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What’s the Ideal Legal Shooting Time?

South Dakota’s 10 a.m. shooting time allows hunters to have a leisurely morning, which also boosts the economic impact pheasant hunters bring to the state. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Three days into a 5-day day hunting trip, I don’t think too many people would complain about South Dakota’s 10 a.m. start time for pheasants. It’s nice to catch a few extra zzz’s, grab a hearty breakfast and not feel a rush to stake out a hunting spot.

The story goes that South Dakota’s 10 a.m. start (save for the first days of the season when it starts at noon) was instituted so farmers could have time to get the chores done before hunters came knocking at their door. It’s become tradition, but it’s also economic – with 100,000 nonresident hunters coming in, the state likes giving them a chance to spend money in the morning.

Legal shooting times for pheasants vary by state. In Nebraska, North Dakota and Kansas, you can go after ringnecks a half hour before sunset. In Iowa, shootin’ can commence at 8 a.m. And in Minnesota, hunters have to wait until 9 a.m. to hit the fields.

Each state surely has legitimate reasons for their respective shooting times; in my native Minnesota, the most repeated reason I’ve heard for its start time is so birds are more dispersed when hunting begins as to level the playing field.

Personally, I like different times in different states – it adds to the unique experience in each one. But if you had to choose just one, what would be the ideal time start time to chase roosters in the morning?

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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5 Responses to “What’s the Ideal Legal Shooting Time?”

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  1. ACE ZOLA says:

    10am is a bit late, especially if it is in the early season and is going to be a warm day….12noon is ridiculous….8am, maybe 9am works for me, but when one travels a great distance and spends a good deal of money it is hard to wait around until 10am or 12 to start hunting

  2. Joe Lesmeister says:

    I personally am a fan of hitting the field just before sun up to catch the birds while they are still in the roost. This requires a little scouting the night before to see where they are flying in. If you don’t limit out then you can drive around and look for birds moving to and from feeding areas and maybe jump some more that way.

    The late starts can be tough on a guy especially if you like to enjoy a little night life. It makes it hard to get up after you stayed out a little too late!

  3. Jason says:

    I belong to a club and we start at 8 before turning the clocks back in the fall, then we start at 7 when the clocks are set back.

    I like the early start because it gives you a chance to get done with what you need to with your birds; but also give you time to still climb in the tree for some archery.

  4. Don says:

    The late start in SD allows the the birds to feed early and disperse before the hunting pressure starts. It is an advantage for the birds, a disadvantage for the hunters

  5. Andy says:

    None of these have any ecological weight. I would be all ears if someone offered an ethical or safety explanation. If there is no ecological, ethical or “safety” reason to infringe on hunting freedom, then why do it? Hunting should be a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. These are roughly the times when hens can be visually distinguished from roosters. If you haven’t gotten permission by the day of the hunt, you are really slacking. I can’t envision hunters knocking on doors at 6:30 am. With nearly 200,000 pheasant hunters in SD, the region will get its economic boost, no matter the hunting hours. Wouldn’t the state want to cater to hunter satisfaction? Happy hunters are those that harvest roosters. Early morning roost busting is the best way to harvest roosters. Hunters- do not be so willing to accept the slow and steady erosion of your hunting freedoms. Limiting hours, days of the week, shortening seasons, methods of take, and other seemingly benign restrictions are exactly the tactics, bit by bit, that animal rights and anti-hunting activists pursue to destroy our hunting and wildlife heritage.

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