Visitor Activities

Visitors at a National Wildlife Refuge

The mixture of tallgrass prairies, wetlands and riverine habitats at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge provide a number of great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.



  • Hunting

    Father and Son Hunting

    The refuge offers public hunting opportunities consistent with state designated seasons and regulations. Species open to hunting include gray partridge, cottontail rabbit, white-tailed jackrabbit, gray and fox squirrel, pheasant, turkey, and white-tailed deer. For more information on areas open to hunting, and specific regulations regarding hunting on the refuge please refer to Big Stone Refuge Public Use Regulations. Refuge hunting season dates and regulations are consistent with those established by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR). Contact the Refuge Manager at 320-273-2191 for more information.

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  • Fishing

    Kids Fishing at Big Stone NWR

    Fishing is a popular activity at the refuge. Some of the most popular places to fish are along reservoir levees and spillways. Fishing from the banks of the Minnesota and Yellowbank Rivers are also productive. Anglers may also use the fishing platforms located on the refuge along with the East Pool during the winter months for ice fishing.

    For more information and specific regulations regarding fishing on the refuge please refer to Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge Public Use Regulations. Refuge fishing season dates and regulations are consistent with those established by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR). For additional information, contact the refuge at 320-273-2191.

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  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife Viewing at Big Stone Refuge

    Wildlife viewing and photography opportunities are abundant on the refuge. During spring and fall migration, up to 17 species of waterfowl and more than 23 species of shorebirds can be seen. Look for waterfowl species such as mallards, blue-winged teal, Canada geese, and northern shovelers. Common shorebird species encountered are killdeer, yellowlegs, and sandpipers. Visitors also have the chance to see birds of prey like bald eagles, red-tailed hawk, and kestrel. During the spring and summer months, birds such as the bobolink, meadowlark, marsh wren, and Virginia rail breed and nest on the refuge.

    Other animals to look for year round include beaver, mink, white-tailed deer, and river otters while spring and summer offer chances to see thirteen-lined ground squirrel, snapping turtles, frogs, and salamanders. For a detailed list of wildlife on the refuge see the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge species list.

  • Interpretation

    Interpretive Trail at Big Stone Refuge

    The refuge annually hosts a springtime event called Youth Fishing Day. The event is held on the third Saturday in May and is open to children up to age 14. The day is filled with fun, fishing-related activities and is held at a small pond along the refuge wildlife drive that is pre-stocked with fish. Participating children learn about fish identification, the importance of clean water, water safety, and proper fishing techniques. Other activities involve a minnow race and instruction on proper bait and casting. The event is free to all participants and lender rods, reel, and tackle are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For details, call to 320-273-2191.

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education

    The refuge offers educational programs throughout the year that include group tours, instruction off site, as well as presentations on and off site. Staff-led field trips integrate science, local and natural history, and physical education in activities which are adaptable to students of all grade levels. Educational materials include discovery packs and trunks that are available for use at no charge. Contact the refuge at least two weeks in advance to schedule their use. For more information call the refuge office at 320-273-2191.

  • Photography

    Closeup of Spiderwort

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography. That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list. Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas and tour routes. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System. We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive!