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August 12, 2009

Deer season forecast good for 2009

The much-anticipated start of the 2009 deer season is just around the corner and South Carolina’s deer population is healthy and the season outlook is good. Although the deer harvest has been on a downward trend the last few years indicating that population levels have moderated, hunter success and deer harvest rates remain good, according to Charles Ruth, DNR’s Deer/Turkey Project supervisor. 

Top counties for harvest in 2008 included Bamberg, Union, Allendale, Hampton, and Abbeville with each of these counties exhibiting harvest rates in excess of 15 deer per square mile. Very few areas in the United States consistently yield comparable harvest figures. On the other hand, top counties for quality deer in 2008 included Orangeburg, Aiken, and Williamsburg in the coastal plain and Anderson, Abbeville, and Greenville counties in the piedmont. These results come as no surprise as these counties have historically produced good numbers of record entries.

Find out more about the 2008 deer harvest and 2009 antler records.

Although there were no substantive changes made to deer hunting laws by the General Assembly this year, hunters should always consult the annual Hunting and Fishing Rules and Regulation brochure that DNR publishes each summer, said Ruth.  This is particularly the case for hunters that use the various Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in the state.

Find out more about hunting seasons, rules and regulations.

South Carolina’s deer population expanded rapidly in the 1980’s and early 1990’s and it peaked in the late 1990’s at about 1,000,000 animals. However, since 2002 the population has trended down with current figures being about 800,000 deer, a 20 percent decline from peak figures 10 years ago.  The reduction can likely be attributable to one main factor, habitat change. Although timber management activities stimulated significant growth in South Carolina’s deer population beginning in the 1970’s, considerable acreage is currently in even-aged pine stands that are greater than 10 years old, a situation that does not support deer densities at the same level as younger stands in which food and cover is more available.

Hunters should not be concerned if the deer population is down compared to several years ago when the population reached its peak. DNR has been working to moderate South Carolina’s deer population and most hunters, to their credit, have recognized the fact that having fewer deer leads to better quality deer. Results of DNR’s antler scoring program indicate that this may indeed be the case as the last 4 years have seen nearly 700 bucks successfully entered into the state records program.

It is important that hunters and land managers understand how the density of deer in an area affects the quality of the animals. Areas with fewer deer typically have better quality animals because natural food availability and nutritional quality is higher. Good nutrition is important in producing good antlers, but deer reproduction, recruitment and survival are also directly tied to nutrition.

Deer hunting generates approximately $200 million in retail sales for South Carolina’s economy annually.

South Carolina's natural resources are essential for economic development and contribute nearly $30 billion and 230,000 jobs to the state's economy. Find out why Life's Better Outdoors.

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