Overview of the South Dakota Deer Draw System
South Dakota is a highly desired state for deer hunting opportunities, providing both resident and nonresident the opportunity to hunt both mule and whitetail deer. To manage hunter demand for somewhat limited tags, South Dakota utilizes multiple deer draws based on residency, weapon, and hunting location. To new applicants, this system can be quite confusing. In this article we will provide an overview of the South Dakota deer draw system and cover everything hunters need to know to apply, including application deadlines, key season dates, eligibility requirements, point systems, and more.
New Archery Hunting License Requirements for Nonresidents in 2023
South Dakota is introducing new archery hunting license caps for nonresidents. Beginning in the 2023 season, there will be a limited number of “any deer” archery licenses available for nonresidents, valid on both public and private land. These licenses were formerly unlimited to nonresidents, and they accounted for a large portion of the annual harvest. There will still be an unlimited number of private land-only licenses available for nonresidents. We will detail these changes further.
Events and Deadlines
When is the 2023 South Dakota deer draw?
South Dakota has a number of different draws which each provide unique hunting opportunities. Below is a summary of the important deadlines for each of the draws. You can track these application in your OnPoint app to ensure you never miss a deadline.
While these draws are unique from each other, there are some statewide tag limits and individual unit limits that make these draws related. This means that if you apply in multiple draws, your prior draw results could affect your eligibility for future draws.
|Special Buck Draw||Both||April 14, 2023
|Nonresident Archery Deer Draw||Non-resident||April 18, 2023||May 11, 2023
|Combined Deer Draw||Both||May 30, 2023||June 14, 2023
|Access Permit Draw||Both||May 24, 2023||July 1, 2023
|Points-Only Purchase||Both||September 15, 2023||December 15, 2023
How do preference points work for applicants?
For seasons with a limited number of licenses, South Dakota uses a “preference point” system for unsuccessful applicants. While called a preference system, it is a hybrid system that does not guarantee you a tag even if you have max points. In short, the system behaves as a preference point system up until 2 points held, then converts to a bonus point system where point holders with 2+ are randomly drawn. We discuss how the draw works later in this article. In general, the following apply to all unique draws:
- One preference point can be earned each year the applicant is unsuccessful.
- Preference points are usually only used for the applicant’s first unit-type choice in the first drawing, however some exceptions apply.
- Hunters may purchase preference points in the points purchase window from September 15 – December 15th.
The Draw Process
How does the South Dakota draw work?
This is where things start to get confusing. At times resident and nonresident licenses are drawn from the same pool, with a cap placed on nonresident tags. Other times, nonresidents are drawn from a specific nonresident pool, with a cap placed on the total number. And yet in other cases, only residents are able to apply. You can read more about if from South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, though we find the information to be confusing and incomplete.
Landowner License Pool
In unit and seasons where residents are able to apply, and private land is present in the unit, a landowner pool of 50% of eligible tags is set aside for landowners.
- Licenses are first awarded to landowners with preference.
- Remaining licenses then are awarded to landowners with no preference.
- Any remaining licenses are then included with remaining tag pool.
General License Pool
The tag process for non-landowners (or landowners that were unsuccessful in drawing, if applicable) is as follows. This process applies for all draws, whether resident only, nonresident only, or combined. If a landowner portion is involved in a unit, at least 50% of licenses are available in this pool, as well as any remaining licenses from the landowner pool are also available. If no landowner portion is present, such as public land only draws or resident only draws, all tags are available in this process.
During each stage, applicants are entered into the drawing once for the current application year, and once for each preference point held.
- 2+ Preference pool: Applicants (or groups) holding 2+ preference points are included in this group, as those who were unsuccessful in the landowner group, if applicable and any remain. Licenses are then randomly drawn from this group for the entries.
- 1 Preference pool: Any remaining licenses from the 2+ preference pool are drawn here. Each applicant has 2 entries (1 for current year, one for the point held)
- 0 Preference pool: Remaining licenses are drawn for applicants with no points. Each applicant receives a single entry.
