South Carolina DNR hears public input on proposed deer hunting regulations

South Carolina DNR hears public input on deer hunting regulations

(WFXG) - Possible big changes for thousands of deer hunters. On Tuesday, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources heard public input on the proposed deer hunting regulations.

Senate Bill 454 would restrict hunters to four antlered bucks per year in the state, quite a change from being able to hunt an unlimited amount of antlered deer.

"Our deer harvest is off about 35 percent since it peaked around the turn of the century," said Charles Ruth a wildlife biologist for the South Carolina DNR.

He's spent years studying the deer population and said these regulations are actually coming from the encouragement of most buck hunters.

"Everything we're looking at, as far as hunter attitudes is that 70 percent of hunters want to see the changes that are included in this bill," said Ruth.

Ruth's stop in North Augusta is one of seven across the state to gauge the public feedback on Senate Bill 454. But not everybody is in favor of the regulations, Robert Merting is a lifelong hunter and is doing all he can to stop this bill from passing.

"I've lived in South Carolina my entire life, grew up deer hunting," said Merting.

He passed out fliers with, a group looking to stop the bill. He says the statistic of a 35 percent decrease in deer population is misleading.

"Since 2003 those numbers have been flat, so that's decade old news, I'm not sure why anyone is up in arms about it today," said Merting.

Ruth and the DNR expect that not everyone will be on board, but are confident that this bill will pass with the majority of support from hunters.

"Like any issue you have people who don't want to see change, who don't like the government that don't want to manage the resource," said Ruth.

Merting will continue to fight to stop the bill from passing.

"What we have in South Carolina is unique, no other state has that as far as so loose of limits and we have a stable deer population, one of the highest deer populations harvest rates in the state I think that's worth protecting," said Merting.

The DNR will be making four more stops throughout South Carolina to gain public input before January's legislative session. They head to Pendelton, South Carolina next Tuesday.

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