South Carolina Deer Population:   An estimated 725,000 deer in 2016.  Estimated at about the same, 730,000, in 2015.  The deer harvest was down 11 percent in 2016-17 due to habitat change, coyote predation, and Hurricane Matthew.  The population peaked around the year 2000 at 1 to 1.2 million deer.  Herd analysis at right.  Historical South Carolina deer hunting data and news archive.
South Carolina Deer News

... South Carolina will become the final state in the nation to institute a statewide limit on the harvest of bucks... in the works since 2003 ... (The population decline) added fuel to what changes we were already talking about...

... this year, every deer killed in South Carolina must be tagged...  for out-of-state hunters, tags will cost an additional fee... Non-resident hunters will pay a minimum of $275 to kill one buck ($351 if hunting on WMA land) ...

  Did you spot the swimming deer on Hilton Head? July 3, 2017 South Carolina, Island Packet 
... When she swam ashore, people ran toward her. So the spooked deer dashed between swimmers and headed back out to sea... last seen well offshore, drifting south...

What hunters need to know before deer season opens June 17, 2017 South Carolina, Charleston Post Courier
... an 11-percent decrease in the number of deer harvested [in 2016] ... Hurricane Matthew also created access issues, and the harvest was down more than 25 percent in some coastal counties.  Unseasonably warm temperatures also played a factor. Forest management practices and coyotes also factor in deer harvest..,

Toward a ‘new’ deer season June 11, 2017 South Carolina, Times and Democrat
... the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. In a nutshell, the deer harvest was down about 11 percent. The major reasons given were habitat change, coyote predation and Hurricane Matthew... Low country agricultural counties having far greater densities than the Upstate..,

... upon purchasing a hunting license, each South Carolina resident hunter will receive 3 unrestricted buck tags, plus 8 date-specific antlerless deer tags... hunters in Game Zones 3 and 4 can kill a maximum of 17 total deer ...

Deer harvest numbers down for 2016 May 30, 2017 South Carolina, Manning Live
... SCDNR has recently completed a major long-term study ... coyotes can be a significant predator of deer fawns, that predation by coyotes can be an additive source of mortality, and that efforts to increase fawn recruitment via coyote control provided only modest results and at high cost...

S.C. deer harvest decreases in 2016 ... May 29, 2017 South Carolina, Times and Democrat
... Although forest-management activities stimulated significant growth in South Carolina’s deer population from the 1970s through the 1990s, considerable acreage is currently in even-aged stands that are greater than 15 years old... [significant storms and record acorn crop in 2016] Provided that hunting conditions are more normal, the deer harvest in 2017 is expected to increase ...

Statewide Deer Harvest Decreases in 2016 May 23, 2017 South Carolina, MilTech
...  the statewide harvest of deer decreased about 11 percent last season ...  An estimated 99,678 bucks and 72,637 does made up a total harvest of 172,315... coyotes are now well established in South Carolina ...  hunting conditions in South Carolina were poor during the fall of 2016. This began the first week in October with hurricane Matthew... [read the report]

WD Gulsby, JC Kilgo, M Vukovich, JA Martin - The Journal of Wildlife Management, 2017
...  We investigated whether mortality risk was affected by landscape characteristics within fawn home ranges for a sample of 165 fawns on the United States Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS), South Carolina, 2007–2012... The combined weight of evidence suggests maintenance of a heterogeneous landscape consisting of relatively small dispersed patches may reduce fawn losses to coyotes...

Prescribed burning is important March 5, 2017 South Carolina, Greenwood Index-Journal
... Prescribed fires help restore and maintain vital habitat for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and other grassland birds, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer ...  it is the best management tool available for preventing larger and more frequent outbreaks...

Deer dog hunting January 19, 2017 South Carolina, Greenville News
... State Representative Robert L Ridgeway III of Clarendon County has introduced a bill that would place stricter requirements on identifying dogs that are employed in deer dog hunting and governing the handling of those dogs that are found trespassing...

MC Chitwood, MA Lashley, JC Kilgo, MJ Cherry… - Wildlife Biology, 2016
... At Savannah River Site, South Carolina, we used six years of camera-based recruitment estimates (i.e. fawn:doe ratio) to predict concurrently collected annual radiotag-based survival estimates. The coefficient of determination (R2) was 0.445, indicating some support for the viability of cameras to reflect recruitment... ecause so few researchers concurrently estimate survival and camera-based recruitment, examining this relationship at larger spatial scales while controlling for numerous confounding variables remains difficult...

S.C. DNR program targets troublesome growing coyote population December 23, 2016 South Carolina, Myrtle Beach Sun News
... Coyotes are having a big impact on South Carolina’s population of white-tailed deer ... A total of 16 male coyotes were tagged as the target for the program with four released in each of the state’s four game zones ... Anyone who kills one of them receives a complimentary lifetime hunting license...

Wily coyotes continue to thrive in the Southeast at the expense of deer populations November 22, 2016 South Carolina, United States Department of Agriculture
... Coyotes began migrating eastward throughout the latter half of the 20th Century... The 2015 Deer Hunter Survey documents a decline in the state’s deer population since the 1990s that coincides with the increase in coyotes... declines in deer numbers, prompted the state of South Carolina to implement stricter bag limits for deer as a result of the documented reductions in fawn recruitment...

