South Dakota Pheasant Hunting


Never been to South Dakota pheasant hunting? You might not know what you are missing.

That was the case with me. Having hunted only in Minnesota and Iowa from 1979-1999 I enjoyed the pheasant hunting that the land afforded me and my hunting partners for years.

Being passionate about habitat and wanting to really affect my hunting outcomes and experiences I began looking for pheasant hunting land to purchase, develop and enjoy. I started in Iowa and through several contacts came across a realtor in Iowa who had some land for sale in Iowa but also South Dakota. I had never hunted pheasants in South Dakota but always assumed it was about as good as Iowa (which was way better than Minnesota at the time). After some discussion and persuasion by the realtor I figured I’d have to be stupid not to go out and at least look at the property.

Just driving out there, which was in the springtime, I could tell by how many birds were hanging around the roads that the bird numbers were good. Long story short is I ended up buying the acreage there and hunting/developing the property for pheasants, deer and turkey since 1999. Every opening weekend we harvest between 30-60 birds per day. I also heard stories around the state of parties of 20 hunters getting their 60 bird limit in as little as ½ hour. That’s more chaos than hunting I would venture but just the same – that’s what South Dakota wild pheasant hunting is capable of producing.

Pheasant Capital of the World? I think most hunters would agree. If you read most pheasant hunting outlooks and forecasts, such as Pheasants Forever or Outdoor News, you’ll find that the statistics again and again point to the South Dakota bird and harvest numbers as the reigning leader.

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As recently as 2005, the pheasant population approached 10 million birds (1 40-year record). Number of birds harvested that year was nearly 2 million roosters (11.2 birds per hunter. 2 birds per person per day).

This quote from the Pheasants Forever website on the 2005 season sums it up:

“Overview: The 2005 pheasant hunting season was a year to remember across the upper Midwest. South Dakota maintained its hold as the “Pheasant Capital” with an estimated harvest of over 1.9 million roosters, a 40-year high. Iowa, North Dakota and Kansas all checked in with big 800,000 bird totals.”

South Dakota boasted a rooster harvest over twice as large as the next nearest competitors.

In addition to the native resource, South Dakota also reigns champ in the offerings of public hunting, free walk-in access to private land and a host of commercial fee hunting opportunities. In fact, it could possibly be that since South Dakota’s commercial pheasant hunting is so strong and established that Cabela’s in Mitchell can attract hunters from all 50 states in the union on South Dakota’s annual opening pheasant weekend.

Today the passionate upland bird hunter, thanks to the internet, has excellent access to whatever quality pheasant hunting package they desire. If it’s a pheasant hunting trip of a lifetime you desire, look no further than South Dakota. Whether you’re a budget minded do-it-yourselfer looking for the best public land hunt or Bo Jackson looking for that $5000/day experience you can find it. You’ll have to do a little research. But it’s time well spent.

What ever you do, get to South Dakota soon and experience “The State of Pheasant Hunting”.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>