The e-mail on July 18 from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said that I would be getting my deer tags in the mail soon. I was a little bit surprised, and somewhat confused. Wouldn’t I need to apply for the tags online or pick them up at one of the regional offices? I had not bought my new hunting license yet, but the tags arrived in the mail a few days later.
I had been to the meetings and read all the articles that I saw in magazines and local newspapers. I had talked to people at SCDNR and other hunters. I thought that I understood the new tag program completely, but I was wrong. Apparently the DNR intended all along to mail tags to current license holders and anyone purchasing a new license beginning July 1.
OK, I know that any new program can have some confusion and a few snafus. It’s to be expected, so I’ve gone back to the DNR website and reviewed all the information that I could find. I think I’m up to speed with the info now.
The Deer Tag Program in South Carolina has been a long time coming. Passage of the “Deer Management Bill” was the culmination of years of effort on the part of the DNR, deer hunters and the Legislature. It’s not a perfect law but probably the best we could get under the circumstances.
The lack of a reasonable limit and enforcement effort on buck deer in the past have been a function of history, tradition and politics -- not science.
Under the new law, all deer will be required to be tagged at the point of the kill. The deer only has to be tagged from the point of kill, during transport and until it is processed or cut up. Once the deer is quartered, or boned out, the tagging requirement goes away.
Some hunters have asked how a tagging system can be enforced. If someone chooses to take the risk of not tagging a deer, and he or she is caught, fines can reach more than $1,000. Also, processors will not take untagged deer because taking possession of an illegal deer is a violation. Most hunters are good and honest people. Good people police themselves, and no law can persuade bad people to do the right thing.
Under the new law, South Carolina residents will automatically receive a set of deer tags at no cost when they purchase a hunting license, or if their license will be valid when the hunting season begins. Tags will not be available at over-the-counter vendors, such as sporting goods stores. They became available after Aug. 1 at DNR regional offices. The base set of tags consists of three unrestricted buck tags and eight date-specific antlerless deer tags. Residents can purchase two additional restrictive buck tags for $5 each.
The restriction is that the buck must have at least four points on one side or have a 12-inch inside antler spread. There is no specific order in which buck tags can be used. Residents may also purchase up to four additional antlerless deer tags for $5 each. These tags are valid on any day beginning Sept. 15.
Youth hunters under the license age of 16 must request the free base set of tags annually. Tags will be available over the counter at DNR regional offices in Charleston, Clemson, Columbia, and Florence. Tags can also be ordered by phone at 1-866-714-3611 or via the internet. Contact information will be required to include date of birth and SSN. The youth will be given a customer ID number for future use. The additional tags may also be purchased.
Lifetime/ Senior/ Gratis/ Disability hunters must also request the free base set of tags annually. Not all of these 200,000 license holders are deer hunters and it would wasteful to send tags to all. Additional deer tag purchases are the same as resident and youth hunters.
Many hunt clubs, especially in the Lowcountry, may be enrolled in the Deer Quota Program. The new Deer Quota Program is similar to the old Antlerless Deer Quota Program. The only difference is that all deer must be tagged to include bucks, and the number of deer, to include bucks, that can be harvested will be determined by the DNR.
On dog drives, the person killing a deer must tag it with a personal tag, or if the property is enrolled in the quota program, one of the tags issued to the property should be used to tag the deer.
I haven’t even touched on the nonresident requirements, and some of you may still have questions. If so, you can email the DNR at Deer Tags@dnr.sc.gov or go online to www.dnr.sc.gov. Select “deer” under the hunting tab and click onto the New Deer Tag Information.
Dan Geddings is a native of Clarendon County currently residing in Sumter. He is founder and president of Rut and Strut Hunting Club in Clarendon County and a member of Buckhead Hunting Club in Colleton County.