S.C.’s 2018 deer harvest increased over recent years

Brian Davis is one of many hunters who had success during South Carolina's 2018 deer season.

Harvest was 5 percent higher than 2017, 13 percent higher than 2016

The SCDNR released South Carolina’s deer harvest numbers from the 2018 season this week. The estimates show an increase of about 5 percent over 2017’s harvest, and a 13 percent increase over 2016’s numbers.

It was a good year for Palmetto State hunters. However, it was well below the banner year (39 percent lower) of 2002 when hunters killed 319,902 deer.

The agency estimates hunters killed a total of 194,986 deer throughout the state during the 2018 season. Of those deer, 109,208 were bucks. Hunters killed 85,778 does during the season.

Charles Ruth, SCDNR biologist and big game coordinator, said the slight increase over recent year harvests is likely due to a number of factors. 2015 and 2016 saw temporary hunting season closures in some coastal areas. This was due to numerous serious storms. And those same storms caused access problems for hunters even in areas of the state that did not fall under the temporary closures.

It’s likely, according to Ruth, that more deer would have been killed in previous years if not for the closures and access problems. And with relatively good weather during the 2018 season, hunters were able to spend more days hunting. This undoubtedly helped them kill more deer.

Doe harvest increased more than buck harvest

One statistic that surprised the SCDNR is that the increase in harvest was mainly due to an increase in doe kills. That number was up 18 percent. Buck harvests also increased, but at a smaller rate of 9.5 percent. The new tagging system, which was implemented in time for the 2018 season, also includes a buck limit. While this helps explain the smaller increase in buck harvests, it’s still not what wildlife biologists expected to see.

For the 2018 season, South Carolina’s deer harvest rate was 9.2 deer harvested per square mile over the entire state. Bamberg County had the highest harvest rate (20.4 deer per square mile). Anderson County was second with 17 deer per square mile. Spartanburg County was third with 15.8 per square mile. Hampton had 15.7 per square mile for fourth place, and Orangeburg was fifth with 14.9 deer per square mile.

Total deer harvests per county doesn’t take the size of counties into consideration, so such numbers are skewed much more than the above per-square-mile numbers. However, the SCDNR always releases those numbers as well.

The top five counties for total deer harvest were Orangeburg, Hampton, Colleton, Fairfield, and Spartanburg.

Rifle hunters killed vast majority of all harvested deer

The vast majority of all deer harvested in 2018 were killed with centerfire rifles. They made up 81 percent of all kills. Shotguns were second with 8.3 percent. Archery equipment accounted for 6.8 percent. The combination of muzzleloaders, crossbows, and handguns contributed less than 5 percent of all deer killed.

Most of South Carolina’s deer harvest took place in October and November. Each of those months accounted for about 32 percent (64 percent combined) of the total number harvested. December’s harvest accounted for about 24 percent. Early season hunters killed less than 10 percent of the overall harvest in September. And August made up about 2 percent of the overall harvest.

The SCDNR said a total of 145,234 deer hunters were licensed in South Carolina for the 2018 season. Of that number, 129,477 were residents compared to 15,757 nonresidents.

Not surprisingly, hunter effort played a big role in hunter success. Resident hunters who killed at least one deer averaged 17 days afield. Resident hunters who failed to kill at least one deer spent an average of 9 days hunting. Successful nonresidents put in about 12 days compared with unsuccessful nonresidents who spent 9 days in the field.

Click here to see the complete list of results of SCDNR’s 2018 deer harvest report.

Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1313 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.