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S.C. deer harvest decreased in 2012

  • Monday, May 20, 2013

  • Updated Monday, September 23, 2013 11:12 am

Results of the 2012 S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ Deer Hunter Survey indicate that the statewide harvest last season totaled 217,854, a decrease of 4 percent from 2011.
An estimated 116,673 bucks and 101,181 does were harvested, according to Charles Ruth, Deer and Wild Turkey Program coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Since 1997, DNR’s Wildlife Section has employed an annual random mail survey to estimate the harvest of deer at the state and county level. The 2012 survey was sent to 25,000 hunters.
After increasing rapidly through the 1970s and 1980s, the deer population has  been declining over the last 10 years, according to Ruth. The 2012 harvest continued that trend, reflecting about a 30 percent overall decline from the record harvest in 2002.  
The reduction in harvest since 2002 can likely be attributed to a number of factors including habitat change. Although timber management activities stimulated deer population growth in the 1980s, considerable acreage is currently in even-aged pine stands that are greater than 10 years old, a situation that does not support deer densities at the same level as younger stands in which food and cover is more available.  
Wildlife population densities are directly tied to the habitat and since habitats are always changing, population densities always change.
Also, coyotes are another piece of the puzzle.  SCDNR is currently involved in a major study with researchers at the Savannah River Site investigating the affects coyotes are having on the survival of deer fawns.  
Cumulative data through the first three years of the study indicates approximately 70 percent total fawn mortality with coyotes being responsible for approximately 80 percent of these mortalities.  If these findings even moderately represent a statewide situation, this “new mortality factor” is clearly involved in the reduction in deer numbers.  
The final three years of the study is attempting to determine if coyote control (trap/kill) leads to increased fawn survival on the area.
Top counties for harvest in 2012 included Bamberg, Anderson, Union, Greenwood, and Abbeville. Each had harvest rates in excess of 14 deer per square mile.
The majority of deer (171,451) were taken with centerfire rifles in 2012. Other equipment used included shotguns (21,568 deer),  archery equipment (14,814 deer) and muzzleloaders, crossbows and handguns combined (10,022 deer).
Results also revealed that  28,211 coyotes were taken incidental to deer hunting, down 12 percent from 2011. Approximately 26,674 wild hogs were killed statewide representing a 17 percent decrease from 2011.
Approximately 127,369 residents and 14,738 non-residents deer hunted in the state in 2012 with an overall success rate of 68 percent. Resident hunters averaged about 16 days of deer hunting, non-residents about 14 days, and the total deer hunting in 2012 was estimated at more than 2.2 million days.
Complete details of the 2012 report is available at www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/deer.

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