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General Laws & Regulations

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Summary of Changes in Hunting Regulations

Hunters should be aware that significant changes have been made to hunting seasons and bag limits on WMAs across the state. Changes have also been made to either-sex days and antlerless deer limits on private lands. A brief summary of major changes is included below. For a complete list of private land deer seasons and bag limits, please see here. Small game seasons are listed here. Regulations for individual WMAs may vary, and can be found here.

WMA Changes

Deer bag limits on all WMAs combined statewide were standardized as follows (except Crackerneck WMA and all DNR lottery hunts):

  • Five total deer for all seasons and methods combined. No more than 2 bucks total, no more than 2 deer per day, and no more than 1 antlerless deer per day may be harvested.

Deer seasons on WMAs have been standardized throughout the state (especially by Game Zone). Refer to the specific Game Zone and the specific WMA seasons beginning here.

Many small game seasons and bag limits on WMAs have been standardized throughout the state. A chart referencing many of these changes can be found here. Refer to individual WMAs for exact hunt dates and bag limits.

Many feral hog hunts on WMAs have been standardized and strategically placed to maximize the harvest and can be found here. Feral hog hunting regulations on WMAs have been consolidated into Regulation 2.16 here.

On WMAs in Game Zones 3–6, the use of buckshot during still gun hunts for deer is prohibited.

Private Land & WMA Changes

Deer either-sex days for Game Zones are as follows:

  • Game Zone 1 — last 3 Saturdays in November
  • Game Zones 2–6 — first 3 Saturdays in October, last 3 Saturdays in November, last Saturday in December, and January 1.

On WMA and private lands statewide, the daily antlerless bag limit is 1 antlerless deer per day when using either individual antlerless deer tags or on designated either-sex days.

The daily bag limit for deer on the Statewide youth deer hunt day (both private and WMA) is 2 deer total with only 1 being an antlerless deer.

On WMA and private lands, hunters using archery equipment may harvest antlerless deer without tagging them during all archery only deer hunts and primitive weapons deer hunts beginning September 15.

Individual antlerless deer tags are valid in all Game Zones on both private and WMA lands as referenced below:

  • Game Zone 1 — One individual antlerless deer tag may be used on either private or WMA lands.
  • Game Zones 2–6 — Up to two individual antlerless deer tags may be used on WMA lands and up to 4 may be used on private land.

General Information on Hunting

Hunting is defined as trying to find, seek, obtain, pursue, or diligently search for game.

Regulations in this section apply to both private and public lands statewide, unless otherwise specified.

Licenses and Permits

Licenses and permits are required for hunting in South Carolina. Detailed information on types of licenses and permits is located here. All residents and nonresidents born after June 30, 1979 must successfully complete a hunter education course that is approved by the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) before a hunting license can be obtained. For exceptions, see here.

Game Zones & WMAs

South Carolina is divided into six game zones, as defined on the maps here.

The SCDNR sets and regulates the methods of harvest, bag limits and other requirements for hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) statewide.

The SC General Assembly establishes seasons, limits and methods for private land statewide. The SCDNR is responsible for law enforcement statewide.

Protected Game

The following species may be hunted ONLY during legally established seasons: bear, beaver, bobcat, deer, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, rabbit, raccoon, skunk, squirrel, weasel, waterfowl (goose, brant and duck), bobwhite quail, mourning dove, rails (marsh hen), coot, gallinule, ruffed grouse, crow, wild turkey, common snipe and woodcock.

Protected Nongame

The following species are protected and may not be hunted, molested, caught, transported, sold or possessed in any manner: birds of prey (eagles, hawks, osprey, owls, kites and vultures) and nongame birds (except English sparrows, pigeons, Eurasian collared doves and starlings). Falconers must possess a SCDNR permit.

Importation & Possession

It is unlawful to import, possess or transport for the purpose of release, or to introduce or bring into this state any live wildlife of the following types without a permit from the SCDNR: a member of the family Cervidae (deer, moose, elk, etc.), bear, turkey, furbearers (fox, raccoon, opossum, muskrat, mink, skunk, coyote, otter, bobcat, weasel and beaver), a nondomestic member of the families Suidae or Tayassuidae (pigs), or Bovidae (bison, antelope, mountain goat, mountain sheep) (50-16-20). The importation or possession of live alligators is illegal without a permit from the Department (50-15-50).

