More and more often, we read that such-and-such of a survey shows that deer hunters are changing their attitudes. It’s no longer how many, but how big. Most of all, we want a big buck to take to the taxidermist. We can kill does if we want meat for the freezer.
With all the advances in equipment, especially the trail camera, the idea that everyone who sits in a deer stand has a chance to take a big buck is getting closer to being a reality.
There’s one little thing standing in the way, and it’s something that South Carolina hunters — actually, South Carolina legislators — need to get through their heads. When you’re not allowed to kill as many bucks, you tend to kill bigger ones.
Gee, that sounds simple. But getting some more reasonable bag limits and buck limits in South Carolina has been, especially for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, like pulling teeth. All 32 of your teeth.
Here’s a primer on how to grow big bucks. Don’t kill them the first two years they have antlers. That’s all. You can talk about improving the habitat and all that goes with that, but the single factor that matters most is letting young bucks walk.
This evidence probably wouldn’t get a statistician’s seal of approval, but it’s all I’ve got, and if it angers you that it involves the “other” Carolina, well, again, that’s all I’ve got to work with.
Until 2000, deer hunters in North Carolina could take four antlered bucks a year out of their six total tags. In 2000, the buck limit dropped to two in roughly the western half of the state. Hunters in the east could still kill up to four bucks per season.
North Carolina has had 29 bucks qualify for the Boone & Crockett Club’s all-time record book. Fifteen of those bucks have been killed since 2000. Twelve of those 15 have come from counties where only two bucks were allowed each season.
The county with the most Boone & Crockett Club bucks has six, and five of those have been killed since 2006. Of the top bucks that were scored this past March, 29 of the biggest 35 were from the two-buck zone. What you also have to know is that close to 45 percent of the state’s total deer harvest came from the 43 counties where hunters can still kill four bucks.
North Carolina hunters can’t even pick up a bow until mid-September, and before Oct. 1, two bucks that measured between 160 and 170 inches had been killed, one non-typical that’s around 175 inches fell, and a 190-inch non-typical was tagged. Three of the four were from the two-buck zone.
I’ve hunted in both states, and the habitat in most of South Carolina is easily the equal of North Carolina, better in some cases. The two-buck limit is the only thing I can see that makes a concrete difference. If the state legislature would follow the wishes of SCDNR and drop the buck limit to a reasonable number, the result would be more big deer in the woods, and as such, more to be harvested and wind up over the fireplace.