Collectively, the citizens of South Carolina own these lands - so why not take your rightful place on a deer stand on one of the draw hunts offered by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources?
Draw hunts are available to the novice as well as the experienced hunter. One may be just a diversion from your regular hunting lease, or it might be pretty much your entire season. In either case, you'll be glad to know that the odds of success are on your side.
Dress the part, go through the motions, maybe practice what you've learned from television shows, and you might harvest a record-book, trophy buck.
Say it ain't so?
In 2007, 18-year old Cody Whittle saw Lady Luck, blind luck, and every other kind of luck come together as he took a trophy buck on a draw hunt on the Webb Center WMA south of Estill along the Savannah River.
Not only was it an impressive, record-book deer, but the deer came with a history. Because of trail-camera photos from Jeff Hunt, who managed a nearby plantation, a few people knew the megabuck was out there. In a nice twist, the buck's shed antlers from 2006 had been recovered and were presented as a gift to Whittle.
The Webb Center WMA is part of a 25,000-acre block of state-owned lands along the Savannah River that offers draw hunts for deer and hogs. To say that the Savannah River swamp is formidable is an understatement, and hunting deer there boils down to one sure-fire thing: scouting for acorns and deer sign.
Scouting is a normal preseason activity, but on public lands, the game changes a bit. You may be looking for sign and see deer that have been bumped by other hunters. Seeing deer while scouting is not a guarantee of success, but when time is short and you are on a strange piece of property, seeing deer gives you the feeling that you are in the game.
Julian Clark, a veteran of many WMA draw hunts and a Quality Deer Management Association-certified deer steward, said scouting for acorns led to a successful hunt one year.
"I was drawn for an early November hunt, and most of the acorns and leaves had already dropped, but I found one oak that was still producing acorns. Since tracks were hard to find in the leaf cover, deer droppings told me this spot was being used," said Clark, who took two does from the spot he had scouted.
The Webb Center WMA has a popular draw hunt where hunters are fed, lodged, taken to and from their stands, and can have their deer field dressed. The fee was raised in 2008 from $100 to $125, so it can be a pricey hunt, but if you want to stay in a Lowcountry plantation house and have afternoon and morning hunts in the Savannah River bottomland, this hunt is a safe bet. A special September draw hunt is offered for primitive weapons - archery or blackpowder.
Hunters on Webb Center hunts are required to use established stands set close to food plots, traffic funnels and pine flats.
The SCDNR regulates WMA properties to control all activities and manage particular properties.
"This is publicly-owned land, and the DNR represents the public at large, and these draw hunts are really good hunting opportunities," said Charles Ruth, the SCDNR's deer-project leader. "In most cases, we have staff on-site engaged in a high-level of active management. The draw-hunt format guards against overcrowding, promotes safety issues and provides a higher quality hunting experience."
Applications for the 2009 WMA deer draw hunts will be due in mid-August, and it's a lot like trying to win the lottery, because it builds some anticipation about when and where you might be headed. WMA deer draw hunts can provide valuable experience for hunters to carry with them any time they go hunting, and when you get drawn for a hunt you are automatically "a winner."