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Chasing Carolina Bruins



South Carolina isn’t really considered a “hot spot” when it comes to hunting black bears. But with the increased population, and seasons broadening out to different parts of the state, perhaps it’s time hunters started looking a bit closer to home to harvest a trophy black bear.

In South Carolina, we have three different black bear seasons. Located in Game Zone one, which comprises the upper portions of Greenville, Pickens, and Oconee counties there are two separate seven day seasons. The still hunting season opens October 17 and runs through the 23rd. During this season hunters may pursue black bears on private lands and WMA lands located within the boundaries of GZ 1. During the bear season(s) deer hunting on WMA lands is suspended. However archers may continue to hunt deer on WMA lands.

Bear hunting in the mountains of South Carolina is not like many places you have read about or seen on television. Bears cannot be baited or lured into a specific location. Finding them is the most difficult part of bear hunting. These Carolina bruins cover vast areas, and can be here today and fifteen miles away tomorrow. Scouting is paramount to having a successful season.

As with whitetail hunting, bears love acorns, finding the current mast crop will give you a much better chance of harvesting a bear. With the mountain ridges covered with mast producing trees, finding the current trees is critical. Because you can bet, the bears know where the acorns are. Hunters who can find the acorns increase their odds at finding bears.

Kip Adams, Biologist with the Quality Deer Management association, spent years as the deer and bear biologist in New Hampshire before coming to the QDMA. Adams says that one of the best signs for hunting bears is finding their scat. “Bear scat is a key ingredient to finding what bears are feeding on.” Adams continues by saying, “Their scat will contain exactly what they are feeding on. Find acorns in their scat then look for the tree that will be close by. If there are berries, or forage look for that nearby and you will find you food source.” He also points out that bears love corn, and if there are fields of sweet corn that were left by farmers, the bears will be devouring that corn as long as it lasts.

The second season for bears in GZ 1 consists of dog hunting for bears. While there are different opinions on the use of dogs for bear hunting, it is highly effective and every year dog hunters take a lot more bears than do still hunters. That being said, there are specific rules and regulations regarding dog hunters and the parties that hunt them. Refer to the Rules and Regulations booklet for more details.

Lastly there is a coastal bear season in South Carolina. This season is conducted via a lottery draw with 30 tags for Horry and Georgetown counties and ten tags for Williamsburg County. Participants in the lottery will be given preference points if they did not draw for this year’s hunt. And the winners are drawn for a specific county. So if your license is for Georgetown County, you can only hunt in that county. The coastal bear season is from October 24-November 5 this year.

Opportunities abound for hunters in the Palmetto State. From Whitetail deer, hogs, predators, small game and even black bears. Taking advantage of the opportunities will not only enhance your hunting but increase your opportunity to be afield.