Pheasant hunters in the field with dogs
SD Pheasant Hunting

Public Hunting Areas

South Dakota has upwards of 5 million free-access acres open to hunting. Some are federal and state-owned ground, while even more are private areas leased for public hunting. And now, scouting your outing is easier than ever with SD Game, Fish and Parks satellite maps. 


Picking Your Spots

Not all public land is created equal. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you scan the atlas and consider where to hunt. 

Is the land next to crops?
The best cover is usually adjacent to corn or beans where pheasants can grab a bite.

Is it off the beaten path?
You will generally have more success by choosing spots that have had less hunting pressure. Look for public land that is further away from larger towns or cities.

Size matters, often in unexpected ways.
Small parcels of land are great options because they are too often overlooked. Find an area with several small pockets to walk and you are likely to bag some birds.

Is it edgy enough?
Pheasants often hang out on the edge of habitats: near sloughs, treelines, and on the border of any kind of cover.

For late-season hunts:
Look for food plots that didn’t get harvested or thick cattails. The walking can be arduous, but thick cover means more birds when the mercury drops.

Have patience.
No two hunts are the same. A field can be empty one day and ripe with roosters the next. Trust the process and put yourself in position to make safe and wise shots.

Don’t shy away from open grasslands.
During the last hours of shooting time, concentrating on grasslands adjacent to unharvested crops can be rewarding as pheasants move from the food to the roosting habitat.


Walk-in areas and other leased lands exist through partnerships between landowners and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. They're funded through Federal Aid money and hunting license sales. Here is a short rundown of the types of land you can hunt for free. For more in-depth explanations, visit South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks hunting areas page

Walk-In Areas
Walk-In areas are privately owned lands where you don’t need landowner permission to hunt. No driving is allowed on Walk-In areas except on designated trails and parking areas.

Walk-In Area FAQs

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
Private CREP lands are leased to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. Every acre enrolled in CREP is open to the public hunting and fishing.

COOP Management Areas
Mostly found in the northeast part of South Dakota, COOP Management Areas are working farms and ranches leased for public hunting. Only hunters with a disabled hunting permit can drive in these areas.


Game Production Areas
GPAs are state-owned lands managed specifically for hunting. They are marked red on the South Dakota Hunting Atlas

Waterfowl Production Areas
The 1,000 WPAs in South Dakota are managed specifically for waterfowl but are home to various wildlife.

Public Road Rights-of-Way
Public Road Rights-of-Way, excluding the Interstate highway system, are open for the hunting of small game and waterfowl. However, you may not shoot within 660 feet of an occupied building, church, schoolhouse, or livestock unless you are the owner or have written permission from the owner. For more rules about hunting on public roads, check out the South Dakota Hunting Handbook.

Most acres under the Bureau of Land Management and the School and Public lands lie west of the Missouri River and outside prime pheasant range.

Public Hunting Resources
Maps & Resources

Find a variety of maps, downloads, and planning information on the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks website. 

Public Hunting Maps
SD GFP Mobile App

Carry your license in your pocket. Type "SD GFP Outdoors" into the App Store. 

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