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July 14, 2016State deer antler records up substantially this year

White tailed deer

Each spring S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Section personnel make a concerted effort to measure deer racks throughout the state. The number of white-tailed deer antlers that met the minimum score for entry on the state records list was up substantially this year.

The most recent round of white-tailed deer antler measuring conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources revealed 217 new records, including one Boone and Crockett qualifier.

Each spring S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Section personnel make a concerted effort to measure deer racks throughout the state, with a major session during the Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic in Columbia. Of the 494 sets of antlers measured this spring, 217 met the minimum score for entry on the state records list including 203 sets of typical and 14 non-typical racks, according to Charles Ruth, Deer/Wild Turkey Program coordinator for DNR.

This figure was up substantially compared to the 176 records entered in the spring of 2015. Although all of the records were not taken during the 2015 deer season, 189 were taken during the 2014 or 2015 season. Racks must score a minimum of 125 points typical or 145 points non-typical to qualify for the South Carolina state records list. Records are based on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, which measures the mass and symmetry of deer antlers in two categories—typical and non-typical.

The top typical buck was a 167 5/8 inch buck taken by David Swaney in Anderson County in December. Swaney’s buck qualifies for the Boone and Crockett Club's Three Year Awards Period List and ranks 10 among South Carolina’s all-time typical deer. The second- and third-highest scoring typical deer were a 156 1/8 inch Chester County buck taken by Van Van Quinn in November 2003 and a 156 0/8 inch Saluda County buck taken by Tristan Dubose in October 2015. Netting 167 6/8 points, the top scoring non-typical buck was taken by Jonathan Anders in Greenville County last November.

South Carolina's deer herd is in good condition, and after many years of rapid population growth the herd stabilized in the mid-1990s followed by a decreasing trend since about 2002, according to Ruth. Statewide population estimates put the deer herd at about 730,000 animals with an estimated harvest of about 200,000 each of the last few years. Although the total deer harvest in South Carolina has trended down, indications from the antler records program are that deer quality remains good. This would make sense because fewer deer in the population would benefit from increased nutrition.

Aiken County was this years' top producer of State Record entries with 21 followed by Orangeburg (17), Anderson (12), and Darlington and Oconee counties with 10 entries each.

Although some of the top counties have relatively high deer populations, some of these counties have more moderate numbers. 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.

As far as all-time leaders at the county level, Orangeburg County remains at the top with 486 sets of antlers on the list. Rounding out the top five counties Orangeburg is followed by Aiken 471, Fairfield 274, Anderson 264, and Williamsburg with 251. However, by size of the county, the top counties per unit area of harvest are Anderson, Abbeville, Orangeburg, Aiken and Allendale.

South Carolina hunters should recognize that harvesting potential Boone and Crockett bucks is not a common occurrence anywhere in the country. This is particularly evident if you consider that there are only about 14,000 white-tailed deer records listed by Boone and Crockett, which includes entries dating to the 1800s. Similarly, the harvest of deer in the United States in recent years has been about 6 million per year. Essentially, the average hunter stands a better chance of being struck by lightning than harvesting one of these record deer. As for the South Carolina Antler Records List, about one in every 800 bucks harvested makes the State Book.

Currently 6,782 sets of antlers (6,517 typical and 265 non-typical) are included on the South Carolina antler records list. Results of DNR's Antler Records Program for 2016.

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