From South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
-- The much-anticipated start of the 2008 deer season is just around the corner and South Carolina's deer population is healthy and the season outlook is good. Although the deer harvest has been on a downward trend the last few years indicating that population levels have moderated, hunter success and deer harvest rates remain good, according to Charles Ruth, DNR's Deer/Turkey Project supervisor.
Find out more about the 2007 deer harvest and antler records at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources website: www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/deer/index.html.
Hunters should be aware of several changes in deer laws that will be in place for the coming season. According to Ruth, there has been a reduction in the number of either-sex days for 2008 in most parts of the state. This change in the number of "doe days" was requested by DNR's Wildlife Section biological staff based on a 5-year declining trend in the deer population and contacts from concerned hunters.
This is the first substantive change in the number of either-sex days in many years and staff is attempting to be responsive to the resource, as well as to constituents, Ruth said.
South Carolina's deer population expanded rapidly in the 1980's and early 1990's and it peaked in the late 1990's at about 1,000,000 animals. However, since 2002 the population has trended down with current figures being about 750,000 deer, a 25 percent decline from peak figures 10 years ago.
The reduction can likely be attributable to one main factor, habitat change. Although timber management activities stimulated significant growth in South Carolina's deer population beginning in the 1970's, considerable acreage is currently in even-aged pine stands that are greater than 10 years old, a situation that does not support deer densities at the same level as younger stands in which food and cover is more available.
"DNR biologists will continue to monitor the harvest the next couple of years to determine what affect manipulating the number of either-sex days has on the harvest," Ruth said.
Hunters will still be able to use Individual Antlerless Deer Tags in all areas of the state except for the mountains (Game Zone 1). The decision not to allow the tags to be used in Game Zone 1 this year and last year was made for several reasons, according to Ruth. It is common knowledge that deer densities in the mountains are the lowest in the state; therefore, harvesting antlerless deer is not as important as it is in the balance of the state.
However, the biggest factor in the decision was ongoing complaints about the tags from hunters in the mountains. These complaints are related to the low deer density and concern that the harvest of antlerless deer using the "bonus" tags was preventing the deer herd from expanding. Biologists would like one more year to determine how not allowing tags affects the antlerless harvest in that part of the state, Ruth said.
Another change that hunters should be aware of is the elimination of the bag limit on antlered bucks on private land in Game Zones 4 and 5. This change means that there is now no daily or seasonal bag limit on antlered deer in 13 counties in the Pee Dee Region. This change was made by the General Assembly during the recently completed legislative session.
Finally, the definition of archery equipment was changed by the General Assembly so that crossbows are now considered archery equipment. Therefore, crossbows are legal during special archery seasons, as well as during firearms seasons as they have been for many years.
For more information on hunting seasons, rules and regulations, go to www.dnr.sc.gov/regulations.html.