Woman dressed warmly in camouflage and standing in marsh reeds aims a shotgun into the air

Deer, ring-necked pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, and gray partridge may be hunted on Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in accordance with state regulations. A Sand Lake Refuge deer license, issued by the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, is required to hunt deer on the refuge with a rifle or muzzleloader. There is now a Youth Deer Hunting season on parts of Sand Lake NWR as of 2023, see details below. Hunters with a state-issued archery license may hunt deer on the refuge during the refuge archery season, which his split into two periods to avoid overlap with gun hunters. The Refuge made some adjustments to the road closures in 2022, which are detailed below. Hunters are allowed to drive on all refuge roads during designated times to retrieve harvested deer. The refuge also offers a late-season upland game bird hunt that begins after the deer rifle seasons close. This December season has become a traditional “Second Opening Day” for many hunters who are seeking the challenge of hunting fresh birds in the thousands of acres of heavy cover on the refuge.

Sand Lake Hunting & Fishing Regulations

The Refuge archery season opens on September 1st, 2023 to align with the statewide archery season. The Refuge has updated dates and regulations on Refuge road closures for the hunting season.

ALL Refuge gates and roads north of SD HWY 10 will be closed starting September 1st. Traditional deer retrieval regulations will still be in effect and can be found in the Sand Lake Hunting and Fishing Regulations.

ALL Refuge gates and roads south of SD HWY 10 will remain open to all Refuge visitors, including bowhunters, through November 10th.


Resident Archery: September 1st, 2023 - November 10th, 2023 and December 11th, 2023 - January 1st, 2024

Non-resident Archery: October 1st, 2023 - November 10th, 2023 and December 11th, 2023 - January 1st, 2024

Youth/Mentor/Apprentice: September 9, 2023 - September 30, 2023, Refuge is only open north of SD Hwy 10 for this season

Muzzleloader ONLY November 11, 2023 - November 15, 2023 RFD-SL1 

Rifle November 16, 2023 - November 20, 2023 RFD-SL2

Rifle November 21, 2023 - November 26, 2023 RFD-SL3

Muzzleloader ONLY November 27, 2023 - December 3, 2023 RFD-SL4

Rifle December 4, 2023 - December 10, 2023 RFD-SL5

Refuge deer habitat conditions and numbers have been negatively affected as a result of this years winter and the 2022 & 2023 spring and summer flooding.  Hunters should not expect large numbers of deer in the Refuge this hunting season.

Upland Game

Ring-necked Pheasant December 11th, 2023 - January 31, 2024

Sharp-tailed Grouse, Grey Partridge December 11th, 2023 - January 1, 2024


Due to the extreme winter and spring flooding, cattail and other wetland habitat will be negatively impacted.  The recent winter also negatively affected Refuge pheasant populations.  Hunters should be aware that this fall will likely see lower pheasant numbers than in recent years.  We will post a habitat and population update early this fall.

2023 Sand Lake Habitat Map


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