Big Game Hunting Regulations
It is important to read and understand all regulations before hunting. The following regulations apply to taking, possessing, transporting and storing big game during established seasons. Questions on specific regulations should be directed to a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) representative.
The big game license is an all-in-one form. The lower portion is the tag and the upper portion is the license with general information about the licensee. A licensee must carry both portions while hunting the specified big game season. A licensee may not take more big game than is allowed by the license or kill a big game animal not specifically authorized by the license. The license and tag may not be transferred and the license must be in the licensee’s possession while hunting.
You may retain the top portion of the big game license and use it through Jan. 31, 2023 to hunt prairie dogs, coyotes, red fox, gray fox, skunks, gophers, jackrabbits, crow (in open season), ground squirrels, porcupines, raccoons, badgers, opposum and marmots. Big game licensees who have filled their tag(s) may continue to carry a legal weapon with their group for the purpose of hunting these other allowed species.
Legal animals defined as
- “Any Deer“ - a whitetail or mule deer buck, doe or fawn.
- “Antlerless“ - a deer or elk of either sex without visible antler.
- “Doe/fawn“ - an antelope of either sex without horns or with horns less than three inches in total length.
- “Any Turkey“ - a wild turkey of either sex.
- “Male Turkey“ - a wild turkey with a visible beard or spurs.
- “Hen Turkey“ - a wild turkey without a visible beard or spurs.
- “Firearm big game license“ - any license that authorized the licensee to use a firearm, including a muzzleloading firearm, in the taking of big game animals.
TAGGING AND TRANSPORTATION:
The tag received with your license must be signed, dated and securely attached to the big game animal at the time it is brought to a road or into any hunting camp, farmyard, residence, or before it is placed in or on a vehicle.
- The locking seal issued with each big game license is an adhesive tag. The licensee shall sign the tag and date it by cutting out completely the month and day of the date of kill only. The licensee shall attach the tag securely around one leg of a mountain lion or turkey. The licensee shall attach the tag securely to all hoofed big game animals: (1) Around one hind leg between the hoof and ankle joint; (2) Around the hock tendon directly above the ankle joint on one hind leg; or (3) Around the base of the antler or horn.
- Tagging allows a big game animal to be transported and stored by the hunter or another person for the hunter.
- No person may possess in the field or transport a big game animal, including boned out meat (except turkey), unless it is accompanied by the animal’s lawfully attached tag along with the animal’s head or a hind quarter with visible external sex organs left naturally attached to it. Any person licensed to take “any deer,” “any elk” or “any antelope” is exempt from transporting the animal’s head or hind quarter with attached sex organs if the lawfully tagged leg accompanies the animal for such a license. However, the provisions of this section do not apply to a big game licensee who transports big game parts, including boned out meat, from the licensee’s domicile to another location if the licensee possesses the big game tag or big game license entitling the licensee to the animal, or to big game that has been cooked or cured by means other than freezing, for personal consumption. If a person other than the licensee transports big game animal parts (including boned out meat) from the licensee’s domicile to another location, the tagged leg or a transportation permit must accompany the items being transported.
- Wild turkeys, unless processed at a wildlife processing facility and accompanied by the receipt, or at the domicile of the possessor, shall include the beard, leg and foot bearing the tag issued with the license. Any person licensed to take “any turkey” is exempt from transporting the beard.
- If someone other than the licensed hunter is transporting big game parts (antlers, hide, etc.) to a taxidermist, the parts must be accompanied by the tagged leg or appropriate documentation that would allow a conservation officer to determine that the items in transport were lawfully possessed.
- Big game taken in another state or on a Tribal license must be properly tagged when transported within South Dakota. If no tag was issued, the person in possession of the animal must provide proof the animal was lawfully taken.
General Big Game Licensee:
No person possessing a firearm, including a muzzleloading firearm, or a bow and arrow may accompany a big game hunter in the field or cooperate as part of a big game hunting group unless the accompanying person possesses a big game license that is valid for the same geographic area and time of year as the licensee. This restriction does not apply to any person who is lawfully carrying a pistol, nor does it apply to a person who is legally licensed to hunt small game (or exempt from license requirements as provided by SDCL 41-6-2) and hunting only with a shotgun using shotshells. A person hunting small game and accompanying a licensed firearm big game hunter in the field may not use dogs while accompanying a big game hunter.
