Each spring S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Section personnel make a concerted effort to score deer racks throughout the state, with a major scoring session during the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic in Columbia. Of the 454 sets of antlers scored at the 11 scheduled sessions this spring, 168 met the minimum score for entry on the state records list including 164 sets of typical and 4 non-typical racks.
According to Charles Ruth, DNR Deer/Turkey Project supervisor, of the antlers scored, 133 were taken during the 2005 or 2006 season. Racks must score a minimum of 125 points typical or 145 points non-typical to qualify for the South Carolina state records list. Records are based on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, which measures the mass and symmetry of deer antlers in two categories-typical and non-typical.
Currently 4,820 sets of antlers (4,649 typical and 171
non-typical) are included on the South Carolina antler records list.
Results of DNR's Antler Records Program for 2007 will soon be available on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.sc.us/wild/deer/ing/DeerAntlerRecords07.pdf.
The top typical buck was a 163 7/8 point buck taken by Charles Owen last November in Anderson County. This deer is a new Anderson County typical record, and it will qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club's Three Year Awards Period List.
The second highest scoring typical, also a new county record, was a 156 6/8 inch Jasper County buck taken by Brett DuBois in November.
Netting 164 0/8 points, the top scoring non-typical buck was taken by Shawn Simmons in Orangeburg County in December 2005. At 162 4/8 points, the number two non-typical among this years' entries was taken by Wayne Sharpe in Barnwell County last September.
South Carolina's deer herd is in good condition, and it appears that after many years of rapid population growth the herd stabilized in the mid-1990s, according to Ruth. Statewide population estimates put the deer herd at about 750,000 animals with an estimated harvest of about 250,000 each of the last few years.
Although the total deer harvest in South Carolina has been down the last few years, indications from the antler records program are that deer quality remains good. This would make sense because fewer deer in the population would benefit from increased nutrition.
Greenville County was this year's top producer of state record entries with 13. Other top counties included Aiken, Anderson, and Colleton each with nine entries, and Barnwell and Kershaw with eight entries. These results come as no surprise, which is particularly the case with Aiken and Anderson, as these counties have historically produced good numbers of record entries.
Although some of the top counties have relatively high deer populations, some of these counties have more moderate numbers. It is important that hunters and land managers understand how the density of deer in an area affects the quality of the animals. Areas with fewer deer typically have better quality animals because natural food availability and nutritional quality is higher. Good nutrition is important in producing good antlers, but deer reproduction, recruitment and survival are also directly tied to nutrition.
"South Carolina deer hunters deserve a lot of credit for their role in deer management, particularly as it relates to female deer harvest," Ruth said. "During the last 10 years, most hunters have realized the importance of harvesting doe deer, and what was once a rapidly increasing deer population is now stable to decreasing in most areas. All things considered, having less deer than we did 10 years ago is good."
Orangeburg County remains at the top of all-time leaders at the county level, with 341 sets of antlers on the lists. Rounding out the top five counties are Aiken at 278; Fairfield, 229; Colleton, 209; and Anderson and Williamsburg tied with 178 entries each.
South Carolina hunters should recognize that harvesting potential Boone and Crockett bucks is not a common occurrence anywhere in the country. This is particularly evident if you consider that there are only about 6,000 white-tailed deer records listed by Boone and Crockett, which includes entries dating to the 1800s. Similarly, the harvest of deer in the United States in recent years has been about 5 million per year.
Essentially, the average hunter stands a better chance of being struck by lightning than harvesting one of these record deer, no matter where they hunt. As for the South Carolina Antler Records List, about one in every 1,000 bucks harvested makes the state book.