South Carolina Changes Deer Season in Francis Marion NF

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Some changes in the 2010 deer season will occur on the Francis Marion National Forest as a result of hunter concern and supportive biological data related to decreasing deer numbers.

Hunts for deer with any type of weapon will not occur until Sept. 1. The entire month of September for all of the Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), which includes Hellhole, Wambaw, Santee, Northampton and Waterhorn, will be archery only except for scheduled deer hunts with dogs on certain WMAs. Deer hunts with firearms will begin on all WMAs Oct. 1 and continue until Jan. 1, 2011. On dates not designated as a county wide either-sex days, individual antlerless deer tags are still allowed on still gun and muzzleloader hunts only from Oct. 1 – Jan. 1. The total bag limit for all firearm and muzzleloader hunts (including deer hunts with dogs) has been decreased from 8 to 4 deer for the entire Francis Marion National Forest for the 2010 season. A new regulation will be in effect that makes it unlawful for an individual to attempt to harvest a deer with a gun or muzzleloader once the individual has reached the season bag limit for deer.

Deer hunts with dogs that were previously scheduled in August were moved to days later in the year to take advantage of potentially cooler weather. During the three previous deer seasons, August deer harvest only represented an average 1.6 percent of the total deer harvest on the Francis Marion National Forest. Several of the deer hunt with dog days continue to be on dates when children are out of school and can participate in the events. All of the youth only deer hunts with dogs remain the same on all areas. In an effort to spread out hunters, the either-sex deer hunt with dogs on the Santee WMA and the Hellhole WMA will take place on the same date. Likewise the either-sex deer hunt with dogs on the Wambaw and Northampton will also take place on the same date.

Hunters have been voicing concern over the lack of deer on the National Forest for several seasons. Deer spotlight surveys conducted on the Waterhorn, Hellhole and Santee WMAs resulted in few deer being observed. Other data suggestive of a lower deer herd density include the fact that the Francis Marion Forest has the lowest deer harvest per square mile of any other WMA throughout the entire state. Factors possibly contributing to the decline in the deer population could be coyote predation, feral hogs competing for similar habitats and food as well as the illegal harvest of deer.

View the 2010-2011 copy of the Rules and Regulations brochure to view the changes to the deer hunting season.