Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

South Dakota's Public Land Coyotes
Cluff hunts coyotes mainly on public land in western South Dakota, including the 600,000-acre Buffalo Gap National Grassland and approximately 78,000 acres of the 1.3 million-acre Custer National Forest that lie within South Dakota. The rest is in southeast Montana.

Both of these public areas have boundless, rolling prairies where you can see for miles, buttes, mesas and rugged draws. The ecologically diverse Custer National Forest also has an abundance of ponderosa pine.

South Dakota's Public Land Coyotes
Two-track roads provide hunting access on many of South Dakota’s public hunting lands.

Although you are not allowed to drive over the prairie on these public lands, you can travel on two-track roads, many of which are marked with road signs. A 4-wheel drive vehicle with a high clearance is the recommended mode of transportation.

Since coyotes can be anywhere in these vast areas, the first challenge is how to get into position for a calling session without being seen. Never drive past an area before you hunt it, Cluff stresses. And, always park well back from a hill or lip of a cliff or a canyon so coyotes can’t see your vehicle. Then sneak into position, taking care not to skyline yourself. Always wear full camo and set up with a cliff, boulder, brush or some other cover behind you to break up your outline.

South Dakota's Public Land Coyotes
Josh Cluff at a typical calling setup. The crest of a hill is above him, sagebrush is behind him to break up his outline, and he is overlooking a draw that is likely to hold coyotes.

“The coyotes roam in the open prairie early in the morning and late in the evening,” Cluff said. “At midday, they’ll be in the draws and canyons.”

Cluff also hunts designated Walk-In Areas on private land. More than 900,000 acres of posted Walk-In Areas are leased for hunting by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. You may walk in and hunt Walk-In Areas, but you can’t drive on them.

To help him find Walk-In Areas and other public hunting lands, Cluff downloaded the South Dakota GPS mapping system from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks Web site. (gfp.sd.gov/wildlife/gps/default.asp.)

South Dakota's Public Land Coyotes
Long-range shots are the norm when hunting coyotes on South Dakota’s western prairies.

After he uploaded the program into his hand-held GPS, the screen displayed various types of public hunting areas. They are color-coded so you can tell which ones are State Forests, National Grasslands, Walk-In Areas, and so on.

“The program also keeps you from inadvertently trespassing because you can see right where you are on the GPS,” Cluff said.

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