) is all a matter of preference.

Pheasant Hunting_ammunition


Shotgun shells are measured by the diameter of the pellets inside. It helps to think of the shell size like golf clubs, the lower the number, the further the projectile goes. Most hunters use anywhere from 7.5 to 4 shot. Remember: when hunting public land, you must use steel shot. You can only use lead shot when hunting on private property. 

Pheasant Hunting_clothing

Blaze Orange Clothing

Wear a blaze orange hat. Especially when walking through tall grass, a hat’s key for letting other hunters know you aren’t a target. Below the ears, uplands vests are great for storing shells and carrying birds. They come in a range of styles and prices, so you don’t need to break the bank for a piece of functional and fashionable sportswear. 

Pheasant Hunting_Boots


More so than any other type of hunting, pheasant hunting involves walking—miles of walking. You’re going to want a pair of at least semi-waterproof boots that you’ll be comfortable spending all day in. Think about what time of year you’ll be hunting. In the early fall you might want lighter, breathable footwear. For the winter you’ll want weather-proof insulated boots.

Pheasant Hunting_eyewear


Birds aren't the only thing flying around out there. Many hunters rock a pair of shooting glasses or protective sunglasses to keep shell particles from hitting their eyes.

Group of pheasant hunters and two labs in a field

Shirts & Pants

Long pants are an absolute must to keep off the briars and other unwanted tagalongs that lurk in the undergrowth. As far as shirts go, it's best to dress in layers. Especially in the early season, South Dakota mornings can be chill and the afternoons warm. You'll heat up as you walk, so dressing in layers can keep you fresh and ready.

Missouri River Hunting
Missouri River Hunting
Corn Field Hunting
Cornfield Hunting
South Dakota Sunset
South Dakota Sunset
Pheasant in a wheat field
Pheasant in a Wheat Field

Where Should I Go?

South Dakota has millions of acres of free-access public land. Read more about the SD regions or find a field using our South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks GPS maps.


Get Your Small Game License

Get your ticket to outdoor adventures! South Dakota’s 2024 season begins on Saturday, October 12 for residents only, and Saturday, Oct. 19 for everyone, ending Wednesday, January 31, 2025.

Planning Tools

Planning Tools

Whether you’re looking for a guided lodge experience or a public land adventure, we’ve got the resources to get you started.

What should you expect on a South Dakota Outdoor Adventure? See for yourself at #SDinthefield