Game, Fish and Parks news

Increased opportunities for bighorn sheep season

PIERRE – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission voted to allow up to a total of eight bighorn sheep licenses for the 2020 season. Of the eight licenses, one will be an auction license and the revenue specifically used for bighorn sheep management.

The commission also established a new hunting unit in Custer and Pennington counties, modified an existing hunting unit for Custer and Fall River counties and re-established a hunting unit in Custer State Park.

Tundra swan, duck, youth waterfowl seasons changed

PIERRE – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission finalized changes to three waterfowl hunting seasons at their March meeting.

The changes reduce the number of available resident tundra swan hunting licenses from 1,425 to 1,100 and nonresident licenses from 250 to 200. This reduction in licenses comes from the recommendation of the Central Flyway Council and was adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The commission modified the season start dates for the Low Plains North and Low Plains Middle duck hunting zones. With this change, the season will start one week earlier four out of the next ten years, allowing hunters to take advantage of local breeding ducks such as blue-winged teal. 

The season structure will now begin the Saturday closest to Sept. 24. For these zones the 2020 duck hunting season will begin Sept. 26.

The commission also moved the 2020 Youth Waterfowl Season. The change aligns with the federal framework that allows the season to begin the Saturday closest to 14 days prior to September 24. The upcoming youth waterfowl season will be Sept. 12-13, 2020.

Turkey hunting rules changed

PIERRE – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission deadlocked on a proposal allowing the use of rifles to hunt turkeys on private land during the West River spring turkey season.

After much discussion and public testimony, four commissioners voted in favor and four commissioners voted against the proposal, leaving the current regulation in place which does not allow the use of rifles during the spring turkey season. 

Flathead catfish limit restriction changed

PIERRE – The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission has established a length limit on flathead catfish. The new rule limits the harvest of flathead catfish 30 inches or longer to one per day on inland waters, as part of the catfish daily limit. 

The original proposal was made at the November commission meeting and included all waters in the state, including border waters, and originated from the public petition process.

GFP staff attended a meeting to discuss catfish management with Iowa and Nebraska in February. The goal of that meeting was to develop common regulations for catfish on border waters. The department recommended to the commission that the “one-over-30 inches” regulation for flathead catfish also apply to the Nebraska border waters and the commission proposed that change.

The commission will consider formally adopting the change in flathead catfish regulations on the Nebraska border waters at their meeting in Custer State Park on May 7-8. Discussions will continue with Iowa with anticipated regulation changes to be considered later in the year.

Special buck licenses rejected

PIERRE –  The Game, Fish and Parks Commission rejected a proposal to establish 500 nonresident, special buck licenses for East River at their March meeting.

Currently, there are 500 special buck licenses allocated to residents that must be used on private land and are good for “any deer.”

The additional 500 licenses were proposed to be good for “any whitetail,” valid only on private land, and come at a price of $554 for nonresidents. 

The proposal further outlined the allocation would be annual, that applicants must have permission from a landowner or lessee of private land before applying, and that the applicant must provide the name and phone number of the person with whom they have permission to hunt.

The request came from the public petition process. 

Archery deer season modified

PIERRE – The Game, Fish and Parks Commission proposed to modify the season start date for Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge and Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge from the fourth Saturday of September to September 1. These changes would align with the start date of archery deer hunting across the state.

The proposal also makes an allowance for no more than 500 single-tag “antlerless any deer” licenses in addition to the one “antlerless whitetail deer” license for residents and nonresidents for Unit ARD-LM1, the area where antlerless whitetail archery deer licenses are valid. These would be distributed amongst all municipal archery deer hunting units and establish municipal archery deer hunting units for the city limits of Custer, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Sturgis. Season structure and specific regulations would be determined by the appropriate municipality within the requirements and restrictions of the South Dakota archery season.

Some municipalities have worked with GFP to develop urban deer management plans to help alleviate issues like vehicle/deer collisions and property damage. Archery deer hunting within city limits can help address issues caused by urban deer populations and provide additional hunting opportunities. Specifically, the municipal governments of Custer, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Sturgis are interested in implementing this management tool.

Individuals can comment online at or mail comments to 523 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501. To be included in the public record and to be considered by the commission, comments must include a full name and city of residence and meet the submission deadline of 72 hours before the public hearing (not including the day of the public hearing).


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