South Carolina Deer Hunting Laws & Regulations

Deer Hunting Regulations Overview

Deer Tagging Requirements

Under the current regulations, every deer harvested must be immediately tagged with an official deer tag as specified by the department. This tag should remain affixed to the animal until it is either quartered or handed over to a processing facility. For detailed processing guidelines, refer to the "Deer Rules & Regulations" section, particularly under statute 50-11-320.

Legal Hunting Times

The permissible hunting hours for deer are strictly set from one hour before the official sunrise to one hour after the official sunset, as stated in statute 50-11-710. Adherence to these time constraints is crucial for legal and ethical hunting practices.

Restrictions in Game Zones 1 and 2

In Game Zones 1 and 2, there is a specific prohibition against the use of dogs for pursuing deer, as per statute 50-11-310. This regulation aims to maintain the ecological balance and ensure fair chase ethics in these zones.

Water-Based Hunting Prohibitions

It's important to note the illegality of hunting, shooting, or killing deer from any water conveyance like motorboats, rafts, or similar vehicles, as outlined in statute 50-11-730. Additionally, it is prohibited to disturb or molest a deer if it is in water.

Transport Regulations

When transporting a deer from the kill site, it's illegal to have the animal with its head detached, as per statute 50-11-400. This rule assists in proper identification and age determination of the harvested deer.

Hunting Near Residences

A critical safety measure is the prohibition of hunting deer with a firearm within 300 yards of a residence if the hunter is less than ten feet above the ground, unless explicit permission is obtained from the property owner and occupant. This stipulation, however, does not apply to landowners hunting on their own property or to those hunting under a department permit.

Weapon Usage

During gun hunts, there is an allowance for the use of various types of weapons, including archery equipment, muzzleloaders, crossbows, and pneumatic weapons. This inclusion provides hunters with a range of options to suit their preferences and skills.

Antlered vs Antlerless Deer Definitions

Antlered Deer Classification

For regulatory purposes, an antlered deer is classified as any deer that has antlers extending at least 2 inches above the hairline. This definition is crucial for determining the legal status of a deer during hunting and for adhering to specific hunting seasons and regulations.

Antlerless Deer Description

Conversely, an antlerless deer is defined as a deer that either lacks antlers entirely or has antlers that are less than two inches above the hairline. It's important to note the specific legal constraints surrounding antlerless deer.

Regulations for Antlerless Deer

The hunting, possession, shooting, or killing of antlerless deer is tightly regulated. These actions are generally prohibited except during designated special seasons or under specific permits, as outlined in statute 50-11-410. Hunters must be aware of these restrictions to avoid legal infractions and to participate in ethical and sustainable hunting practices.

Optional Programs for Antlerless Deer Harvesting


The Individual Antlerless Deer Tag Program and the Deer Quota Program offer both resident and nonresident hunters additional opportunities for antlerless deer harvesting. These programs are designed to manage deer populations effectively and provide flexible options for hunters.

Individual Antlerless Deer Tag Program

Base Tags for SC Residents

  • Free Tags: South Carolina resident deer hunters are entitled to two (2) Individual Antlerless Tags at no cost, included in their base set of deer tags.

Purchase Options for All Hunters

  • Additional Tags: All hunters, both residents and nonresidents, have the option to purchase up to four additional Individual Antlerless Tags.
  • Pricing: These tags are priced at $5 each for residents and $10 each for nonresidents.

Usage Restrictions and Validity

  • Game Zone 1: A maximum of three Individual Antlerless Tags are valid in Game Zone 1, effective from October 1 on both private and WMA lands.
  • Game Zones 2, 3, and 4: Tags are valid from September 15 in these zones.
  • Limitations:
    • In Game Zone 2, a total of five tags can be used on private land and across all WMAs.
    • In Game Zones 3 and 4, all Individual Antlerless Tags are valid on private lands.
  • Non-Validity: These tags are not valid on properties enrolled in the Deer Quota Program for antlerless deer.
  • Other Conditions: Tags don't change daily or seasonal bag limits, nor do they alter the allowed types of weapons in any Game Zone. Tags must be used only by the individual named on the tag.

Bonus Tags

  • Eligibility: Hunters who purchase four Individual Tags receive two additional bonus tags.
  • Validity: Bonus tags are only valid on private land in Game Zone 3 & 4, specifically to aid in controlling deer damage to agriculture.

Tag Acquisition

Tags can be obtained through multiple channels:

  • SCDNR Offices: Available in Clemson, Charleston, Conway, West Columbia (Farmer’s Market), Florence, & York.
  • Online: Through the website.
  • Handwritten Application: Obtainable via Applications, by calling SCDNR at 803-734-3886, or at the SCDNR website here.

Deer Quota Program (DQP) Guidelines


The Deer Quota Program (DQP) is a specialized initiative aimed at landowners or lessees, particularly those with larger acreages. This program facilitates effective deer management on private lands by issuing specific deer quotas.

Eligibility and Application

  • Target Audience: Primarily suited for landowners or lessees with substantial land areas.
  • Application Requirement: Interested parties must complete and submit an application with a $50 fee before July 1st to qualify.
  • Criteria for Quota Allocation: The quota for antlerless deer tags is determined based on:
    • Local deer population density and condition.
    • Size of the land tract.
    • Presence and impact of agriculture or agricultural damage.
    • Deer management objectives of the owner.

Additional Option for Antlered Bucks

  • Buck Quota: Participants can also opt for a quota of antlered bucks, calculated based on the average number of acres per buck harvested in the county, as reported by DQP participants in recent years.

