Antler Scoring Sessions Reveal Many New Records

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The most recent round of white-tailed deer antler scoring conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources revealed 136 new records including two potential Boone and Crockett records.

Each spring S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 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 463 sets of antlers scored at the 10 scheduled sessions this spring, 136 met the minimum score for entry on the state records list including 132 sets of typical and four non-typical racks. Of the antlers scored, 121 were taken during the 2004 or 2005 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 scored in 2006 was a 162 3/8 point buck found dead (road kill) on the Savannah River Site last October in Aiken County. This deer is a new Aiken County typical record and it will qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club’s Three Year Awards Period List. The second highest scoring typical was a 153 5/8 inch Chesterfield County buck taken James Barefoot last December. Manning Lusk’s 187 4/8 point McCormick County buck, taken in December 2004, was tops among non-typical deer. Lusk’s buck is the new non-typical record for McCormick County, the new number four all-time non-typical in South Carolina, and it will also qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club’s Three Year Awards Period List. At 162 1/8 points, the number two non-typical among this year’s entries was taken by David Wannamaker in Calhoun County on Jan. 1, 2006.

“South Carolina’s deer herd is in good condition, and it appears that after many years of rapid population growth the herd stabilized in the mid-1990s,” said Charles Ruth, DNR Deer Project supervisor. “Statewide population estimates put the deer herd at about 750,000 animals with an estimated harvest of about 250,000 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.”

Orangeburg County was this years’ top producer of State Record entries with 12. Other top counties included Calhoun with 11, Aiken with 10, Chesterfield with eight, and Anderson with seven entries. These results come as no surprise, which is particularly the case with Aiken, Anderson, and Orangeburg 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.

“If hunters want to continue to have good numbers of large-antlered bucks,” Ruth said, “the harvest of female deer must continue to be emphasized in many areas in order to keep deer numbers from becoming too high. Over the last 10 years, most hunters have realized the importance of harvesting doe deer. These hunters should be commended and encouraged to continue this trend were needed.”

Orangeburg County remains at the top of all-time leaders at the county level with 334 sets of antlers on the lists. Rounding out the top five counties Orangeburg is followed by Aiken 268, Fairfield 227, Colleton 204 and Abbeville and Williamsburg tied with 172 entries each.

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 5,500 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 five million per year. Essentially, the average hunter stands a better chance of being struck by lightning than harvesting one of these record deer no matter where they hunt. As for the South Carolina Antler Records List, about one in every 1,000 bucks harvested makes the State Book.

Currently 4,641 sets of antlers (4,475 typical and 166 non-typical) are included on the South Carolina antler records list. Results of DNR’s Antler Records Program for 2006 will soon be available on the DNR Web site at