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Waterfowl Hunting

Duck Hunting

DucksTraditional Season

Statewide: Early October to early January.
(The state is divided into specific regions, with many regions closing in December.)

Range and Habitat

South Dakota’s prairie pothole country, located in the heart of the Central Flyway, consistently leads the nation in duck production. More than 15 million ducks migrate annually through South Dakota. They include mallards, gadwall, pintails and teal.

Ducks can be found and hunted statewide, with varying numbers of birds depending on the fall migration. In the northeastern half of the state, numerous potholes, marshes and lakes, many state or federally owned, provide ideal early season hunting areas. Along the Missouri River, the migration peaks in mid November with 600,000 ducks, primarily mallards. Western reaches of the state also hold ducks on stock dams, rivers and small lakes.

More information about duck hunting. (GFP)
More information about waterfowl hunting. (GFP)

Goose Hunting

GeeseTraditional Season

Central areas: Early October to early January.
Remainder of the state: Early October to late December.
(In recent years, there has been a spring light goose conservation hunt. Dates vary depending on federal framework.)

Range and Habitat

Geese can be found and hunted statewide. Western and eastern reaches of the state harbor locally produced giant Canada geese. The Missouri River corridor is the main route for more than 400,000 migrating Canada geese, and eastern South Dakota attracts 350,000 snow- and blue-geese migrants.

Areas in and around Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge near Aberdeen hold large concentrations of snow and blue geese. Marshes in northeastern South Dakota usually freeze over by mid-November, pushing waterfowl further South. Bonus species on waterfowl hunts include sandhill crane and tundra swan. Each require special licensing to hunt.

More information about goose hunting. (GFP)
More information about spring light goose hunting. (GFP)
More information about waterfowl hunting. (GFP)

Waterfowl Hunting Tips

  • Plan early.
    Plan early since nonresident waterfowl licenses are limited and are purchased through a limited lottery system.
  • Hunting availability.
    Pass shooting and field shooting are available for Missouri River goose hunting, mostly on private land or through hunting clubs. Hunting is also available on the river and limited public lands.
  • Chokes and loads.
    Improved cylinder chokes often shoot larger steel shot with a tighter and more uniform pattern than a full choke. Pattern your gun to test various chokes and loads.
  • Decoys.
    Decoy placement can spell success or failure for your hunt. Group species accordingly and leave landing pockets for optimum shooting opportunities.
  • Duck and goose decoys.
    Incorporate both ducks and geese into your decoy spread as confidence builders and in case either species pass by.