Shooting hours are 12 noon (Central Time) to sunset for the first seven days of the season, and then 10 a.m. (Central Time) to sunset for the rest of the season. (Central Time is used for opening shooting hours statewide.) See page 21 of the South Dakota Hunting Guide 2018/19 for more hunting information.
Shooting hours are called “twilight” in South Dakota, since there is a variety of official sunset times around the state. You can check this chart to determine when shooting hours begin or end in your region. It is incredible how much difference can exist between eastern and western SD, for example, sunset time is nearly an hour earlier in SD west than in SD east.
Since the central time zone has nearly 40 percent of South Dakota’s total population, the state has set the open and close times of bird hunting season, except for the counties east of Interstate 90, to coincide with “Central Time.” But SD is a very large state, covering some 70,215 square miles, so Phoenix is already only three hours behind by the time Sioux Falls is beginning the pheasant season.
And 69 of those counties are in the eastern time zone where shooting hours are established by local ordinance, not by the state. This situation has caused some alarm among pheasant hunters, who want one set of opening and closing hours for the entire state.
Instead of postponing our season, consider the pheasant hunting opportunities available east of I-90. Pheasants abound in the east and many birds stick around after non-residents have filled their bags. You can stay as late as you want after closing time, hunt mornings and evenings to add more birds to your daily limit, and spend Monday morning hunting eastern SD pheasants with an opening date of Monday, Oct. 8.
Since SD hunting seasons are tied to the kids’ school schedule, the fall pheasant recovery was not as good in eastern SD as in western SD.
Shooting hours have been set to match the time when school is in session so parents can be home to supervise their kids. Bidding on days with later shooting times is less popular because business owners do not want to close early for a football game on a Sunday, or take a half-day off on a Monday for a pheasant hunt.
Multiple shooting hours give eastern hunters two good opportunities to get in the field. SD has one of the best pheasant hunting traditions in the nation and people here love to hunt and shoot.
If you are not planning to hunt the first week of the season, now is the time to join the growing list of South Dakota pheasant hunters.