For the first time in South Carolina, come the opening of hunting season on Aug. 15, all harvested deer must be tagged at the point of kill.
“The tags are the actual tool to enforce bag limits,” S.C. Department of Natural Resources Big Game Program Coordinator Charles Ruth said. “The agency wants all deer tagged, which will give us a better ability to manage the deer harvest as we go into the future.”
SCDNR will be able to manipulate the number of tags, particularly the optional tags for does. Hunters have been able to get up to four additional doe tags for a long time and, if deemed appropriate, SCDNR can increase or decrease that number of tags in the future. A change in the number of buck tags requires approval from the Legislature.
“The eight doe tags replace what doe days used to be,” Ruth said. “It’s the same eight days we’ve had the last four or five years … typically Saturdays, except the last one, which is Jan. 1, 2018.”
This new approach is more conservative than past efforts in that there has not previously been a limit on antlered bucks in game zones three and four. Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg counties are in zone three.
Past regulations in game zones one and two mandated a limit of five bucks. The new base limit in all game zones is three, with the option of purchasing two additional antler-restriction buck tags.
As for antlerless deer hunting, the new approach is more conservative in game zones one and two. Game zones three and four have the same limits as in past years.
“The buck restriction is designed to take the pressure off of the year-and-a-half-old bucks,” Ruth said. “If the hunter wants that extra opportunity, he has to get those tags. But he can’t just keep harvesting little bucks.”
Deer tags are not available over the counter at point-of-sales vendors like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods. They can be purchased over the counter at S.C. Department of Natural Resources offices in Charleston, Clemson, Columbia (downtown and Farmers Market), Florence and York. Tags may also be purchased by phone at 1-866-714-3611 or online at http://dnr.sc.gov/purchase.
Resident hunters whose hunting licenses and big-game permits are active as of Aug. 15 have received their base sets of tags in the mail. Hunters whose licenses and big-game permits expire prior to Aug. 15 need to renew their hunting credentials prior to hitting the woods.
Tags are valid for the entirety of deer season, which concludes on Jan. 1, 2018. But hunters need to maintain active licenses and big-game permits in order to hunt legally. To renew an expired hunting license or big game permit, go to one of the SCDNR offices or visit www.dnr.sc.gov/licensing.
Game Zone 3 (private lands): Richland, Lexington, Calhoun, Aiken, Orangeburg, Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale, Hampton, Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, Dorchester, Berkeley, Charleston counties
Archery & Gun Hunts: Aug. 15-Jan. 1
- The statewide limit on antlered bucks using personal deer tags is five for residents and four for non-residents. In each case, two of these bucks must have at least four points on one antler or a 12-inch inside spread. The daily limit for antlered bucks or antlerless deer using personal tags is two for both residents and non-residents.
- SCDNR regulations limit usage and number of antlerless deer tags within the games zones. The antlerless deer limit in zones three and four is a total of the eight date-specific antlerless tags issued with the big game permit and the number of individual antlerless deer tags the hunter chooses to purchase.
Kyndel McConchie is public information director, Office of Media & Outreach, S.C. Department of Natural Resources.