Bagging a trophy buck is the dream of every deer hunter. Over the past 40 years, more than 6,000 have scored high enough to earn a spot in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' list of trophy white-tailed deer, and more are expected to be added as DNR begins its annual March antler measuring campaign.
2014 Antler Measuring Sessions
March 4: 2-8 p.m., Hunters Headquarters, 1845 Calhoun Rd., Greenwood, 864-223-1911.
March 6: 2-8 p.m., Durham's Grocery, 3210 Walhalla Highway, Six Mile, 864-868-2070.
March 7: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Wilson's Taxidermy, 158 Victory Lane, Bath, 803-593-3357.
March 17: 2-8 p.m., Academy Sports, 100 Peachwood Centre Dr., Spartanburg, 864-216-8960.
March 26: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Dennis Wildlife Center, 305 Black Oak Rd., Bonneau, 843-825-3387.
March 28: noon-8 p.m., Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic, State Fairgrounds, Columbia, 803-734-3886.
March 29: 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic, State Fairgrounds, Columbia, 803-734-3886.
March 30: 1:30-6 p.m., Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic, State Fairgrounds, Columbia, 803-734-3886.
The following areas are by appointment only during March
DNR office, 311 Natural Resources Road, Clemson, 864-654-1671 ext. 16.
DNR office, 1000 Assembly St., Columbia, 803-734-8738.
DNR office, 295 S. Evander Dr., Florence, 843-661-4768.
Webb Wildlife Center, 1282 Webb Ave., Garnett, 803-625-3569.
DNR office, 124 Wildlife Dr., Union, 864-427-5140.
The record book can be found online at dnr.sc.gov and includes 5,936 typical racks and 232 non-typical racks. To qualify for the records list, typical antlers must score 125 points while non-typical antlers must score 145 points. Scoring is based on the Boone and Crockett system.
Thirteen scoring sessions have been announced across the state, with the main event being a three-day session March 28-30 during the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia. Area scoring sessions include March 26, 9:30-4 p.m. at the Dennis Wildlife Center, located at 305 Black Oak Road in Bonneau (843 825-3387). Antlers also can be scored by appointment throughout March at the Webb Wildlife Center in Garnett (803 625-3569).
"It really ramped up when the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic began," Ruth said of the event, which is celebrating its 30th year. "One-third to one-half of all the scoring we do is in that one event."
Ruth said last year there were 607 sets of antlers scored and 246 met the minimum to be included in the records list. During the 2013 Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic, biologists scored 264 sets of antlers.
"Generally, over the last three to five years we've been doing 550 plus or minus sets of antlers with approximately 225 making in onto the list," Ruth said.
In recognizing outstanding deer, biologists also gain information about the state's deer population from the scoring sessions.
Graphs on trophy deer harvest resemble a saw blade, Ruth said, with a really good year generally followed by a couple of down years.
The top trophy deer counties are Aiken, Anderson and Orangeburg. Generally, larger deer are more abundant in areas that have fewer deer.
Hunters must provide documentation that includes the date and county of the kill and sign a "fair chase" statement. Antlers in velvet or those that are broken or repaired or antlers separated from the skull plate cannot be officially measured for the state records list.
Hunters are also asked to bring in the lower jawbone of the animal if it was extracted during taxidermy or otherwise saved. This helps biologist determine the deer's age. An accurate weight measurement is also helpful.