S.C. makes big changes for turkey hunting regulations

Big changes are coming to South Carolina turkey hunters beginning in 2020.

A few big changes are in store for 2020 turkey hunters in S.C.

Beginning next spring, South Carolina will once again have a split turkey season. And that’s not the only change taking place for turkey hunters compared to the past few seasons. The season limit of three gobblers will remain the same — sort of.

For the past few seasons, South Carolina’s turkey season ran from March 20 – May 5 throughout the entire state. But starting in 2020, the Upstate Game Zones 1 & 2 will be open April 1 – May 10. In the midlands and lower part of the state, Game Zones 3 & 4 will run March 22 – April 30.

South Carolina’s turkey hunting season takes place when hens are laying and incubating eggs. Wildlife biologists believe a certain level of gobbler harvests during that period has little to no impact on the success rate of those hens and their clutch of eggs. But killing too many gobblers has a negative impact. And according to Charles Ruth, SCDNR Wild Turkey Project Manager, harvests over the past few years have been detrimental.

Game Zones 1 & 2 will have a different turkey season than 3 & 4 beginning in 2020.

And much of that can be solved, said Ruth, by splitting the season and enacting a couple of other big changes.

While the season limit remains three gobblers per resident hunter (two for non-residents), the new law states each hunter can kill only one bird during the first 10 days of the season. This will cut down on hunters “doubling up” during a single hunt when gobblers are less wary. And it will stop hunters from killing multiple gobblers before those birds can contribute to the breeding process.

A third major change is that turkey tags will no longer be free. South Carolina residents will now pay $5 for their three turkey tags. Non-residents will receive their two tags for $100. Making and shipping the free turkey tags has cost SCDNR, causing them to use the agency’s funds that could have been used for other projects. The new fees will cover those costs, and provide additional funds for turkey research.

The new law was signed by Gov. Henry McMaster on May 16, 2019 after the bill faced no opposition in either the House or the Senate.

Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1359 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.