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Opening Day


August 15 is a date etched in the calendars of hunters all across the south. It’s the traditional opening of deer season in South Carolina. Opening the season so early is nothing new to South Carolinians . It has been this way as long as anyone can remember. Even in the days when the population was below 20,000 state wide, the season opened in August. According to research, there is little evidence of when the actual opening date of August 15 actually began.

Regardless of when it began, it initiates the opening of the longest continually running deer season in the nation. Lasting until January 1, 2014, the season consists of four and a half months of pursuing whitetail deer in South Carolina. There is a lot of debate about the effects on the deer herd with the opening so early. One thing is clear; tradition speaks louder than science in this state.

The coastal plain of the state historically opens early, when the mercury is typically in the ninety degree range. Hunting deer during this time of the year is different than hunting them during other times of the season. Bucks are still in velvet and usually still in bachelor groups. Patterning these bucks is a lot easier during the summer months.

Many hunters focus on two sources for ambushing bucks, food and water. When the temperature is rising, deer have to drink. Hunting over water holes will put bucks in your sights. Secondly, there is the proliferation of agriculture crops. Specifically soy beans. In the low country soy beans dominate the landscape. And it is no secret that deer love soy beans. Hunting ‘bean fields’ is a common practice and very productive. Many will set stands hundreds of yards away from suspected or scouted trails and try and shoot bucks in the beans late in the evening. Bucks will begin moving into the beans the last hour of the day, and some earlier. But for most the last hour, also known as harvest hour, is when the action starts.

For my money, its just too hot to hunt afternoons. Many attempts have subjected me to horrendous heat in the evenings with the five o’clock temperature well above 90 degrees coupled with a humidity over 95% makes afternoon hunting difficult. I prefer to hunt the mornings. Typical nighttime temperatures in the seventies makes the first few hours of the day tolerable. Hunting until around 9:30-10:00 provides some pleasant hunting conditions. Typical set up will include stands along travel corridors between the bean fields and bedding areas. This is especially true for archers who have to be closer to their quarry. Setting a stand along these travel routes will put bucks in your sights.

If you are looking for a velvet buck, the early season in South Carolina is your best bet. The first two weeks give you the best opportunity to harvest a velvet buck. As the season progresses closer to September the velvet is shed, limiting your opportunities for a velvet buck.

Interestingly, the statistics show that while the season opens so early, relatively few bucks are harvested during this early season. Perhaps the greatest threat isn’t the early season it’s the liberal bag limits in the coastal plain. South Carolina deer hunters along the coastal plain can legally harvest as many bucks as they can. There is no daily or season limit for bucks in these game zones. Arguments and opinions vary widely on the reasoning and impact of this law.

However, according to the annual deer report published by the SC DNR, the majority of the deer are harvested during the last two weeks of October state wide. Traditionally this is when the peak breeding occurs therefore having more bucks roaming and looking for receptive does. So while the season has opened in parts of the state, the remainder of the state has to wait.

Below are the opening of the seasons by game zones:

GZ 1: Arhcery: October 1-10, Gun: October 11-Jan 1.

GZ 2: Archery: Sept 15, Gun: October 11

GZ 3: Archery and Gun, August 15

GZ 4: Archery: Sept. 1, Gun: Sept. 15

GZ 5: Archery: August 15. Gun Sept. 1

GZ 6: Archery and Gun August 15.

All seasons end on January 1,2014.

No doubt about it, deer season is here, the wait is over, the anticipation and preparation is ready to meet fruition. Enjoy the season, and please remember, be safe, careful, wear your safety harness, always point your muzzle in a safe direction. Let’s hunt and end the 2013 season with a lot of great memories.

While we all want to kill a big buck, remember we don’t hunt for trophies, we hunt for the memories we are making. When you can, take a child or spouse with you.