Proposed legislation would limit deer harvest

A proposed law would limit S.C. deer hunters to four bucks and four does each season.

State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, thinks legislation he and Sen. Ross Turner, R-Greenville, have sponsored will help increase the quality of the state’s deer herd.

The bill would establish a limit of four bucks and four does per hunter each year and would require tags for all deer harvested. South Carolina residents would pay $15 for the tags while non-residents would be charged $30. The Antlerless Deer Quota (doe tag) program would become a Deer Quota program. Tags for a property could only be used on that property, and individual tags could not be used on a property that has quota tags.

There currently is no harvest limit on deer in South Carolina with the exception of two upstate game zones where there is a limit of five bucks per season. Campsen said it is his understanding that South Carolina is the only state without a harvest limit for deer.

“I think imposing this limit will result in hunters shooting more bucks in their prime as opposed to (younger bucks) which means a better hunting experience for everybody,” Campsen said.

“There are people used to killing a bunch of deer, and if you can only kill four they are going to kill nicer deer, not just spikes and 4-points. They will let them grow up.”

Campsen said he recently was told that seven percent of the hunters in South Carolina kill 30 percent of the deer harvested, meaning some hunters are taking as many as 20 to 30 deer during a season.

He said he recently spoke with the former head of Alabama’s wildlife department, where a buck limit had been imposed, and said it had made a big difference in the quality of deer. Those who had opposed the change have become supportive, he said.

“Hopefully this will help some folks who don’t already see how important it is to manage your herd to try and produce nice bucks and to see the benefit of letting the smaller deer walk,” Campsen said. “Then you end up shooting some of those nice deer that you think you can only harvest in Alabama or Missouri. Hopefully, this will help change the whole ethic of the deer hunting culture in South Carolina.”

The bill has been approved by a subcommittee and will go before the full Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee, chaired by Campsen, on March 4. Campsen said the bill would become applicable for the 2016 deer season.

Campsen said he has had discussions with DNR over the last several years that led to the proposal and they both are on the same page.

“I haven’t heard any opposition to it,” Campsen said. “I have had legislative members from the Upstate come to me and tell me their people are really excited about this. All the feedback I have received has been very positive.”

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- Tommy Braswell, Post and Courier