I’m often amazed when I read through some of the stories we run in South Carolina Sportsman or on our Website, www.SouthCarolinaSportsman.com, at the opportunities that are available to sportsmen in the Palmetto State.
Knowing how much its budget is stretched, I can’t get over the job that the S.C. Department of Natural Resources is doing. For last month’s opening of dove season, SCDNR had four-dozen fields planted and managed for great public hunting. The agency administers two seasons for sportsmen that just don’t exist in too many other states: alligator and shrimp-baiting, and in both, there are a lot of boots on the ground working with sportsman involved, from the permitting process to checking shrimpers at popular boat ramps.
Beginning this month and running through December, SCDNR is involved in close to a dozen youth-only deer hunts across the Upstate, hunts the agency is co-sponsoring with private landowners and hunt clubs under the banner of the Take One Make One program. The number of top-drawer permit-only deer hunts offered each season puts hunters who might not have the finances to belong to a big hunt club or lease productive land in the kind of deer stand they can only dream about. Ditto waterfowl hunts.
The word I’ve been trying to come up with the last several paragraphs to best describe SCDNR is pro-active. Among wildlife agencies across the Southeast, it is one that gets out ahead of the curve in so many instances, involving the public and trying to determine what hunters and fishermen want to address in terms of problems and/or solutions. The striped bass and blue catfish fisheries on the Santee Cooper lakes are perfect examples of the kind of cooperation that typically leaves all sides satisfied — especially when the actions chosen work out.
Budget cuts have left SCDNR short of game wardens, and some popular programs have had to fall by the wayside, but the typical sportsman doesn’t notice anything on a regular basis — I know I haven’t. The agency’s salary structure pales by comparison to what neighboring states are paying for biologists, wildlife technicians and foresters, yet the ones my writers and I deal with on a regular basis while fleshing out stories are first class — available and willing to help.
And all this takes place with the agency operating under what might be the most-tremendous hurdle of all: it has little regulatory power. Every change in regulations must go through the state legislature, and often, the state legislature comes up with some proposed changes of its own that are real doozies — the latest being the Upstate deer-baiting debacle.
Imagine what SCDNR could do if its hands weren’t tied? We might have to cannonize somebody.