Meetings Scheduled to Discuss Upstate Deer Limits

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The Wildlife Management Section of the S.C. Carolina Department of Natural Resources has scheduled five meetings to receive input from hunters concerning the limit on buck deer in the upstate of South Carolina.

Hunters have been encouraging the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to pursue this plan for some time. However, the agency would like to attempt to measure public opinion prior to considering any changes. Each meeting will include a presentation by DNR on the background and data related to the proposal, as well as, public comment and questions. DNR will also take the opportunity to discuss other deer related issues in the upstate.

The current proposal is related only to Game Zones 1, 2 and 4, which encompass the 18-county upstate region. (Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Lancaster, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union and York counties.) The outcome of the meetings will not affect the upcoming deer season.

All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. and the dates and locations are as follows:

  • Thursday, Aug. 28-Greenwood, Piedmont Technical College Auditorium, 620 North Emerald Road.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 2-Clemson, Ramada Inn, intersection of SC 123 and US 76.
  • Thursday, Sept. 4-Union, University of South Carolina-Union, Auditorium in Main Building, 401 East Main St. (Business SC 49).
  • Tuesday, Sept. 9-Lancaster, University of South Carolina-Lancaster, Stevens Auditorium, 476 Hubbard Drive.
  • Thursday, Sept. 11-Columbia, Riverbanks Zoo Auditorium, From I-126 take Greystone Blvd. exit and follow signs to Riverbanks Zoo.

"For several years, (DNR) biologists and conservation officers have received numerous contacts from upstate hunters indicating their desire to see the buck limit reduced from the current limit of five per season," said Charles Ruth, DNR Deer Project leader. "Some hunters indicate that they would support a reduced buck limit because they would like to see some of the harvest pressure taken off of bucks, particularly young bucks, in order to increase their chances of seeing and harvesting mature bucks."

Advocates of the proposal also feel that increased law enforcement measures should be implemented as well to ensure that the plan would have the desired effect. This could take the form of hunters receiving a set of buck tags and/or checking harvested deer using a toll-free telephone check-in system.

This grass roots effort originally began in fall 2000 when a group of deer hunters in Saluda County approached DNR officials about reducing the buck limit in their county, according to Ruth. Since that time, DNR wildlife management biologists have collected data and discussed the merits of the plan. Although hunters see the plan as increasing their chances of encountering more mature bucks, biologists believe that it may lead to increased harvests of doe deer, which is the main factor in managing the state's deer population. DNR has significantly liberalized antlerless deer harvest opportunities over the years; however, many hunters repeatedly harvest young bucks even when they have the opportunity to harvest a legal doe.

Although this proposal will not prevent hunters from harvesting young bucks it would limit the total number of bucks that they can take, which should shift harvest pressure to females. This in turn could lead not only to a better overall deer management situation, but to a moderation in the social costs associated with the deer population like damage to agriculture and deer-vehicle collisions.

"Will the plan work?" Ruth asks. "Harvest data collected by DNR biologists over the last six years suggest that it will. If the current upstate buck limit of five were reduced to two or three then 20 to 30 percent fewer bucks could be harvested annually. Most hunters can appreciate the possibility of having that many more bucks available for the next hunting season, particularly since most of these bucks would be more mature. Also, if buck harvest pressure shifts to does then it is a win-win situation."

Currently, about 70 percent of bucks taken annually are less than 2 years old, however, exceptional body weights and antler development do not typically occur until a buck is 3.5 years old or older.

Before any decision is made related to this idea, DNR staff would like to fully evaluate the pros and cons of the proposal by receiving information from the public.