Duck Hunting Season in South Dakota: Season Dates, Bag Limits, and More

Written by Christina Eck
Updated: June 1, 2023
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South Dakota is home to sprawling prairies, glacial lakes, and mountains. These conditions make it a favorable spot for ducks to live during specific seasons. If you’re interested in the duck hunting season in South Dakota, then keep reading.

Each region has its own unique ways of duck hunting, including designated hunting areas. South Dakota is known for its promised wetlands and prairie, making it the perfect place for waterfowl hunting. Below, we’ll explain everything you’d need to know to hunt ducks in South Dakota.

What Types of Ducks Can Be Found in South Dakota?

Mallard ducks flying.

Mallard ducks are commonly found in South Dakota hunting zones.


South Dakota sees a lot of migrating birds throughout the year, especially during the fall. Regarding ducks, the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks decide what waterfowl hunters can find. During this time, they collect species data and release what types of ducks they’ve found for the season. On this page, you can check what types of ducks visited during the past year or two.

Here are the following duck species that have been reported to migrate and be seen in South Dakota hunting zones:

South Dakota Hunting Zones

Pintail and Mallard Ducks gather on a south Dakota pothole during the Spring Migration

Four hunting zones in South Dakota offer different waterfowl with availability on specific dates.

©Patrick Ziegler/

There are four different duck hunting zones in South Dakota. Each hunting zone will have different waterfowl and be available on specific dates. If you don’t know which ones to choose, this guide below can help you.

While we could describe the different hunting zones, it’s better to show you. There is the Low Plains North Zone, the Low Plains Middle Zone, the High Plains Zone, and the Low Plains South Zone. You can check out this zone map to better understand their location.

Duck Hunting Season Dates in South Dakota

Low Plains North ZoneLow Plains Middle ZoneHigh Plains ZoneLow Plains South Zone
September 23-December 5September 23-December 5October 14-January 18October 28-January 9

Other Season Dates

Aside from regular duck hunting, there is also a special period where there for youth to hunt. Those dates are September 9 and September 10. So, there are around two days that youth can duck hunt.

Daily Bag Limits and Possession Limits

The daily bag limit will depend on what type of Migratory Bird Certification you get. There are two options, the Traditional Migratory Bird Certification and the Three Duck Migratory Bird Certification. Once you fill out and receive your certificate, you will have to adhere to what the permit allows you to do.

Traditional Migratory Bird Certification

The traditional certificate, including all species, has a six-duck limit per day and has sex requirements. For possession, it is three times the amount of the daily bag limit or up to 18 ducks.

Three-Duck Migratory Bird Certification

This certificate has a three-duck limit with no species or sex restrictions. Instead, they can have three ducks of any legal species or sex daily. However, possession limits are three times the daily bag limit of nine ducks.

Shooting Hours

The shooting hours in South Dakota are a half hour before sunrise or sunset. When hunting ducks, it’s better to do so in the morning because they are more active. So, it’s best to plan ahead of time. That way, you can adhere to rules and regulations.

Gear Needed for Duck Hunting

Duck Hunting Gear

Not being prepared for duck hunting can change how your experience goes.

©Denise Lett/

South Dakota is relatively flat and will have lots of prairies. No matter where you’re hunting, you’ll generally want to have the proper gear at hand. Most experts recommend having the following:

  • Ammunition
  • Shotgun
  • Blind bag
  • Suck strap
  • Decoys
  • Gun case
  • Hammer and stakes
  • Binoculars
  • Game shears

Aside from gear, you will want to make sure you have the following clothing:

  • Boots 
  • Hats
  • Camo pants
  • Camo shirt
  • Gloves
  • Earmuffs
  • Overalls
  • Rain suits
  • Socks
  • Thermal underwear
  • Facemask 

Your gear list can change depending on how you like to do your hunting. For example, if you bring a dog, you will need dog food, water carriers, a whistle, and a leash. On the other hand, if you want to do other types of hunting, you might want sunscreen, hand warmers, electrical tape, compass, etc.

How to Be Successful during Duck Hunts

If you’re a first-time hunter, you might want to learn some tips and tricks to maximize your time. During the hunting season, you’re limited to certain hours a day and bag limits. Maximizing those limits takes skill and patience, which can be learned through several methods.

1. Take a Hunter’s Safety Course

The number one reason we see hunters leave the area is due to getting injured. If you want to maximize your time, doing so safely is key. Taking a hunter’s safety course can teach you how to handle a gun correctly and tips to hunt waterfowl successfully.

2. Understand Rules and Regulations

Hunting in different districts requires a strict understanding of the codes and regulations. You must adhere to the bag and possession laws and always carry your certification. If you do not, you will be fined and unable to keep what you caught.

On top of that, you will need to adhere to species regulations. Not all species can be caught. Understanding how to identify waterfowl correctly can help save you from taking one of the wrong species.

3. Get the Correct Hunting Gear

In particular, you want to ensure you have the right clothing and equipment for hunting ducks. The most important thing is to bring decoys and binoculars, which will be vital to your success. If you’re bringing a dog, be sure to have them trained or at least control them.

4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Understand that you won’t be alone on the duck hunting fields. Other hunters will be using camo gear to blend in with the environment. Be extra cautious when using your gun, and only use it with a clear shot. If you are unskilled, booking a guided hunt with a professional who can show you the ropes is worth booking.

Best Places to Duck Hunt in South Dakota

A duck hunter and his hunting dog on a wetland in North Dakota

The best place to duck hunt in South Dakota is in designated hunting zones.

©Steve Oehlenschlager/

Due to South Dakota having designated hunting areas, there isn’t a “best” place to be. Instead, you should ask what you are looking for and when. As a hunter, you can catch the prey you want if you plan accordingly.

In South Dakota, duck hunting is limited to four different zones. However, these zones are all located in the east part of the state. Due to this, the zones are relatively close together, so you’ll likely be able to travel from zone to zone.

Duck Hunting in South Dakota FAQs

Can You Duck Hunt in South Dakota?

Duck hunting is allowed in South Dakota if you meet certain requirements. This includes being 16 or older and having a valid signed Federal Waterfowl Stamp. Lastly, you must purchase a Migratory Bird Certificate before hunting for that season. If it applies, a separate nonresident small game license will also be required if you want to hunt other small game.

Is There Good Duck Hunting in South Dakota?

The massive wetlands make South Dakota a winner regarding duck hunting locations. There are various types of hunting, including small pothole hunting, decoys, layout blinds, and more. South Dakota is also next to the Missouri River and many glacial lakes, perfect for catching migrating birds during the fall season.

When Does Duck Hunting Season Start in South Dakota?

The duck hunting season begins in late September and will last until the beginning of January. The fall season is the most active for waterfowl due to species heading north due to migration. Waterfowl will also search for open water sources and food during this time, making it easier to find flocks in large quantities.

Can You Road-Hunt Ducks in South Dakota?

South Dakota allows public road rights of way open for hunting waterfowl. However, you may not hunt waterfowl if you are within a 660 feet distance of buildings. If you break this law, you will be punished and fined.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Patrick Ziegler/

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About the Author

Christina Eck is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on animals and travel. Christina has been writing about and researching animals for more than seven years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, which she earned in 2019. As a resident of Washington State, Christina enjoys hiking, playing with her dog, and writing fiction and non-fiction pieces.

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