Despite a significant harvest decrease for the 2014 season, South Carolina deer hunters scored well on big bucks again. According to Charles Ruth, a biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, plenty of big bucks were measured at the 2015 scoring sessions held around the state in March, with 176 new entries to the state record book.
“The number of entries making the record book status was down from the previous year but it was still a good year,” Ruth said. “The staff measured 507 sets of antlers this spring, and 167 sets of typical and nine non-typical racks met the minimum score for entry (125 typical, 145 non-typical).”
The top typical buck measured was a 166 6/8-inch whopper taken last October in Anderson County by Danny Dillard. The buck ranks No. 11 all-time among South Carolina deer, giving Dillard three of the top 15. His 2009 buck scored 172 and his 2011 buck scored 164.
The second highest-scoring typical was a 154 4/8-inch Oconee County buck taken last December by Jeremy Wirtz. The third-best typical was a 153-inch buck from Darlington County taken by Chris G. Kennington in November.
Netting 156 3/8 points, the top non-typical buck was taken by Derik Still last October in Aiken County. The No. 2 non-typical was a 155-inch buck taken last October in Orangeburg County by Glenn Daniels. The third spot belonged to Kelly R. McAbee with a 2014 Cherokee County buck taken last December that scored 151 1/8.
Ruth said Aiken County produced the most record-book bucks during the 2015 scoring sessions with 15, followed by Orangeburg County with 12, Spartanburg County with 10, and Florence, Horry and Pickens counties with seven each.
Orangeburg County has 469 sets of antlers in the all-time record book, followed by Aiken with 450, Fairfield with 267, Anderson with 252 and Colleton with 248.
Ruth said a review of entries indicates that big bucks are found in wide range of locations across South Carolina but most often in areas with a balanced deer population and other necessities.
Although the total deer harvest in South Carolina has trended down, Ruth said indications from the antler records program are that deer quality remains good. Based on recent trends he said the 2016 season has the potential to be another good year for big bucks.
“Specific quality management practices on large-acreage tracts can help with producing more big bucks in an area,” he said. “Giving bucks the chance to get three, four or five years old before being harvested will simply produce more big deer.
“Density of deer is important, and areas with fewer deer typically have better quality animals because natural food availability and nutritional quality is higher. Good nutrition is important in producing good antlers, but deer reproduction, recruitment and survival are also directly tied to nutrition. All of these are part of the big buck equation.”