Archery-Only Big Game Licensee:
No person who is licensed in a season restricted to archery only may possess a firearm in the field while hunting big game with bow and arrow, except:
(1) A person who possesses a firearms big game license that is valid for the same geographic area and time of year as the archery license; and
(2) A person who is lawfully carrying a pistol.
Juveniles under age 16 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or other responsible adult while hunting. The adult must be unarmed except if the adult is lawfully carrying a pistol or if the adult possesses a firearm big game license that is valid for the same geographic area and time of year as the juvenile.
No self-loading or auto-loading firearm that holds more than six cartridges may be used to hunt, pursue, shoot at, shoot, kill or wound any big game animal. No firearm that is capable of being operated as a full automatic may be used to hunt, shoot, shoot at, wound, kill or pursue any big game or small game animal. For shotguns that discharge a single ball or rifled slug, the single ball or rifled slug must weigh at least one-half ounce. Buckshot is prohibited.
Deer and Antelope
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, may be used to hunt deer and antelope. Only soft-point or expanding bullets are permitted.
It is illegal to use firearms that produce less than 1,700 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and that are smaller than .243 caliber to hunt elk. Only soft point or expanding bullets are permitted.
Shoulder-held firearms using ammunition which is factory-rated to produce at least 700 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and handguns using ammunition which is factory-rated to produce at least 500 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle may be used in the hunting of wild turkeys. Muzzleloading firearms of at least .44 caliber and muzzleloading shotguns may also be used for this purpose.
In seasons restricted to muzzleloading firearms, telescopic sights are not allowed. Telescopic sights are sights that utilize magnification. No person may hunt, shoot, shoot at, wound, kill or pursue any big game animal with any muzzleloading rifle which discharges a projectile less than .44 caliber. Muzzleloading handguns must discharge a projectile of .50 caliber or larger. Note: Hunters filling big game tags that are not restricted to archery or muzzleloader may use any legal firearm, muzzleloading firearm, or archery equipment. Additionally, any person who holds a license to take a big game animal during the firearm season may take the animal by using a crossbow in lieu of a firearm. The crossbow may be drawn, held, and released by a mechanical device, shall have at least 120 pounds pull and have a mechanical safety. Telescopic sights are permitted.
A person hunting with bow and arrow may not use or possess any of the following:
- Explosive, poisonous, hydraulic or pneumatic points;
- Crossbows and draw-lock devices that hold the bow at partial or full draw except for individuals who qualify and possess a valid crossbow/draw-lock permit;
- Arrow rests that have more than three inches of continuous contact with the arrow;
- Electronic devices mounted to the bow that aid in the taking of game. However, cameras, video cameras, cell phones used exclusively for photographic purposes, lighted sight pins and illuminated arrow nocks may be used;
- Electronic arrow or electronic string releases;
- Telescopic sights;
- An arrow without a broadhead (fixed or mechanical) that has at least two metal cutting edges when hunting a big game animal, except blunt points may be possessed and used when hunting a turkey. Both field points and blunt points may be possessed and used when hunting small game or at any time when possessed and used as practice arrows;
- A bow that measures less than 40 pounds pull when hunting elk or less than 30 pounds when hunting big game other than elk.
- No one may hunt big game on interstate highways or controlled access facilities.
- No one may discharge a firearm, muzzleloader, crossbow or bow and arrow at any big game animal (except turkey) from within the right-of-way of an improved public highway. Turkeys can be taken within the right-of-way with a shotgun using shot shells or with bow and arrow.
- No one may hunt big game, except turkey as described above, on a section line or other highway if the right-of-way has been commonly used by the public for vehicular travel as demonstrated by the existence of a well-worn trail or if an intentional alteration has been made to the right-of-way to enhance the natural terrain’s utility for vehicular travel or to permit vehicular travel where it was not previously possible.
