Antler scoring educates DNR officials

Outdoors ColumnistMarch 7, 2013 

Sure, the annual antler scoring sessions held by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources provide an opportunity for hunters to show off their best bucks and hopefully earn a spot in the state records list.

For Charles Ruth, Deer and Wild Turkey Program Coordinator for DNR, the sessions present on opportunity to learn more about what areas, and what conditions, produce the best bucks.

“It’s something hunters enjoy but from a management standpoint we’re trying to identify areas of the state where higher quality bucks are coming from and find out what’s going on in these areas to create these quality deer,” said Ruth. “We’re looking for common denominators. Is it habitat, is it deer density? We’re trying to tease out the reasons for those areas standing out.”

In the past 3 to 4 years, Ruth says, three counties have produced the greatest number of record deer – Orangeburg, Aiken and Anderson.

The scoring sessions are highlighted by a three-day stint at the Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic, set for March 22-24 at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia.

“It’s a huge show,” said Ruth, who estimated attendance is typically 30,000 to 40,000 at the event. “We normally measure 225 sets of antlers over that weekend. As a staff we will normally measure 500-550 sets each year, so just at that one event half of the antlers we measure will be done during that weekend.”

Details of scoring sessions accessible to local hunters include:

• Columbia Sportsmen’s Classic, March 22 (noon to 8 p.m.); March 23 (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.); March 24 (1:30 p.m.-6 p.m.); (803) 734-3886.

• Florence, DNR office, 295 S. Evander Dr., Florence, by appointment on Fridays during March, (843) 661-4768.

• Bonneau, Dennis Wildlife Center, 305 Black Oak Road, March 27 (9 a.m.-4 p.m.; (843) 825-3387.

DNR officials score antlers based on the Boone & Crockett scoring system, which calls for a mandatory 60-day drying period.

“[Holding the sessions in March] gives deer killed late in the season time to dry out and be officially measured,” said Ruth.

The 2012 hunting season ended on Jan. 1, and Ruth offered his thoughts on the season.

“From anecdotal evidence, it was a good season,” said Ruth. “Our harvest didn’t go [up or down] one way or the other. It was a solid season depending on the part of the state. Some areas of the state had a lot of drought.’’

OIFC Spring Kickoff

The Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., is staging a wide-ranging spring fishing kickoff event on March 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In a twist on the standard seminar format, several captains from the OIFC will hold Q&A sessions on inshore fishing, offshore fishing and cast-net throwing. The captains include Brandon Sauls, Steele Park, Barrett McMullan, Jacob Frick, Jeff Williamson and Chris Dew.

Several other presentations will be held including Jennifer Banks of N.C. State University, Wind Energy Project Coordinator; Richard Neal, owner of the Frying Pan Tower; and Michelle Duval, executive assistant for Dr. Louis Daniel, N.C. Marine Fisheries Director. Duval will discuss management of black sea bass, snapper, grouper, wahoo and king mackerel.

The event will also include a used tackle sales forum, line spooling, tackle clearance sale, complimentary USCG boat safety inspections and trailer backing demonstrations.

For more information, call 910-575-3474.

CCA Banquet

The Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina will stage its annual Celebrating Conservation Banquet and Auction on March 23 outside at The Beaver Bar in Murrells Inlet.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with an open bar and appetizers, followed by dinner, during which attendees can bid on silent auction items and buy raffle tickets.

After dinner, the night will be capped by a live auction featuring marine-related items and various fishing and hunting trips. For more information on tickets ($50 per person, $75 per couple), which include a year’s membership to CCA, or sponsorships contact Chris Hawley at 843-455-0371 or chawley24@gmail.com .

Contact GREGG HOLSHOUSER at 651-9028 or wholshouser@sc.rr.com.

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