- 2nd choice pool: If any licenses after all first choices, second choices will be entered and drawn at random.
Draw Requirements and Cost
What does an applicant need to apply in the South Dakota deer draws?
Applicants are required to hold a valid year Habitat Stamp in order to apply, but nothing else. This makes the draw application very cheap to participate in. Successful applicants are charged for a license at the time of the drawing. Those who elect to purchase a preference point are charged their point fee when the draw occurs as well.
How much is a resident and nonresident deer tag in South Dakota?
|Item||Resident Price||Non-Resident Price
|Preference Point Purchase Fee||$5.00||$10.00
|Deer - Any||$40.00||$286.00
|Deer - Doe||$20.00||$80.00
|Deer - Special Buck||$175.00||$560.00
Individual Deer Draw Details
Next, well cover the specifics around each draw, eligibility requirements, and what licenses are available through the draw.
Special Buck Draw
The South Dakota deer special buck draw, as the name implies, offers opportunities at more desirable licenses in the state. This draw also includes Antelope special buck drawing opportunities. These licenses are more expensive than standard deer and antelope licenses in the state, and are only available for use on private land. Below is a summary of each of the opportunities, include tags available by residency.
|West River Special Buck||Both
|East River Special Buck||Resident Only
Combined Deer Draw
The main draw includes the bulk of general deer opportunities in the state. Season dates, weapon type, and residency type varies based on the specific season, as detailed in the table below. Applicants are permitted to apply for up to two seasons during the draw, unless they already hold a license from the Special Buck draw, in which case they are only allowed to apply for a single additional season. If hunters apply in the Special Buck draw but do not draw, they may apply for two additional seasons.
For each season applied for, they may add both first and second choices. Preference points must be used on a first choice application in the draw, for each of the two seasons applied for. Preference points may be used on second choices if elected by the applicant.
Nonresident hunters are eligible for eight percent of the license allocation for West River, Black Hills, and Refuge hunting seasons during the drawing.
|East River||Resident Only
|Custer State Park||Resident Only
|National Wildlife Refuge||Both
|Muzzloader (any deer)||Resident Only
Nonresident Archery Public Land Deer Draw
This is the primary opportunity for nonresident archery hunters to secure tags in the state. Formerly unlimited in quantity, this is now capped at 2,200 nonresident tags statewide. Given over 5,000 nonresident hunters purchased tags in prior years, it is likely that hunters will need to start applying and building to give themselves a good change to draw in future years.
Archery Season Dates
The archery hunting season in South Dakota runs from September 1 to January 1. However, nonresidents may only hunt public lands from October 1, 2023, to January 1, 2024. This means for the month of September, nonresidents holding these tags may only hunt private land, if they choose to hunt.
License Quotas and Restrictions
Hunters may hold no more than two archery deer licenses, subject to restrictions. Nonresidents may only possess one statewide “any deer” license type (ST1 type), whether the public/private license or the private only type. Nonresidents may also hold one Antlerless LM1 license, valid on public and private land, which is available for purchase throughout the season.
Archery Access Permits
Successful applicants in the archery deer draw may put in for one of the two limited archery access permits available in the state. These allow holders of them, resident and nonresident, to hunt in the Hill Ranch or Custer National Forest areas of the state. There is no cost to this entry, but you must previously purchase your archery deer license. These permits appear to be awarded based on the preference point quantity of the application that was entered for deer in the archery draw. In 2023, this application period opens May 24th and closes July 1st at 8am CDT. You can read more about them here.
Other Tag Opportunities
Outside of the drawn tags, there are a few OTC unlimited opportunities for hunters to get tags
- Nonresidents private land only archery licenses
- Resident archery licenses (public and private)
- Archery and Muzzleloader antlerless only whitetail (resident and nonresident)
You can read more on South Dakota hunting opportunities in our state overview writeup.