Should South Carolina hunters have a limit on the number of bucks they can shoot each year? If so, what should that number be?

Tonight is the first of several SCDNR-sponsored meetings on deer management legislation across South Carolina. The meetings will focus on a bill filed by Senator Chip Campsen of Charleston, which proposes a state-wide limit of four antlered bucks per year, and also mandates that all harvested deer be tagged.

This bill would not impact the Antlerless Deer Quota Program currently in use by hunt clubs, farmers, and landowners. The House of Representatives will be in session beginning in January, and they will discuss the bill, which was approved by the Senate in March.

South Carolina has one of the longest deer hunting seasons in the nation, and certainly the most liberal bag limit. Throughout much of the state, including the Coastal Game Zones, South Carolina law states there is “no limit” on antlered deer. The two Upstate Game Zones have a 5-buck limit, but there has never been a way for SCDNR to enforce these limits, primarily because no tagging or reporting of harvested deer is required by hunters.

Like most states, North Carolina and Georgia both have limits on antlered deer, and while that doesn’t mean South Carolina should follow suit, it does raise the question of how the Palmetto State is expected to maintain a healthy population of deer when there are no expectations for hunters to limit the number of bucks they kill. 

Is there even a need to regulate the harvest of antlered deer in South Carolina?

Charles Ruth, SCDNR Deer and Wild Turkey Program coordinator thinks so. “The state’s deer population has changed in recent years and although there are still some areas where deer numbers and reports of agricultural damage remain high, the overall population has decreased as indicated by a 35 percent decline in harvest. Reasons for the decline include habitat changes related to forestry management, extremely liberal deer harvests over the last two decades, and the colonization of the state by coyotes since the turn of the century,” said Ruth.

Some landowners, like Sumter County’s James Catoe, have a different take. “When it comes down to it, this is all about folks wanting South Carolina to produce trophy bucks, and that’s not something the law should mandate. I rarely purchase meat from a grocery store. I mainly eat what I grow in my garden and what I kill while fishing and hunting. If I own a thousand acres of land or ten acres of land, the government shouldn’t tell me I can’t kill more than four bucks, and it also shouldn’t tell me I can’t shoot a buck that isn’t at least an 8-pointer. That’s what hunt clubs are for. If you want to hunt trophy deer, then by all means feel free to join a hunt club that has those restrictions; I shouldn’t have to follow a restriction on my own land that is put in place for the purpose of raising trophy bucks when I don’t care about killing a trophy buck,” he said.

What do you think? Should South Carolina have a limit on antlered deer, and if so, what should that number be? 

The deer management legislation meetings will all start with comments and a presentation by the SCDNR, which will be followed with questions and comments from the public. If you want your voice heard, these meetings are the place for you to give your input, as well as hear the input of wildlife biologists, public officials, and other hunters and landowners.

Each meeting begins at 7 p.m., and any questions about the meetings or locations can be directed to the SCDNR at 803-734-3886.

Meeting dates and locations are listed below:

Tuesday, Sept. 22, Florence, Pee Dee Research and Education Center Auditorium, 2200 Pocket Road, Florence, SC 29506

Thursday, Sept. 24, Lancaster, University of South Carolina-Lancaster, Stevens Auditorium 476 Hubbard Drive, Lancaster, SC 29720

Tuesday, Sept. 29, North Augusta, North Augusta High School Auditorium, 2000 Knobcone Ave., North Augusta, SC 29841

Tuesday, Oct. 6, Pendleton, Pendleton High School Auditorium – 7324 Hwy 187, Pendleton, SC 29670 

Thursday, Oct. 8, Greenwood, Piedmont Technical College James Medford Family Event Center Auditorium (Building N), 620 North Emerald Road, Greenwood, SC 29648

Tuesday, Oct. 13, Orangeburg, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Roquemore Auditorium, Building R, 3250 St. Mathews Road, Orangeburg, SC 29118

Thursday, Oct. 15, Walterboro, Hampton Street Auditorium, 491 Hampton Street, Walterboro, SC 29488

--Click here for an article that talks about recent changes to the state's turkey hunting regulations and how they relate to deer season.