Enquirer Herald

Brad Harvey: Could new deer regulations finally happen?

After years of wishing and hoping, ethical sportsmen across the Palmetto State are finally getting to see legislators pay attention to things that will go a long way toward improving South Carolina’s deer herd.

Thanks to state Sens. Chip Campsen III, R-Charleston, and Ross Turner, R-Greenville, co-sponsors of Bill S 454, an overhaul to the way deer hunters harvest animals appears to be on the fast track.

Campsen, chairman of the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee, saw the legislation pass his subcommittee with a unanimous vote last week, and was slated to take it before his committee this week.

If the proposal becomes state law, the changes would be dramatic.

For the first time, a statewide limit would be placed on the number of bucks each hunter could harvest during the fall, and would include the use of deer tags for both bucks and does.

Historically, South Carolina has only required tags within an optional program in which hunters could purchase tags that allowed doe harvest on any day of the season, not just on traditional doe days in the annual season calendar.

Also to be affected would be the Antlerless Deer Quota program. Currently, landowners can opt in to this doe management plan, in which biologists determine how many does can be harvested from a single piece of property and issue the appropriate number of tags to be used on that piece of land.

Replacing it would be a new Deer Quota program that would include harvesting bucks.

New limits throughout the state would allow for a maximum of four bucks and four does per hunter each year, with an added expense of $15 for residents and $30 for nonresidents for the purchase of the tags. This cost, of course, would be in addition to the required state hunting license and Big Game Permit.

The tagging system, used by most every state that has a huntable population of deer, is an attempt to regain some control over the taking of deer.

The reality is that no true form of oversight has existed because the state did away with the old check stations that many of us grew up with, and this method has been backed by the majority of hunters across the state.

I’ll be keeping a close watch on the developments and will provide all of the pertinent information from Columbia.

In the meantime, let your local legislators know how vital the passage of this bill is to one of our most valuable natural resources.

While we’re talking deer

Some of the most beneficial management practices you can implement on your deer hunting property should be done in the early part of the year.

This is the perfect time to plant a few trees.

If you’re up to the task, and willing to spend a little time out in the cold, there are hybrid deer pears that are extremely easy to plant and considered by many biologists to be the best choice of fruit plantings for wildlife.

For around $300, private land owners and hunt clubs can purchase enough of these trees to create a small orchard that, once bearing, will drop fruit in August and continue through December.

Not only are these plantings great additions to the food plots that most hunters plant each fall, but they provide substantial carbohydrates that can help wildlife be better prepared to face winter.

Oak trees are another great idea. Our most common oaks, such as the white and red, are too slow growing to provide any real help within a reasonable time frame, so it makes sense to try planting the sawtooth oak instead.

Sawtooths, which can grow as much as 50 feet tall and 60 feet wide, are extremely fast-growing hardwoods that bear an abundance of acorns in as little as three years. These acorns are a favorite of wildlife and are even said to be preferred over those of the white oak. They’re sort of like candy to both deer and turkey.

Planting pears, oaks or both can also take care of two problems at the same time. They are as much an attractant as any food plot that you’d ever plant while also providing a nutritional addition to your property that won’t need replanting every year.

Once your trees are in the ground, you can rest assured that the effort you’ve put forth will pay great dividends down the road and each year that follows will find you smiling as you witness critter after critter come in for a bite.

If you’d like a bit more information on planting a few of your own, jump on the Internet and check out the website for Mossy Oak’s Nativ Nurseries at www.nativnurseries.com. They can not only supply you with the trees but also the knowledge needed to do the job right.

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