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.
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.
PRIVATE LAND OPEN FOR HUNTING
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 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.
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.
PUBLIC LAND OPEN FOR HUNTING
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 Right-of-Ways
Public Road Right-of-Ways, 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.