Deer Harvest Declined in 2015 In Part Due to October Flood

Jun 23, 2016

A white-tailed stag; the white-tailed deer is the only type of deer present in South Carolina.
Credit Henry Mulligan

In 2015, hunters killed 7,922 deer less than the year before.  The deer season fell short for several reasons -- from August to December, South Carolina saw flooding, unseasonably warm temperatures, season closings, and inaccessible roads. Cooper McKim speaks with experts to learn what made 2015's deer season so unique.

Percent of deer harvested by month of season in South Carolina in 2016.
Credit Charles Ruth

"They were found floating, dead, they had no high land to get to," says Bobby McDonald, a Deer Processor in Calhoun County, "in the Congaree National Park, many people have told me they saw 5, 10, 15, 20 dead deer." McDonald explains the flood had a significant impact on the amount of deer hunted and killed this year.

It also prevented hundreds of people from accessing their typical hunting grounds. "That just didn't simply go away with the flood," says Charles Ruth, the Deer Coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), "these waters were still standing." Plus warmer fall weather stopped deer from wandering in the daytime.  

Estimated Deer Harvest in South Carolina 1972-2015.
Credit Charles Ruth

Overall, there was a 4% decrease in the amount of deer harvested from the year before.

Overall, McDonald summarizes the bizarre situation like this: "The flooded areas made it harder for hunters to get to, it was so warm that hunters did not want to battle the mosquitoes, and number three the deer didn't even want to move themselves."

Ruth says coyotes are another pressing issue for the declining deer harvest. While coyotes are not native to South Carolina, they're well-established and a major predator to fawns. Charles Ruth talks more about the threat of coyotes in the short clip below. 

White tailed buck.
Credit USDA Photo - Scott Bauer

Both McDonald and Ruth expect a better deer season next year.  Ruth explains it's, "simply based on the fact that the harvest was down this year, and I think there were a lot of deer that would've been harvested under better hunting conditions. I'm not a rocket scientist so it doesn't take a lot to go there, they didn't get it this year, so they'll be around next year." McDonald says he's looking forward to that.

South Carolina -- A Capital of Hunting

Bobby McDonald grew up in Miami, Florida close to the ocean.  He went on to do missionary work, spending years outside the US in Russia, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. When he returned, he craved the woods, saying, "I just always had a passion for the forest and for game, wild animals, observing them, watching them." McDonald remembers South Carolina was a great place for hunters, so he ended up moving here.

Bobby McDonald standing with a deer he hunted.
Credit Robert McDonald

"Hunting is just a natural thing that everybody does out here. Some do it for trophy hunting, some for getting away from the office and sitting in the woods. I do it for that reason too, just getting out into the woods, and observe what's going on," says McDonald.  It also helps that South Carolina is a hub of agriculture, he says, where game can thrive naturally.

South Carolina also has some of the least restrictive hunting regulations in the United States. McDonald says there are, "almost no limits on the amount of deer we shoot in South Carolina. We have a very liberal game laws and how many deer you can take. You can legally take 20 to 40 deer a year per person."

McDonald hunts because he, "enjoy[s] going into the woods every day to get away from the business, to be alone, observe gods creations, read the bible, and enjoy myself for one hour a day, getting away from everybody and just being in the woods all alone."

Additional Links