031719 55things hunting

Orangeburg County tops the list for trophy bucks. Landon Smoak, 17, of Orangeburg, took this "monster" on the morning of Oct. 15, 2016. The buck weighed 170 pounds and had 18 points.

The overall economic impact of hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in South Carolina is placed at $2.74 billion annually by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Nowhere are the opportunities for the outdoor activities more prevalent and important than Orangeburg County with its vast acres of rural landscape in the state’s second-largest county in land area.

The longest continuous-flowing black water river in the world passes through the Orangeburg city limits. Two hundred six miles of peace and serenity, starting in Aiken County and ending at the Atlantic Ocean, the Edisto River can be accessed from public landings in Orangeburg County. Once world-renowned for its redbreast fishing, the Edisto is more likely to give up a mess of flathead catfish these days. A float trip in late December or January will often put a limit of wood ducks, the occasional mallard and a bonus squirrel or two in the duck hunter’s boat.

The big water available at the Santee Cooper chain of lakes on the opposite side of Orangeburg County offers even more opportunities. Consisting of two lakes, Marion and Moultrie, Santee is 174,000 acres of public water. The 450 miles of shoreline are dotted with public-access boat ramps, free of charge, or for a small launch fee. Campgrounds, motels and rental cabins can be found from one end of the lakes to the other in a price range sure to fit any traveler’s budget.

The original home of the landlocked striped bass, Santee is filled with bream, bass, crappie, catfish and stripers. While fishing reigns as the king on Santee, hunting is certainly the prince. Several wildlife management areas that border the lakes as well as the islands that abound in the upper portion are open to the public. The out-of-town visitor may struggle to find ducks in suitable numbers in the upper swamp. The ducks will be there, if the weather is right, but it often takes years of experience to find the holes the ducks like.

Deer hunting, however, is the crown prince of the county.

Orangeburg County remains among the top producers of deer in numbers and continues as a leader in the number of record trophy bucks.

Asked why Orangeburg consistently seems to produce so many big bucks, SCDNR deer biologist Charles Ruth has said, “Orangeburg County has good deer habitat, a solid agricultural base in much of the county, coupled with a deer population that is not too high. This, along with a reasonable number of landowners who practice good deer harvest management, explains the results.”

Orangeburg County is also home to some of the best turkey hunting, ranking again in 2018 in the top five statewide for total turkey harvest.

Many turkey and deer hunters have also found Orangeburg to be a good place to add a wild hog or coyote to their game bag. Many are taken as incidental game while in the pursuit of deer and turkeys, but both hogs and coyotes are classified as non-native animals and can be hunted year-round.

Deer and turkeys certainly rank numbers one and two among local sportsmen, but other opportunities abound. Quail can be hunted on several preserves in the county and doves can be found on both public and private hunts throughout the county. Rabbit and other small game hunting seem to be becoming more and more popular as well.

Rivers, lakes, deer, ducks, doves, hogs, coyotes, turkeys and more. The longest deer and turkey seasons, with the most liberal bag limits, in the nation. One of only two states where it’s possible to shoot a deer with his antlers still in velvet. Top five county in the state for deer, both number and size-wise. Top half of the state for turkeys. Easy public access to large areas of land and water.

It’s easy to see why Orangeburg County is called an “outdoors mecca.”

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