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New SC law brings changes to bear hunting in Upstate

From the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

-- South Carolina hunters will need to know more about a recently passed law that affects black bear hunting, and brings changes hunters should be aware of before bear season begins in October.

The state will have a new two-week black bear season in Game Zone 1, which includes the northern sections of Greenville, Oconee and Pickens counties, following a law passed by the South Carolina General Assembly. The still hunt season for bear is Oct. 17-23, and party dog season is Oct. 24-30.

One of the main changes in the bear hunting law is the requirement that all persons harvesting bears in South Carolina during both the still and party dog seasons must possess a bear tag and must tag the animal before moving it from the point of kill, according to Richard Morton, S.C. Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist based in Clemson.

The tag will cost $25 for residents and $100 for non-residents and will be issued in the name of the individual hunter. Youth under the age of 16 can obtain tags at no charge. Bear tags will be available online at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/purchase.html, by mail and at DNR regional offices.

Revenue generated from these bear tags will go to bear research and management and to administer the tag system.

Another change brought about by the new law is that during the party dog hunt, the limit was raised to five bears per party per season. All persons wishing to register for the party hunt must register by Sept.1 each year and must provide a valid hunting license number. "It will be more important than ever that hunters get their application in on time and that they be accurate," Morton said. The DNR will not substitute members of a party after Sept. 1.

The application for party dog hunts is (Pdf file) available online at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/bearhunting/Bearpartyhunt.pdf.
Other changes brought about by the new law include:
. Archery hunting for deer will be allowed during the bear season.
. DNR will be allowed to set bear hunting seasons in other game zones as bear populations increase.
. The harvest of an undersized bear is now a magistrate court case, which means DNR officers can issue a courtesy summons for this violation. Previously, an undersized bear charge resulted in the violator being taken to jail. Other bear law violations will remain circuit court cases.

Hunters who have additional questions about the new bear law can contact the nearest DNR enforcement officer or wildlife biologist. The new bear hunting law can be viewed online at http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess118_2009-2010/bills/3541.htm.

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