Richard Martin, Region 1 Wildlife Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, is heavily involved with the antler measuring, or scoring, sessions the department is currently conducting in the aftermath of the 2013 white-tailed deer hunting season.
Hunters who have bagged a buck they think could qualify for South Carolina’s all-time antler records list can bring the buck’s racks to either a scheduled scoring session or make an appointment to have them scored at a S.C. DNR office.
“It’s an exciting thing for hunters to get see if their buck joins the antler records list,” Martin said earlier this week while on his way to a measuring session in Greenwood. “When they do kill a good deer they’re happy to get [listed on the records list]. It’s news in the hunting community. People that have hunted 10-15 years, most of them have killed a deer close to a record.”
Martin pointed out he measures plenty of antlers that don’t quite qualify for a record by meeting the minimum measurements of 125 points for typical antlers and 145 points for non-typical antlers on the Boone and Crockett system. He has some thoughts for hunters who come up just short of making the records list.
“Just because their buck didn’t make the records, it could still be the best buck they’ve ever killed,” said Martin. “Some people walk in with their chest swelled up with pride on their deer, and maybe their friends have told them it’s a record deer. Then I put the tape on it and it scores 123 7/8 [inches]. I tell them [don’t be disappointed], it’s a very good buck in this state. You’ll remember this one for the rest of your life – the one that didn’t quite make it but was still a great deer. In this state, 120 inches is a good buck.”
The closest option for local hunters to have their buck’s antlers measured is by appointment at the Florence S.C. DNR office (843-661-4768) located at 295 S. Evander Drive. The closest one-day measuring session is at the Dennis Wildlife Center (843-825-3387), located at 305 Black Oak Road in Bonneau, scheduled for March 26, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The biggest antler measuring event will be held as part of the three-day Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic (803-734-3886) at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia, set for the weekend of March 28-30. The event offers hunters an opportunity to see other quality antlers from around the state.
“They get to see some of these deer they normally wouldn’t get to see,” said Martin. “We measure about 250 head during that weekend, depending on the weather. Some of them come to see how [the measuring] is done. It’s always an interesting time because we never know what we’re going to see, you never know what’s going to come through that door.”
A total of 6,168 sets of antlers, including 5,936 typical racks and 232 non-typical, are currently ranked on South Carolina’s all-time antler records list, according to Charles Ruth, S.C. DNR’s Deer and Wild Turkey Project supervisor.
Ruth says the objectives of the state records list are to recognize outstanding deer and to identify areas that produce quality deer, enabling biologists to take a closer look at habitat and deer herd conditions in order to make future management recommendations.
Aiken, Anderson and Orangeburg counties have produced the greatest numbers of record deer in the past three to four years, although record deer have been taken in all 46 counties in the state. Last year’s measuring sessions produced 246 new entries into the South Carolina records list, the second highest number of entries in the last 15 years.
Generally, Ruth says, larger deer are more abundant in areas that have fewer deer, as compared to parts of the state with high total numbers of deer.
Hunters must provide necessary documentation, such as the date and county of the kill, and sign a "fair chase" statement when they bring in a set of antlers for measuring. Antlers in velvet or those that are broken and repaired or antlers separated from the skull plate cannot be officially measured for the state records list. If the lower jawbone of the animal was extracted during taxidermy or otherwise saved, it should be brought to the scoring session so biologists can determine the deer’s age. An accurate weight measurement at the time of the kill is also helpful.
For additional information on the Antler Records Program visit the S.C. DNR website at the following web address: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/deer/index.html.
S.C. DNR recently mailed turkey tags for the 2014 spring season, which runs from March 15 through May 1 on Private Lands and April 1 through May 1 on WMA Lands that are open for turkey hunting.
Hunters can determine if they should have received their tags by mail by checking their hunting license. If "Turkey Tags" appears on their hunting license the tags should have already been mailed to them. If "Turkey Tags" does not appear on the license then they will need to order the tags. Turkey tags are free and can be ordered online at www.dnr.sc.gov/turkeytags/.
In order to legally hunt turkeys, all hunters, including hunters under the age of 16, must possess a set of turkey tags. Hunters 16 and older must also possess a hunting license and big game permit. Hunters may not possess more than one set of turkey tags and all harvested birds must be tagged prior to being moved from the point of kill.
The Seacoast Anglers Association will meet Monday, March 17, 6:30 p.m. at the VFW Post 10804, located at the intersection of Hwy. 57 and Hwy. 9 in Little River. The meeting will feature a hands-on seminar on knot tying and preparing trolling rigs. The meeting is open to the public, with a social hour beginning at 5:30 p.m. Visit the club’s website at www.seacoastanglersassociation.com.