- No one may establish, utilize, or maintain a bait station from Aug 1 - Feb 1, inclusive, and from March 15 - May 31, inclusive, to attract any big game animal (including turkey). A bait station is a location where grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay, minerals
(including salt) or any other natural food materials, commercial products containing natural food materials or by-products of such materials are placed or maintained as an attractant to big game animals for the purpose of hunting. The use of scents alone does not constitute a bait station. The bait station restriction does not apply to foods that have not been placed or gathered by an individual and result from normal environmental conditions or accepted farming, forest management, wildlife food plantings, orchard management or similar land management activities. Individuals are exempt from the bait station requirements while participating in depredation management activities directed by GFP.
- No person may establish, utilize, or maintain a bait station, as defined above, on lands owned by the department and on properties managed and classified by the department as Game Production Areas, State Parks, State Recreation Areas, State Lakeside Use Areas, State Nature Areas and State Water Access Areas.
- No one may use a dog or electronic call when hunting big game (including turkey); however electronic calls are allowed for mountain lion hunting. The use of dogs to hunt mountain lions is only allowed by permit during those specified hunting intervals in Custer State Park that allow the use of dogs and year-round outside of the Black Hills Fire Protection District on private land with permission of the landowner or lessee. Additionally, leashed dogs may be used to track and retrieve wounded big game animals.
- During the time from sunset and sunrise, no person may use or possess night-vision equipment or throw or cast the rays of a spotlight, motor vehicle headlight, or other artificial light onto a highway, or into any field, pasture, woodland, forest, or prairie, for the purpose of spotting, locating, taking, attempting to take, or hunting any animal, if the person is in possession or control of a firearm, bow, or other implement by which an animal could be killed. However a person may use a handheld light, while the person is on foot, to take raccoons after the raccoons have been treed by dogs, or to engage in trapping activity and to take trapped fur-bearing animals; a landowner and up to two guests accompanying the person may use an artificial light and night vision equipment on the person’s land, to take jackrabbits, coyotes, beaver during its hunting season, foxes, raccoons, opossums, badgers, skunks, and rodents, provided they use shotgun and shotshells; or a firearm and a cartridge having a bullet diameter of less than .225 inches; a landowner who is at least 18 may grant permission for up to two guests to hunt unaccompanied on that person’s land for jackrabbits, coyotes, beaver during its hunting season, foxes, raccoons, opossums, badgers, skunks, and rodents, and such guests may use night vision equipment, provided they use a shotgun and shot shell or a firearm and a cartridge having a bullet diameter of less than .225 inches.
- No one may possess a loaded firearm while intoxicated.
- No one may wantonly waste game, destroy a big game animal not in season or destroy a big game animal in season and not tag and claim the animal.
- No one may sell or barter big game, except the head, hide and antlers.
- No one may recklessly discharge a firearm or bow.
- No one may hunt within any federal refuge, national park or monument or state game refuge unless specific seasons have been established for these areas. (See also Land Restrictions section below.)
- No one may use or possess firearms in the Fort Meade Recreation Area, South Unit, and the signed portion of the North Unit.
MOTOR VEHICLE RESTRICTIONS
A motor vehicle is any self-propelled vehicle or any vehicle propelled or drawn by a self-propelled vehicle. This includes snowmobiles, motorcycles and off-road vehicles (ATV/UTV).
- No one may use a motor vehicle to chase, harass, intercept, pursue or disturb big game.
- No one may send or receive a message by cellular telephone or other electronic form of communications while in or on a motor vehicle for the purpose of hunting big game.
- No one who is in or on a motor vehicle, except hunters with Disabled Hunter permits, may discharge a firearm or bow at any wild animal, except coyotes, jackrabbits, rodents, skunks, badgers, raccoons and foxes.
- No one may allow a firearm to protrude from a motor vehicle or a conveyance attached to it while the vehicle is on a public highway. However, a firearm may protrude from a stationary vehicle when shooting at coyotes, jackrabbits, rodents, skunks, badgers, raccoons and foxes.
