Archery fanatics say shooting a deer with a bow and arrow represents the ultimate hunting challenge.

Maybe so. But for me, just finding the time to get out in the woods seems to be enough of a challenge these days.

There might be a day when I take it up, but for now, archery remains a mystery. I know just enough about it to know it’s not for me (yet).

I was even more mystified last week when I read news about four South Carolina archers who were busted in Colorado for using “poison arrows” to hunt deer, elk and bears. George Plummer and Joseph Nevling of Timmonsville, Michael Courtney of Florence and James Cole of Sumter all were ordered to pay several thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, according to the Associated Press. The men also agreed not to hunt in Colorado over the next four years.

The men apparently were using “pod” arrows, which feature a rubber-like capsule behind the broadhead. The contraption carries a powerful muscle relaxant that is released as the arrow enters an animal. Even if an animal is poorly hit, the resulting paralysis keeps it from running off and can lead to suffocation.

Nasty stuff, indeed.

One of the men admitted in court that he had been using such arrows since the late 1980s, according to the Associated Press. Another offered up a defense of the practice: “Back in South Carolina, everybody hunts with (poison arrows).”

… Oh, really?

This claim paints an ugly picture of South Carolina hunters. It’s bad enough that these guys were brought shame to the Palmetto State, but now everyone who reads these reports must think the air down here is thick with poison arrows.

As my northerner cousin (a fellow hunter) has said, “You guys do some weird things down there.”

True enough, but I find it very hard to believe that this particular practice is or was ever widespread.

Last week, in an effort to disprove this “everybody-does-it” statement, I followed the poison-arrow story down a very strange rabbit hole. Online, I found heated debates over poison arrows on numerous archery discussion boards. I learned about the strange, modern history of “pods” (try googling “Fred Bear poison arrows”).

I also spent quite a bit of time last week on the phone and trading emails with longtime hunters, local outdoors shops and officials from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Here’s what I found:

Poison-laced arrows are not new, nor is controversy over their use. Humans have been using poison-tipped arrows for eons, but the issue sparked a modern controversy in the 1960s and ’70s when American archery pioneers experimented with new “pod” technologies. These experiments seemed to arise from a genuine desire to decrease the chance of an animal suffering a long, agonizing death caused by a poor shot.

Pod arrows never gained widespread support in hunting communities, and their use waned as state after state banned their use.

Charles Ruth, head of the state’s deer and turkey project, said Friday that these “pod” arrows were, at one point, a bit of a fad among South Carolina bowhunters, particularly along the coast where wounded deer can escape into marshy areas.

But the practice has almost completely died away, Ruth said.

Yet confusion over the legality of such tactics remain. The state’s rules and regulation book contains a section specifically banning the use of poison arrows and arrows with exploding tips on public land, but does not address their use on private land.

Last week, in a report on the Colorado case, The Post and Courier quoted a DNR official as saying the practice was against the law on public land but legal on private land.

However, Ruth said Friday that after review of the issues, the agency’s stance is that the use of poison arrows is, in fact, illegal on all lands and under all circumstances.

“There are several reasons, the biggest of which is the illegal possession and use of prescription medication,” Ruth said.

Another statute prohibits anyone from introducing a fertility control agent or other chemical substance into any wildlife without a permit from DNR (which wouldn’t be issued for a hunting scenario), he said.

“The short answer is that it’s not legal in South Carolina,” Ruth said.

Similar confusion also surrounds the use of a new type of arrowhead that can hold a .38-caliber or .357 Magnum round. The bullet fires when the arrow strikes its target.

Ruth said that such devices are clearly prohibited on public lands, but could be used on private lands during firearms seasons.

Arrows tipped with bullets could not be used during archery-only seasons, Ruth said, because “any weapon that expels a projectile by the action of an explosive” is considered a firearm.

The shrimp-baiting season began Friday and will run through noon on Nov. 12.

Resident licenses cost $25 and non-residents licenses cost $500. The catch limit is 48 quarts of shrimp measured heads-on (29 quarts heads-off) per boat or set of poles per day, and each boat is limited to a set of 10 poles.

Recent sampling by DNR’s Crustacean Monitoring Program showed fair numbers of shrimp along the southern coast and average quantities near Charleston, according to Larry DeLancey, program supervisor. Overall, shrimp are smaller than usual. Areas around Port Royal and St. Helena Sounds produced the largest shrimp.

For complete regulations, go to

The two-part season for marsh hens runs Sept. 18-22 and Oct. 5-Dec. 8.

The daily bag limit for king and/or clapper rails is 15 birds per hunter. For moorhens and/or purple gallinules, it’s 15 birds per hunter. For sora and/or Virginia rails, it’s 25 birds per hunter. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.

The South Carolina early season for teal started Saturday and runs through Sept. 29. The daily bag limit is 6 birds.

Shooting hours are sunrise until sunset (not 30 minutes before sunrise, as with other migratory bird seasons).

Category II waterfowl areas are open for hunting during teal and Canada goose seasons.

For complete regulations, go to

Reach Matt Winter, manager of niche content and design and editor of Tideline magazine, at 843-937-5568 or