South Carolina’s state legislature has gotten 2016 off on an interesting foot, putting into play a very unique measure aimed at reducing the population of coyotes in the Palmetto State. At the same time, it knocked down one attempt to revamp the management of whitetail deer.

In mid-February, the S.C. House of Representatives’ budget-writing panel approved a measure that would give the S.C. Department of Natural Resources the task of capturing, tagging and releasing at least a dozen coyotes across the state. Those “dirty dozen” would carry a bounty of at least $1,000 on their heads, or hides, as the case might be. Any hunter who killed a tagged coyote could turn it into SCDNR for the reward.

Boy, would that make Christmas shopping a little easier this fall! 

Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Horry), co-sponsor of the measure, hopes it will be an incentive for deer hunters to shoot more coyotes during the coming deer season, as well as target them when deer are out of season. 

There’s little question that the spread of coyotes across the state — all 46 counties are infested — has had a negative impact on the population of deer and wild turkeys. Harvests of both species are well below the record levels of the early 2000s, and every explanation of the declines includes coyotes. 

Several months ago, we suggested in this column that gun shops and outdoor stores sponsoring big-buck contests add a coyote contest — longest coyote tail wins some sort of prize. Admittedly, it was a stretch, but in my mind, anything that causes hunters to put the crosshairs on a few more coyotes can’t be too terrible, and that’s exactly where Clemmons’ bill fits in. It’s an effort to draw attention to the problem of too many of these high-level predators in our woods. Let’s hope it passes and takes effect July 1.

In late February, the S.C. House killed a piece of legislation aimed at changing the management of whitetail deer that had been passed last spring by the S.C. Senate. SCDNR and conservation groups are hoping that a different version can make the grade sometime this session. Word is, a provision that required hunters to pay $15 for four buck tags and four doe tags did it in. The second version of the bill apparently kills the fee for tags and gives hunters three buck tags and eight doe tags, with the opportunity to purchase four more doe tags and two more buck tags that are restricted to animals with 12-inch inside spreads and four points per antler.

We’ll see how this plays out, but a possible limit of 17 deer doesn’t seem like the limiting factor we need when it comes time to pull the trigger.  But at least it limits hunters to five bucks and makes two of them “trophy tags”, and that can’t be all bad.