South Carolina’s deer rifle season opens tomorrow in Game Zone 3, and in Game Zone 4 for archery hunters. By now, all resident hunters that have previously purchased a hunting license and big game permit should have received their deer tags from SCDNR in the mail.

Non-resident hunters have had to purchase their deer tags on top of buying their hunting license and big game permit.

South Carolina's early start date gives hunters a unique opportunity to kill a buck in full velvet. Most deer have lost all their velvet by the time other states open up for deer season.

No matter which game zone you’re hunting in, hunters should note that no antlerless deer tags are valid until Sept. 15, so if you shoot a deer tomorrow (or anytime between now and Sept. 15), it should have antlers.

Ken Simmons, Capt. of SCDNR’s Region 3, said hunters need to understand what it means to tag their deer.

“All harvested deer must be tagged before being transported. If you are driving down the road with a dead deer that isn’t tagged in the back of your truck, you are in violation of the law and can be fined up to $1090. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to process it yourself or if you’re going to drop it at a commercial processor. Once you kill a deer, you need to tag it right then,” said Simmons.

If you’ve purchased your hunting license and big game permit, but haven’t received your deer tags yet, you can print temporary tags at home. Page 61 of the 2017-18 SCDNR regulation booklet states:

“If you have an active Hunting License and Big Game Permit, have just purchased a Hunting

License and Big Game Permit, or have just requested or purchased deer tags and want to

deer hunt immediately, a temporary set of deer tags can be downloaded and printed by accessing the Customer Privileges Portal on the SCDNR website https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/customerprivilegesportalat.

These self-printed temporary tags are only valid until your permanent tags arrive in the mail.

Any deer that is tagged with temporary tags must be reported to the Customer Privileges Portal on SCDNR website at https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/customerprivilegesportal by midnight of the day of harvest. You will need the deer tag identification number and county of kill as part of the reporting process. Buck only until Sept. 15 no matter where in the state you are. Sept. 15 is the earliest an antlerless tag will be valid.”

For hunters who say the new laws are not enforceable without check stations, Simmons disagrees.

“This tagging system is going to give our law enforcement officers a much better way to enforce the harvest of our deer. This is the most effective way of enforcing our harvest. If you get stopped with an untagged deer in the back of your truck, or at a hunting club or anywhere in between, that deer must have a tag,” he said.

Simmons also dismisses the idea some hunters have expressed that check stations were ever about enforcement anyway. Those check stations were used as a biological tool for management of the deer herd, and were never used as a way to enforce deer kills.

Besides that, he said, if someone is going to be brazen enough to not tag a deer when the law requires it, that person will certainly not stop at a check station.

Not sure what game zone you're in? Check page 60 of the SCDNR rules and regulations booklet at https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/customerprivilegesportal.