So far, so good for South Carolina Senate bill S454,
The bill designed to retool South Carolina’s hunting laws for white-tailed deer received a unanimous favorable vote from the full Fish, Game and Forestry Committee Wednesday in Columbia.
Now, the bill heads for the Senate floor for a second reading and if received favorably, a third reading. A favorable third reading would send the legislation to the House of Representatives.
“The committee had pertinent questions and they appeared to be happy with the answers we gave them,” said Charles Ruth, Deer and Wild Turkey Program Coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, who was part of a S.C. DNR contingent on hand for the meeting. “Most of the questions they posed came from their constituents. They were doing what they were supposed to in relation to their constituents.”
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The bill proposes establishing a limit on bucks in the entire state and would require tags for all deer harvested.
In addition, the Antlerless Doe Quota Program, from which many landowners receive doe tags, would be changed to the Deer Quota Program and would provide tags for bucks and does.
The bill would establish a limit of four bucks and four does per hunter per year. The total fee for the eight tags under the new tagging program would be set at $15 for South Carolina residents and $30 for non-residents. The tags would only be valid on properties not enrolled in the Deer Quota Program.
Currently, only the state’s two upstate game zones have a limit on bucks (five per season). The other four game zones in the state, comprising the midlands and the coastal plain, have never had a limit on bucks.
South Carolina is considered to be the only state in the United States that does not have a statewide limit on bucks.
The University of Georgia is spearheading a cooperative study in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama that involves trapping and fitting coyotes with GPS collars in order to monitor their movements.
While biologists in the Southeast are beginning to have a grasp on the impact coyotes have on deer populations, especially the survival rate of fawns, little else is known about them.
“[The study] is using GPS technology to track movements, home ranges and we’re looking at habitat preference,” said Ruth. “There is the idea that some coyotes are resident, some are transient. This increases our knowledge of coyotes in the Southeast from virtually nothing. All the research on them has been done out west. It seems to be a different animal here in the east.”
That different coyote in the east appears to be a larger one.
“We’re dealing with what looks to be a slightly larger animal,” said Ruth. “It may just be a function of better habitat, better resources than out west. Things can be pretty sparse out west especially compared to the Southeast.”
The collars will give a reading on the location of the coyotes every 4-6 hours, which is invaluable data in learning more about the animals.
“We’re hoping some of the habitat info we learn – where they’re feeding, what they’re feeding on – may have implications on deer management and maybe turkeys as well.”
Antler measuring sessions
S.C. DNR’s white-tailed deer antler measuring sessions are underway in the state.
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 located at 305 Black Oak Road in Bonneau, scheduled for March 18, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The biggest antler measuring event in the state is staged at the Palmetto Sportmen’s Classic at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia March 27-29.
A total of 6,389 sets of white-tailed deer antlers, including 6,147 typical racks and 242 non-typical, are currently ranked on South Carolina’s all-time antler records list, according to Ruth.
Minimum scores for state record listing are 125 points for typical antlers and 145 points for non-typical antlers. Measurements are based on the Boone and Crockett system.