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State antler records recognize outstanding deer taken in S.C. August 29, 2018

By Charles Ruth, SCDNR Big Game Coordinator

Antler-scoring sessions conducted by SCDNR recognize outstanding deer taken in South Carolina, and they also help wildlife biologists identify areas that produce quality deer. (SCDNR photo)

Antler-scoring sessions conducted by SCDNR recognize outstanding deer taken in South Carolina, and they also help wildlife biologists identify areas that produce quality deer. (SCDNR photo)

Each spring S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) 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 477 sets of antlers measured this spring, 232 met the minimum score for entry on the state records list including 218 sets of typical and 14 non-typical racks. This figure was up slightly from the 213 records entered in the spring of 2017. Although all of the records were not taken during the 2017 deer season, 195 were taken during the 2016 or 2017 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 152 1/8 inch buck taken by James Dobbins in Lexington County in November. The second and third highest scoring typical deer from 2017 were a 151 3/8-inch Anderson County buck taken by Jacob Davis in November and a 150 7/8-inch Oconee County buck taken by Zachary Hart in October. Netting 175 2/8 points, the top scoring non-typical buck was taken by Jacob Buckner in Aiken County last October.

The purpose of the Antler Records Program is two-fold. First, because of the great interest in deer hunting exhibited by sportsmen, it is a way to recognize outstanding white-tailed deer taken in South Carolina. Second, it provides management information that allows SCDNR wildlife biologists to identify areas that produce quality deer. When particular areas stand out it is important to attempt to recognize the underlying characteristics that produce outstanding animals.

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. Statewide population estimates put the deer herd at about 730,000 animals with an estimated harvest of approximately 190,000 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 Oconee (12), Fairfield and Kershaw with 11 entries each, and Laurens, Orangeburg, and Pickens each with 9 entries. 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 510 sets of antlers on the list. Rounding out the top five counties Orangeburg is followed by Aiken 508, Fairfield 291, Anderson 276 and Williamsburg with 263. Accounting for the size of the county, the top counties per unit area of harvest are Anderson, Abbeville, Aiken, Orangeburg 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 7,229 sets of antlers (6,936 typical and 293 non-typical) are included on the South Carolina antler records list. Results of SCDNR’s Antler Records Program for 2018 are available on the DNR Website at: https://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/deer/2018DeerAntlerRecords.html.

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