South Dakota has certain regulations in place for non-residents who wish to hunt in the state. Non-residents are only allowed to apply for bison, deer, and antelope and are not permitted to hunt bighorn sheep, mountain goat, or elk. It is important to note that South Dakota typically releases their current year regulations and changes at the end of May, which may be after this issue has been published. As such, the information provided in this section is accurate to the best of our ability with the resources available to us. It is always advisable to check the SD Game, Fish, and Parks website for any updates, especially as the application deadlines draw nearer. By staying up to date with any changes, non-residents can ensure they are following all rules and regulations and can have a successful hunting experience in South Dakota.
|South Dakota Species Specific Information|
|South Dakota Deer||South Dakota Bison||South Dakota Pronghorn Antelope|
|Available SD Hunts (HF Adventures)|
The big game license consists of two parts – the tag and the license with general information about the licensee. Both parts must be carried while hunting during the specified big game season. The licensee is not allowed to take more big game than authorized by the license or kill a big game animal not specifically authorized by the license. The license and tag cannot be transferred, and the license must be in the licensee’s possession while hunting. The top portion of the big game license can be used to hunt various other allowed species until January 31, 2024. Big game licensees who have already filled their tag(s) can still carry a legal weapon to hunt these other species with their group.
The State Game and Fish website is the easiest and state-preferred method of applying for hunting licenses in South Dakota. Bison applications are online only. Applying online is simple and straightforward, and it’s encouraged as it reduces the possibility of making a mistake on a paper application. Applicants need to set up a user profile if they’ve never applied online before. A valid credit card is required when applying online, but it won’t be charged until the draw results are announced. There’s no application fee for antelope, deer, or bison licenses. Groups of up to six applicants can apply for limited issue licenses together, and either all members will draw a tag or none of them will. Incomplete applications void all other applications in the group. Residents and non-residents may apply together, but residents who apply with non-residents will have a lower chance of drawing a first-choice license.
Last year, no applicants with less than 2 points drew a bison license, and the bulk of the better antelope and deer units we cover took 2 or more points to draw. South Dakota makes 8% of their firearm antelope and deer licenses available to non-resident applicants. There are three drawings that take place before any leftover licenses are available. We are only covering the first drawing as almost every non-resident license is allocated through the first draw.
Qualifying South Dakota landowners are given preference in the draw and can obtain licenses quite easily. However, those licenses cannot be transferred to a non-resident. Outfitters and guides are not allowed to guide antelope and deer hunts on public, walk-in access, or state lands. Outfitters are only allowed to guide hunters on private lands in South Dakota. If you want to go on a guided rifle private land hunt, you must draw the antelope or deer license through the special buck draw or regular draw. Also, be sure to get in contact with these outfitters way ahead of time as they are booking one to two years in advance.
For seasons with limited licenses, there is a preference point system for unsuccessful applicants. One point is earned each year an applicant is unsuccessful, and these points are valid for the applicant’s first choice in the first drawing in their first unit-type choice only. Points are stored in the applicant’s account and remain valid even if they do not apply the following year. However, points cannot be transferred to another person.
Individuals under the age of 16 who are non-residents must provide either their hunter safety card certification number or a current or previous hunting license issued by another state. However, if you are over the age of 16, South Dakota does not require proof of a hunting license or a hunter education number during the application process. Nevertheless, if you apply online and create a user profile, we suggest entering your hunter education number. When hunting big game, it is mandatory for license holders to wear at least one exterior article of clothing in fluorescent orange, such as a hat, shirt, vest, jacket, coat, or sweater. For big game, the shooting hours for both firearms and archery are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, with the exception of turkey, which is from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Non-residents who wish to hunt must be at least 12 years old by December 31, 2023. Non-residents under the age of 16 must provide the certificate number from their hunter safety card or a previous hunting license issued from any state. Non-residents who haven’t completed the HuntSAFE course can still apply for a license, but they must leave the HuntSAFE number blank in their profile. If successful, the license will be held until the HuntSAFE card number is provided.
