During the 2012 season, about 116,673 bucks and 101,181 does were harvested in South Carolina — a 3.8 percent decrease in harvest from 2011. But with about 750,000 whitetails, lower harvest numbers shouldn’t concern deer hunters.
“Although the deer harvest has been on a downward trends the last few years, indicating that population levels have moderated, hunter success and deer harvest rates remain good,” said Charles Ruth, deer and wild turkey program coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Ruth noted that Bamberg, Anderson, Union, Greenwood and Abbeville Counties all had harvest rates exceeding 14 deer per square mile — a number few areas in the country can boast. The top counties for quality deer in 2012 were Aiken, Orangeburg and Williamsburg in the coastal plain, and Anderson, Greenville, and Abbeville Counties in the Piedmont.
One big change for the 2013 deer season is that baiting and hunting over bait will now be allowed in Game Zones 1 and 2. This means baiting is no longer prohibited on private lands in any part of the state. Baiting remains illegal on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) statewide.
There are no weather-related phenomena or diseases seriously affecting South Carolina deer herds. Researchers at the Savannah River Site are investigating the effects of coyotes on fawns, with data showing that coyotes are responsible for 80 percent of all fawn mortalities in the area. Now scientists are looking at whether coyote control measures like trapping result in increased fawn survival.
The state offers plenty of public land hunting opportunities. While hunters must draw a tag, the Webb Center, Hamilton Ridge and Palachucola are three continuous WMAs that all provide quality hunting. With a combined 30,000 acres, deer slayers have room to roam to find a respectable deer or two. The last week in October and first week in November generally represent the peak of the rut, so hunt hard during those two weeks to bag a buck (or two) with romance on its mind.