Here’s some information and tips to get you on track for another special South Dakota wingshooting opportunity.
Other than in the north-central region, the winter of 2016/2017 was fairly normal throughout the rest of the state, according to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (SDGFP).
Unfortunately, much of South Dakota’s prairie grouse range experienced a prolonged drought during the spring and summer months. In past years, drought conditions have been associated with poor reproductive success, so hunters should expect to put in more hours to find birds in certain parts of the state this year.
Prairie grouse abundance—as measured by spring lek counts—are running near the 10-year average, with the prairie chicken population being slightly above normal while sharp-tailed grouse numbers are slightly below the long-term average. Both species had higher counts in 2017 versus 2013, the last time South Dakota experienced a severe drought.
Hunter success is dependent upon reproductive success, which can be very difficult to predict prior to the hunting season. According to SDGFP, hunters harvested nearly 43,000 birds last year, a slight pullback from the 2014 and 2015 bounce-back years.
Central and south-central South Dakota are traditionally the best areas for mixed bag prairie grouse hunting. In these areas, mixed flocks of are more likely to be encountered. The world-renowned Fort Pierre National Grasslands area remains a popular destination, but hunters should not overlook many of the other public Walk-In Areas nor bypass the fabulous landscapes and vistas of the National Grasslands of western South Dakota.
With drought conditions taking a toll in many areas of rangeland, prairie grouse could be concentrated in shrubby draws or alfalfa fields where regrowth has occurred. Hunters should be prepared to adapt to the changing conditions to improve their hunting success. Plan your trip to South Dakota right now.
PRAIRIE CHICKEN AND SHARP-TAILED GROUSE SEASON
Season Dates: September 16, 2017 – January 7, 2018
Open Area: Statewide
Daily Limit: 3
Possession Limit: 15
Shooting Hours: Sunrise to sunset