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Apply to SCDNR for duck boxes and public hunts

Landowners can erect wood duck boxes to increase nesting sites. Photos by Jeff Dennis

Duck hunters can rely on the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for hunt info, season regulations and maybe even a wood duck box too. Some say the main factor for a successful duck hunting season is the presence of cold weather and only Mother Nature can control such factors. But right now it’s time for submitting applications to SCDNR that might result in aiding our ‘summer duck’ populations to stay sustainable.

The number one duck in the bag for hunters in South Carolina year after year is the wood duck. Plenty of Lowcountry duck hunters target only wood ducks and a bag of three woodies is the equivalent of a great hunt. A few years back the daily limit per hunter was raised from two to three wood ducks per day. This increase is a result of thriving wood duck populations, and a couple of woodie character traits help to play a role.

First, wood ducks will make use of nesting boxes, while almost all other waterfowl will shun them. Two, wood ducks earn their nickname of ‘summer duck’ because some of their population will stay in the area year round. Setting out wood duck boxes can help wood ducks to acclimate to those areas so then when breeding season arrives in February they are ready to raise more ducklings.

SCDNR biologists know that wood ducks will use natural cavities in hardwood trees in our bottomlands for opportunistic nesting. However, there are fewer hardwoods today due to human activities like clear-cutting of swamps, and development. Now private landowners can assist wood duck populations by applying for a free nesting box to install in suitable areas for nesting.

Applicants must realize beforehand that these same nest boxes require annual maintenance in winter, before nesting season. While this is a chore that can require clearing out wasp nests and possibly getting a little wet, it is the type of outdoor activity that anyone can enjoy, whether they are a hunter or not. My pro tip would be to install a game cam near the opening of the nesting box in order to monitor its use over time.

A trio of wood duck hunters with their limits.

Only a limited amount of wood duck boxes are produced and available each year, but these boxes can be picked up conveniently in Colleton Count at Donnelly WMA. The application and email address for the wood duck boxes can be found on the SCDNR website.

And remember while you are visiting their site that applications for SCDNR waterfowl lottery hunts are due by October 24. After updating their website and licensing system, the SCDNR no longer accepts paper applications for these hunts, meaning there is still time to meet this deadline using the electronic format. Applicants will need their SCDNR customer ID # to utilize the new system. Choose the public hunting area that you would like to visit, and then wait too hear back. With heavy requests don’t be surprised if you are not chosen, and receive a preference point towards a future hunt.

The public duck hunts do carry a fee, but are thought to be a good value for waterfowlers sine their hunts require specialty guns, ammo and accessories. Duck season in S.C. runs in two parts this year from November 22 until November 29 during Thanksgiving, and then from December 6 until January 25. Migratory teal are already in the area and more ducks should be arriving with each cold front. Of course the wood ducks are already staging and it’s not too soon to scout for that opening day hunt to remember.

The Deadline for wood duck box applications is November 1.

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


Jeff Dennis, Contributor (131 Posts)

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