SD Fort Pierre National Grasslands Coyote Hunting Adventure

This gateway to the West provides a superb backdrop for a public ground coyote hunt.

SD Fort Pierre National Grasslands Coyote Hunting Adventure

The Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota is a great destination for a DIY coyote hunt.

The Fort Pierre National Grasslands encompass 116,000 acres of prime pubic hunting grounds—rolling prairie intermixed with private rangeland and fields of wheat, sorghum, corn and sunflowers. This national treasure is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and located a few miles south of South Dakota’s capitol city of Pierre, spanning parts of Layman, Stanley and Jones counties. If you arrive from the east, you’ll cross the mighty Missouri River and quickly notice the terrain change from the flat cornfields of the east to the rolling terrain of the west. The Fort Pierre National Grasslands consists of open prairie on gently rolling hills or flatlands. There is considerable grazing on the grasslands and stock dams are scattered throughout the property, providing water sources that attract prey species and the predators that hunt them. Access to the grasslands is good, with major gravel roads and minor two-tracks criss-crossing most of the region. 

This South Dakota grasslands are wildly popular with wing shooters for their world-class prairie grouse and pheasant hunting, and nonresidents and their dogs flock to the Mount Rushmore State each autumn to hunt these public holdings. But the Fort Pierre National Grasslands receive little attention once the upland birds season has expired. And that’s good news for varmint hunters. Coyote numbers in the grasslands — like across much of the state — are impressive. And with trapping pressure diminished due to a depressed fur market, there has never been a better time to hunt coyotes. An experienced predator hunter with map and GPS in hand, can put together a formidable plan for putting a few pelts in the fur shed. But remember, while fur prices are at historic lows, coyote pelts still have value. For information on selling your pelts in South Dakota, visit the South Dakota Trappers Association website at www.sdtrappersassociation.org.

Hunters who overnight in Pierre will want to get up early to make the 20- to 30-minute drive south to the grasslands, arriving before first light. Scouting should be done prior to the hunt with several stand locations selected in advance. A map of the grasslands and a GPS are helpful for marking and getting to these locations quickly, especially in the dark. Coyote season is open year-round, with unrestricted shooting hours and bag limit. They may be hunted at night, but no artificial lights of any kind are permitted on public land. Coyotes are abundant throughout the grasslands but tend to be secretive and are most active from dusk to dawn. They often rest during the day and only move when disturbed. They remain active throughout the winter. 

Successful hunters will concentrate their efforts away from the main roads, using the rolling nature of the terrain to sneak in and set up in Wily’s backyard. Prey species congregate wherever good cover is found — often around the stock dams — and these are good places to begin. Hike in and set up overlooking these honey holes. Mid-November through February is the best time to hunt because deep snow impedes coyotes’ hunting efforts and cold temperatures require that they hunt aggressively to obtain the protein they need to survive. It’s also the time when pelts are prime. Bring skinning tools and plastic bags to field skin your coyotes.

And here’s a bonus: Prairie dogs are scattered but abundant in some areas of the grasslands. These varmints can be hunted year-round on private ground in South Dakota and on public lands, such as the Fort Pierre National Grasslands, from mid-June through February.

Note: Before hunting on any of the national grasslands in western South Dakota, check the current permit requirements and restrictions that might apply. 

Fast Facts/Fort Pierre National Grasslands/South Dakota

Outfitter: Self-guided

Location: Fort Pierre National Grasslands/Pierre, South Dakota

Accommodations: Hunters can stay in one of many hunter-friendly motels in Pierre or Fort Pierre and provide their own transportation to hunt area. A four-wheel-drive vehicle recommended. Good restaurants are available nearby.

Hunt Information: The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks website has maps of public hunting areas and walk-in areas on private land the state leases for public hunting. If you have a GPS unit, you can download the map information from the website to the GPS, or you can use the printable maps provided.

License Required: Nonresidents must purchase a Predator/Varmint license ($40) or possess any other current nonresident hunting license to hunt coyotes. To purchase a nonresident license online, go to http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/licenses/default.aspx, or visit http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/licenses/general/agents/default.aspx to locate a license agent.

Skill Level: Because this is a self-guided hunt, a basic knowledge of how to set up for and call coyotes is requisite. Basic knowledge of hunting coyotes is required. Hunters should be physically capable of hiking moderate to long distances. Good calling and shooting skills are required.

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