#06-24 January 30, 2006
Two additional meetings set to discuss buck limits, tag programs
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has scheduled two additional public meetings to receive input from hunters concerning limits on buck deer and potential changes to antlerless deer and wild turkey tag programs in South Carolina. The meetings will be held at Horry-Georgetown Technical College Conway Campus Burroughs and Chapin Auditorium on Thursday, February 16 and the DNR Marine Center Auditorium at Fort Johnson on James Island in Charleston on Tuesday, February 21. The meetings were scheduled after the department received requests to hold additional meetings in these areas.
"With respect to buck limits, hunters have been encouraging DNR to consider a statewide buck limit for some time, however, the agency would like to attempt to measure public support prior to recommending any changes to the South Carolina General Assembly," said Charles Ruth, DNR Deer/Turkey Project leader. Each meeting will include a presentation by DNR on the background and data related to the concept, as well as, public comment and questions.
Contact DNR at (803) 734-3886 in Columbia with any questions about agendas or sites.
All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. and the dates and locations of the remaining meetings are as follows:
Tuesday, January 31 - Walterboro, Hampton Street Auditorium, 491 Hampton Street.
Thursday, February 2 - Hampton, Hampton County Courthouse, 1 Elm St., Courthouse Square.
Tuesday, February 7 - Columbia, Riverbanks Zoo Auditorium, From I-126 take Greystone Blvd. exit and follow signs to Riverbanks Zoo.
Thursday, February 9 - Moncks Corner, Santee Cooper Auditorium, One Riverwood Drive off of Highway 52 Bypass.
Thursday, Feb. 16 - Conway, Horry-Georgetown Technical College Conway Campus, Burroughs and Chapin Auditorium, D. Kent Staples Student and Community Life Complex, Building 1100, Room 707, Highway 501 East.
Tuesday, February 21 - Charleston, SCDNR Marine Resources Research Institute (MRRI) Auditorium, 217 Fort Johnson Rd. on James Island.
"Many hunters indicate it is time for South Carolina's deer management program to become more proactive and that they would support a move to reduce the harvest pressure on bucks in order to increase both the chance of seeing more bucks and the opportunity to harvest mature bucks," said Ruth.
Advocates of the proposal also feel that law enforcement measures should be implemented, as well, to ensure that limits would have the desired effect. This could take the form of hunters receiving a set of buck tags. DNR staff will discuss the possibility of issuing buck tags, antlerless deer tags, and turkey tags using several methods including the possibility that tags could be associated with the hunting license.
"This grass roots effort originally began in 2000 when a group of deer hunters in Saluda County approached DNR officials about buck limits in their county," said Ruth. "Since that time interest among hunters has spread." In 2003, 5 preliminary meetings were held across the upstate and 90 percent of hunters supported the idea of a reasonable limit on bucks along with some type of tagging system to enforce the limit. In 2004, results of DNR's annual Deer Hunter Survey, which was sent to 25,000 randomly selected hunters, indicated that over 70 percent of hunters statewide felt that the limit on bucks should be 5 or less and that some form of enforcement, such as tags, should be in place.
DNR wildlife biologists have looked at harvest data and discussed the merits of the idea. Although hunters see the plan as increasing their chances of seeing more mature bucks, biologists believe that it will reduce the emphasis on harvesting bucks that currently exists, leading to increased harvests of doe deer, which is the main factor in managing the state's deer population.
Although DNR has significantly liberalized antlerless deer harvest opportunities over the years, many hunters repeatedly harvest young bucks even when they have the opportunity to harvest a legal doe. Though a limit will not prevent hunters from harvesting young bucks it would limit the total number of bucks that they can take, which should shift harvest pressure more to does and mature bucks.
"Will the plan work?" Ruth asks. "Harvest data collected over the last 8 years suggest that it could. The common perception that a small percentage of hunters exploit the current system and harvest large numbers of bucks is essentially true. For example, only 4 percent of hunters harvest more than 5 bucks annually, however, these hunters harvest 20 percent of all the bucks taken each year. It would follow then, that if a limit were in place there should be fewer bucks harvested leaving more bucks to mature for the following season. Also, if buck harvest pressure shifts to females then it is a win, win situation."
Before any recommendations for change are made, DNR staff would like to fully evaluate the pros and cons of the ideas by receiving information from the public.