Deer Hunting in South Dakota

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  • B
  • 250,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 100,000 (includes mule deer)

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $40-156

    License fees vary greatly by unit and license type. Doe tags are $20.

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $286 and Up

    License fees vary greatly by unit and license type. Doe tags are $80.

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 194 1/8”

    Taken by Michael Mettler in 2014 in McPherson County.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 138

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 256 1/8"

    Taken by Francis Fink in Marshall County in 1948 and is currently ranked 74th.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 70

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Season Dates (2020):

Season dates vary by region, so check regulations for your area(s). However, for most hunters, bow season opens September 1 and runs through January 1. Rifle season dates vary greatly by unit. Muzzleloader runs from December 1 to January 1. Other season dates for antlerless deer are weapon- and unit-specific. These are the dates set when published. Please check the state DNR's website to confirm.

The Grade: B

South Dakota has a history with rough winters and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). Fortunately, it hasn’t taken a big blow from the dreaded disease since 2016. The state has experienced mild to moderate winters the past few years, too. These factors translate to increased deer densities and older buck age classes. The Mount Rushmore State deer herd is doing well.

With good deer populations, big-buck potential, and fewer hunters than in surrounding states, it’s hard to pass up. However, the tag system is complex in South Dakota, and the state recently made it more difficult to obtain non-resident licenses. Rifle tags were already difficult to get, and archery tags are harder to draw than they once were. Still, all things considered, it earns a B again in 2020.    

Antler Nation Knowledge:

Upland bird hunting is king throughout South Dakota. More than 200,000 pheasant hunters hit the fields annually. Because of this, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks designed its public hunting opportunities mostly for pheasant hunters, but whitetails also abound in these areas. Here, hunters have nearly 5 million public acres to roam. Don’t overlook all the opportunities including Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Game Production Areas (GPAs), Grasslands, National Forests, Walk-In Areas, and other public places open to hunting.

When it comes to giant bucks, the eastern third of the state has the goods. Historically, Brown, Clay, Day, Lincoln, Minnehaha, Roberts, Spink, Hand, Union and Yankton counties are top producers. But if you fancy the western region, don’t overlook the Black Hills National Forest. It offers more than a million acres of solid hunting. Statewide, much of South Dakota consists of hills and prairies. Setting up at higher elevations and glassing everything below is a solid tactic, regardless of where you end up.

South Dakota Harvests

  • Adam Mushitz

    Geddes, South Dakota

From the Realtree Trophy Den