COLUMBIA — Results of the 2019 Deer Hunter Survey conducted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources indicate the statewide deer harvest decreased by only 1% last season.
It included an estimated 105,201 bucks and 87,872 does, which made up a total harvest of 193,073 deer, just slightly down from the 194,986 estimated harvested in 2018, according to Charles Ruth, SCDNR Big Game Program coordinator.
The fall of 2019 was the third season of the “all deer” tagging system and statewide limit on antlered deer. Although the harvest has increased (12%) since 2016, it is primarily a result of increased doe harvest (18.0%) rather than an increase in bucks (9%).
“Prior to the tagging program, increases in harvest were normally the result of increases in the buck harvest or a more equal increase in buck and doe harvest. This disproportionate harvest may be indicative of the new buck limit having the desired effect of decreasing pressure on bucks. It will likely take a few years for this to become clearer,” Ruth said.
Top counties for harvest in 2019 included Anderson, Laurens and Spartanburg in the Piedmont, and Bamberg and Beaufort in the coastal plain, with each of these counties exhibiting harvest rates over 12 deer per square mile.
Although the harvest has generally declined from its peak some years ago, South Carolina still ranks near the top among Southeastern states in harvest per unit area.
Hunters using centerfire rifles took most of the deer (155,617), as South Carolina has long and liberal firearms seasons. Archery equipment (11,391 deer) and shotguns (17,956 deer) also contributed significantly to the overall deer harvest, whereas muzzleloaders, crossbows, and handguns combined (8,109 deer) produced less than 5% of the total statewide harvest.
Other survey statistics indicate that approximately 126,283 South Carolina residents and 14,833 non-residents deer hunted in the state in 2019. Deer hunters reported an overall success rate of 69%.
Overall hunting effort was estimated at just over 2 million days. The number of days devoted to deer hunting in South Carolina is very significant. It points not only to the availability and popularity of deer as a game species but also to the obvious economic benefits of this essential natural resource.
About $200 million in direct retail sales is related to deer hunting in South Carolina annually.
View the complete 2019 South Carolina Deer Harvest Report: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/deer/2019DeerHarvestReport.html
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