You won’t find it on any calendar, but the opening day of pheasant hunting season is a holiday of sorts for many who enjoy the outdoors.
The 2023 season opens at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, and thousands of visitors will be in the Aberdeen region to take to the fields.
Whether you are a guest or local resident, we’ve gathered all of the information you need to know in our 2023 pheasant primer. You’ll even find the weather forecast and some entertainment options.
Welcome to town! Good luck with your hunt, have fun and stay safe.
Licenses: How much do they cost and where can I get one?
The cost of licenses varies for residents and non-residents and youth and adults. The costs of different options follow.
- Combination (small game and fishing): $55 or $40 for those 65 and older.
- Small game: $33
- One-day small game: $12
- Youth small game: $5, ages 12 to 17
- Habitat stamp: $10
- Small game: $121 for two five-day periods, which can be consecutive.
- Youth small game: $10 for two, five-day periods, ages 12-17.
- Shooting preserve: $121, annual.
- Shooting preserve five-day: $76
- Shooting preserve one day: $46
- Habitat stamp: $25
To purchase licenses online, visit gfp.sd.gov/hunt-fish-license. A $4 agent fee is assessed on licenses bought online.
There are also nearly 300 registered license dealers across South Dakota. Licenses can be purchased at the following businesses in Brown County.
- Dunham’s, 3315 Sixth Ave. S.E., Suite 300
- Ken’s SuperFair Foods, 2201 Sixth Ave. S.E.
- Kessler’s, 621 Sixth Ave. S.E.
- Runnings, 1815 Sixth Ave. S.E.
- Sodak Sport and Bait, 850 S. U.S. Highway 281.
- Walmart, 3820 Seventh Ave. S.E.
- Ken’s SuperFair Foods, 4 E. U.S. Highway 12.
Just beyond the borders of Brown County, licenses are sold at Ken’s SuperFair Foods, 511 Fifth Ave., Ipswich, in Edmunds County to the west of Brown County and at Mellette Travel Plaza at the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and State Highway 20 in Spink County to the south of Brown County.
Some private hunting lodges also sell licenses.
Electronic small game licenses are accepted. To use one, log in to your South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks licensing account and take a screenshot.
When can pheasant hunting start and what’s the bird limit?
The pheasant season opens Saturday, Oct. 21 and runs through Jan. 31, 2024. Shooting is allowed from 10 a.m. until sunset for the entire season.
Three rooster pheasants are allowed each day, with a possession limit of 15 roosters total. It is illegal to shoot hens.
All public lands in South Dakota are open for hunting, with the following exceptions where pheasant hunting is only allowed in December and January:
- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Brown County): Dec. 11, 2023 through Jan. 31, 2024.
- Renziehausen Game Production Area and Game Bird Refuge (Brown and Marshall counties): Dec. 1. 2023 through Jan. 31, 2024.
- Gerken Game Bird Refuge (Faulk County): Dec. 1, 2023 through Jan. 31, 2024.
- White Lake Game Bird Refuge (Marshall County): Dec. 1, 2023 through Jan. 31, 2023
Turn in poachers
The state’s Turn In Poachers hotline is 1-888-683-7224. Reports can be made anonymously. Informants are eligible for rewards.
Help sustain the South Dakota pheasant population for years to come by turning in those taking more than the allowed daily limit of pheasants. GFP conservation officers are always on the lookout for poaching.
How’s the weather looking?
Fall weather in South Dakota can vary drastically, but things look great for this weekend.
The high will be near 64 with a north wind around 10 mph for Saturday’s opening day, according to the National Weather Service forecast for Aberdeen.
On Sunday, Oct. 22, the projected high is around 60.
It’s more of the same on Monday, Oct. 23 as the high should be in the low sixties.
All three days should be sunny with overnight lows around 40, give or take.
What’s the season outlook?
The South Dakota GFP stopped conducting brood surveys in recent years, so it’s hard to get a good feel for numbers. However, the agency provides a generic outlook. Here’s what it says about this year’s season:
“Pheasant population conversations start and end with good quality habitat. While Old Man Winter had a long stay here, quality habitat on the ground helped improve pheasant survival in many areas. Even with last year’s good hunting conditions, we are in an even better spot habitat-wise, and reports of large size broods are common. Conditions are excellent in western, central and northeast South Dakota. Hunters may see some (Conservation Reserve Program land) open to emergency haying and grazing in limited counties in southeast South Dakota, but overall the available habitat left standing is in great shape.”
The 2022 season was the best in five years, according to GFP.
