Changes in deer management by the SCDNR that take effect this season will be dramatically felt by archery hunters, who will have to abide by gun-hunting regulations – including using doe tags beginning Oct. 11 when gun season opens in Game Zones 1 and 2 and after Sept. 15 through the remainder of the state when does become legal for harvest. 

Game Zones 1 and 2, the Mountain and Piedmont Units, are the only areas in the state with segregated seasons that provide for archery and primitive weapons-only seasons. Private lands utilizing the Antlerless Deer Quota Program are not eligible for doe tags.

In previous seasons, archery hunters were allowed to harvest antlerless deer without the requirements to adhere to either-sex days or using doe tags. According to Charles Ruth, SCDNR’s deer program coordinator, bowhunters across the state, hunting either public or private lands, will have to adhere to antlerless deer regulations, including the reduction to one doe per day.

“This effectively closes a law enforcement loop hole whereas an officer had to judge whether a doe was killed by gun or bow,” Ruth said. “Now, all hunters, regardless of weapon, will have the same requirements during open gun seasons.”

Ruth explained the move is a step in becoming more consistent in the management of the state’s deer population.

“We have not gotten a lot of response from state legislators on the need to manage our deer herd on a statewide basis, so we are moving ahead by regulating harvest on the state’s WMAs, which are under the control of (SCDNR) as well as the requirement of the doe-tag program,” said Ruth. “The biggest change, on our WMA lands, is reducing the number of antlerless deer from 2 per day to only one per day.”

Ruth said the changes are a first step in adjusting regulations to declining deer populations across the state. Surveys have shown maturing pine forests and an increase in predators such as coyotes having a negative impact on deer numbers over the last several years.

“When you talk about managing a deer herd, it’s all about doe harvest,” said Ruth. “We have indicated a decline in our overall deer population, and the way to manage that is to regulate the harvest of does more closely. We’re not trying to make people mad; it’s managing a declining resource.”