- No person may chase, drive, harass, kill, or attempt to kill any game animal or game bird with or from a snowmobile, except coyotes may be taken by a landowner or lessee on the landowner’s property by shooting from stationary snowmobiles through the use of firearms if the operator of the snowmobile is at least 18 years of age. Not more than one person may be aboard the snowmobile while coyotes are being hunted or taken pursuant to this provision.
- No one may operate motorized vehicles on lands owned, leased or controlled by GFP, except on designated motor vehicle roads and parking areas; federal Waterfowl Production Areas, except designated parking areas; or private land without permission from the owner or lessee of the land.
- Hunters planning to use U.S. Forest Service or National Grassland public lands should contact the Forest Service or Grasslands office for details on travel restrictions.
- No person may kill or attempt to kill any wild bird or animal from an aircraft, except those who are lawfully permitted. No person may use an aircraft for the purpose of hunting, taking, concentrating, driving, rallying, stirring up, locating, or spotting any wild bird or animal, except a person who uses a drone for the purpose of locating or spotting a predator or varmint, provided: (1) The activity occurs only on or over land that is privately owned; (2) The person operating the drone is the landowner or has permission from the landowner or a lessee; and (3) The activity does not occur during the months of September, October, or November.
- No person may make use of, hunt, or shoot from any motorized boat, except when it is beached, resting at anchor, or fastened/tied immediately alongside any type of fixed hunting blind or natural cover, or is used solely as a means of picking up downed game.
- No person may use a motor vehicle for the purposes of hunting, fishing or trapping on any land under the control of the Commissioner of School and Public Lands, except for roads, trails or parking areas designated and signed by the GFP.
You may not hunt on private land or retrieve big game animals from private land without permission from the owner or lessee except in the Black Hills Fire Protection District. In that area you may not enter private land to hunt if the land is posted or if the owner or lessee has denied you entry.
- The Black Hills Forest Fire Protection District is within the following boundary:
beginning at a point on the WY-SD state line at the junction of I-90 at the state line; then east and southeast along I-90 via Rapid City to the intersection of U.S. Highway 16B; then south and southwest along U.S. 16B to the intersection of SD 79; then south along SD 79 to the intersection of U.S. 18; then south along U.S. 18 to the Cheyenne River; then west and northwest along the Cheyenne River to the WY-SD state line; then north along state line to the place of beginning.
- If a person is convicted of knowingly trespassing, that person’s hunting privilege shall be revoked for one year. A person’s hunting, fishing, or trapping privileges shall be revoked for two years following a second or subsequent trespass conviction within ten years.
Any trail camera placed on public lands owned, leased, or controlled by the department may be attached to a tree, post, or other structure by utilizing no more than one nail, bolt, or screw. The name and address of the owner or user or the year and current applicable big game license number of the owner or user must be on the exterior of an unattended trail camera. A trail camera is a remotely activated device set to capture photos, video, sound, or other evidence of activity while the user is absent from the location.
TREE STANDS/GROUND BLINDS/ELEVATED PLATFORMS:
Permanent tree stands and climbing devices are prohibited on lands owned, leased or controlled by GFP as well as the Fort Meade Recreation Area. Portable tree stands, portable blinds, and climbing devices that do not utilize nails, wire, or bolts for attachment are allowed from August 1 to March 31, inclusive. One screw-in “T” may be used to stabilize a tree stand. Removable screw-in steps may be used to access a tree stand. The name and address or the year and current applicable big game license number of the owner or user must be on the exterior of an unoccupied portable blind and legible from the ground on a tree stand. Other elevated platform devices that are not attached to a tree must meet the requirements of this rule for permitted dates and for labeling if left overnight or unattended. The use of nails, wires, screws, bolts, or screw-in type steps is prohibited on National Wildlife Refuges and Waterfowl Production Areas, both managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
State licenses are valid on private, deeded lands within the exterior boundaries of an Indian reservation. Persons planning to hunt on tribal lands should contact the appropriate tribal office.
WEAPONS RESTRICTIONS IN STATE PARK AND RECREATION AREAS:
Uncased firearms, crossbows, and bows are prohibited in all state parks, state recreation areas, state nature areas, and state lakeside use areas with the following exceptions:
- Uncased firearms, crossbows, and bows are permitted on designated rifle and archery ranges the year around.
