Best Big Buck States for 2014: South Carolina
October 31, 2014
The most recent round of white-tailed deer antler measuring conducted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) revealed 222 new state record book bucks, including one Boone and Crockett qualifier.
Charles Ruth, Deer and Turkey Project Supervisor for the (SCDNR) said that each spring Wildlife Section personnel make a concerted effort to measure deer racks throughout the state, with a major session during the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic in Columbia.
Ruth said that while the number of bucks did not constitute a record year, it was still a very good Scoring Year in 2014.
"Of the 569 sets of antlers measured this spring, 222 met the minimum score for entry on the state records list, including 213 sets of typical and 9 non-typical racks," Ruth said.
"Although this scoring session was not as strong as the past couple of years, the number of successful entries into the records list this year is the third highest number of entries in the last 10 years, so I certainly consider it a good year in terms of long-term trophy harvest. Although all of the records were not taken during the 2013 season, 182 were taken during the 2012 or 2013 season."
Racks must score a minimum of 125 points typical or 145 points non-typical to qualify for the South Carolina state records list. Records are based on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, which measures the mass and symmetry of deer antlers in two categories — typical and non-typical.
Ruth said the top typical buck scored this spring was a 162 7/8 inch buck taken by Gary Walls in Orangeburg County in December of 2009. Walls' buck qualifies for the Boone and Crockett Club's Three Year Awards Period List and is 18th among South Carolina's all-time typical deer. The second highest scoring typical was a 159 3/8 inch Laurens County buck taken by Ricky Brooks last October.
The number 3 buck scored in 2014 was a 156 4/8 buck taken by Bill Wyatt in Anderson County in December 2013. The fourth largest was Danny T. Dillard's Edgefield County buck that scored 155 5/8 in October 2013. Rounding out the top five was Rick G. Carter with a 148 1/8 Colleton County that was harvested way back on New Year's Day in 1968, but was finally scored in 2014.
Scoring 148 was the sixth place buck taken by Charles D. Giusto out of Darlington County in November 2012. The seventh place buck was taken by James Craig with a Calhoun County buck that scored 146/6/8. This buck was taken in October 2013. In eighth place was a 145 6/8 buck taken by Ronald A. Hribar in Horry County in November of 2013. Ross Brashier took a 145 6/8 Greenville County buck in October of 2013 for ninth place. Rounding out the top 10 was a 144 2/8 buck taken by Gary P. Green in Bamberg Count during October of 2013.
Netting 167 4/8 points, the top scoring non-typical buck was taken by Tony Blackwell in Oconee County last December. The second largest non-typical was a 156 7/8 Abbeville County buck taken by Dennis J. Tate in late September 2013. The third best non-typical was taken by Chase Smith with a 155 1/8 Anderson County buck in mid-November. At number four was a Sumter County buck taken by Brian T. Newman that scored 155 even. In fifth place in the non-typical category was Robert W. McKenzie with a buck that scored 153 6/8.
At sixth was Vasco Hook with a 152 2/8 buck Taken from Greenwood County in October of 1967. In seventh was Carl J Brown Jr. with a 150 2/8 buck taken from Aiken County in early December 2012. Following in eighth place was Randy M. Cromer with Cherokee County buck scoring 149 7/8 that was taken in November 2013. The last record book buck in the non-typical category (there were only nine qualifying deer in Score Year 2014) was Jacky Ayers with a 145 5/8 buck taken from Greenwood County in November 2012.
Of interest to many trophy hunters is that of these top 19 bucks, 13 were harvested in either October or November, typically prime rut season for most of the state. If you're planning an extended hunt and are looking for a trophy buck, keep that timing in mind if you want to put seasonal odds in your favor.
Ruth said the number and quality of bucks added to the record books are a very positive trend in recent years, including Score year 2014. While there's no way to predict the future because weather and other variables do have an impact on deer harvest, he said the odds for another excellent season for big bucks in South Carolina are quite decent.
"There are certainly no issues with the quality of the deer herd and in terms of numbers being harvested, the herd seems to have stabilized, which is a positive sign of herd health. I think a lot of deer hunters are beginning to focus more on quality bucks," he said. "Deer have to get some age on them to develop into trophy-class bucks and more hunters are letting the small bucks live and grow into trophy-class animals.
"As deer populations have grown in South Carolina, it has become more apparent that deer herd density in a given area is related to the production of large deer," Ruth said. "Typically, areas of the state that are known to have large numbers of deer do not produce as many large-antlered deer as those areas with fewer deer. Even areas that have exceptional habitat can only support a certain number of deer before the quality of the animals begins to decline."
