The Advertiser recently spoke to SC Representative Bill Hixon for an exclusive interview regarding the latest proposed changes to the deer hunting laws in South Carolina. The changes stem from the House’s inability to agree with the bill the Senate passed last year and also from disagreements within the House’s Wildlife Sub-Committee. As a result, Hixon, who is Chairman of the Wildlife Sub-Committee, said that he and his fellow sub-committee members, along with representatives from the Department of Natural Resources, spent the summer hosting town hall events across the state to gather input from hunters on what they would like to see in the deer bill. Hixon said that he thinks what they have now put together will work. “I feel very good about it,” he said.
The first changes the proposal will deal with will be to resident hunters and is based on the idea that the changes will be state wide and that all deer will be tagged. The proposal is that each hunter will get 3 free buck tags with the purchase of their hunting license. However, should a hunter wish to kill 2 additional bucks, then 2 extra buck tags could be purchased for the proposed price of $5 each. However, the two extra allowable bucks would have to be at least 4 points on one side or have a spread of 12 inches. This would allow for the harvest of 5 bucks total during the season. Hunting license fees would not change.
The tricky part, however, comes in when talking does – so pay attention. Resident hunters will still be allowed to purchase 4 doe tags at $5 apiece or 4/$20. Does killed using these tags could be harvested on any day during the season. Doe days would still be instituted, as well. They would remain as they are now; 3 days in Game Zone 1, 6 days in Zone 2, and 8 days in Zones 3 and 4. However, hunters wishing to harvest deer on these doe days would be required to have doe day specific tags which would be free or cost a nominal fee of $1 to cover printing costs. In other words, if a hunter did not purchase the $5 doe tags but wished to still hunt doe on the doe days for (basically) free, the hunter would still need a doe tag and that doe tag would be good only for the date listed on it. These tags would be able to be used in any game zone but their dates would not carry over because they will be date specific. That means a hunter can potentially harvest 12 does a year if they buy the 4 extra doe tags and hunt and harvest on each doe day. In all, hunters could harvest a maximum of 17 deer, 5 bucks and up to 12 does, a season.
As for nonresidents, they will have to pay $50 for their first buck tag and $20 each for three more. Nonresidents will, thus, be allowed to harvest only 4 bucks. They will be charged $10 for each of the 4 doe tags available to them. The will be limited to a harvest of only 8 deer a year. They will not be issued doe day tags. Additionally, nonresident hunters, too, will see no increase in hunting license fees.
Hixon said that DNR is in favor of this proposal because it meets their objectives of limiting the harvest of bucks and tagging every deer. Additionally, money raised from the sale of the extra buck tags allowed to resident hunters will go toward a coyote management plan.
As Rep. Hixon reminded, this is an issue that is still being hammered out so some points within this proposal might yet change. “Nothing’s concrete,“ he said. In fact, he shared, “It’s just now getting on paper.” However, Hixon said that he is hopeful that hearings on this will begin in the House in early February. If this proposal does ultimately become a bill and pass the House, it will then be sent to the Senate where it will have to passed before it can be sent to the governor to be signed into law. The Advertiser will continue to follow this proposal as it progresses through the legislative process.