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Your Next South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Vacation

Intro text

In South Dakota there is early season and late season. Both can be excellent.

By: Chris Hitzeman
UGUIDE South Dakota Pheasant Hunting

Destination - South Dakota, the King of Pheasant Hunts

So if you're like me, you grew up on saving for shells, license fees and gas to get you to your favorite pheasant hunting "spot". That "spot" may have been a road ditch, public ground, railroad track, bridge overpass or any other place that you might think a pheasant would hide. If you were lucky, you might have met and developed a relationship with a farmer who was nice enough to let you hunt on his private land.

Once you've done that for 20 years and have gone through a few years when the pheasant shooting ain't real good, it doesn't take the mind long to start wondering if there are any better places to hunt pheasants than your usual local haunts.

UGUIDE receives many calls and guests from the Midwest. States like Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana are probably the most common origination points for a South Dakota pheasant hunting vacation. I suspect that the sad but true driver behind that trend is that what used to be great pheasant hunting has dwindled to a below average pheasant hunting experience in those states. The price of farmland has gone up dramatically in those states in recent years and one can only speculate that farmers who were once able to "leave a little for the pheasants" now can no longer afford to do that. It seems that there is a relationship between skyrocketing land prices and farmland cash rents and the result: plummeting pheasant populations.

I'm not sure what the magic is behind South Dakota's seasonally high pheasant populations but a few factors separate this state from the rest:

  • Soil types - South Dakota's soil has high lime content which is supposedly good for nesting and hatching broods.
  • Habitat cash flow - South Dakota dominates the commercial fee hunting business and that means farmers can afford to "leave a little" for the pheasants. Heck, they can afford to leave a lot! Habitat is everything.
  • CRP acres - Any state that has high CRP acres is where you will find the birds; plain and simple. South Dakota has them. North Dakota does also. That is why there is no surprise that North Dakota is a sister state to South Dakota when it comes to being a pheasant destination.
  • Land prices, rents and dirty farming - Thank God that some land in South Dakota just ain't real good for farming. When farm ground is not as productive and rents are lower, land prices are lower and the farmers aren't as bent on farming up to the fence lines or trying to plow under wetlands and sloughs or weedy areas to get them to pay.

South Dakotans have long enjoyed the tourism business associated with their remote destination. For the most part, they really enjoy pheasant hunters and pheasant hunting but the majority of resident farmers are not avid pheasant hunters. (Now deer hunting, that is a whole different story.) I think that it makes a big difference that pheasant hunting and the business of hunting pheasants has been in the culture of the state for so many years.

The bottom line is that if you love to pheasant hunt and that look in your dog's eyes is making you feel guilty about not getting him on more real wild birds, you should look into making your next wild pheasant hunting vacation destination South Dakota.