South Carolina has reduced the number of game zones from six to four for the coming hunting season, and it will change the season dates for deer hunters in several areas.

Game Zone 4 and Game Zone 5 have been consolidated into a new Game Zone 4, and Game Zone 3 and Game Zone 3 have been consolidated into a new Game Zone 3. Changes are noted in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ new 2015-16 regulations digest.

Season dates for the new Game Zone 4 will mirror the dates for the previous Game Zone 5, giving hunters from the previous Game Zone 4 an earlier start.

“The consolidation of the game zones was prompted by a request from the legislature to enhance consistency and provide standardization to the regulations,” said Charles Ruth, the deer and wild-turkey project leader for SCDNR. “The new regulation reflects the least amount of change in terms of deer seasons. The merger of Game Zone 3 and Game Zone 6 would have changed some of the turkey season dates, but that has already been dealt with because a statewide turkey season was passed by the legislature.

Ruth said the last time game zones were changed was in 2007, when the number was reduced from 11 to 6.

“That change was for simplification as well as this change,” Ruth said. 

The other significant change in the regulations was to standardize raccoon and opossum hunting season statewide.

Billy Dukes, Chief of Wildlife for SCDNR, said multiple seasons and bag limits for raccoon and opossum hunting previously existed across some of the Game Zones.

“This change reflects a consolidated and standardized raccoon and opossum hunting season and limit statewide,” Dukes said. “This standardization makes hunting for those species less complicated.”

Ruth said that since hunters throughout the state often hunt in various game zones they should thoroughly read the new regulations and understand the changes.

“They are not difficult to understand but some changes will impact the upcoming deer season,” he said.