Each spring SCDNR Wildlife Section personnel make a concerted effort to score deer racks throughout the state, with a major scoring session during the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic in Columbia.
Of the 541 sets of antlers scored this spring, 211 met the minimum score for entry on the state-records list, including 203 sets of typical and 8 non-typical racks.
According to Charles Ruth, Deer/Wild Turkey Program coordinator for DNR, the number of successful entries into the records list this year is the third highest number of entries in 15 years.
Although all of the records were not taken during the 2010 season, 169 were taken during the 2009 or 2010 season.
Racks must score a minimum of 125 points typical or 145 points non-typical to qualify for the South Carolina state records list. Records are based on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, which measures the mass and symmetry of deer antlers in two categories-typical and non-typical.
The top typical buck was a 172 0/8 inch buck taken by Danny Dillard in Anderson County in October of 2009. Dillard's buck is the new Anderson County typical record and qualifies for the Boone and Crockett Club's All Time Records List.
The second highest scoring typical was a 160 5/8 inch Allendale County buck taken by fifth grader Hunter Mock last October. Mock's buck also will qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club's Three Year Awards Period List and is the new Allendale County record typical buck. Netting 158 points, the top scoring non-typical buck was taken by Allyn Thomasson in Darlington County in December.
The complete records can be found here.
South Carolina's deer herd is in good condition, and after many years of rapid population growth the herd stabilized in the mid-1990s followed by a decreasing trend since about 2002, according to Ruth. Statewide population estimates put the deer herd at about 725,000 animals with an estimated harvest of approximately 225,000 each of the last few years. Although the total deer harvest in South Carolina has been down the last few years, indications from the antler records program are that deer quality remains good. This would make sense because fewer deer in the population would benefit from increased nutrition.
Aiken County was this years' top producer of State Record entries with 21. Other top counties included Orangeburg (16), Kershaw (11), and Barnwell and Williamsburg counties each with 10 entries. These results come as no surprise as these counties have historically produced good numbers of record entries.
Although some of the top counties have relatively high deer populations, some of these counties have more moderate numbers. It is important that hunters and land managers understand how the density of deer in an area affects the quality of the animals. Areas with fewer deer typically have better quality animals because natural food availability and nutritional quality is higher. Good nutrition is important in producing good antlers, but deer reproduction, recruitment and survival are also directly tied to nutrition.
As far as all-time leaders at the county level, Orangeburg County remains at the top with 409 sets of antlers on the list. Rounding out the top five counties Orangeburg is followed by Aiken 364, Fairfield 244, Colleton 231, and Anderson with 209 entries.
South Carolina hunters should recognize that harvesting potential Boone and Crockett bucks is not a common occurrence anywhere in the country. This is particularly evident if you consider that there are only about 7,000 white-tailed deer records listed by Boone and Crockett, which includes entries dating to the 1800s. Similarly, the harvest of deer in the United States in recent years has been about 6 million per year. Essentially, the average hunter stands a better chance of being struck by lightning than harvesting one of these record deer. As for the South Carolina Antler Records List, about one in every 800 bucks harvested makes the State Book.
Currently 5,659 sets of antlers (5,445 typical and 214 non-typical) are included on the South Carolina antler records list.