Two new Boone and Crockett records were added to the state^s Antler Records List during the most recent round of white-tailed deer antler scoring conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. The number one deer documented for 2000 was not harvested, but rather a hunter found the antlers.
Each spring S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Management personnel make a concerted effort to score deer racks throughout the state, with a major scoring session during the Palmetto Sportsmen^s Classic in Columbia. Of the 396 sets of antlers scored at the 17 scheduled sessions this spring, 149 met the minimum score for entry on the state records list. The 149 racks included 140 sets of typical and nine non-typical racks. Of the racks judged, 129 were taken in 1999 or 2000. Racks must score a minimum of 125 points typical or 145 points non-typical to qualify for the South Carolina state records list. Records are based on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system that measures the mass and symmetry of deer antlers in two categories - typical and non-typical.
"It^s pretty remarkable to add two potential Boone and Crockett records to our state Antler Records List in one year," said Charles Ruth, DNR Deer Project leader. Both sets of antlers will qualify for recognition under the Boone and Crockett Three Year Awards Period that has minimum scores of 160 points for typical antlers and 185 points for non-typical antlers. Although these deer can be considered "Boone and Crockett" deer, neither rack meets the minimum score for the Boone and Crockett "All-Time Records List" which has minimum scores of 170 and 195 points for typical and non-typical antlers, respectively.
"South Carolina^s deer herd is in good condition," Ruth said, "and it appears that after many years of rapid population growth the herd has stabilized the last few years. Statewide population estimates put the deer herd at about one million animals, and the estimated harvest has been about 300,000 deer each of the last four years."
The number one typical deer documented in 2001 was not taken by a hunter, but rather, a hunter found the antlers. The antlers scored 161 2/8 points and were "picked up" by John Moore while hunting in Orangeburg County last season. Even though the deer was not taken by a hunter, the antlers still can be scored and entered into both the state and Boone and Crockett records since both of these programs were established to recognize outstanding deer as much as to recognize the hunter.
"In monitoring the state^s records list over the years," Ruth said, "I have always been amazed at the number of high scoring antlers that have been ^found^ rather than hunter harvested. In fact, about 20 percent of the antlers that have scored above 150 points in the typical category have been found not harvested. This point should emphasize the elusive nature of mature bucks, and hunters should recognize that having this class of deer is one thing, but harvesting them is an all-together different proposition. Many of the best bucks simply fall through the cracks."
The number one non-typical deer documented in 2000 was taken by Jason Doremus in Orangeburg County last October. The exceptional buck scored 180 4/8 points and will place it in a tie for fifth on the states^ All-Time Records List for Non-typical Deer. Notably, this deer scores 160 2/8 points in the typical category, which makes it eligible for entry into the Boone and Crockett Awards Period List as well.
For the fifth year in a row, Orangeburg County produced the most state records with 17 new entries.
Other top counties included Aiken with 11 entries; Colleton with nine; Anderson with seven; Hampton, Jasper, and Kershaw with six entries each; and Dorchester, Fairfield, Lancaster, and Pickens with five entries each. All of these same counties have been producing state records the last few years.
"What is encouraging for hunters is the number of counties producing a respectable number of state records, which shows the wide distribution of large-antlered bucks in the state," Ruth said.
Although some of the top counties have high deer populations, some of these counties have more moderate numbers. Ruth said it is important that hunters and land managers understand how the number or density of deer in an area affects the quality of the animals. Areas with fewer deer typically have better quality animals because natural food availability and nutritional quality is higher. Good nutrition is important in producing good antlers, but deer reproduction, recruitment and survival are also directly tied to nutrition.
If hunters want to continue to have good numbers of large-antlered bucks, the harvest of female deer must continue to be emphasized in order to keep deer numbers from becoming too high, according to Ruth. "Most hunters in the past few years have realized the importance of harvesting doe deer," he said. "These hunters should be commended and encouraged to continue this trend."
Orangeburg County is the all-time leader at the county level with 273 sets of antlers on the lists. Aiken and Fairfield counties each have 208, and rounding out the top five counties are Colleton with 179, Abbeville with 155, and Allendale with 153.
Other notable points that can be taken from the results of this years^ scoring activities include the fact that new records were established for six counties including new records in Cherokee County for non-typical, Dorchester County for non-typical, Orangeburg County for non-typical, Dillon County for typical, Jasper County for typical, and Orangeburg County for typical. Also interesting is the fact that nine non-typical sets of antlers qualified for the states^ records list in 2001, noteworthy since only 135 non-typical racks have ever made the minimum criteria to be entered onto the list. By all accounts, nine non-typical racks in one year is the most documented in a single score year. Finally, nine typical sets of antlers scored 150 or more points, which appears to be the most 150-class bucks documented in a single score year.
Production of record racks has been exceptional in South Carolina since the late 1980^s. Currently 21 sets of typical antlers scoring 160 points or more are listed on the state records list, and although these records contain entries that date to the early 1900^s, 13 of the 21 were taken since 1987. All of these antlers will qualify for recognition by the Boone and Crockett Club.
"South Carolina hunters should recognize that although a great achievement, harvesting potential Boone and Crockett bucks is not a common occurrence anywhere in the country," Ruth said. "This is particularly evident if you consider that there are only about 3,000 white-tailed deer records listed by Boone and Crockett, which includes all historical entries. Similarly, the harvest of deer in the United States in recent years has been about five million per year. Essentially, the average hunter stands a better chance of being struck by lightning than harvesting one of these record deer no matter where they hunt."
Currently 3,841 sets of antlers (3,706 typical and 135 non-typical) are included on the South Carolina antler records list.