Deer Hunting In August

Upstate Outdoors
August 11, 2017 - 1:51 pm

Many outdoorsmen new to the state of South Carolina may not realize that the opening day for deer season in the lower half of the state will open next Tuesday. If that sounds preposterous, also consider that the following week the sun will go dark for 2 ½ minutes during the middle of the day.

Unlike the once-in-a lifetime solar eclipse, deer season has been opening in the counties of Game Zones 3 and 4, during the heat of the summer since before harvest regulations were first put into law. Having a deer season that spans from August 15 through January 1 gives South Carolina one of the longest deer seasons in the country. The reasons for this long season are rooted in both history and circumstance.

By the turn of the20th century, white-tailed deer populations in South Carolina as well as most of the country were brought nearly to the brink of geographical extinction because of exploitation of the resource as well as habitat loss due to agricultural development.

In the river drainages along the coastal plains of South Carolina, inaccessible land that was considered of little value for agricultural purposes protected and preserved a population of whitetail deer which survived and even flourished. Despite the decline across most of the nation, hunting deer remained popular among the plantation owners who primarily hunted deer with hounds in and around the swamps of the Low Country. 

Deer hunting was conducted after the spring crop harvest and before fall planting which made August and September popular deer hunting months. The rites and rituals of chasing whitetails behind a pack of dogs was steeped with Low Country tradition and heritage and were described specifically in the writings of famous authors like Archibald Rutledge.

With the rise of restoration efforts and conservative wildlife management practices of white tail deer across the state as well as in other states, deer populations increased. By the mid 1980’s deer hunting experienced a rapid shift between hunting styles, moving from man and dog drive hunting to still hunting from elevated stands. Today, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources estimates that less than 10% of all deer hunting effort in the state involves the use of dogs.

The Upstate areas, which historically had no deer populations at the turn of the last century, fell under more conservative wildlife management practices which included more biology- based seasonal structure as well as harvest limits.

Because game and fish laws are established by the State General Assembly rather than the state natural resources agency, legislators in the Low Country have always been reluctant to change or reduce the season structure from historical dates although with the advent of game laws season dates were eventually established with a start date of August 15.

It was not until this year that harvest limits were established for privately owned hunting lands in areas of the Coastal Plains. This was done out of necessity both for management practices as well as part of instituting a statewide deer tagging program which requires that all deer harvested being marked with the appropriate harvest tags that are available from SCDNR and are being issued within the hunting license structure. 

While the political, demographic, and wildlife management landscape continue to evolve from the traditional times when plantation owners and workers would hunt side-by-side attempting to move deer in front of a gun, one consistency has remained. The early opening of the South Carolina white tail deer season in the Low Country allows hunters the unique opportunity to harvest a whitetail buck still in velvet.

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Brian Johnson from FLW reporting on this week-ends Forrest Wood Cup bass championship. Contact Gentry at [email protected].

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Deer hunting in August in South Carolina’s coastal plain region has remained a constant within a changing world of hunting practices, political climates, and population changes in the lower part of the state. Photo courtesy Don Houck. 

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