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SCDNR Free Hunting Days and Drought Status Update

You might not be surprised to learn that Colleton County was recently listed as being in incipient drought status, but did you know that the two days following Christmas are now free hunting days. The drought status update came on November 27, but relief came quickly in the form of three inches of rain on December 8. These two free hunting days on December 26 and 27 will bring relief to South Carolina residents who do not currently have a valid hunting license.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is charged with enforcing legal hunting statewide, and the state agency made history in 2017 with the implementation of a tagging program for antlered white-tailed deer. Now SCDNR is conducting outreach to recruit hunters, and future hunt license revenues, by offering free hunt licenses and deer tags for two days. Specifically, these free hunt days are only available to residents of South Carolina, and not to out-of-state hunters, and is only available for those S.C. residents who do not already have a valid hunting license.
The free hunting days are for any game species that is in season on December 26 and 27. The thought process behind the SCDNR free hunting days is that the holiday provides the free time that may allow for hunting newbies to get in the field. Also, this might provide the impetus for a hunting mentor to take a friend or neighbor hunting, but there is no stipulation for experienced hunters to be a part of the free hunting day equation.

Hunting on private lands requires an invitation, but the SCDNR free hunting days also includes the lands they manage known as Wildlife Management Areas or WMA’s. There is real value in the free hunting days when it comes to hunting WMA’s, because WMA access requires extra fees for regular licensed hunters. Allowing this extra hunting access to WMA’s for free is commendable since SCDNR is charged with providing outdoor opportunities on these state-owned lands. Small game in season includes squirrel, rabbit and quail and these might be easy to target on WMA’s.
One can find more value in the SCDNR free hunting days since it also applies to duck hunting, waiving the extra fees required of regular license holders to hunt waterfowl in South Carolina. However, the SCDNR free duck hunting days does not negate the requirement of purchasing a federal duck stamp in order to be legal. Waterfowl hunting also includes non-toxic shotgun shells and strict bag limits and shooting times, so new duck hunters will have to remain aware of these regulations.

The dry conditions in the outdoors should not affect hunting options much, but it does increase the chances of wildfire. “If dry conditions continue, we expect to see a rise in the number of wildfires, especially on days when high winds coincide with low relative humidity,” said S.C. Forestry Commission Forest Protection Chief Daryl Jones. “A developing drought could also result in poor seedling survival as we enter tree planting season.” Increased chances for additional rainfall in Colleton County in December are currently in the forecast.

All-Time Antler Records Update
SCDNR keeps a listing of the antler records for white-tailed deer in South Carolina, and the entire list is now available to the public online. The list began in 1974 and now includes 6.995-sets of antlers, including 278 non-typical entries. SCDNR wildlife biologists conduct antler scoring sessions around the state, and only about 25-percent of those antlers score enough points to qualify for the state record book.

The antler records program recognizes notable white-tailed deer harvested in South Carolina, providing individuals with kudos for their success. The list allows SCDNR and avid sportsmen everywhere to identify areas that historically produce quality bucks, such as Orangeburg County. For many S.C. hunters, inclusion in the state record book and receiving the certificate of accomplishment is a supreme goal, and the kind of incentive to enjoy a lifelong pursuit of white-tailed deer.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com