COLUMBIA — South Carolina deer hunters should start seeing deer tags for the 2019 season in their mailboxes, and there are significant changes to the antlerless tagging system that all hunters need to be aware of before taking to the field.
A new law was passed by the General Assembly, resulting in the elimination of the eight date specific anterless tags, replacing them with two anterless tags that may be used on any day beginning Sept. 15 in Game Zones 2, 3, and 4, and Oct. 1 in Game Zone 1. Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg counties are in Game Zone 3.
"Hunters in the past were limited by specific days to harvest antlerless deer," said Jay Cantrell, SCDNR Big Game Biologist. "This improvement gives people more opportunity and the flexibility to harvest deer when it is convenient for them. SCDNR and numerous legislators had heard from hunters over the last two years that were limited by tags that were only valid on certain Saturdays.
"A lot of folks have to work on Saturdays or have athletic events, family obligations and other constraints that limited their ability to hunt on Saturday. Throw in some weekends of bad weather or bad luck and opportunity was severely limited for the date specific tags.”
The General Assembly came to SCDNR with the idea, and staff helped by providing recommendations.
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"In working with the General Assembly, we knew that this change could negatively impact sales of the optional tags which would affect revenue for the deer program," Cantrell said. "However, we believe this change is so important in terms of providing simplification to the tagging program and increased opportunity and flexibility for resident hunters to take antlerless deer that we will make necessary adjustments related to the potential loss of funds."
Harvest statistics show 92% of South Carolina hunters harvest two or fewer antlerless deer each season. For hunters who want additional opportunity to take antlerless deer, they are still able to purchase up to four optional antlerless tags for $5 each or participate in the property-based Deer Quota Program.
Residents that currently have an active Annual or Three-year Hunting License and Big Game Permit, Combination License or Sportsman License that will be valid when deer season begins on Aug. 15 should automatically receive a base set of deer tags at no cost.
SCDNR is asking hunters to wait until at least Aug. 1 before inquiring about the status of their tags.
License holders unsure about the status/expiration date of their hunting license, big game permit, or other SCDNR hunting privileges can visit the Customer Privileges Portal at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/online to check a license status or to see when or if deer tags have been fulfilled.
Deer tags are not available over the counter at point of sales vendors (Walmart, Dicks Sporting Goods, etc.), but they are available over the counter at SCDNR offices located in Charleston, Clemson, Columbia (Farmers Market), Florence and York.
Optional tags may also be purchased by phone at 1-866-714-3611 or online. Hunters should allow 7-10 days for tags ordered or requested online, or by phone, to arrive in the mail.