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Waterfowl Hunting & Baiting

Hunting Regulations Icon South Carolina Hunting & Fishing

Waterfowl and other migratory birds are a national resource protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Federal regulations define key terms for hunters and land managers, and clarify conditions under which you may legally hunt waterfowl. As a waterfowl hunter or land manager, it is your responsibility to know and obey all Federal and State laws that govern the sport. Waterfowl baiting regulations apply to ducks, geese, swans, coots and cranes.

Can I manipulate crops in a field where waterfowl will be hunted?

NO. Federal regulations are more restrictive for waterfowl hunting than for hunting doves and other migratory game birds. While unharvested agricultural crops may be manipulated to attract doves for hunting, manipulation of an unharvested agricultural crop to attract waterfowl for hunting creates a baited area.

What about natural vegetation?

Natural vegetation is any non-agricultural, native, or naturalized plant species that grows at a site in response to planting or from existing seeds or other propagules.

Natural vegetation does not include planted millet (like browntop and Japanese millet) because of its use as both an agricultural crop and a species of natural vegetation for moist soil management. However, planted millet that grows on its own in subsequent years is considered natural vegetation. If you restore and manage wetlands as habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds, you can manipulate the natural vegetation in these areas and make them available for hunting. Mowing and burning of natural vegetation are common habitat management practices in South Carolina.

Natural vegetation does not include plants grown as agricultural crops. Under no circumstances can you hunt waterfowl over crops manipulated prior to a normal harvest. Nor can you hunt waterfowl over manipulated wildlife food plots or manipulated plantings for soil stabilization.

In South Carolina many hunters and landowners manage native vegetation and planted agricultural crops to attract waterfowl for hunting. The Federal law is different for the management of these two food sources and hunters should pay particular attention to the differences.

Shooting Hours

Shooting hours for waterfowl are 1/2 hour before sunrise until sunset except where noted during early seasons. Shooting hours are uniform statewide.

Legal Shot

The possession of lead shot is prohibited for all waterfowl hunting, statewide. Nontoxic shot (steel, bismuth or other Federally approved shot) is required for all waterfowl hunting.

Blind Regulations (SC Code of Laws 50-11-25)

It is unlawful to take migratory waterfowl from blinds or positions where the floor level of the blind or the position is:

  • more than ten feet above surface level in or around freshwater; or
  • more than five feet above the mean high water in or around saltwater.

A blind on public lands or waters must be constructed from biodegradable materials.

Once vacated, a blind on public lands or waters may be used by persons on a “first come, first served” basis.

Airboat Regulations (SC Code of Laws 50-21-860)

An “airboat” means a watercraft propelled by air pressure caused by a motor mounted on the watercraft aboveboard.

It is unlawful for a person to operate an airboat on the public waters of this State from the freshwater-saltwater dividing line, established by Section 50-17-30, seaward.

It is unlawful to operate an airboat on the waters of the Waccamaw, the Great Pee Dee, the Little Pee Dee, the Black and the Sampit Rivers in Georgetown and Horry Counties from one hour before legal sunset to one hour after legal sunrise and anytime during the season for hunting waterfowl.

It is unlawful to operate an airboat on the waters of that portion of Lake Marion and Santee Swamp west of the I-95 bridge upstream to the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers during the season for hunting waterfowl.

The provisions of 50-21-860 do not apply to the operation of airboats by law enforcement, emergency medical, civil defense, noxious weed control, military personnel, state and federally approved wildlife banding, surveying, biological research programs and private waters.

Federal Migratory Bird Hunting & Conservation Stamp

If you are 16 or older, you must carry on your person an unexpired Federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp. You must validate your duck stamp by signing it in ink across the face before hunting. You may also purchase a Federal Duck Stamp online as an Electronic Duck Stamp which is valid for 45 days from the date of purchase. Within that time, a physical Duck Stamp will be mailed to you. After 45 days, you must carry your current, signed Federal Duck Stamp while hunting. You must also have a valid South Carolina Migratory Waterfowl Permit or have proof of purchase before hunting.

Waterfowl Hunting on Certain Bodies of Water

Hunting Waterfowl Is Prohibited Within Certain Distances Of Residences On Portions Or All Of The Following Bodies Of Water:

  1. Bear Creek in Lancaster County (200 yards)
  2. Broadway Lake in Anderson County (200 yards)
  3. Gills Creek in Lancaster County (200 yards)
  4. Lake Greenwood (200 yards)
  5. Lake Keowee (200 yards)
  6. Lake Murray
    • Newberry & Saluda Counties (200 yards)
    • Lexington & Richland Counties (350 yards)
  7. Lake Wateree (200 yards)
  8. Lake Marion
    • Potato Creek (200 yards)
    • Wyboo Creek (200 yards)
    • Dean Swamp in Clarendon County and adjacent to Santee Cooper Resort in Orangeburg County. (200 yards)
    • Public waters in Calhoun County from the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers downstream to Poplar Creek. (200 yards)
    • The coves immediately to the East of St. Julien Subd. Extension and Cypress Shores Marina. (200 yards)
    • Taw Caw Creek in Clarendon County (No Hunting)
    • The cove immediately to the SE of the Indian Bluff Recreation site. (No Hunting)
  9. Lake Moultrie (200 yards)
  10. Lake Wylie (200 yards)
  11. Murrell’s Inlet Creek in Georgetown County (100 yards)

It is unlawful to hunt waterfowl on the lakes listed above within the distances provided unless a person has written permission from the owner and occupant of the dwelling. There are no exceptions to the distance restriction on Lake Keowee.