Monday, August 21, 2006

SOUTH CAROLINA NEWS: Densities Down, Buck Quality Up

WHILE SOUTH CAROLINA’s deer harvest has declined 23 percent during the past three years, the quality of antlered bucks remains high: 136 record-list entries were recorded this year.

That, said S.C. Department of Natural Resources deer biologist Charles Ruth, is a pretty good indication that fewer deer in the population benefit from increased available nutrition.

“South Carolina’s deer herd is in good condition, and it appears that after many years of rapid population growth the herd stabilized in the mid-1990s,” he said.

Recent estimates put the deer population at about 750,000, which is down from the 1-million-plus estimates in the1990s. Ruth said the annual harvest the past few years has been about 250,000.

The DNR’s recently published 2005 Deer Hunter Survey listed a statewide harvest of 244,045 deer last season — 123,503 bucks and 120,542 does — down 2.9 percent from 2004. Ruth said prospects for this deer season, which opened Tuesday in several Lowcountry counties, are very good.

He cited three factors that are believed to have attributed to the decline: a major drought from 1998 to 2002 that reduced populations, the growth of pine stands more than 10 years old, and an abundance of natural foods and unseasonably warm fall temperatures that decrease deer movements.

The top typical buck, which scored 162Ø, was found dead as a road kill on the Savannah River Site in October.

A 13-point buck taken by Manning Lusk of Anderson in a remote area of Lake Thurmond in McCormick County, had the top non-typical rack with a score of 187½.

DNR biologists scored 463 sets of antlers in the spring; 132 typical racks and four non-typical racks made the state records list, which requires 125 points for a typical rack and 145 points for a non- typical rack.

There are 4,641 sets of antlers on the state record list, 4,475 typical racks and 166 non-typical.

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