School Lands experience

PeteRevvv

Active member
I'm thinking that school lands might be a good option to hit this year. The SDGFP site's online maps are making it easier to locate them. It seems from the sample I have checked out on satellite that many of them are down to just the low laying fields with ponds and cattails while all the rest has been sold off. This makes for small parcels to negotiate as well as that fact that they are designed to get leased out for farming/grazing to produce income. Many are adjacent to home sites. But the water and cover should hold more birds this year with the limited cover elsewhere.

Anyone with experience navigating these spots? Do they tend to be too populated with homesites and cattle to make it un-huntable?
 

waterdog09

Member
I have not personally walked any school lands, but have always wanted to and was unsure of the rules for them. Last year we were stopped by a CO at a spot and got to talking to him about school lands and the rules for them. Basically all laws for normal public lands apply, steel shot etc... But one thing I found interesting was when I asked him about cattle on the lands. I stated that it seemed like every place we looked at had cattle on it and was hesitant to walk the land because of the cattle. He stated that it is still public ground even though the cattle are on it and it can still be hunted, he also stated that the 660ft rule about shooting around cattle did not apply because the farmer put his cattle on public land. I was shocked by his response saying that if you see school land posted, take the sign down it's not allowed to be posted and if you see cattle go ahead and hunt it. I want to believe everything he said but I am still hesitant to walk a field filled with a farmers cattle walking around and the possible conflict that might arise if the farmer sees us out there?? Anyone else have any insight on this?
 

Gatzby

Active member

BigRand

Active member
The only one's I've seen are west river when I was deer or antelope hunting. They sometimes have a deer or antelope but can't say I'd ever try to find a pheasant on those ones.
 

3car

Member
I have not personally walked any school lands, but have always wanted to and was unsure of the rules for them. Last year we were stopped by a CO at a spot and got to talking to him about school lands and the rules for them. Basically all laws for normal public lands apply, steel shot etc... But one thing I found interesting was when I asked him about cattle on the lands. I stated that it seemed like every place we looked at had cattle on it and was hesitant to walk the land because of the cattle. He stated that it is still public ground even though the cattle are on it and it can still be hunted, he also stated that the 660ft rule about shooting around cattle did not apply because the farmer put his cattle on public land. I was shocked by his response saying that if you see school land posted, take the sign down it's not allowed to be posted and if you see cattle go ahead and hunt it. I want to believe everything he said but I am still hesitant to walk a field filled with a farmers cattle walking around and the possible conflict that might arise if the farmer sees us out there?? Anyone else have any insight on this?

The CO is spot on. But I would be a little hesitant about taking his signs down.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
Moonscape goes without saying, what with all the legal aliens from another planet running around out there.

But I did locate a number of them near row crops that were pretty much a slough surround by vegetation from what I can see on Google maps satellite. That's why they've never been sold off due to low value for either crops or grazing. The trick is to also find them where there are no buildings or cattle I think. These are legal to lease the land so those cattle may or may not be legal- no way to tell so I'm not about to run somebody's week stampeding their cattle in to a bad situation. Many of these are a whole quarter so I would feel comfortable working them, signs or not. Some are irregular shaped that would be tougher to defend to a CO or landowner.

I just can't shake the idea that I've been passing by some honey holes all my life thinking it was somebody's land and never getting out to make a quick run through it.
 

3car

Member
Moonscape goes without saying, what with all the legal aliens from another planet running around out there.

But I did locate a number of them near row crops that were pretty much a slough surround by vegetation from what I can see on Google maps satellite. That's why they've never been sold off due to low value for either crops or grazing. The trick is to also find them where there are no buildings or cattle I think. These are legal to lease the land so those cattle may or may not be legal- no way to tell so I'm not about to run somebody's week stampeding their cattle in to a bad situation. Many of these are a whole quarter so I would feel comfortable working them, signs or not. Some are irregular shaped that would be tougher to defend to a CO or landowner.

I just can't shake the idea that I've been passing by some honey holes all my life thinking it was somebody's land and never getting out to make a quick run through it.

Your overthinking this. Download the GFP App on your phone. Drive to public land and get out of pickup. Load Shotgun and walk.
 

reddog

Well-known member
School lands taxes go to the schools in the county. Theyre not for sale. East river, they are typically ag properties. West river, pastures or ag land. Ive never seen one that Id spend any time looking for pheasants, but coyotes, deer or antelope can happen usually.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
Yes, I will be thinking about this for hours a day, every day. Doesn't seem like a problem to me. However I do just have 4 days this year so I do want to avoid driving up to the aforementioned moonscapes when a little googling in private now could make me look like stud when I casually hop the barb wire and stride into the cattails and have my limit in 15 min while the rest of SD is choking on the dust. At least that's how this plays out in my head.

