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Small Game Hunting

Pheasant Hunting

pheasantTraditional Season

Eastern areas: mid-October to early January.
Western areas: mid-October to late October.
Preserve season: September through March.

Pheasant Seasons (GFP)

Range and Habitat

Although pheasants are found statewide, the main pheasant range encompasses the eastern two-thirds of the state. Pheasants prefer agricultural fields, wooded draws, tree strips, wetlands and set-aside acres.

Pheasant MapMost of South Dakota is privately owned and permission is required to hunt, but public lands such as Game Production Areas and Walk-In Areas offer choice habitat for pheasants.

Early in the season, pheasants are scattered in small flocks, but winter’s fury pushes birds into heavy cover and concentrates them. Tree strips, cattail sloughs and dense weed patches hold pheasants at this time of year.

More information about pheasant hunting. (GFP)

Pheasant Hunting Tips

  • Don’t under-gun.
    Use a 1-1/4 ounce load of #4 lead shot or 1-1/8 ounce of #2 steel shot.
  • Use a dog.
    Crippled birds can be hard to find without a dog. Concentrate on cover that complements the hunting style of your dog.
  • Hunt remote pockets.
    Search for small, out-of-the-way pockets that may have escaped the hunting pressure of large groups. Small sloughs, plum thickets or even fence-line vegetation hold pheasants.
  • Aim for the front half.
    Pheasants are not particularly fast, but many hunters shoot behind them. Lead the head, not the body, for a clean kill.
  • Prepare for the weather.
    Fall can be a time of wide-ranging weather conditions. Plan to hunt in temperatures and weather from sun and 70 degrees to snow and below-zero wind chills.

History of the Pheasant in South Dakota

The Chinese Ring-necked Pheasant may be the official state bird of South Dakota, but it’s not native to South Dakota or the United States. The ring-necked pheasant species is indigenous to Asia, but was introduced into the pacific northwest of the United States in the late 1800s.

The pheasant was successfully introduced into South Dakota in 1908, when a group of farmers purchased a pair of birds from an Oregon farm and released them into a field near Redfield. The hearty pheasant not only survived, but thrived on the prairie, prompting the state to purchase and release 48 additional pairs of birds. In 1919, the pheasant population was high enough for the state to hold a one-day pheasant hunting season.

A century later, the combination of habitat, wildlife management and fortunate weather patterns have made South Dakota a pheasant haven and a world-class hunting destination.

Pheasant Facts

  • Weight: males, 41-46 ounces; females, 31-34 ounces
  • Length: 30-36 inches, on average
  • Flight speed: 38-48 miles per hour
  • Habitat: Mixture of grain fields, grasslands and woodlands. Pheasants thrive in habitat where there is plenty of cover for nesting, feeding and hiding from predators.
  • Diet: A majority a pheasant’s diet consists of grains — such as corn, wheat, oats, barley and buckwheat — that have fallen to the ground. However, they also eat a variety of seeds, insects and berries.