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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kenneth F. Higgens


Over the last decade, the proportion of South Dakotans participating in hunting and the actual number of hunters has declined. The objectives of this study were to characterize South Dakota's present hunter population, to provide information concerning the next generation or so of hunters, and to determine attitudes of five groups of South Dakota citizens (general public, current hunters, land operators, former hunters, and sixth, seventh, and eighth grade public school students) towards hunting, hunters and wildlife in South Dakota. All groups were surveyed via questionnaires in 1989-1990. Useable mail response rates ranged from 61% - 77%. Nearly 99% of South Dakota citizen respondents (N=l,861) enjoyed seeing and watching wildlife in the outdoors. However, approximately 47% of citizen respondents (N=l,803) would not be willing to pay an annual fee for observing wildlife on public lands. Between 1973 and 1989, there were no significant changes in South Dakotan's attitudes towards hunting. The number one reason that former hunter respondents (N=572) decreased or deserted hunting were: loss of interest (14.7%), finding time to go hunting (14.0%), personal change in attitude (11.9%), and less game in general (11.5%). Fifty-eight percent of the current hunters had not changed their hunting activity level (N = 1,599) while 33.3% had decreased their hunting activity during the past five years (1984-1989). Of the 1989 current hunter respondents who had decreased their hunting activity (N=868), the following reasons were given most often for decreased participation: less game in general (27.1%), finding time to go hunting (16.0%), poor access to hunting land (12.8%), and hunting is too expensive (9.8%). Almost 24% of current hunter respondents (N=l,601) believed that game laws and regulations in South Dakota were too complex while 74.5% believed they were just right. Hunting licenses were considered too costly by one-third of current South Dakota hunters. In South Dakota, commitment to hunting was not significantly influenced by youth co-participation in hunting activities with a parent, but it was influenced by co-participation with a grandparent. Those hunters who never hunted with a grandparent decreased their hunting activity the most during the past five years. A quarter of current hunters in South Dakota that had children between the ages of 10 and 15 had never taken that child hunting. Nearly 57% of South Dakota land operator respondents (N=l,740) considered annual wildlife depredation not costly to their business while 5.7% considered wildlife depredation to be very costly. Almost 44% of South Dakota land operator respondents (N=l,698) believed that landowners who have depredation problems could help resolve those problems partially by allowing free hunting access. Approximately 89% of South Dakota land operator respondents (N=l,804) were asked by hunters for permission to hunt on their land at least once during the past year (1988-1989). Approximately 21% of South Dakota land operator respondents (N=l,769) do not allow free hunting access to hunters. As of 1989, approximately 40% of current hunters had lost traditional hunting areas in South Dakota because the land operator started charging an access fee. In South Dakota, the single biggest problem land operator respondents (N=l,794) had with hunters was that hunters did not ask permission (22.1%) and hunters were inconsiderate of livestock and gates (20.7%). Approximately 83% of South Dakota student respondents (N=l,366) lived with both parents, which may include a step parent, and 13.8% lived with one parent. Of those students who lived with one parent (N=183) most of the time, 74.3% lived with their mother and 21.9% lived with their father. South Dakota students who opposed hunting tended to be from more populated areas and larger schools. Approximately 54% of South Dakota citizen respondents (N=l,814) did not receive any conservation, hunting or wildlife magazines; however, respondents who received those types of magazines (N=770) chose most often Outdoor Life (18.6%), National Geographic (18.4%), Field and Stream (14.0%), South Dakota Conservation Digest (7.3%), and Dakota Game and Fish (5.7%). Farming or ranching magazines that were read most often by land operator respondents (N=l,617) were: Dakota Farmer (30.6%), Successful Farming (27.7%), and Farm Journal (19.1%). If South Dakota citizen respondents (N=l,823) needed some facts about wildlife, 32.3%, 27.9%, 11.8%, and 7.9% would go to obtain information first at SDGFP, magazines or books, South Dakota conservation officers, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, respectively. Much of the future of hunting in South Dakota is dependent on the attitudes of the younger generations. In 1989, young people were not as enthusiastic about hunting as were adults. Students were also lacking in their understanding of conservation and wildlife management concepts and the role of hunting in South Dakota. Probably the single most important factor that will attract citizens to hunt again is to have more game available and the single most important factor that will help maintain hunting as a viable sport for future generations is an effective information and education program.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Hunting surveys--South Dakota
Hunting--South Dakota
Hunters--South Dakota--Attitudes
Wildlife management--South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references (pages 131-140)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1990 Nancy J. Dietz. All rights reserved.