South Dakota’s Accessible Acres

Dog carrying bird

In 2016 the hailstorms that hit North Dakota devastated the little piece of private upland paradise that our group of Michigan hunters had been making a pilgrimage to each November. The ensuing hiatus turned our group into upland gypsies, venturing into unknown country hoping to find productive opportunities on public land. Subsequent trips to Kansas and Nebraska yielded poor results, leaving us wanting for days past on the Dakota prairie. Driven by this desire to return to more familiar ground, we began researching new areas where we might recapture at least some of the glory we had previously enjoyed. 

Our search began where most do these days: the Internet. Much to our surprise, we learned that South Dakota not only publishes an extensive statewide journal that contains maps with detailed labeling as to public-land accessibility, but it also offers a free app called “Go Outdoors SD” that highlights the more than 20 types of land designations open to hunting. The app pinpoints the properties’ locations and uses GPS technology to keep hunters within proper boundaries once they get there.

Although South Dakota farmers, ranchers and landowners understand the value that pheasant hunting brings to the economy, they also are strong defenders of their property rights. As everyone should, I always strive to be a respectful guest wherever I am pursuing gamebirds. In South Dakota respectful relationships have led to landowner support and participation in a program that has made more than 5 million acres accessible to hunters.

Thanks to plenty of public land, cooperation from landowners and tools provided by the state, hunters can enjoy productive hunting in South Dakota.

The benefits of the “Go Outdoors SD” app do not end at mapping. Included are links to the state’s hunting and fishing regulations as well as information on the state park system. A “Digital Backpack” allows hunters to store license details, key dates (e.g., application deadlines), downloads and previously accessed maps. Users may also purchase licenses and reserve campsites directly through the app. The final piece that is very helpful is the sunrise and sunset times displayed at the top of the screen, as this helps hunters stay on the right side of the law in terms of legal shooting hours.

I am happy to report that, thanks to the tools provided by South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, our group was able to prove that successful upland hunting in the state is not limited to private lodges. With the assistance of the well-designed app and a little time spent researching the area around our chosen base of operations, we were able to enjoy hunting like “the good old days.”

For more information on South Dakota’s hunting opportunities, visit

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1 Comment

  • Matthew Gay
    Your article about the public hunting areas was interesting. Why would you want to spend the time and money hunting where there are so few birds and not hunting the many hunting lodges in South Dakota. There is very little difference between the price many of the lodges charge and the expense of lodging,food and fuel spent on your trip. Many lodges offer guided wild bird hunts and the opportunity to develop friendships with farm families. Many of these last for generations. You are missing out on this.

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