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Doe Management, Coyotes and Antler Record Update

Jeff Dennis is a
Lowcountry native.
Read his blog at

The harvesting of doe deer doesn’t begin until September 15, but discussion on how to manage doe populations is already in full swing. Deer populations in S.C. are trending downward, but pockets of the Lowcountry with heavy agricultural use still see high concentrations of white-tailed deer. This means that the correct prescription for doe harvest is unique for each individual property, and should include an honest assessment of coyote predation effects in each area.

Antler scoring includes measuring the total length of the tines Photo by Jeff Dennis.

A newsletter to landowners in the SCDNR antlerless deer quota program (ADQP) states that the overall deer population in S.C. is decreased about 30 percent from record levels recorded in the 1990’s. This change is not due to any one factor, but increasing hunting pressure and the strain on our natural resources is certainly one of them. Landscape scale forest management using planted pines is also noted as not beneficial when any stand is in the 16 to 30-year age class, which serves to reduce early successional habitat that results in food and cover.
Coyote colonization in South Carolina is also changing the landscape for white-tail populations, as it regards fawn recruitment. Thanks to revenue from participants in the ADQP, where landowners pay a fee for annual doe tags, the SCDNR has been able to fund a 6-year study regarding a coyote control program. Researchers at the Savannah River Site determined that of the 70 percent total fawn mortality, coyotes were responsible for 80 percent and in particular their predation efforts were almost always centered on fawns younger than 10 weeks of age.
These revelations raise the type of awareness that makes even non-hunters want to take action against such a top tier predator. The SCDNR study included trapping 474 coyotes over three years and killing them. Yet the decrease in fawn mortality was only nominal, further revealing that coyote mortality on younger fawns is simply part of the new normal. Some good news from the study is that trapping is a proven method to remove coyotes, and that tool is available for land managers in the future.
The recommendation to harvest doe deer before the rut occurs in October includes several common sense points. Why let bucks expend energy on does that will be removed from the herd later, and why resist early doe harvest since they will consume food resources that could be going to other deer. Whether you look at the doe population as plentiful or diminishing, any decision on doe management will have an effect on future hunting opportunities.

S.C. Antler Record Update
On August 5 the SCDNR published the entire S.C. Antler Record List on their website for the first time, releasing new stats and information from the program initiated in 1974. The antlers from any harvested buck can be scored and ranked via a system of measurements that captures data on mass and symmetry. Current minimum scores to make the record book in S.C. are 125 points for typical antlers and 145 points for a non-typical rack.
Since hunters are always going to be interested in harvesting a trophy buck with a large rack, the record system is a way to recognize these accomplishments. It has to be a fairly big rack to qualify and it requires an official antler scoring session with the SCDNR. The antler record list is extensive and wildlife biologists are able to identify areas and counties that have produced record bucks over time.
One statewide map generated by the study shows that counties along the Savannah River tend to be in the upper 50-percentile of the antler records. One would deduce that the hardwood trees and subsequent acorn crops might produce a steady stream of nutrition, which is one factor affecting maximum antler growth. Genetics and age also play a role in antler development and the study talks about how the records can routinely show upticks in antler records.
The same map shows how counties that border the coastline rank in the less than 50-percentile, with poor soil types being suspected. The good news for Colletonians is that Colleton County ranks Number 6 in the state for antler record entries. Scrolling through the antler record list on the SCDNR website is easy, and it reveals the county where each buck harvest came from, as well as the hunter’s name and the antler score.
The antler record list does include antlers that were harvested before 1974, since antlers retain their form for many years. It’s these older names and numbers from Colleton County that have me itching to tell their stories, but most likely the tales of those hunts have been lost to time. But using one’s imagination to reminisce about those past records might provide the determination to get outdoors and hunt for the latest Colleton County record. Good Luck Hunting!

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

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (237 Posts)

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