After more than 10 years of discussion among the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, lawmakers and hunters, the “Deer Management Bill” was signed by Gov. Nikki Haley on June 8. It will take effect for the 2017 season.
Charles Ruth, deer project manager for SCDNR, said the specifics of the new law are not complex, hunters need to pay close attention to the specific wording and limits in each of the four game zones.
One big change, he said, is that all harvested deer must be tagged. South Carolina residents purchasing a license and big-game permit will receive eight “date-specific” antlerless tags to be used on traditional “doe days,” plus three tags to be used on antlered deer. Residents may purchase two restricted antlered deer tags for $5 each that can be used only on bucks with at least four points on one antler and a 12-inch inside spread. They can also purchase four additional antlerless tags for $5 each. Revenue collected from the sale of the restricted buck tags will be dedicated to the Coyote Management Program.
The legislation requires SCDNR to establish a minimum of three antlerless days in Game Zone 1 and eight in Game Zones 2, 3 and 4, with antlerless deer harvested on those days tagged with the date-specific tags issued with the purchase of a license.
The changes proposed are more restrictive and expensive for non-resident hunters. Minor changes to the Antlerless Deer Quota Program were made; it will become the “Deer Quota Program”. The only change is that applicants could choose between receiving antlered and antlerless tags or select only one type. The fee remains at $50 per application.