True, South Dakota does have over 5 million acres of hunting opportunity on public land and private land that has been leased for public hunting.
The fact remains that the vast majority of the state is land held in private ownership. Permission is required to hunt private land in South Dakota. Your ability to develop a connection with private landowners will enhance your hunting opportunities.
We encourage you to work as individuals and through your local sportsmen's clubs to create a personal and working relationship with private landowners. Respect their rights and their land.
Public Land Open for Hunting
Game Production Areas: GPA's are generally managed for the production and maintenance of all wildlife species. Although species emphasis varies from site to site, all wildlife benefits. South Dakota has approximately 730 Game Production Areas, totaling more than 295,000 acres.
Waterfowl Production Areas: WPA's are owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as satellites of the National Wildlife Refuge system. These areas are managed for the production of waterfowl, but other game and nongame species thrive on them as well. There are 1,000 WPAs in South Dakota, totaling nearly 150,000 acres. Public hunting is one of the benefits these areas provide.
Bureau of Land Management: BLM lands are open to public hunting, with the majority of surface acres located in 13 counties west of the Missouri River. A majority of the vegetation on BLM lands is prairie grassland or juniper woodlands. These lands are managed for livestock grazing, mineral extraction, forest management and recreation if public access exists. BLM manages over 274,000 surface acres, please check with the local BLM office to be aware of any specific rules or restrictions that may apply to these lands.
Forest Service: The United States Forest Service manages over 2 million acres in the Black Hills and Custer National Forests and three national grassland units; Buffalo Gap, Fort Pierre and Grand River. These lands are all open to public hunting and fishing. Please check with the local USFS office to be aware of any specific rules, restrictions or travel plans that may apply to these lands.
School & Public Lands: The SD office of School and Public Lands manages over 750,000 acres of land. The majority of this land is located in the western half of the state. School lands are available to the public for hunting and fishing. These lands must be legally accessed, anyone crossing private land to access school land must have the permission of the private landowner. Off-road travel is prohibited. No person may engage in hunting in any standing, unharvested crops on any school and public lands, unless the crop is designated for conservation or wildlife habitat.
Private Land open for Hunting
Please remember these are privately owned lands and your actions while hunting on them can determine if they are open to public hunting in the future.
Walk-In Areas: Privately owned lands, operating as working farms and ranches. Walk-In Areas are leased for public hunting access by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks using money from the sale of hunting licenses and Federal Aid money from a tax on hunting equipment sales to pay the leases. No further permission from landowners is needed to hunt these areas. NO DRIVING is allowed on Walk-In Areas except on designated trails and parking areas. There are over 1.25 million acres in the Walk-In Area program.
- Hunter Evaluation of the 2009 WIA's - Report
- Walk-In Evaluation - Northwest Region
- Walk-In Evaluation - East Central
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP): Open year round to public hunting and fishing access. CREP lands are owned by private individuals who have enrolled them in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and signed a lease agreement with South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks to provide public hunting and fishing access.
Controlled Hunting Access Program (CHAP): Privately owned lands, operated as working farms and ranches, leased for public hunting access by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks primarily for big game hunting. Landowners are paid based on the number of hunters that use these lands. It is important that hunters using a CHAP area complete the required check in registration slip and drop it in the self-service box so hunter use can be properly counted. Lease payments are paid with money from hunting license sales. To view current CHAP areas, click here.
Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Program: Click here for map and current waterfowl reports.
COOP Manage Areas: Privately owned lands, operating as working farms and ranches, leased for public hunting access by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. These leases are paid for using money from the sale of hunting licenses and Federal Aid money from a tax on hunting equipment sales. No further permission is needed from the landowner to hunt these areas. Driving on harvested fields is allowed to place and retrieve waterfowl decoys. Hunters with a disabled hunting permit are also allowed to drive on these areas to hunt any game. All other access is limited to foot traffic only. No hunting while farm machinery is present. Most are located in the north east part of South Dakota.
Elk Access Program: SD GFP has signed lease agreements with ranchers around Wind Cave National Park to provide public elk hunting access. These leases are paid for with money from the sale of hunting licenses. In order to insure the most successful harvest of elk on these lands, reservations are taken on a first come, first serve basis. If you draw an elk license for the southern black hills and would like to hunt one of these areas, please call the Rapid City Regional GFP office at 605.394.2391 for more information.
Private Landowners - click here to find information on how to enroll your property