I'm looking East River so there are a number of them that appear to back up to prime hunting areas or have good stuff right on the road. This one is right in my wheel house and I'm sure I've driven by it a bunch of times and wished I could sneak in there just once. It's got a homestead on the west side but the east side looks like cattails in a row crop field and is 3/4 mile from the house so not going to both them too much.

View attachment 7471
 

Dakotazeb

Well-known member
In all my years in SD I've driven by a lot of the School Lands and have yet to find any that weren't mainly pasture with very little to no cover. There may be a few around the state that have some cover and hold a few birds but I think they are few and far between. I'd recommend spending the time looking for some good GPA's, WPA's or WIA's rather than the School Lands. However, if there is one close to where you're hunting you can certainly take a look at it. Never know what you might find. Good luck!
 

3car

Member
lol, I understand. So which part of that pic is school land? The west side is definitely corn, beans or wheat. Its crop for sure. The east side has some cover but it maybe hayed off. Tough to tell really. The wetlands may have some good cover for birds tho. I should tell ya tho school land is there so the school districts can make money. They get the rent off that land if its crop, hay or pasture land. Wildlife management is not their mission and most school land is pasture.
 
Last edited:

esetter

Member
I know the school lands in North Dakota are usually grazed down or grain stubble. We have had successful field waterfowl hunts on them but some of the worst upland habitat I've seen.
 

BigRand

Active member
I wouldn't go by what you see on the aerial maps on the GF&P interactive map. The images are not usually images from this year. Which means the surrounding ground and even the ground in the public area can be vastly different from what is actually there. Some look great and when you pull up are mowed off. Some look mowed and when you show up have great cover.
 

PeteRevvv

Active member
All of the satellite shot in my previous post is marked school lands on the SDGFP map. I've used that map and pulled up the latest Google maps satellite shots to zoom in and take a look. You can find out when the shot was taking in Google maps so even if it wasn't from this year, you can make some assumptions about corn/soybean rotation from year to year. From this I've picked out the best possible locations and made a custom Google map, marking outlines with the polygon shape tool. It would be super cool if my phone's map showing my GPS location could use my custom google maps so I could use it as a HUD as I am road hunting but I'll just switch between the two.

2 of the 4 school lands in the area I am initially surveying are pasture and you can see the cattle paths to the bale feeders from satellite. No doubt dry holes, pun intended. The example farmstead is within a couple miles of UGUIDE's Faulkton operation so it is in prime crop and pheasant territory in East River. My objective is not to find a section of grassland and walk it with my dog all day. I'd like to walk a couple of these at noon while the birds are loafing, then ditches as they are heading back to cover from feeding and finally run and gun at sunset when they are picking gravel on the roads. Thus I'm focusing on spots with ponds/lowlands, which should provide brush/cattails and not be subject to haying/harvesting which I fear will be the undoing of my point-and-shoot grassland brethren this year. Shooting lead here too which is a bonus over WPAs and GPAs.

The only decent entrance is a section line on the south side due to the homestead. The fact that it is a field access road will keep most people from trying it. One cattail spot like this that we hit is about 40 yards across and holds a hundred birds every year. You can hit it at noon day after day and get a limit no problem. Add a couple more spots like that and we are living the dream, rent free.

The home and outbuildings are on the school land so there must be a permanent lease in place but I wondered if perhaps the schools bought or swapped lands at times. Must have been cheaper than buying land. Pissing of a farmer is the last thing I want to do, regardless of who is in the right, which is why I was wondering from a local landowner's point of view what they would think of some hitting the back 40 behind their house. Chagrined that somebody figured out their little secret honey hole or indignant that land they pay for every year was being abused by out-of-staters. I'll get my birds regardless but I'd like to keep my good reputation and that of the other visiting hunters.

Tell me again that school lands are all terrible and I'll start to suspect that "the lads doth protest too much, methinks".
 
I hunt a school section that is next to our Land in ND. But in ND you really can't hunt school land if cattle are present, its like standing crops (or I have been told).

from ND DNR site:

State School Land
Managed by the State Land Department, North Dakota has more than 700,000 acres of state school land. Much of this land is leased for agricultural purposes, primarily cattle grazing. School land is generally open to hunting. However, operators leasing the land may close access if livestock is present.

I am not saying ND is same as SD. But I would check with a SD DNR and make sure you can hunt them when cattle are present, before I did..
 

Gumboot

New member
Sunup to 9ish is when I do a lot of scouting on public, then again after I'm done for the day. But then I like to burn gas.
 

Dcast

New member
Pete, I'm a few cocktails in and believe I read you'll be in the eastern half of SD in November. My 1st year in SD was last and I had great success on getting in birds. If you're there the week of 11/12 - 18th myself and the wife will be there hunting the 5 outstanding spots I found last year. Maybe 2dogs in the field could be a good time!
 
Top