South Carolina Sportsman and its sister publication in North Carolina have been running annual Bag-A-Buck contests almost since the moment the magazines were first published.

The contests were designed with the two-fold goal of improving the magazines’ circulations by allowing only subscribers to enter their deer, and to give us the chance to see a few big bucks that our stable of writers somehow missed, despite a wide web of deer processors, taxidermists, biologists and game wardens who put us in touch with fortunate hunters.

In recent years, with this state’s contest primarily running through, we have added the goal of bringing more readers to our website.

I have overseen about a dozen contests since joining the magazines, and every year I have had the chance to speak with 10 hunters who either won monthly contests or the grand-prize.

I know the sample size is not big enough to qualify as some measurable statistical survey, but it’s been enough — along with conversations with hunters who have killed some of the trophy bucks we feature in the magazine and on — to draw a few conclusions.

First, more and more hunters appear to be holding back on taking smaller bucks than in years past. Perhaps the knowledge that letting young bucks walk is the single-greatest factor in improving the quality of your local deer herd has sunk in.

Second, when it comes to killing big bucks, about half of the hunters who killed real trophies knew the buck was around. The other half had no idea that animals of that size were wandering around their territories. I think the second half of that equation points to the fact that bucks really increase their home ranges when the rut hits and might show up anywhere there’s a hot doe.

Third, trail cameras have revolutionized deer hunting over the past half-dozen years or so. I’d love to have owned stock in some of the companies manufacturing trail cameras. Nowadays, they come in all shapes, sizes and applications.

They have changed the way hunters scout and keep up with their local deer populations, and I believe the presence of a really big buck or two in trail-camera photos has kept a number of hunters in the woods a lot more days because they knew what was out there, eating their corn piles and under their white oaks at night.

Fourth, more women and girls are spending time in the woods. We typically draw at least one woman a year as a winner in either a monthly or grand prize, and women account for between 10 and 20 percent of the total entries. And the girls kneeling behind big 8-pointers seem to be getting younger every year.