- Hunters licensed for the special Custer State Park hunting seasons may have uncased firearms, crossbows, and bows in Custer State Park during the season for which they are licensed.
- Only shotguns using shot shells, muzzleloading shotguns, crossbows, and bows are permitted in Custer State Park during the Custer State Park spring turkey season.
- Uncased firearms, crossbows, and bows are permitted from September 1 to May 21, inclusive, within the Sheps Canyon Lakeside Use Area.
- From October 1 to April 30, inclusive, uncased firearms, crossbows, and bows are authorized for licensed hunters in all state parks, state recreation areas, nature areas, and lakeside use areas during established hunting seasons with the following restrictions:
- Uncased firearms, crossbows, and bows are prohibited the year around in all established campgrounds, designated day use areas, and at Beaver Creek Nature Area, Lake Herman State Park, Spring Creek Recreation Area, Spirit
Mound Historic Prairie, Bear Butte State Park east of State Highway 79, Oahe
Downstream Recreation Area except for a hunter who possesses a valid deer license for Unit WRD-58D or a valid turkey license for Unit PST-58B, and Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve and Good Earth State Park except for a resident hunter who possesses a valid archery deer license and an access permit or except for a resident hunter who possesses a valid archery spring turkey license and an access permit.
- Only bows are permitted in Big Sioux State Recreation Area, the Forest Drive Unit of Richmond Lake State Recreation Area, Palisades State Park, LaFramboise
(LAND RESTRICTIONS CONTINUED)
Island, Chief White Crane, Clay County Recreation Area, and the mouth of Spearfish Canyon.
- Only shotguns using shot shells, crossbows, and bows are permitted in West Whitlock State Recreation Area, West Pickerel Recreation Area, Mina Recreation Area, Okobojo Recreation Area, Farm Island Recreation Area, Angostura Recreation Area, Cow Creek State Recreation Area, Oakwood Lakes State Park, and the portions of North Point State Recreation Area which are situated to the west of 381st Street and north of 297th Avenue, and situated west of 382nd Avenue and north of 297th Street, and situated south of 297th Street, and west of Prairie Dog Bay.
- Only shotguns using shot shells, crossbows, and bows for the wild turkey hunting seasons and bows for archery deer and archery wild turkey hunting seasons are permitted in that portion of Newton Hills State Park which is situated to the west of County Road 135 and north of County Road 140.
- From October 1 to January 31, inclusive, deer hunting with a firearm, crossbow, or a bow is permitted in all state parks, state recreation areas, and state nature areas during established hunting seasons according to the provisions and restrictions set forth in this section, except for LaFramboise Island Nature Area and Farm Island Recreation Area where archery deer hunting is allowed to December 31, inclusive.
- A person who possesses a valid turkey license for Unit PST-48A is permitted to have an uncased shotgun using shotshells, a crossbow, a bow, or a muzzleloading shotgun within the boundary of Sica Hollow State Park to May 31, inclusive.
- A person who is allowed to legally carry a concealed pistol pursuant to state law may carry a concealed pistol at any time.
- The discharge of firearms and bows on or across the George S. Mickelson Trail right-of-way is prohibited.
WEAPONS RESTRICTIONS ON OTHER STATE-OWNED LANDS:
- Uncased firearms are prohibited on the East Pelican Lake Access in Codington County; that portion of the Beilage Game Production Area north of Christensen Drive located in Sec. 24 and 25, T6N, R2E, in Lawrence County; Hazel’s Haven Fishing Access in Moody County; that portion of the Marcotte Game Production Area in S16,
T5N, R5E, in Meade County; Kelley’s Cove Fishing Access Area in Yankton County; and the Hwy 38/James River Fishing Access in Davison County.
- No person may possess an uncased firearm on the New Underwood Lake Access in Pennington County except any licensed hunter while lawfully engaged in hunting game.
- No person may possess an uncased firearm on the Rollings Game Production Area in Lincoln County except any licensed hunter, using a shotgun with shotshells only, while hunting small game or wild turkey and persons using the shooting range when open.