He notes, for example, that during much of the 1980's, the statewide deer population and annual deer harvest were perhaps one-half of what they are today. During that same period, however, a relatively large number of deer were harvested that made the records list. In fact, the period between 1982 and 1992 accounts for approximately 35 percent of all record-book deer, even though the list contains records that date to the early 1900's.
Over the long term, approximately one of every 800 bucks killed in South Carolina qualifies for the records list.
Ruth notes that South Carolina Deer Antler Records 2014 is based on activities conducted in the score year 2014. Antlers from deer that are taken in the fall are typically measured the following spring. For example, antlers from deer taken in the fall of 2013 were measured in the score year or spring of 2014. Antlers taken in previous years, however, may also be scored and are then included in the 2014 "score year."
"In terms of record-buck producing counties, Kershaw County was this year's top producer of State Record entries with 15, followed by Aiken County, which had lead the state for the previous three years, with 14," Ruth said.
Other top counties included Orangeburg and Calhoun counties, both of which produced 10 bucks that made the state record book. Also tied with nine record book bucks added were Fairfield and Dorchester counties.
"These results come as no surprise as these counties have historically produced good numbers of record entries," Ruth said.
Ruth also points out that the all-time leader for trophy bucks at the county level remained unchanged: Orangeburg County remains at the top with 457 sets of antlers on the list. Rounding out the top 10 counties are Aiken (435 record-book bucks), Fairfield (264), Anderson and Colleton tied with (246), Williamsburg (239), Kershaw (238), Abbeville (211), Barnwell (207) and Allendale 1(89).
"If you consider the best counties in terms of trophy bucks harvested per unit area of harvest, a more equable way to measure potential productivity, then the top ten are Anderson, Abbeville, Orangeburg, Allendale, Aiken, Calhoun, Bamberg, Barnwell, Fairfield and Kershaw counties," Ruth said.
Where to Hunt
Hunters can learn a lot from these lists and certainly there is a trend in both list regarding hotspots areas for record book bucks. Using the harvest per unit area as a basic guide there are three distinct areas in the state where counties bordering one another are in the top tier of record-book buck production.
The largest is the cluster of six counties including Allendale, Barnwell, Aiken (all bordering the Savannah River) and Bamberg, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. This is a large area that is obviously a hotbed for big bucks.
A smaller, two-county area includes Anderson and Abbeville. Though not as many counties are in this cluster, by the measure of trophy bucks per square mile, Anderson is the best county in the state, and Abbeville is the second best. Both of these counties border the Savannah River. There is a trend here if you are following closely.
The third cluster is again a two-county: Fairfield and Kershaw, which rank ninth and tenth respectively. However it is important to note they are close to the first cluster of six counties that we mentioned above: only Richland County is between them. Also, both of these counties were in the top county listing of deer added to the all time list in Score Year 2014. So not only do they rank highly regarding long-term trophy production, they were hotspots in Score Year 2014 as well, with Kershaw County at the number one position in that list.
There is a good deal of overlap in the list of counties that produce the most trophies and the list of counties that produce the most trophies per square mile — obviously that's good news for hunters who can arrange to hunt in those counties.
Counties on both lists are Anderson, Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties (which all border the Savannah River), as well as Orangeburg, Fairfield and Kershaw counties. The two additional counties on this list but not on the per unit harvest list, include Colleton and Williamsburg counties.
With inclusion of 2014 data into the books, Ruth said 6,389 sets of antlers (6,147 typical and 242 non-typical) are now included on the South Carolina antler records list.
"With a stabilized deer herd, the prospects for 2014 are encouraging in terms of trophy animals," Ruth said. "I think the potential is there to harvest a reasonably high number of record book bucks in the 2014 season. This, as it does with simple harvest of deer, depends on external factors that can influence harvest of deer. One is hunter effort and that can significantly change based on good or poor weather for hunting on opening weeks of the various seasons when a lot of big deer are taken and during the rut when many of the trophy bucks are harvested. Weather has an impact on the amount of hunter effort and that correlates to harvest. In addition, local land management activities and amount of predation by coyotes are other factors for localized hunter success.
"The opportunity to harvest trophy bucks remains high, based on data over this and recent years," Ruth said. "While the number of big buck was down slightly, it was still a good year for big bucks. Overall, South Carolina is in a good place right now in terms of the overall status of the deer herd."