For those who make the annual pilgrimage to the best pheasant hunting destination in the world, most can attest to the phenomenal wingshooting offered on the prairies and grasslands of South Dakota.
Listed in alphabetical order, every single option has the potential to provide a phenomenal hunting trip in South Dakota. And not just pheasants, but sharp-tailed grouse, prairie chickens and Hungarian partridge all provide viable opportunities as well. We invite our readers to share thoughts – what are some other cities, small towns or hole-in-the-wall locations that could make a great destination this fall? Because in South Dakota, there are definitely more than 25…there’s no place like it!
Aberdeen- Home to the Million Dollar Bird, Aberdeen is known worldwide for producing ringnecks. With more than 200,000 acres of public hunting ground accessible, including 24,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (the most CREP acres in the state) walk-in hunting lands, this area of northeast South Dakota is a traveling pheasant hunter’s delight.
Akaska- Looking for seclusion during your hunting trip? The scenery changes to the west of town in the river bluff country. Travel in any direction to find public hunting ground, or hunt the brushy edges offered in this remote part of the state for hunting success. Pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse dominate this landscape in hefty numbers with a 70 percent increase for ringneck numbers from 2013.
Britton- Although added upland habitat losses and bad weather have plagued the area around Britton in north-central South Dakota, pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse can still be found in relatively fair numbers. There is also the added option of traveling to North Dakota during the morning hours can provide more hunting opportunities.
Chamberlain- The toughest decision you will need to make in Chamberlain is whether or not to get up early and catch a limit of world-class walleyes before pheasant hunting begins at 10 a.m.! Boasting the South Dakota’s highest pheasant population index for the 2014 season, Chamberlain is an easy destination for a fall getaway.
Eureka- With pockets of pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse available to the savvy hunter, plenty of public land opportunity exists around the city of Eureka. In a city with a population less than 900 people, getting away from the crowds is easy and creates a stress-free environment for hunting.
Fort Thompson/Lower Brule Reservation- Located directly north of Chamberlain, Fort Thompson can be found within tribal lands on the Crow Creek/Lower Brule Reservations. Pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens can all be pursued on these areas among food plots, shelterbelts and well-managed CRP fields. The annual pheasant brood survey for Lower Brule Sioux Reservation indicates a huge comeback for ring-necked pheasants. Rebounding from last year’s (2013) unprecedented low population, pheasants have responded to favorable weather and habitat conditions. Total pheasants per mile (6.7) are 415 percent higher compared to 2013 and 32 percent higher compared to the last 10-year-average.
Gettysburg- Located in the heart of pheasant country, and with opportunities available for both pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse. The Missouri River corridor is a short distance away with plenty of public land available to the north and east of town.
Gregory- The city of Gregory is another prong of South Dakota’s famed “Golden Triangle” pheasant hunting region – the area from Gregory to Winner and to Chamberlain. Think about it, would a city have a building-sized statue of a pheasant if it wasn’t a seriously great pheasant hunting destination?
Hecla- Adjacent to the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Hecla is northeast of Aberdeen and has a great reputation for wing-shooting. Just outside of town, hunters don’t have to venture far to find vast amounts of CREP and Walk-In Areas to chase wily roosters and sharp-tailed grouse during the fall season.
Hoven- Found to the west of Aberdeen, Hoven is a small town with a rich hunting heritage. Plenty of outfitters exist in the area to offer exciting upland hunting. Public access is decent with Walk-In Areas and Waterfowl Productions Areas.
Huron- Offering nearly 125,000 publicly accessible acres within a 60-mile radius of the city, Huron has acquired the name of “Ringneck Nation” for good reason. The local Heartland Region Chapter of Pheasants Forever is an annual stop for nonresident hunters at the Huron Event Center on the eve before the pheasant opener.
Lemmon- Within visual distance of North Dakota on the north side of County Road 19, this city is a staging area to one of the most unique upland bird hunting adventures to be had in South Dakota. Offering a unique mix of pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge, there is plenty of room to roam on 155,000 acres of the Grand River National Grasslands.
Miller- Miller is a small town with a big reputation for hunting. Although less public land exists near town, working with local landowners in the area can produce the hunt of a lifetime for pheasant hunters willing to get to know local landowners.
Mitchell- Hosting the largest Pheasants Forever membership banquet in the U.S., Mitchell is home to the Pheasant County Chapter of Pheasants Forever which holds its annual banquet at the famed Corn Palace. Mitchell is considered a premier pheasant hunting destination and provides access to many other areas in the state for those who are traveling a considerable distance.
Mobridge- Historically ranking as one of the top pheasant producing areas in South Dakota, the city of Mobridge draws roughly half as many hunters as nearby counties to the east. Walworth County features over 50,000 acres of lands accessible for public hunting.
Parkston- Located in the southeastern portion of the state, Hutchinson County now contains a fair amount of publicly accessible land, most of it enrolled in CREP. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks notes that most of the CREP acres within the county are new contracts of diverse CRP. With this in mind, Hutchinson County should be a pheasant producing area for hunters to target, as well as a relatively short drive for non-residents from Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.
Pierre- Bordered on two sides by reservation lands and to the south by national grasslands, Pierre showed a 142 percent increase for its pheasant population from 2013. Long known for its outstanding pheasant hunting and picturesque landscapes, a cast-and-blast adventure for walleyes and pheasants during the October season is a tough trip to beat.
Presho- Located in the south-central portion of the state in Lyman County, which boasts some of the highest pheasant numbers found anywhere; Presho lies just off Interstate 90 and is about halfway between Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Prairie grouse are a likely option here, too.
Redfield- Home to the new Spink County Chapter of Pheasants Forever and known for being the “Pheasant Capital of the World,” Redfield is an outstanding location – an easy drive for Minnesota and Wisconsin residents on Highway 212 – and an easy area to circle in your hunting atlas.
Trail City/Standing Rock Reservation- Located within the Standing Rock Reservation, upland bird hunters will find plenty of action chasing pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens. Little known by residents and non-residents alike, reservations within the state can offer exceptional outdoor opportunities (note: reservations in South Dakota have their own specific seasons and regulations).
Vivian- Located at the intersection of I-90 and Highway 83 directly west of Chamberlain, pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chickens await your arrival on the Fort Pierre National Grasslands. If you’re looking for a not-so-casual walk in the field, enjoy all of the 116,000 acres offered at Fort Pierre!
Watertown- Known for its inviting character and historical pheasant numbers, Watertown is working its way back to becoming a top destination in South Dakota for pheasant hunting. Located in a major prairie pothole region of the state, Watertown is surrounded by great winter and nesting cover which can produce a bountiful crop of pheasants given good weather conditions. Stop by the Terry Redlin Museum after your hunt to view some of the greatest wildlife paintings of all time from a man who regularly contributed to Pheasants Forever banquets across the country.
White Lake- Located halfway between Chamberlain and Mitchell, public parcels offer upland hunting opportunities. Waterfowl Production Areas can be found in quantity to the north and south of White Lake. Using your morning hours before the 10 a.m. start, take a trip to Chamberlain and focus on the bluff country bordering the Missouri River for a change of scenery.
Winner- Found in south central South Dakota, Tripp County is known for top-notch pheasant hunting- in past years, the Winner area has ranked #1 in South Dakota for pheasants harvested. Prairie grouse opportunities are also abundant here.