If you love the outdoors, you have to love September in South Carolina. There are so many opportunities that it can be difficult to decide what you want to do. Fish? Hunt? Go shrimping? It's all out there for South Carolinians, providing that Mother Nature cooperates.
Here's a quick look at some of those opportunities:
• More than 160,000 people were licensed to hunt deer in South Carolina in 2018, and those hunters harvested almost 200,000 deer.
Deer season, which continues until Jan. 1, opened Aug. 15 on private lands in the lower half of the state (Game Zones 3 and 4). It will open Sept. 15 on private lands in Game Zone 2, while Game Zone 1 (Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties) won't be open until October. Check dnr.sc.gov for complete rules and regulations, including hunting opportunities on Wildlife Management Areas.
Residents of South Carolina can harvest two antlered deer per day and five total all season; nonresidents are limited to two antlered deer per day and a total of four for the season. The eight dated deer tags have been replaced by two antlerless tags that are good on any day beginning Sept. 15 in Game Zones 2, 3 and 4, and on Oct. 1 in Game Zone 1.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.’
A series of youth draw deer hunts conducted jointly by Santee Cooper and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will be held this fall. The deadline for submitting applications is 4 p.m. Sept. 13. Call the Dennis Wildlife Center in Bonneau at 843-825-3387 to request an application.
Participants must be 17 or younger and capable of safely handling a firearm. They must also be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old. While the youth hunter and the adult sit together in the stand, only the youth may actually hunt or shoot. All hunts take place in the afternoon from two-person stands located along the edges of wildlife openings that have been planted in oats, wheat, soybeans or peas. The areas hunted on youth draw hunts are located within Sandy Beach Wildlife Management Area and Cross Generating Station, both part of the Santee Cooper-owned Moultrie Hunt Unit.
In addition to the draw youth hunts, young hunters are encouraged to hunt on the 800-acre Bluefield WMA, also part of the Moultrie Hunt Unit. Each youth must be 17 or younger, and accompanied by an adult who is at least 21. The youth must carry a firearm and hunt. Unlike the strictly youth-only draw hunts mentioned above, on Bluefield, the adult may also carry a firearm and hunt.
• Dove hunting season signals the arrival of fall for many South Carolina outdoorsmen and women, a social event often coupled with college football in the evening.
South Carolina has split dove seasons, with the early season coinciding with Labor Day. This year's early season runs Sept. 2-7 with shooting from noon until sunset. Shooting hours extend from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset Sept. 8-Oct. 12, Nov. 16-30 and Dec. 28-Jan. 30.
The daily bag limit for 2019-20 is 15 birds.
• Waterfowl enthusiasts also get into the act in September an early season for blue- and green-winged teal that runs Sept. 13-28 and a Canada goose season that opens Sunday (Sept. 1).
Early teal season shooting hours are from sunrise until sunset, while the Canada goose season shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. The bag limit for the early teal season is six total. During the early Canada goose season, hunters can harvest 15 birds.
Later this month the first part of the split season for marsh hens, rails, common moorhens and purple gallinules runs Sept. 27-Oct. 2. The second season for marsh hens runs Oct. 10-Dec. 12.
For complete migratory bird regulations, visit dnr.sc.gov.
For the regular duck season that opens Nov. 23 there is a daily bag limit reduction for mallards from four to two birds, only one of which can be a hen. The daily bag limit for Northern pintails has been reduced to one bird, and the limit for black ducks remains at two but only one black or mottled duck per day may be harvested east of Interstate 95. There is no open season for tundra swans in South Carolina.
"The Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Plot Survey showed average to good nesting effort for ducks this year,” said state DNR Biologist Molly Kneece, a waterfowl manager who represents the department on the Atlantic Flyway Council Technical Section. “But to quote my predecessor (long-time DNR Waterfowl Project Coordinator Dean Harrigal), 'To have ducks you need three things—food, water, and weather.' "
• And what would September be without seafood enthusiasts heading out to Lowcountry waters with dreams of casting their nets and "coolering out" on shrimp. The season begins at noon Sept. 6 and continues until noon Nov. 5.
"Coolering out" is a reference to the 48-quart daily boat limit of whole shrimp (29 quarts headed) that can be harvested each day (sunrise to sunrise) by residents who have purchased the $25 license ($500 for nonresidents).