The importation or sale of live wolves is prohibited in South Carolina, except for exhibition or scientific purposes upon the approval of the SCDNR as provided by regulations (50-11-1765). It is unlawful to import coyotes. The possession and sale of live foxes and coyotes is restricted by law (50-11-2630). A person may not have a live wolf in his possession without a SCDNR permit. Federal law prohibits importing, exporting, selling, buying, receiving or acquiring big cats across state lines. For information and exceptions, contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region, 1875 Century Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30345. Prohibition of Sale, Purchase, Donation, or Transfer of Ownership Wildlife as Pets – The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Rabies Control Act (47-5-50) prohibits the sale, purchase, donation, or transfer of ownership of nondomesticated carnivores (raccoons, foxes, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, wolves, wolf dogs, weasels, civet cats, spotted skunks, and lynx or the offspring born to any combinations of crossbreeding (hybrids) between these wild animals and domestic dogs or cats) to private individuals in this State. It is illegal to import native furbearing species into the state for any purpose except with a permit issued by the SCDNR. Requests for importing furbearing animals for private possession violate the spirit of the Rabies Control Act and will be denied.

Note: The SCDNR does not advocate or encourage keeping wildlife in captivity.

Equipment & Methods

Archery

Archery means a longbow, recurve bow, compound bow or crossbow (50-11-565). There are no restrictions on draw weight/length, arrow weight/length, or broad head weight, width, or style.

Crossbows

Crossbows may be used on private lands and WMA lands statewide during all archery, muzzleloader or gun seasons for deer, bear and turkey.

Primitive Weapons

For special primitive weapons seasons, primitive weapons include bow and arrow, crossbows and muzzleloading shotguns of twenty gauge or larger, and rifles of .36 caliber or larger with open or peep sights or scopes, which use black powder or a black powder substitute that does not contain nitrocellulose or nitro-glycerin components as the propellant charge. There are no restrictions on ignition systems including flintstone, percussion cap, shotgun primer, disk, or electronic. During primitive weapons season, no revolving rifles are permitted (50-11-310). Falconry Allowed.

Transporting Firearms

There are no SCDNR restrictions on transporting firearms by licensed hunters and fishermen in a vehicle to and from the place of hunting and fishing except on WMA lands. For regulations on WMA lands see Weapons 3.4 here.

Calls, Recorded or Electronically Amplified

It is illegal to hunt, catch, take, kill or attempt to hunt, catch, take or kill any game bird or game animal with the aid of recorded calls or sounds or recorded or electronically amplified imitations of calls or sounds (50-11-40). Crows, coyotes or hogs are not game birds/animals and therefore can be hunted using electronic calls on private lands and WMA lands.

Trapping

Trapping regulations are available in a separate publication or online at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/regs/furharvest.html.

Commercial Fur Harvest

Regulations are available in a separate publication or online at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/regs/furharvest.html.

Youth Hunting Days

Youth Hunting Days are scheduled for many species of game and allow youth 17 years of age and younger to hunt as long as they are accompanied by a licensed adult 21 years or older. Only the youth may take or attempt to take game and license requirements are waived for the youth hunter (50-9-740). See youth hunt day list.

Free Hunting Days December 26 & 27

Free hunting days allow all South Carolina residents to hunt without a state hunting license or other required permits, to include Wildlife Management Area (WMA) permit, or Migratory Waterfowl Permit (formerly State Duck Stamp). It is important to note that Free Hunting Days are offered by the State of South Carolina and do not waive any Federal requirements for a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting & Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) to hunt migratory waterfowl.

Free hunting days are available only to SC residents and apply to all lands in which hunting is allowed, to include private lands and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) throughout the state that are not otherwise closed to hunting. The list of open WMAs can be found by visiting the Public Lands tab of the DNR website at https://www.dnr.sc.gov/mlands/lookup/. Please note that all existing seasons, bag limits and methods of take still apply.