South Dakota uses a preference point system for limited draw firearm antelope, deer, and bison licenses. You can obtain preference points by paying the fee and entering the preference point code or by applying for a hunt and choosing to pay for a preference point if unsuccessful. The more points you have, the better your chances of drawing a license. Non-residents can build preference points for their first choice in the first drawing, but preference is only valid for the first drawing in the applicant’s first unit. Points can be purchased until December 15, 2023 and are valid for up to five years. There is also a points-only code for applying for firearm antelope, deer, and bison licenses.
Listed draw odds were calculated by dividing the number of eligible applicants with preference points by the number of licenses available.
South Dakota offers a statewide resident and non-resident youth antlerless deer season, which traditionally opens the second Saturday of September. Youth who are 12-18 years old or who will turn 12 by December 31st of the current year may purchase a license and hunt the entire season. Youth hunters must possess a HuntSAFE card or another state equivalent Hunter Education certification.
Self-loading or auto-loading firearms that hold more than six cartridges or shells are not allowed for hunting big game animals. Firearms capable of being operated as fully automatic are also prohibited for hunting both big and small game animals. Buckshot is also prohibited. Shoulder-held firearms using ammunition rated to produce at least 1,000 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and handguns using ammunition that is rated to produce at least 500 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle are allowed for hunting deer and antelope. Only soft-point or expanding bullets are permitted.
Hunters using bows and arrows are not allowed to use or possess explosive, poisonous, hydraulic, or pneumatic points. Crossbows and draw-lock devices that hold the bow at partial or full draw are also not allowed, except for individuals with a valid crossbow/drawlock permit. Electronic devices mounted to the bow that aid in taking game are not allowed, except for cameras, video cameras, cell phones used exclusively for photographic purposes, lighted sight pins, and illuminated arrow nocks. Electronic arrow or string releases, telescopic sights, and arrows without at least two metal cutting edges are not allowed for hunting big game animals. Bows that measure less than 40 pounds pull when hunting elk or less than 30 pounds when hunting big game other than elk are not allowed. In seasons restricted to muzzleloading firearms, telescopic sights are not allowed. Muzzleloading rifles must discharge a projectile of at least .44 caliber, while muzzleloading handguns must discharge a projectile of .50 caliber or larger.
Applicants can apply for a special buck license under a landowner in mid-April for better chances at drawing. Non-residents can apply for leftover whitetail-only tags for specific units in the third draw held in early August. Archery-only licenses are also available through a draw and can be used statewide with a deadline to apply of May 11th for deer and May 25th for antelope. There is no deadline to apply for these archery licenses valid for statewide private lands.
GFP accepts license returns for all big game and limited draw seasons. License holders not planning on hunting for any reason must have their licenses postmarked before the beginning of the respective season based on specific dates provided by GFP. Hunters returning their tags will receive a full refund, no questions asked, and preference points for that season will be retained. The GFP Licensing Office mailing address is 20641 SD Hwy 1806, Fort Pierre, SD 57532.
At the end of each hunting season, surveys are mailed to a random sample of hunters using emails and paper questionnaires. Those who did not respond to the first mailing are reminded or sent a new survey after 10-14 days. Unsuccessful hunters are also important to survey as they represent a cross-section of all hunters. It is equally important for hunters to provide information on whether they hunted or not.
The Cooperative Hunter Access Program (CHAP) is a joint effort between private landowners and South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks. Hunters can reserve a spot to hunt on select CHAP areas. The program allows hunters to reserve permission to hunt in advance on lands leased for public hunting access through CHAP. South Dakota also provides a Hunt Planner, which lists season dates, license quotas, and special rules for all species and seasons. The Hunt Planner is a useful resource for hunters to check eligibility and application information before applying for South Dakota. More information about CHAP can be found at http://habitat.sd.gov/resources/CHAP.aspx.
South Dakota offers walk-in hunting areas leased by the state’s Department of Game, Fish, and Parks using money from hunting license sales and Federal Aid tax on hunting equipment sales. No permission from landowners is required to hunt in these areas, and driving is not allowed except on designated trails and parking areas. Despite 80% of South Dakota being private land, hunters can find enough public, accessible land with the help of a map and the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks brochure/atlas. Permission is required to hunt on private lands, and hunters are advised to apply for licenses and areas that have accessible public land or obtain private land permission before applying. South Dakota manages over 750,000 acres of public land and offers more than 1.2 million acres of leased private land for walk-in hunting.