It's only a few short days until the opening of South Carolina's deer hunting season and hunters are itching to get in the woods. Also itching are the deer they will be targeting.
Male deer shed their antlers in late winter and begin to grow new ones during the summer. During this growth period, the new antlers contain nerves and blood vessels and the hairy skin looks much like velvet.
The velvet stage lasts only a few weeks. Once the antlers have reached their peak in size, the blood vessels begin to dry up and the velvet itches. Deer rub their antlers against trees to scrape the velvet from their antlers.
"I would say roughly until Sept. 1, probably 85 percent of them are in velvet," said taxidermist Kenneth Cordray, whose family operates a deer processing facility in Ravenel. "But a buck I shot last year on the second day of the season was already clean. I don't know what factor makes them shed (the velvet) early but about 85 percent are in velvet until then."
Harvesting a deer in velvet is a special treat for South Carolinians. The only other hunters who can harvest a deer in velvet must do so during special bow-hunting seasons, Cordray noted.
If you are planning a special mount that includes the velvet, you need to treat the deer with kid gloves, he cautioned.
"When you drag the deer out of the woods, you need to keep from pulling on that velvet and from dragging it on the ground," Cordray said. "I see people dragging them out by the antlers and they wonder why the velvet comes off. Don't bang it around in the back of the truck.
"Treat them like you would treat meat because the velvet is flesh. It has blood in it. And get the deer cold quickly. Keep it out of the sun. I'd say two hours maximum to get that deer clean and cold, especially when you're hunting and it's 100 degrees out there. You really need to move quick to get it cleaned and in the cooler."
Cordray said he is expecting a good year for Lowcountry hunters if we don't experience hurricanes or floods.
"I'm seeing a lot of deer on our place and I'm talking to people who are seeing a lot of deer. People are posting on social media about seeing deer, so I think it's going to be a great year," he said.
Deer season in South Carolina 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.
A big change this year relates to doe tags. The eight tags with specific dates to harvest does have been replaced and hunters will receive 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. Hunters can purchase up to four optional tags and 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.
Another change this year is an effort to prevent Chronic Wasting Disease from spreading to the state by prohibiting the use of natural deer urine scents and lures. Chronic Wasting Disease agent can be found in body fluids, including urine, according to Charles Ruth, big game program coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Synthetic products are OK, as well as urine or tarsal glands a hunter collects from a deer he or she harvests in South Carolina.
Holden wins Charleston Coastal Anglers tournament
Mikel Holden won both the outstanding angler and outstanding youth angler awards in the 36th annual Charleston Coastal Anglers Fishing Tournament with a 6.52-pound trout. Lonnie Cowart was the outstanding male angler and Taylor Currin was the outstanding female angler. The tournament drew 190 anglers.
Category winners included: Trout - Mikel Holden, 6.52; Kelly Wise, 3.22; Ryan Capps, 2.84; Flounder - Justin Chaplin, 3.30; Taylor Currin, 2.60; Lonnie Cowart, 2.36. Sheepshead - Bruce Bonge, 4.08; James Banks, 4.04; Adam Bauer, 3.54. Bluefish - Robert Leap, 2.74; Steve Joy, 2.74; Steve Joy, 2.54. King mackerel - Will Morrow, 31.58; Cole Barfield, 31.20; Dillon Kroll, 23.54. Spanish mackerel, 4.68. Blackfish - Lonnie Cowart, 1.66; Cole Suggs, 1.24; Cole Suggs, 1.22. Ladyfish - Paul Cordina, 2.36; Traywich Birchmore, 1.94. Spottail with most spots - Trip Williams, 7; Bailey Chapman, 7; Evans Wilkins, 3. Dogfish - Allan Cooper, 2.04.