Prohibited Acts

Shining

In all game zones, the use of artificial lights for the purpose of observing or harassing wildlife is unlawful, except that a property owner, lessee, or person with written permission from the property owner may use artificial lights to observe wildlife prior to 11:00 PM. This section does not prohibit an owner of real property from using artificial lights for the purpose of protecting the property. This section does not prohibit the use of remote trail monitors or cameras from fixed locations on a property, nor does it prohibit a person or group, with written permission of the landowner or leaseholder of the property, from observing wildlife with the use of artificial lights who is engaged in research or documentary filming (50-11-708). This section does not prohibit a person from lawfully hunting coyotes, armadillos, and hogs at night as provided for by law (See Migratory Birds-Coyotes and Armadillos).

Sunday Hunting

Hunting is prohibited on Sundays on all WMA lands. On private lands statewide, Sunday hunting for all game is legal.

Selling Game Animals

It is unlawful to sell, except by special permit, any protected wildlife (50-1-290). Furbearing animals may be sold with a valid com­mercial fur harvest license. Contact the SCDNR for a copy of the commercial fur harvest regulations.

Trespass

It shall be unlawful to enter upon the lands of another for the purpose of hunting, fishing, trapping or retrieval of dogs without the consent of the landowner or manager.

Hunting from Public Roads

It is unlawful to hunt from a public road unless the hunter has permission to hunt the adjacent property. Hunting as used in this section includes possessing, carrying or having readily accessible a loaded centerfire rifle, or a shotgun loaded with shot size larger than number four. Loaded means a weapon within which any ammunition is contained. This does not include weapons contained in a closed compartment, closed vehicle trunk, or a vehicle traveling on a public road. A person convicted of unlawful road hunting forfeits hunting privileges for one year. See WMA Regulations for restrictions on WMA lands.

Negligent Hunting

It is unlawful to use a firearm or archery tackle in a criminally negligent manner while in preparation for, engaged in the act of, or returning from hunting. Criminal negligence is defined as the reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Night

Night is defined as that period of time between one hour after official sunset of a day and one hour before official sunrise of the following day (50-11-710).

Night Hunting

Night hunting is unlawful except that raccoons, opossums, foxes, mink, skunk, coyotes, armadillos and hogs may be hunted at night. Information related to hunting coyotes, armadillos and feral hogs during night is provided here under specific headings for these animals.

Raccoons, opossums, foxes, mink, and skunk may not be hunted with artificial lights except when treed or cornered with dogs. Devices that amplify light using some type of power source (including night vision and infrared devices) are considered artificial light. No buckshot or any shot larger than a No. 4, or any ammunition larger than .22 rimfire may be used. It is unlawful to use artificial lights at night, except vehicle headlights while traveling in a normal manner on a public road or highway, while in possession of or with immediate access to, both ammunition of a type prohibited for use at night and a firearm capable of firing the ammunition (50-11-710).Rabbit hunting at night without weapons is lawful on private land.

Why Fewer Either-Sex Days?

In response to an ever increasing deer population in the 1980s and 1990s, SCDNR increased opportunities for hunters to take antlerless deer by increasing either-sex days and the availability of antlerless deer tags.

Over the last 10-12 years deer numbers and harvest trends have declined in many areas of the state. In addition to extremely liberal antlerless deer harvests, other factors like habitat changes related to forest management have played a role in the reduction in deer numbers. Also, coyotes are a recent addition to the landscape and are another part of the equation.

While coyotes do kill deer, hunters continue to be far and away the No. 1 source of deer mortality and the only source that hunting regulations can affect. Just as antlerless harvest opportunities were increased to address increasing deer numbers in the past, SCDNR believes that adjusting antlerless harvest opportunities at the present time is important.

Keep in mind that although some hunters are concerned with significant declines in deer, there are still areas in the state that receive high levels of agricultural damage from deer. Regardless of whether there are too few or too many deer locally, hunters continue to have flexibility to adjust antlerless harvest rates to meet their goals by using either-sex days and antlerless deer tagging programs offered by SCDNR. Ultimately, SCDNR relies on hunters to make good decisions related to deer harvest management at the local level.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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