The best SC WMAs for whitetails

Local habitat makes a huge difference on public land

Game Zone 1

Charles Ruth, SCDNR’s big-game coordinator, said some of the best WMA deer hunting in Game Zone I is found on small, isolated, tracts that are part of the Sumter National Forest. Management activities, such as timber harvests, can alter habitat dramatically, so hunters should check specific areas to ensure good habitat exists. A timber harvest can make a dramatic change for the better in terms of habitat, as dense growth creates areas of prime habitat for several years after cutting.

Ruth said the Jocassee Gorges, 43,500 acres of land owned primarily by the SCDNR, has a very low density of deer, but that makes it potentially productive for hunters seeking trophy bucks.

“Low density and big-racked deer go together, and the Jocassee Gorges area has the potential to yield some big bucks,” Ruth said. “The terrain is rugged and hunters may not see many deer, but the potential exists to see big deer.” 

Game Zone 2

Fant’s Grove, an 8,540-acre archery only WMA, offers a real chance for big bucks.

“Fant’s Grove sits smack in an area where a lot of big bucks are harvested on private lands, based on our historical data,” Ruth said. “With archery only hunting, the population remains very good, and the large acreage and somewhat limited access lends itself to hunters having remote areas that may not be hunted heavily. Hunters that put in the effort have the opportunity for big deer at Fant’s Grove.”

Liberty Hill is an 8,000 acre WMA that straddles Kershaw and Lancaster counties and offers excellent hunting, but with antler restrictions.

“Liberty Hill has a lot of Piedmont habitat, with lots of hardwoods interspersed with pines,” Ruth said. “It’s a beautiful setting for deer hunting, and this WMA is not a draw-hunt area. Plenty of opportunities exist, but check the Rules and Regulations.”

Ruth cites as having excellent potential for deer in Game Zone 2 the many isolated, unnamed Sumter National Forest tracts in the Newberry, Laurens, Fairfield and Chester counties. 

Game Zone 3

One of the top draw-hunt sites in South Carolina is the Webb Center Complex in Hampton County, which includes the Webb Center WMA as well as Hamilton Ridge and Palachuacola WMAs. Ruth said they constitute some of the best deer hunting in the area; hunters must be drawn for all hunts on these WMAs. Application info is on the SCDNR website.  

“All Webb Center Complex areas offer quality hunting, but the hunts at the Webb Center property in specific are unique in that hunters are taken out to the stands and picked up after the hunt, very similar to a quality commercial hunt,” Ruth said. “Deer harvested will also be picked up for them. This is an extremely popular and highly productive hunt.”

Ruth said Botany Bay WMA is way out in the wilds, but that’s part of what makes the hunting so good. “This is a very scenic WMA and has an excellent deer population, and a lot of deer are killed here,” he said. “Botany Bay does have antler restrictions and offers reasonable gun-hunting opportunities, but bowhunting opportunities are much more liberal.”

Game Zone 4

Wee Tee WMA lies along the Santee River in Georgetown and Williamsburg counties. Ruth said this 12,439-acre area offers abundant deer habitat, and the Santee River area typically produces plenty of deer. “We don’t keep specific harvest data on the Wee Tee WMA, but the private lands around it produce a lot of deer and some big-bodied bucks with quality racks,” Ruth said.

Woodbury WMA is a large property consisting of 25,668 acres of very diverse habitat, including bottomland hardwood forests, upland pine forests and Carolina bays. It’s between the Great Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee rivers in southern Marion County; Ruth said this diverse riverbottom habitat adds up to excellent hunting. 

Ruth said smaller Game Zone 4 WMAs such as Oak Lea in Clarendon County typically offer excellent hunting. Based on historical data, Ruth said the Oak Lea WMA is typically very productive.