Youth Deer Hunting Season Changes to Apprentice Deer Hunting Season

PIERRE, S.D. – Deer hunters in South Dakota will notice a name change when purchasing a youth deer hunting license this fall. What was previously called the “Youth Deer Hunting Season” has changed to the “Apprentice Deer Hunting Season” to reflect a rule modification allowing South Dakota residents of any age who have not held a deer hunting license for 10 years to apply for an antlerless deer license.

Youth hunters, resident and nonresident, who are or will be 12 years old on Dec. 31, 2018, and are younger than 18 years old on June 30, 2018, may purchase this license every year and hunt the entire season.

Resident hunters who are 18 years old or older on June 30, 2018, and who have not held a South Dakota deer hunting license in 10 years can purchase this antlerless deer hunting license.

“In an effort to identify and prioritize the efforts behind our state’s recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters and anglers, this license modification has the ability to reactivate hunters who haven’t deer hunted in years and provide an opportunity for new young adult recruits,” said Kelly Hepler, department secretary. “Our hunting tradition runs deep in this state; at the same time we are facing a sharp decline in the recruitment of new hunters and this is a step in the direction of trying to change that.”

An apprentice deer license costs $5 for residents and $10 for nonresidents. The season runs from Sept. 8, 2018 – Jan. 1, 2019.

Also available is the mentor big game license which must be applied for by the parent or guardian of the youth with the name of the parent or guardian on the license. This does not affect the adult’s eligibility for their own big game tags. The mentored hunter is not required to be hunter safety certified.
Effective July 1, 2018, there is no minimum age for the mentored hunter, but they must not be older than 15 at the time of hunting. The mentored hunter must be accompanied by an unarmed parent, guardian, or designated mentor who is a resident of South Dakota and has taken the hunter safety course. The mentor is required to have their hunter safety card with them while mentoring and must be within immediate control (arm’s length) and supervision of the mentored hunter.

Learn more about youth, apprentice and mentored hunting online at