Elk tranquilized, relocated in mountains November 18, 2016 South Carolina, Greenville News
... The displaced elk [probably from North Carolina] that has been seen wandering around Pickens County was tranquilized and moved to a remote area of the South Carolina mountains ... the first elk confirmed seen in South Carolina since the 1700’s ...

Factors affecting survival of adult female white‐tailed deer after coyote establishment in south Carolina  JC Kilgo, M Vukovich, MJ Conroy, HS Ray, C Ruth - Wildlife Society Bulletin, 2016
...  We examined survival rates and causes of mortality among 138 radiocollared adult female deer over 7 years at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, USA, 2006–2013 ... we conclude that predation by coyotes on adult females was not important in the SRS deer population demography. Managers of southern deer populations wishing to increase population growth by limiting antlerless harvest should be aware that adult female survival may already be high, so limited increases in survival may be expected, particularly if antlerless harvest already is limited...

SC DNR warns of the danger of deer in the roadways this time of year. - October 31, 2016 South Carolina


Burke County leads way in deer harvest October 30, 2016 South Carolina, The Augusta Chronicle
... According to the U.S. Drought Monitor database maintained by the Western Regional Climate Center, much of Columbia County was added recently to counties in "moderate drought status, while Lincoln and other counties to the north are already classified as experiencing "severe" and even "extreme" drought conditions ...

In Pickens County, first elk sighting in state for centuries October 26, 2016 South Carolina, Greenville News
... It’s not the species that once inhabited this area but more likely one that found himself ousted by the dominant males of a herd of Rocky Mountain elk that have been re-established in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ...

Timing South Carolina's deer rut October 14, 2016 North Carolina Sportsman
... In places like Alabama and Mississippi, the rut may not occur until late January or even February, while in North and South Carolina the rut occurs in October and November, and will even vary by a couple of weeks ...

South Carolina Deer Forecast for 2016 October 11, 2016 Game & Fish
... there was a four percent decrease in harvest from 202,952 deer in 2014 to 195,030 deer in the 2015 season ... said since 2002 the population has trended down... “I believe the harvest in 2016 will be up,” ...

Deer season intensifies Tuesday October 10, 2016 South Carolina, The State
... While deer harvest has been on a downward trend statewide in recent recent years, Anderson's numbers are on the rise... We have a lot of oak trees and persimmon trees ... the state's largest deer was harvested in Anderson County ...

Trail cam photos: Coyote and deer dine at the same corn pile October 5, 2016 South Carolina, Louisiana Sportsman
...  A South Carolina hunter’s trail cam pics show two deer joining a coyote for dinner over the same corn pile...  “If somebody had told me they had pictures like this, I wouldn’t have believed them.”...

Deer Harvest Report Shows 5.8 percent Increase Over Previous Season October 1, 2016 North Carolina, montgomeryherald.com
... “Although trends vary by county and region, the deer harvest appears to be pretty stable on a statewide scale,” said Jonathan Shaw, the Commission’s deer biologist. “Things have certainly rebounded a bit since 2014-2015, where we saw a decline in the statewide harvest.” ...

Deer season looks promising – as long rain doesn’t strike again September 16, 2016 South Carolina, Myrtle Beach Online
... you’re dealing with a population of 700-750,000 deer in the state,.. ... About 80 percent of our breeding takes place October 15 to November 15 ... South Carolina’s deer population has declined from about one million around the turn of the century ...

... Does typically increased movement rate, probability of activity, and likelihood of being out of their seasonal home range as their dates of conception approached... about half of the females made an excursion and temporarily left their home ranges around their conception dates... read the research [PDF]

Challenging surgery on deer will be paid forward August 19, 2016 South Carolina, Charleston Post Courier
... a fawn she was fostering, which had broken it’s leg ... surgery was my only way through this problem ... connected with an acrylic bar, bridging the fracture and stabilizing the bone ... 

Import of deer, elk parts into S.C. still limited by state regulation  August 14, 2016 South Carolina, Index-Journal
... To protect the state's extremely valuable white-tailed deer resource, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has maintained a regulation restricting the importation of certain carcass parts from deer and elk harvested in states with diagnosed cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) ...

Upstate Outdoors: Could elk be migrating to South Carolina? August 11, 2016 Greenville News
... Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States but were eliminated by over-hunting and loss of habitat... Rumors have persisted for some time of elk sightings around the Caesar’s Head and Jones Gap State Park areas in northern Greenville County... An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the Cataloochee Valley of North Carolina began in 2001 ...

Deer limits begin in 2017 Augusts 8, 2016 South Carolina, Times and Democrat
... There will be a tagging requirement for all harvested deer, including bucks. With the purchase of a hunting license and big-game permit, resident hunters will be issued three buck tags and eight doe, or antlerless tags... Department of Natural Resources will have the flexibility to manage doe tag ...

