The 2017 South Carolina deer hunting season is going to be much different than past seasons for hunters in the Palmetto State. One of the biggest changes we will see is that every single deer killed in South Carolina will have to be tagged. While this has been common practice in most states for decades, it’s not been the case in South Carolina.

Quite a few other changes are sure to have hunters and biologists wondering how this season will play out, but one of the biggest topics of discussion among hunters has been the number of deer each hunter will be allowed to take beginning this season.

The number 17 seems to be getting plenty of mention when it comes to this question, and while some hunters may take that number, it won’t be easy. And depending on which game zones you hunt in, killing 17 will be over the season limit.

Each South Carolina resident deer hunter gets a base set of tags when they purchase a hunting license. Included are 3 unrestricted antlered buck tags and 8 date-specific antlerless deer tags. Hunters can purchase an additional 2 restricted antler buck tags (these bucks must have at least 4 points on one antler, or a minimum 12-inch inside spread). They can also buy 4 antlerless tags that can be used on any date.

In Game Zones 3 and 4, a hunter could in fact legally kill 17 deer. Each hunter will receive 8 antlerless tags, and they have the option of purchasing an additional 4 antlerless tags. That, along with the possible total of 5 antlered tags, adds up to a total of 17 deer, but here’s where it gets tricky. Those 8 antlerless tags are date specific, meaning each tag is good for one certain date only. So if you don’t shoot an antlerless deer on the date the tag is good for, that tag expires. It’s very similar to having “doe days,” which gave hunters the ability to shoot an antlerless deer on specific days only.

So to kill 17 deer, a hunter would have to be in the woods on those specific dates, and have everything else fall into place, purchase and fill the additional antlerless tags, and fill their 3 base set of buck tags, plus purchase and fill the two optional restricted buck tags. It’s possible, but SCDNR biologists don’t anticipate a large number of hunters killing 17 deer.

In Game Zone 1, the maximum number of antlerless deer one hunter can kill is four. In Zone 2, each hunter can kill five antlerless deer during the season. Add those numbers to the 5 (3 base tags plus 2 optional) buck tags and Game Zone 1 hunters can legally kill a maximum of nine deer. Those in Game Zone 2 can legally kill 10 total deer. Having unfilled tags left over after meeting these numbers does not give hunters the legal right to kill more deer.

So which Game Zone am I in? Click the links below to find out which areas of the state lie in each Game Zone.

Game Zone 1    

Game Zone 2    

Game Zone 3    

Game Zone 4   

To summarize, upon purchasing a hunting license, each South Carolina resident hunter will receive 3 unrestricted buck tags, plus 8 date-specific antlerless deer tags. Each hunter also has the option to purchase 2 restricted antlered buck tags. They can also purchase 4 antlerless tags that are good for any date. In Game Zones 3 and 4, hunters can fill every one of those tags. In Game Zone 1, hunters can only kill 4 antlerless deer per season, regardless of how many tags they have. In Game Zone 2, hunters can only kill a maximum of 5 antlerless deer per season.

So, hunters in Game Zones 3 and 4 can kill a maximum of 17 total deer. Hunters in Game Zone 1 can kill a maximum of nine deer, and Game Zone 2 hunters can kill a maximum of 10 deer.

For non-resident hunters, it’s a little less complicated, no matter which Game Zone they hunt in. Non-residents can get a maximum of four antlered buck tags and 4 antlerless deer tags which can be used on any date.