During the 109-day season, there were 53,846 resident and 73,887 nonresident hunters for a total of 127,733. It’s estimated they shot about 1.16 million pheasants for an average 9.1 per hunter.
Behind agriculture, tourism is South Dakota’s No. 2 industry, so visitors should be warmly welcomed. It’s estimated that pheasant hunters spent $257.3 in South Dakota last year, including $17.4 million in Brown County.
Hunters harvested more pheasants in Brown County than in any other county last year, according to GFP. Estimates for the top five counties follow.
- Brown: 74,313
- Beadle: 66,298
- Brule: 54,242
- Spink: 49,7474
- Tripp: 48,088
Maps and apps show public hunting areas
Maps showing public access hunting areas are available on the GFP website at gfp.sd.gov/hunting-areas/. Click on the highlighted text that reads “most recent updates available.”
That website also contains a wealth of information about conservation efforts and private and public lands. South Dakota has more than 5 million acres open to public hunting.
Smartphone apps are also available for both Androids and iPhones. Search for “SD GFP Outdoors” in the respective stores to download the app.
Some businesses that cater to hunters could also have paper maps.
Blaze orange recommended, but not required
Wearing bright orange in the field is not required by law. However, it is strongly recommended so hunters can be easily spotted by others.
Trespassing is a misdemeanor
It is illegal to hunt on private land without permission. Violators could be charged with trespassing, which is a misdemeanor.
Hunters are allowed to shoot pheasants in most road rights of way. Right-of-way hunters must be on foot. Birds must have taken flight from within or be flying over the right of way. A pheasant shot in a right of way that lands on private land can be retrieved on foot.
Hunters are not allowed to discharge firearms from vehicles.
Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition offers incentives for walk-in land
A group of local businesses and organizations in the Aberdeen area, spearheaded by Northern South Dakota Pheasants Forever Chapter No. 77, provide financial incentives to property owners to enroll land in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program and the GFP public walk-in program.
Land enrolled in both programs is added to public walk-in maps.
Aberdeen area entertainment options
Some of the entertainment options in the Aberdeen area for the next week follow. For more entertainment and event options, see this issue’s event calendar.
Friday, Oct. 20
- Pheasants Forever fall shootout and hunters social: 5-10 p.m., City Lights Bar & Events Center, 316 S. Second St. Event features raffles, games, and live and silent auctions, free admission.
- Live music by Double S Duo: 6 p.m. dinner followed by music at 7 p.m., Elks Lodge, 705 Circle Drive.
- ’70s Disco Party: 7 p.m., Red Rooster Coffee House, 218 S. Main St.
- Jack Willhite Rock & Roll Comedy Show: 7-10 p.m., Hub City Station Event Center, 1923 Sixth Ave. S.E., Suite 104. Tickets are $10 or $8 for Northern State students with an ID.
- Capitol Cinema movie: 7 p.m., tickets $9. For show details, visit capitolcinema.net/.
Saturday, Oct. 21
- College football: Northern State vs. Wayne State, 6 p.m., Dacotah Bank Stadium on the campus of Northern State University.
- Farmers market: 8:30 a.m.-noon, Malchow Plaza, 506 S. Main St.
- “Rocky Horror Picture Show”: Costume karaoke and movie, Saturday, Oct. 21, Red Rooster Coffee House, 218 S. Main St. Costume and karaoke party 6-9 p.m. Film screening 9:30 p.m. at Capitol Theatre, 415 S. Main St., $9.
- Comedy night: 8 p.m., Saturday Oct. 21, One-Legged Pheasant, 712 S. Main St., featuring Esteban Gonzalez and Fred Madrigal, $15 in advance, $20 at door.
- Heartland Oktoberfest polka party with Randy Fauth: 7-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 at Hub City Station Event Center, 1923 Sixth Ave. S.E., Suite 104.
- Capitol Cinema movie: 7 p.m., tickets $9. For show details, visit capitolcinema.net/.
Sunday, Oct. 22
- Pancake breakfast: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Yelduz Shrine, 802 S. Main St. Pancakes, sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy, juice, milk and coffee served for $8.
- Capitol Cinema movie: 2 p.m., tickets $9. For show details, visit capitolcinema.net/.
Monday, Oct. 23
- Table of Plenty: Free community meal and fellowship 5:30-7 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 1732 S. Main St.
Wednesday, Oct. 25
- Pub trivia: 8 p.m., Danger von Dempsey’s Pizza and Brewhaus, 1023 S. Main St.
Thursday, Oct. 26
- Aberdeen Moose Bingo: 6 p.m., Aberdeen Moose Lodge, 410 Ninth Ave. S.W. Doors open at 4 p.m., packets start at $23.