In less than three weeks, South Carolina hunters will take to the field in hopes of harvesting a trophy deer. The season starts as early as Aug. 15 on private lands in the lower half of the state (Game Zones 3 and 4) and continues until Jan. 1.
Residents can harvest two antlered deer per day and five total all season; non-residents are limited to two antlered deer per day and a total of four for the season. Deer tags should begin showing up in hunters' mailboxes shortly.
But there are some changes coming this year for the harvest of antlerless deer:
• "The base set of deer tags that resident hunters receive will be different," said Charles Ruth, Big Game program coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. If folks will recall, when that tagging program went into effect in 2017, in addition to their three unrestricted buck tags, (hunters) also received eight date-specific antlerless deer tags. Those tags were an attempt by the (South Carolina) Legislature, working with us, to exactly duplicate the eight doe days that were in place prior to the tagging program."
But Ruth said the dated antlerless deer tags did not work out. Hunters had only eight days during the season in which the tags were valid, all on Saturdays. SCDNR officials and legislators heard and listened to complaints and have acted.
"It looks good on the surface, but there's really not a lot of opportunity built into it when you only have eight days to take does. "The Legislature was interested in making a change and we worked with them. The eight dated tags are gone and have been replaced by two antlerless tags that are good on any day beginning Sept. 15 in Game Zones 2, 3 and 4 and on Oct. 1 in Game Zone 1. These are basically 'any-day doe tags,' just like the ones people had to buy in the past. That's going to result in increased opportunity from eight days to 109 days in most parts of the state.
"These are just like the ones that have been optional in the past, where you had to pay $5. We're going to give everybody two of those in lieu of the dated tags. That gives more opportunity and flexibility for resident hunters."
Ruth said hunters can purchase up to four optional tags and that anyone who purchases the four optional antlerless deer tags will automatically receive two free bonus tags that are only valid in Game Zones 3 and 4 on private land.
Ruth said that the bonus tags are in agricultural areas of the state and are an effort to limit deer damage to agriculture.
• Another change is related to the prevention of chronic wasting disease, with the prohibition of using natural deer urine scents or lures, something many call "doe tea."
"There are plenty of synthetic products out there that do not contain real deer urine," Ruth said. "The chronic wasting disease agent can be found in body fluids, including urine. This disease agent can also contaminate the soil. This is simply prevention, trying to keep chronic wasting disease out of South Carolina. We have not diagnosed it here but it is a big national issue and more and more states are going with this natural urine ban.
"Synthetic products are OK, as well as urine or tarsal glands a hunter collects from a deer he harvests in South Carolina."
South Carolina's white-tailed deer population hovers around 730,000, a number that's relatively stable in recent years although it's down since peaking around the turn of the century. The number of people who are licensed to hunt deer is around 190,000, Ruth said.
But at the current success level we are in no danger of over-harvesting deer, and hunting is a management tool that helps keep the population in check.
"We rarely talk about bad deer seasons in South Carolina," Ruth said. "I expect it to be a good season, provided we don't have any Mother Nature effects — hurricanes or tropical storms, things of that nature.
If we have reasonably good weather, seasonal weather in October and November rather than hot weather, I think we'll have a good deer season. What really hurts us here in the Southeast are those 80-degree days from mid-October to mid-November. It hurts daytime deer movement. They wait until nighttime to move around. If we have seasonal-type weather, I'm expecting a really good season."
You don't have to have the biggest or fastest boat to catch king mackerel and you don't have to head to distant offshore waters. And you don't have to fish tournaments, although they can be a lot of fun and are great learning experiences.
Dove season Sept. 2
It will probably still be quite warm, but nonetheless thousands of eager wing-shooters will be eager to take the field for the start of the mourning dove season in South Carolina in early September. For many in South Carolina, the opening day of dove season is synonymous with the beginning of fall and all of the great outdoor activities that come with it, and if the weather cooperates, this year's birds promise to be plentiful, according to biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
"We just recently completed our annual preseason mourning dove survey," said Michael W. Hook, Coordinator for the SCDNR's Small Game program. "The current estimated dove population should provide very good September hunts provided we have no widespread adverse weather events."
Opening day of this year's early dove season in South Carolina will once again coincide with the Labor Day holiday on Monday, Sept. 2. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources Board has approved all migratory bird hunting seasons in South Carolina for 2019-20 based on the federal framework for migratory game birds. The seasons, daily bag limits, and methods of harvest have been published in the federal register by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The daily bag limit for 2019-20 will again be 15 birds, and legal shooting time for the early season (Sept. 2-7) will begin at noon. Legal shooting hours for the later seasons will begin at one-half hour before legal sunrise. Legal shooting time ends at official sunset during all season dates:
• Sept. 2-7: Noon until sunset
• Sept. 8-Oct. 12: A half hour before sunrise until sunset
• Nov. 16-30: A half hour before sunrise until sunset
• Dec. 28, 2013-Jan. 30, 2020: A half hour before sunrise until sunset