Despite being plagued with an historic rain event and unusually warm weather late in the year, South Carolina deer hunters harvested more bucks during the 2015 season than the previous year. Overall harvest numbers were down, but not as much as many thought possible because of poor hunting conditions.
Charles Ruth, a biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources who is the agency’s deer and wild turkey project leader, said the overall harvest of 195,030 deer was good considering the natural elements working against hunters.
“The silver lining is (that) the overall trend is perhaps positive for the 2016 season,” he said.
Ruth said hunters took 111,035 bucks and 83,995 does. The buck harvest was up over 2014 levels, but the overall harvest was off 4 percent from the 202,952 deer taken the previous season. The 2015 harvest is 39 percent below the record harvest of 319,902 in 2002.
“As it relates specifically to the decrease in harvest during the 2015 season, it should be noted that hunting conditions in South Carolina were poor during the fall of 2015,” Ruth said. “This began the first week in October with a ... rainfall and flooding event spawned by hurricane Joaquin in the Atlantic Ocean. The magnitude of this event forced a temporary season closure for all game species in parts of 15 coastal counties.Although these closures only lasted 5 to 10 days, the aftermath of the flooding in these areas and throughout the state created access and other problems for deer hunters.
“Additionally, hunting was negatively impacted by ongoing rainfall and unseasonably warm temperatures for the remainder of the deer season.
“Considering that the harvest was down only slightly, I think with good weather we would have had an up year in the 2015,” Ruth said. “Given that same parameter of good weather, I believe the harvest in 2016 will be up.”
The top five counties in terms of total harvest last season were: Orangeburg, Hampton, Colleton, Williamsburg and Spartanburg. But Ruth said a better comparison takes into account the size of counties and how many deer are taken.
“The deer harvest rate in 2015 was 9.0 deer per square mile over the entire state,” he said. “Although the deer harvest in South Carolina has declined in recent years, South Carolina remains at the top among southeastern states, many of which have also noted a declining trend.”
Ruth said in terms of harvest per square mile, Anderson County led all South Carolina counties with 18.1 deer killed per square mile, followed by Hampton County with 17.9, Spartanburg with 15.0, Bamberg with 13.9 and Orangeburg with 13.1.