Hunting Right-of-Way Areas in South Dakota


Public-road rights of way, excluding the Interstate highway system, are open to hunting small game and waterfowl. However, no person may hunt within 660 feet of schools, churches, occupied dwellings and livestock. Furthermore, neither the person discharging a firearm nor the small-game animal being shot at may be within the 660-foot safety zone.

Dogs may be used in the unarmed retrieval of lawfully taken waterfowl and small-game birds from private property. However, under no circumstances may dogs be used to intentionally flush birds from private property to hunters in the right of way.

The public right of way along a section line or other highway is open for hunting if the right of way has been commonly used by the public for vehicular travel, as demonstrated by the existence of a well-worn vehicle trail. It’s also open for hunting if an intentional alteration of adaptation has been made to the right of way to enhance the natural terrain’s utility for vehicular travel or to permit vehicular travel where it was not possible before.

It’s important to note that fences are sometimes not on a right-of-way boundary and sometimes there is no fence. Most section-line rights of way are 66 feet wide. Some acquired rights of way are wider. Here are some other laws to remember if you choose to hunt public-road rights of way in South Dakota:

• Hunters can only take small game (except mourning doves) and waterfowl within the right of way on foot. The hunter must be within the right of way and the game must have taken flight from within or be flying over the right of way.

• Hunters must park or stop their vehicle as far to the right-hand side of the road as possible. If the person who discharges a firearm is more than 50 yards from the vehicle, the doors on the side of the vehicle nearest the roadway must be closed, but the engine may remain running. If the person who discharges a firearm is less than 50 yards from the vehicle, all doors must be closed and the engine should be turned off.

• It is not legal to shoot small game and waterfowl that takes flight from a public right of way over a Federal Refuge or Indian Tribal Trust lands. If a state-licensed hunter shoots at a bird across the fence on either of these lands, the hunter may be subject to arrest by federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers.

• Small game and waterfowl taken from the right of way that falls onto private property can be retrieved by unarmed hunters on foot.

• While hunting a right of way, any person who negligently endangers another person, or puts that person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

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