Danny Dillard's top trophy was a giant public-land buck he killed in Abbeville County in December of 2011 that scored 164 Boone & Crockett Club points. It's the largest buck ever taken in Abbeville County.
"I was thinking a good WMA deer might score in the 130s, 140s maybe," Dillard said. "So I was absolutely blown away when I saw him up close."
The 12-point buck weighed around 190 pounds. The antlers had a 19-inch inside spread and tall G3 tines that checked in at 11.5 and 10.4 inches.
"Those were the ones that bumped him up a bit – they were the ones that really stood out," Dillard said.
Dillard, who in 2009 bagged the Palmetto State's No. 3 all-time typical buck – a massive 13-pointer that scored 172 – placed two other bucks in the record book this year: a 12-pointer that scored 154 7/8, taken last November, and an 8-pointer with a 22-inch spread that scored 150 4/8 that he killed last December. Both were shot in Anderson County.
"I've had a pretty good few years," Dillard said.
Dillard's bucks all were among the top 10 scored last March, headlining an Upstate assault on the record book; seven of the top 10 typical bucks scored were taken in Upstate counties, as were three of the top four non-typical bucks.
Abbeville, Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties all placed at least one buck in that select group.
"Those counties are good; I don't know what else to say," said Charles Ruth, the SCDNR's deer program coordinator. "They have comparatively lower deer densities, and the habitat in many cases has a Midwestern feel – pastureland with little pockets of woods here and there."
Overall, it was another productive year.
The SCDNR scored 607 sets of antlers, and 246 met the minimum score for inclusion in the state record book – the second-highest number in at least 15 years, according to Ruth.
Typical sets of antlers must score 125 points for inclusion, while non-typical racks must score a minimum of 145 points to qualify for the state record book.
"It generally goes back to having a few less deer in most parts of the state," Ruth said. "And as time goes by, more hunters are taking pressure off younger deer and trying to get them into older age classes. Occasionally that pays off."
The highest-scoring non-typical buck was taken by Jere Kirkley in Anderson County last October. It scored 169 1/8.
Aiken County produced the highest number of new entries for the third consecutive year with 33. Orangeburg County – the state's all-time leader – was second with 18, followed by Anderson (12), Williamsburg (12) and Greenville (11).