South Dakota is basically The Pheasant State.
Residents look forward to hunting the birds each season and outsiders come from all over the world to try their luck at the the beautiful bird. Some people come to the state for annual trips so they’re almost like residents in how they approach the hunts and how much they love the pursuit.
If you’re looking to hunt pheasants in South Dakota for the first time you might have a few questions. One of the questions new hunters in the state ask and maybe a question you might not even think about is the question about pheasant hunting preserves.
There are different rules and regulations when it comes to hunting on preserves in South Dakota.
Here is a full review of everything you need to know about coming to South Dakota and choosing to hunt the wild birds or those released in an entirely preserve-regulated fashion.
Pheasant Hunting in South Dakota: Preserves vs. Wild Habitat
Pheasant preserves are set up by the landowner. The landowner will work with the state department of wildlife to create a situation where the birds in
the area are raised and released from time to time.
The entire situation started in 1963 with the passage of the Private Shooting Preserve Act
. It’s been something that’s been very popular with a few folks in the state and pheasant hunters looking for more of a guarantee with their hunts are really looking for something that a preserve can offer. You can come to the state and really find some good hunting on public land and private land and outfitters, but if you’re looking for the ultimate payoff the preserve can really offer it.
There are some big rules with the preserves including minimum bird release programs. The first year of the preserve sees the requirement of 300 birds raised and released. Every year after the first the requirement is 600 so there are always plenty of birds released into these preserves every year. The preserves that really want to give their clients a great opportunity release more and in some cases many more.
It should be noted that this rule is for roosters. Hens can be released, but they do not count toward the minimums each year and the requirements still need to see more roosters released each year than any amount of hens released.
An interesting little point about the harvest limits is that no more birds can be harvested than are released. Obviously there are going to be wild birds in the mix. Nature just finds a way to get in there and this is South Dakota after all so there will be wild birds out there. Say a preserve owner releases 1,000 roosters into the field. No more than 1,000 birds can be harvested during the season even if there are tons of birds left in the field. It could be 800 released birds and 200 wild birds or any number of birds released.
It’s with this rule that you can see how the department is trying to get more birds into the field each year. As the birds survive there should be a positive number after each season is over even with predation and other factors affecting the birds.
The birds are released from August 1st through March 31st of every year. The season runs from September 1st through March 31st giving the owners a chance to release the birds throughout the season depending on how reservations are lining up for the hunting season.
An interesting rule is that every released bird needs to have a marking. A representative from the department needs to verify the marking for each preserve. Again, you can see how the marking helps the department and the preserve owner determine the number of released birds that are harvested versus the number of wild birds that are harvested each season.
Finally, there are requirements on the preserves to report daily release and harvest records throughout the season. The number of tags are issued to the preserve and there are different tag limitations and regulations on hunters than those that hunt during the normal pheasant season.
Pheasant Preserve Licenses and Bag Limits
Every hunter needs to have one of two license options when preserve hunting in South Dakota. Hunters need to obtain one of the options for preserve hunting licenses, which takes care of many different types of upland and small game. Depending on the preserve you’re hunting the different game you can harvest will change. The other option is to purchase a regular hunting permit for the game you intend to harvest.
Often, for residents and non-residents, the option to go with the preserve hunting license, which offer daily licenses, is the best way to go because it’s inexpensive and really handles everything you need.
For more information see Preserve Licenses at the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
Bag limits are really determined by the preserve, which is a big difference between the reserves and the regular pheasant hunting season. Some preserves will let a hunter take as many as 20 birds each day and if you’re on a three day hunt you can shoot and carry 60 birds over that time.
Other preserves may have a 3 bird limit or five bird limit. The most common are 5, 10 and 15 from looking around at a few different options. It’s really up to you if you want to harvest quite a lot of birds during your stay of if you’re looking for something just more casual that offers a great overall experience.
How to Find a Pheasant Preserve
Pheasant Hunting Guides, Outfitters and Preserves are plentiful in South Dakota.
There are packages that match just about any hunting scenario you’re looking for including weeklong hunts and even some single day and two day hunts. There are hunts for groups of hunters so if you’re looking to have a three day hunt with a group of 12 people there are great rates and great accommodations.
You’re likely going to pay a bit more for preserve hunting, but as with anything you’re going to get your money’s worth both in the quality of the hunt and the quality of the lodges.
Some hunters might say that hunting wild birds is more challenging and different than hunting on preserves, but the birds fly the same and if you’re looking for a great experience the closest you can get to a guarantee is by hunting on a preserve.
For pheasant hunters looking to increase their chances of harvesting birds the preserve can really be the way to go. The hunts can be cheaper although there are some really upscale lodges out there that will charge you a good amount to hunt, but you’ll get great value both in the hunting and accommodations.
The big advantages are the fact that the season is longer and you can typically harvest more birds. If those two things mean a lot to you then consider hunting at one of the many great pheasant preserves in South Dakota.