Enquirer Herald

Brad Harvey: Deadline for applying to hunt gators is upon us.

The opportunity to apply for one of the most popular additions to South Carolina’s hunting seasons is nearing and, if you have any interest, you had better move quickly.

Online applications for the 2014 Public Alligator Hunting Season will end June 15 and require nothing more than a $10 application fee to enter the drawing for the general tag and a $15 fee if you’ll be wanting a Wildlife Management Area gator tag.

A random computer drawing will be held, based on a preference point system, to determine which applicants receive the chance to buy the actual tag at a cost of $100 or $500 for instate hunters (depending upon type of permit) which would then be paid online as well.

The results of the drawing process will be revealed in mid-July and those unsuccessful in the lottery will receive a preference point, which will raise their odds of selection in future seasons.

Not sure which type of permit applies to you?

Hunters who take part in the public gator season are allowed to take alligators in public waters and on their own land or private land wherever they have permission, but not within the boundaries of our state’s Wildlife Management Areas, USFWS Wildlife Refuges or properties enrolled in the Private Lands Alligator Program.

The WMA permits are used on special draw hunts in which the bearer of the tag is allowed to take up to three people to help on the hunt on either Bear Island WMA or Santee Coastal WMA during one hunt period running from a Monday at noon until that Saturday at noon. There are four hunting periods offered.

The WMA gator tags are the more expensive of the two available and also the hardest to draw as only two tags are drawn for each of the four available hunting periods at each location. As expensive as $500 sounds, nonresidents pay an $800 fee.

For those taking part in the WMA hunts, it’s possible to purchase a tag to take a second gator, from 4 to 7 feet in length, for $75. The opportunity is available to anyone in that hunting party as long as the holder of the original tag is present.

This option must be taken and paid for at the same time that the first permit is obtained and the tag will only be honored during that same hunting period.

Since gator hunts are still fairly new in the Palmetto State, many don’t know much about it. General tags allow the taking of alligators at least 4 feet long and longer and the animal must be tagged immediately upon harvest with the tag provided by the state.

With the aid of a crew, gators must be secured using approved equipment and brought alongside the boat or onto land before being shot to lessen the likelihood of merely wounding various animals.

All participants in the hunt must hold a valid South Carolina hunting license as well.

The money collected from permits during the alligator season are used for the Alligator Management Program and conservation efforts for the American Alligator within South Carolina.

Time to renew hunting/fishing licenses

The Department of Natural Resources will begin selling 2014-15 hunting and fishing licenses on June 16, and they can be purchased in several ways.

Those looking to obtain one may walk into any of the four regional DNR office or one of the more than 500 license vendors and get it on the spot, purchase by phone 24 hours a day by calling 866-714-3611 or logging onto the DNR website at www.dnr.sc.gov.

By any method, you’ll need to have your driver’s license or state-issued identification handy, and the whole process can be sped up if you get your customer identification number off of your current license if you have one.

Anyone 16 years of age and older must be licensed to hunt and fish in S.C. and those born after June 30, 1979, must have completed the Hunter Education Course if they’re looking to get a hunting license.

If that applies to you, a one-time exemption is allowed by opting for the Apprentice Hunting License. But it needs to be understood that you’ll be required to always be in the company of a fully licensed hunter that is 21 or older, hasn’t been convicted of a wildlife violation and remains, according to state law, “within a distance that enables uninterrupted, unaided, visual and oral communication with the apprentice hunter and provides adequate direction to the apprentice.”

If you’d rather just look into getting your Hunter Education card now, visit and search the DNR website at www.dnr.sc.gov for information on times and locations.

Over the years, I’ve heard a number of hunters and fishermen question exactly where the fees for our state licenses go and what it’s used for.

All outdoorsmen should understand that both the money collected from license sales and the 10 percent federal excise tax collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment within the boundaries of South Carolina are used to fund the state’s wildlife and sport fish restoration projects, including all things related to wildlife and habitat management, research, education and boating access.

Without that money we wouldn’t have much to enjoy around here.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.