Bill S 454, which passed the Senate last March, failed to pass the House of Representatives last week. The bill, which proposed major changes in South Carolina’s deer hunting regulations, has now been revised and passed by the House sub-committee. It will be voted on again at a later date.
Charles Ruth, Deer and Turkey Program Coordinator for SCDNR said his agency knew the bill was set to fail, and had been working with lawmakers on a new version of the bill. Ruth said the SCDNR is supportive of the new version, but he doesn’t know if it will pass or not.
“SCDNR supports the new bill. It still puts into place the things hunters have told us they want to see, but I really have no idea what’s going to happen,” he said.
“We met with members of the House committee to try to come to a middle ground. They made it clear they weren’t going to pass the Senate version of the bill, and since then we’ve been trying to reach middle ground,” said Ruth.
One of the sticking points that reportedly kept the bill from passing was the requirement that hunters pay an additional $15 to purchase tags for killing four antlered bucks and four does. This is on top of the regular hunting license fee.
As part of the new version of the bill, resident hunters would pay no additional fee to hunt deer. They will purchase a big game hunting license like always, and will receive tags for three bucks and eight does. The doe tags will only be for use on specific doe days.
The bill will also allow hunters to buy two additional buck tags, but these bucks would have antler restrictions of a 12-point inside spread and at least four points on one side. They could also purchase as many as four additional doe tags.
Landowners involved in the Deer Quota Program would also get more flexibility in the new version of the bill. Most notably, they will be able to choose a quota for antlered or antlerless deer, as well as their own level of participation.
The latest version of the bill also calls for non-resident hunters to pay more to hunt in South Carolina.
“Hunters wanted increased fees for non-residents, and it was also apparent with the legislators,” said Ruth.
Non-residents will have the option of purchasing up to four buck tags, and two of those will be the antler-restricted tags. They will pay a $50 fee for their first tag, and $20 for each additional tag.
Ruth said that even if this version of the bill passes in 2016, it will have no impact on deer hunting until the 2017 hunting season.