Usage Restrictions and Validity of DQP Antlerless Tags

  • Game Zone 1: Tags are valid from October 1.
  • Game Zones 2, 3, and 4: Tags are valid from September 15.
  • Specific Tract Usage: Tags issued are exclusive to the designated tract of land and must be used for all deer (antlerless and/or antlered) within the received quota.
  • Weapon Usage: The issuance of these tags does not impact the allowed types of weapons during special weapons seasons.
  • Limits: Unlike statewide or Game Zone limits, DQP properties have a limit based on the property itself, not on the individuals hunting. This means the daily and seasonal limits typical of other zones do not apply to properties under the DQP.

Reporting and Compliance

  • Harvest Reporting: A comprehensive harvest report is required to be completed by the applicant at the end of the hunting season.
  • Compliance: Adhering to these guidelines ensures that the DQP serves its purpose in managing deer populations efficiently and according to specific landowner objectives.

Deer Processing Regulations

Mandatory Identification of Deer Carcasses

In the state, it is a legal requirement for all deer carcasses stored in cold storage or refrigeration facilities to be properly labeled. Each carcass must bear the hunter's name, address, and hunting license number, as stipulated under the regulation 50-11-1700. This rule is essential for traceability and legal compliance. Exceptions to this rule include storage at a private residence and instances where the deer carcass still has the hunter's personal tag attached to its hamstring. The presence of this tag serves as adequate identification, as it already contains the hunter's details.

Responsibilities and Limitations of Processors

Deer processors play a crucial role in ensuring adherence to tagging and identification laws. They are prohibited from accepting any deer carcasses that are not tagged. However, it is important to note that processors are not held accountable for any missing or incomplete information on the deer tags, such as notches or markings. Once the processing of the deer begins, or the deer is quartered, processors are permitted to remove the deer tag.

Additionally, processors are encouraged to actively participate in the enforcement of these regulations by reporting any tagging violations to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Law Enforcement. This cooperative approach between processors and law enforcement helps maintain the integrity of hunting practices and ensures legal compliance.

Prohibition of Deer Meat Sale

A critical legal point for processors is the prohibition of selling deer meat to recover processing fees for unclaimed deer, as outlined in regulation 50-11-1910. This law underscores the non-commercial nature of deer hunting and processing. Processors are advised to adopt best practices such as requesting a deposit for processing services when the deer is initially dropped off. This approach mitigates the financial risks associated with unclaimed deer meat. In cases where the deer meat is not picked up by the owner, the processor has the option to give the meat to another individual free of charge, thereby ensuring the meat does not go to waste while complying with the law.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Importation Guidelines

Understanding CWD and Its Impact

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a serious and fatal neurological condition affecting cervids, notably deer, posing a substantial threat to deer populations across North America. Recognizing the severity of CWD, special regulations have been established to prevent its spread into South Carolina.

Importation Regulations for Cervid Carcasses

The state enforces strict importation rules to curb the spread of CWD. It is illegal for any individual to import or possess a whole cervid carcass or parts thereof from states identified as CWD-infected, with the following exceptions:

  1. Permitted Parts for Importation:
    • Quarters or other meat portions devoid of any spinal column or head attachment.
    • Meat that has been completely boned out.
    • Hides with no heads attached.
    • Clean skulls or skull plates with antlers, free of meat or tissue.
    • Detached antlers.
    • Clean upper canine teeth, also known as “buglers,” “whistlers,” or “ivories.”
    • Finished taxidermy heads.

These specific parts are allowed as they present a lower risk of transmitting CWD.

Responsibility of Hunters

Hunters planning to travel should proactively check with the wildlife agency in their destination state to ascertain its CWD status. This includes understanding the restrictions that the state may impose on carcass movement. With CWD diagnosed in 30 states and 4 Canadian provinces, awareness and compliance with varying regulations are critical.

Accessing Up-to-Date Information

For current and comprehensive information on states and provinces affected by CWD, and to understand the intricacies of Reg. 123-54, individuals are encouraged to visit the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website. This resource provides updated lists and detailed guidelines, essential for hunters and individuals involved in the importation of cervid carcasses.

The Risk Posed by Commercial Deer Urine Products

Commercially available natural deer urine products, commonly used by hunters for attracting or scouting wild animals, pose a significant risk due to their potential connection with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). These products are often derived from deer in various states, many of which have reported cases of CWD. The concern lies in the fact that the CWD agent can be present in deer urine, and its use could inadvertently lead to environmental contamination.

Strict Prohibition in South Carolina

Under Regulation 123-54, South Carolina has implemented stringent measures to mitigate this risk. The regulation explicitly prohibits the possession or use of any substances or materials containing, or claimed to contain, excretions from cervids (deer family). This includes not just urine, but also feces, blood, gland oil, and other bodily fluids. The primary goal of this ban is to prevent the potential spread of CWD through these materials, thus protecting the state's wildlife and ecosystem.

South Carolina Deer Hunting Laws & Regulations

Permissible Alternatives

While the regulation is comprehensive in its prohibition of natural cervid excretions, it does make exceptions for certain types of products:

  1. Synthetic Products: The use of synthetic alternatives, which do not contain any actual deer excretions, is allowed. These products are considered safe as they do not carry the risk of CWD transmission.

  2. Self-Collected Substances: Hunters are permitted to use substances they have personally collected from legally harvested deer within South Carolina. This allowance recognizes that such locally sourced materials are less likely to be contaminated with CWD, given the controlled and monitored hunting practices in the state.

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.