Better deer season in forecast for S.C. hunters August 6, 2016 South Carolina, Charleston Post Courier
... deer harvest increased rapidly through the 1980s and 1990s, the deer population in South Carolina has been declining over the last dozen years... the overall harvest [2015] was down 4 percent from 2014 and 39 percent below the record harvest in 2002.  Ruth said the reduction in harvest since 2002 can likely be attributed to a number of factors including habitat change with much forest acreage in stands greater than 15 years old ...

A drowning fawn. Gators in the lagoon. Sea Pines caddy jumps in July 28, 2016 South Carolina, Island Packet 
... From the clubhouse the men could see the deer was tiring. And trapped. Wooden bulkheads surrounding the water hazard kept it from escaping... we all know there is one huge gator in that lagoon ... Hoisington emptied his pockets, save for a 3  1/2-inch pocket knife, and jumped in... saved the fawn ...

Deer causing soybean losses across state July 20, 2016 South Carolina, Manning Live
... “We hope to identify effective deer-repellent strategies that are feasible for South Carolina growers and that can be easily incorporated into the crop management program,” ... five commercially available deer repellents will be included in the trials ...

Kill a Marked Coyote, Get a Lifetime Hunting License July 18, 2016 South Carolina, Edgefieldadvertiser
... South Carolina has a new predator control initiative aimed at coyotes across the state; kill a marked coyote and get a lifetime hunting license... decrease the coyote population ... The agency specifically hopes to have the program in place by this coming deer season...

New law to change deer harvesting in S.C. starting in 2017 season July 15, 2016 South Carolina,Aiken Standard
... three buck tags at no charge.  They will have the option of buying two more buck tags at $5 a piece ... historically ... two-thirds of the state having no limit on antler bucks... minimum of four points on one antler or a minimum 12-inch inside antler spread ...

SC gets deer-limit law; no change this year as regulations begin in 2017 July 3, 2016 South Carolina, The Times and Democrat
... Senate Bill S.454 was signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley on June 8. The new law will not impact this season as it goes into effect in 2017... a tagging requirement for all harvested deer, including bucks... resident hunters will be issued three buck tags and eight doe, or antlerless tags...

Deer Harvest Declined in 2015 In Part Due to October Flood June 23, 2016 South Carolina,  South Carolina Public Radio
... "The flooded areas made it harder for hunters to get to, it was so warm that hunters did not want to battle the mosquitoes, and number three the deer didn't even want to move themselves." ... We have a very liberal game laws and how many deer you can take. You can legally take 20 to 40 deer a year per person." ...

Deer struggles for hours to get out of swimming pool, finally rescued June 13, 2016 South Carolina, WYFF Greenville
... they found a doe in the water of an in-ground pool, fighting to get out ... "She had been trying to get out and swimming for over two hours," ... pictures, click here

New deer bill signed into law June 10, 2016 South Carolina, South Carolina Sportsman
... starting with the 2017 deer hunting season, all harvested deer must be tagged ... 11 total deer. This includes eight antlerless deer which can only be taken on certain dates, and three bucks ..
SC General Assembly passes deer tag legislation June 9, 2016 South Carolina, Greenville News
...  will institute a deer tag program as part of SCDNR’s hunting and fishing license structure. In addition, the bill will establish a limit on the number of antlered deer than can be harvested across the state... 


South Carolina Data: The deer population was estimated at about 725,000 in 2016 (700,000 to 750,000).  About the same estimate in 2015 of 730,000.  
The deer harvest was down 11 percent in 2016-17 due to habitat change, coyote predation, and Hurricane Matthew.   Estimated at 750,000 in 2014.  Population densities are much higher in low country agricultural counties than upstate.
    The population rose from about 900,000 in 1988 and peaked around 1996 at about 1.1 to 1.2 million with the peak deer harvest in 2002 at 319,902. The population has been trending lower since then with the 2014 harvest down 9 percent from 2013 and about 40 percent from 2002. Drought in 2015 contributed to the downward trend.  Habitat change with more mature pine stands does not support as many deer as younger tree stands, and coyotes predation on fawns has increased.  South Carolina also has the longest deer season in the country and has the most liberal limits of any state. The 2014 harvest of 202,952, was 53.9 percent bucks (46.1% does) and was 36.6 percent below the record of 2002.  Hunters reported a 70 success rate.  The 2003 population was estimated at 900,000.  About 1,000,000 in 2001.  Estimated deer harvest below, source.

     Timber management policies of the 1970's and 80's favored deer habitat, leading to population growth.  Currently there is significant acreage in even aged pine stands, about ten years old, that do not provide good habitat.  Increased coyotes populations, non natives, have also driven down populations.  In a recent study at the Savannah River Site, 70 percent fawn mortality was recorded with coyotes accounting for 80 percent of the mortality.  Coyotes were first seen in state in 1978 and are now found in all counties.
     In 1972 the white-tail deer was designated as the as the official state animal.

Elk were hunted to extinction by the 1700's.  In 2016, a young male elk thought to be pushed out of a North Carolina herd was the first documented elk in South Carolina since that time. 

Useful links
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

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