Guide to Mentored and Youth Deer Hunting in South Dakota
South Dakota provides structured opportunities for youth to engage in hunting through its Mentored Big Game and Youth Deer programs. Understanding these programs is essential for ensuring compliance with regulations and fostering a safe and educational hunting experience.
Mentored Big Game Hunting Program (15 and Younger)
This program is designed for youth under 15 years of age, allowing them to participate in deer, antelope, and turkey hunting with close guidance from an adult mentor.
Eligibility & Rules
- Mentee: Youth 15 years or younger; limited to one license per species per year.
- Mentor: An adult 18 years or older, who can be a parent, guardian, or designated adult with written permission.
- Accompaniment: The mentee must be within arm's length of the unarmed mentor at all times during the hunt.
- Licensing: Mentors must have physical possession of the mentee's license and hunter education certification.
- Party Size: Hunting parties with mentees cannot exceed six persons.
Youth Deer Licensees (Ages 12-17)
Youth Deer Licenses are available for residents and nonresidents aged 12-17, providing a more independent hunting experience while still under adult supervision.
Eligibility & Rules
- Accompaniment: Must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or responsible adult with unaided visual and vocal contact.
- Licensing: Limited to one “any antlerless deer” tag or an “antlerless whitetail” tag valid for specific units.
- Supervision: The accompanying adult is not required to possess hunter education but must be unarmed unless they have a big game license for the same area and season.
- Multiple Youth: An adult can accompany multiple youth deer hunters.
General Information for Both Programs
- Resident and Nonresident Participation: Both programs are available to residents and nonresidents, with nonresidents requiring a resident sponsor for the mentored program.
- Education Requirement: Youth hunters 15 or younger must have hunter education certification or a copy of a current or previous year’s hunting license issued by another state.
- Safety and Ethics: These programs emphasize safety, ethical hunting, and learning under the guidance of experienced adults.