Results of the 2019 Deer Hunter Survey conducted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) indicate that the statewide harvest of deer decreased by only 1% last season.
Hunters harvested an estimated 105,201 bucks, and 87,872 does, which made up a total harvest of 193,073 deer. That is just slightly down from the 194,986 estimated harvest in 2018, according to Charles Ruth, SCDNR Big Game Program coordinator.
Between 2002 and 2015, the deer population in the state trended down with the overall reduction in harvest likely attributable to several factors, including; habitat change, a long-term drought, two decades of aggressive antlerless deer harvest, and the complete colonization of the state by coyotes and their impact on fawn survival.
Since 2015 the states’ deer harvest has been stable to increase, possibly due to declining coyote densities.
The fall of 2019 was the third season of the “all deer” tagging system and statewide limit on antlered deer. While harvest increased (12%) since 2016, it is primarily due to an increase in doe harvest (18.0%), rather than an increase in buck harvest (9%).
“Prior to the tagging program, increases in harvest were normally the result of increases in the buck harvest or a more equal increase in buck and doe harvest,” Ruth said. “This disproportionate harvest may be indicative of the new buck limit having the desired effect of decreasing pressure on bucks. It will likely take a few years for this to become clearer.”
Top counties for harvest in 2019 included Anderson, Laurens and Spartanburg in the Piedmont, and Bamberg and Beaufort in the coastal plain. Each of these counties exhibited harvest rates of over 12 deer per square mile, which should be considered extraordinary.
Although the harvest has generally declined from its peak some years ago,