- No person may possess an uncased firearm on the Lake Henry Fishing Access in Bon Homme County except any licensed hunter, using a shotgun with shotshells only, while hunting small game or turkey.
- Only shotguns using shot shells, crossbows and bows are permitted on lands owned by the Otter Tail Power Company and leased by the department as a Game Production Area in Grant County and the Lake Andes Unit’s game production areas in Charles Mix County.
- Centerfire rifles are prohibited on the Lechtenberg Game Production Area in Hand County and Cottonwood Lake Hatchery State Game Bird Refuge in Spink County.
HORSES ON STATE-OWNED LANDS:
- You may not ride or allow horses on land owned, leased or controlled by GFP except on designated bridle trails or equestrian areas. Licensed hunters may use horses during deer season on Game Production Areas adjacent to the Missouri River.
- A person licensed to hunt deer or elk, or any person assisting in the removal of legally tagged deer and elk may use horses on the Battle Mountain/Friendshuh Game Production Area in Fall River and Custer counties during established deer and elk seasons.
GUIDING ON PUBLIC LANDS: No person acting as a hunting guide may guide any hunting activity on state-owned or managed Game Production Areas, state parks, recreation areas, lakeside use areas, federal land leased or under agreement to SD and posted as a Game Production Area and managed for wildlife purposes, private land leased or under agreement to GFP for the purpose of providing public access, or on highways or other public rights-of-way within this state that otherwise meet the requirements except that a hunting guide or employees of a hunting guide may guide a hunting activity on the road right-of-way immediately adjacent to property owned or leased by the hunting guide. A hunting guide is defined as a person who holds himself or herself out to the public as a hunting guide and, for compensation or remuneration, directs or provides services to any person for the purpose of hunting any wild animals. Contact the respective agency for information about possible restrictions pertaining to guiding/outfitting on federal lands.
Archery and firearm shooting hours for big game are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, except turkey which is one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
FLUORESCENT ORANGE CLOTHING:
Big game licensees (excluding turkey and mountain lion) hunting with a firearm must wear at least one exterior garment of fluorescent orange while hunting. Garments include hats, shirts, vests, jackets, coats or sweaters. Regulations at Sand Lake and Waubay National Wildlife Refuges require firearm deer hunters to wear a minimum of 400 square inches of visible solid fluorescent orange (not camouflage orange) material on the head, chest and back. INSPECTION: Any motor vehicle, camper or trailer may be stopped for such inspection and count at the request of any uniformed law enforcement officer. You may not refuse inspection and count of game.
FEDERAL LACY ACT:
No person may transport or ship to another state wildlife taken unlawfully in South Dakota.
No one may intentionally interfere with other persons lawfully engaged in taking or attempting to take game, engage in an activity specifically intended to harass or prevent the lawful taking of game, or engage in an activity to scare or disturb game with specific intent to prevent its lawful taking.
Violations of most big game regulations are class 1 misdemeanors, punishable by fine and/or imprisonment and mandatory loss of hunting privileges for one year. In addition to criminal penalties, a person taking or killing big game illegally may be assessed civil damages in the amount of $200 for each turkey, $1,000 for each non-trophy deer, non-trophy antelope or bobcat, $5,000 for each non-trophy elk, mountain lion or buffalo, and $10,000 for each mountain goat or bighorn sheep. Cases involving “trophy” antelope or deer, civil damages will be at least $2,000 and not more than $5,000 for each animal; cases involving “trophy” elk, civil damages will be at least $6,000 and not more than $10,000 for each elk. If a person has taken or is in possession of more than two times the lawful daily or possession limit of a regulated wild animal, such person may be liable for twice the civil damages. Conviction for taking trophy big game animals may also lead to loss of any accrued preference points.
You can report violations by contacting the Turn In Poachers (TIPs) Hotline (1-888-OVERBAG) or your local Conservation Officer. If possible, record and report the following information: date and time of violation, nature of violation, location, name of violator (if known), description of subject(s), vehicle description, and license plate number. Through the TIPs program callers can remain anonymous and receive rewards when information provided leads to the arrest of those who violate our wildlife laws.