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."
Over his years of chasing whitetails, A.J. Downs of Conroe, Texas, has taken a number of big bucks with his bow. But none of the other mounts in his trophy room can match the size, or the meaning, of the freak whitetail that fell to his arrow shortly after daylight on opening day of the 2012 archery season.
Thirty-five years of bowhunting have taught Bill Ullrich a few things about chasing whitetails.
Several seasons ago, Bill had made up his mind to take off work early to spend an afternoon in the woods, and he knew exactly which tree he was headed for that afternoon. He was almost to the tree when something told him he needed to turn around and, instead, opt for a tried and true setup he had long-ago named the 'good luck tree. '
One hour and ten minutes later, he realized that was the best decision he had ever made, as he watched his arrow bury to the nock in the largest whitetail buck he had ever shot at.
Bill Winke has earned himself a spot as one of the best Midwestern whitetail hunters of all time with this massive double G4 Iowa giant.
The huge Iowa non-typical Bo Russell took is testimony to the rewards of smart scouting and hard work. Not to mention being adaptable enough to overcome some outside interference — including a crew of archeologists!
Russell's giant had a gross score of 246 4/8 inches and a net of 231 4/8. That made him the second-largest bow kill entered from the 2012 season.
After many years of chasing the same buck and coming up empty, Brian Hollands' luck finally turned around. On a fateful morning two seasons ago, Hollands not only found a lost little girl wandering the back roads of Missouri, he also found the buck of a lifetime.
Brian Herron fought numerous obstacles and setbacks to eventually bag this 184-inch bruiser.
The 16-point Daigle buck, scored by Boone & Crockett measurer Lonnie Desmarias, grossed a whopping 197 0/8 inches gross and netted 191 0/8 inches as a non-typical, breaking the existing Massachusetts state record by seven inches, according to the Northeast Big Buck Club records.
In 2009, Dean Partridge started having encounters and getting trail camera photos of a small 4Ã—4 whose back tines were a little bladed. There was nothing out of the ordinary at the time, so Partridge and crew carried on filming that fall and finished off the season. The next summer, he was back in the woods, checking to see which bucks had made it through the harsh winter. And much to his surprise, the buck that seemed ordinary had grown into an extraordinary buck with a large droptine that he aptly named "Droppy."
You need only skim the pages of the record books to understand why the majority of hunters pick the November rut as the prime time to hunt giant whitetails. Mature bucks are never a pushover, but they are more vulnerable when their nose is glued to the ground trailing an estrus doe. Fred Swihart proved, however, that you can have success outside the rut — sometimes it's just a matter of persistence.
Whitetail fate played its hand for Arkansas' Shane Frost in the big-timbered, fertile ground of the Black River Bottoms in Clay County. The ancient oaks and sloughs, in all their years, had likely never witnessed a more epic bowhunting scene, which ended with a 216-inch trophy on Frost's wall.
Garry Greenwalt teamed up with North American Whitetail's Gordon Whittington to kill this amazing Washington buck, known to Greenwalt as "The Ghost." Greenwalt spent a good deal of time tracking down the amazing 172-inch Washington giant, but it was all worth it.
It was mid-afternoon on Nov. 13, 2009, and Gary Morris of Winslow, Ark., was heading south out of Iowa. Driven by a haze of internal frustration, he was headed back to Arkansas six days early. The last three years of planning, anticipation and excitement for his Midwestern hunt had been stolen by an encounter with a 170-inch behemoth buck and a blown 12-yard 'chip-shot. ' After his miss, Morris thought about giving up bowhunting altogether. But it's a good thing he didn't.
With the help of her husband, Kevin, Ohio resident Lindsay Groom scouted this buck for two weeks before coming across its path again. Lindsay shot the buck with her crossbow at about 10 yards, but was unable to locate the buck.
After watching the kill shot again on film, the couple decided to track it the next morning, finding the deer just 30 yards away from where they stopped looking the night before.
Jeff Iverson hunted this particular buck for three seasons. In 2010, when the buck was a six-by-six typical, he missed a shot at it with his bow but Iverson's persistence eventually paid off.
On Nov. 14, 2012, the wind was right for hunting, and Jason decided to sit all day. At about 7:30 a.m., he heard chasing over the steep hill in front of him. Then a doe came running up the hill and went past him. Jason could hear grunting from the cedars below. It was the buck he had named "Cyclops."
With the buck at only 70 yards, Jason cranked up his scope and looked at the buck closely. Immediately he saw the glassy eye, and he knew Cyclops was his. It was a chip shot for his accurate .270 Win. After the shot, the huge buck only went about 75 yards before he crashed.
After years of hunting other people's property, Schmeidler finally got his own in 2010, when he purchased a 750-acre property consisting of river bottom cover and cropland. He immediately planted multiple food plots, his favorite being milo, and two seasons later, nine straight days of hard, smart hunting gave Schmeidler his trophy.
Despite one of the worst droughts in history, in July 2012 Jim Cogar's expectations for deer season in central Ohio were as high as ever. Trail cameras were set, mineral sites were established, and other attractants were strategically placed throughout the farm.
After discovering a giant on his trail camera, that he aptly dubbed Conan, Cogar set out on a mission to bag Conan before the end of the season.
It was Super Bowl Sunday before the opportunity presented itself to Cogar. As Conan led two young bucks down a hill, a distraction opened the door for Cogar to bag his buck of a lifetime.
Joshua Earp's Georgia giant scored 187 inches green, weighing in at 235 pounds, and was a great October surprise.
'I've hunted 25 years for this," Earp said. "I give all thanks to God and my father for teaching me and introducing me to this sport I'm addicted to. '
Lucas Cochren killed an amazing 238-inch Kansas trophy, but it all started with a blood trail gone cold. Fortunately, Cochren stuck to it and bagged the trophy of his lifetime.
Mike Moran's Saskatchewan buck was a dream come true for the hunter who'd spent 27 years looking for a deer of that quality. He finally got his wish one Thanksgiving day, an experience he won't forget.
Payton Mireles, age 10, of Indiana, with her first buck: a 154-inch bruiser.
Having two years of history with this particular buck, Rhett Butler was able to track where he had taken pictures of "Hercules." The deer seemed to be ranging over 1-1.5 square miles revolving around a 100-acre alfalfa field.
When the buck stepped out, Rhett put the crosshairs onto the buck's left shoulder and squeezed the trigger of his Winchester .270 bolt action. At the crack of the rifle the buck dropped in his tracks and never even kicked. The hunt for Hercules was over.
Killing the buck that had come to be known to the Taylors as 'Big Daddy ' was Robert's primary focus in the fall of 2012. He arranged his work schedule so he could be in a deer blind most mornings and afternoons during the waning weeks of the season.
After a sleepless night and an unsuccessful afternoon tracking a blood trail, Ryan Dietsch was sure he'd squandered the opportunity of a lifetime. He and friends went back to track the deer he thought he'd hit, but couldn't find so much as a drop of blood. His luck all changed, however, and the rest — along with his 219-inch trophy — is history.
Stanley Suda with his Southern Ohio buck, estimated between 235 and 240 inches.
"The shot was perfect," he said. "I watched my dream buck run across the field and pile-up about 20 yards inside the wood line. This was definitely my finest moment in the treestand. '