South Carolina General Hunting Laws & Regulations

Understanding South Carolina's Hunting Regulations

Definition and Application

The term "Hunting" in South Carolina encompasses activities aimed at locating, pursuing, or attempting to capture wildlife with the intention to take. This includes activities like searching, stalking, or lying in wait for wildlife. The regulations outlined here are applicable across both private and public lands in South Carolina unless specified otherwise.

Licensing and Permit Requirements

In South Carolina, individuals wishing to engage in hunting activities must obtain appropriate licenses and permits. The state mandates that all residents and nonresidents born after June 30, 1979, complete a hunter education course approved by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to qualify for a hunting license. The detailed breakdown of license types and permits can be found under the section "Licenses Recreational Hunting & Fishing" on the SCDNR website. Exceptions to these requirements are also listed in the same section.

Game Zones and Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)

The state is partitioned into four distinct game zones, detailed in the "Deer Seasons on Private Lands" section with accompanying maps. SCDNR regulates hunting methods, bag limits, and other specific hunting requirements within Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) throughout South Carolina. Additionally, the South Carolina General Assembly is responsible for establishing hunting seasons, limits, and methods on private lands, while SCDNR oversees law enforcement related to these activities across the state.

Protected Game Species

Certain species in South Carolina are designated as protected game and can only be hunted during legally established seasons. This list includes animals like bear, deer, fox, and waterfowl, among others. Specific season dates and regulations for these species are detailed in SCDNR publications and website.

Protected Nongame Species

There are also specific species that are protected and cannot be hunted, captured, or possessed without a special permit. This category includes birds of prey, non-game birds (with certain exceptions), and any species listed under the state's non-game and endangered species regulation (R 123-150). Special permits are required for falconers who wish to use birds of prey.

Importation and Possession Laws

Strict regulations govern the importation, possession, and transportation of certain wildlife species in South Carolina. For instance, importing or possessing members of the Cervidae family (like deer and elk), bears, turkeys, and certain other animals without an SCDNR permit is illegal. The importation or possession of live alligators, wolves, and other specific animals is also heavily regulated, with some activities being outright prohibited. The Department of Health and Environmental Control's (DHEC) Rabies Control Act additionally prohibits private individuals from owning certain non-domesticated carnivores.

Hunting Equipment and Methods


Archery Equipment: Includes longbows, recurve bows, compound bows, and crossbows as defined in regulation 50-11-565. No limitations exist on the draw weight or length, arrow weight or length, and broadhead weight, width, or style.


Usage on Lands: Crossbows are legal for use on private and Wildlife Management Area (WMA) lands throughout South Carolina. They are permitted during archery, muzzleloader, or gun seasons for hunting deer, bear, and turkey.

Primitive Weapons

Definition and Regulations: Defined for special primitive weapons seasons, these include bow and arrow, crossbows, and muzzleloading shotguns (twenty gauge or larger), and rifles (.36 caliber or larger). They must have open or peep sights or scopes and use black powder or a black powder substitute that lacks nitrocellulose or nitroglycerin. All ignition systems are allowed, including flintstone, percussion cap, shotgun primer, disk, or electronic. However, revolving rifles are prohibited during this season as per regulation 50-11-310. Falconry is also permitted.

Pneumatic Weapons

Usage and Regulations: Pneumatic weapons, including those shooting arrows, are allowed on private and WMA lands during firearm seasons. Specific restrictions for these weapons on WMAs are outlined in WMA Regulations 3.1 and 3.3.

Transporting Firearms

SCDNR Regulations: No specific South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) restrictions exist for transporting firearms by licensed hunters and fishermen to and from hunting and fishing locations, except on WMA lands. For WMA lands, refer to Weapons 3.4 in the WMA Regulations.

Calls, Recorded or Electronically Amplified

Legal Status: The use of recorded or electronically amplified calls or sounds to hunt, catch, take, or kill any game bird or animal is illegal (50-11-40), except for crows, coyotes, or hogs. These species can be hunted using electronic calls on private and WMA lands.

Youth Hunting Days

Special Days for Young Hunters: Youth Hunting Days are designated for hunters aged 17 or younger. Those who haven't completed the hunter education program must be accompanied by an adult aged 21 or over. During these days, only the youth may hunt, and license and tag requirements are waived for them outside the normal hunting season.

Free Hunting Days

Dates and Eligibility: Scheduled for January 13 & 14 on Private Lands and January 13 on WMA lands, these days are exclusive to South Carolina residents without a current state hunting license. Eligible individuals can hunt without a state hunting license or other permits, including WMA permits or Migratory Waterfowl Permits, on lands open to hunting. However, WMA regulations and specific closures apply. All standard seasons, bag limits, and hunting methods remain in effect. Note that these Free Hunting Days are a state initiative and do not exempt hunters from federal requirements.

Prohibited Acts in South Carolina Hunting

Shining Regulations

Restrictions on Artificial Light Use: Using artificial lights to observe or harass wildlife is generally prohibited across all game zones. However, exceptions include:

  • Property Owners and Lessees: They can use artificial lights for wildlife observation until 11:00 PM with written permission.
  • Property Protection: Using artificial lights for property defense is allowed.
  • Remote Trail Monitors and Cameras: Permissible on fixed locations on property.
  • Research and Documentary Filming: Allowed with written landowner or leaseholder permission.
  • Night Hunting Specific Species: Lawful hunting of coyotes, armadillos, and hogs at night is allowed as per specific regulations (Refer to Feral Hog, Coyote & Armadillo Regulations).

Sunday Hunting

  • WMA Lands: Hunting on Sundays is generally prohibited unless specified otherwise.
  • Private Lands: Sunday hunting for all game is legal statewide.

Selling Game Animals

  • Regulation on Sale: Selling protected wildlife is illegal without a special permit. However, furbearing animals can be sold with a valid commercial fur harvest license. Additional details can be found under Trapping & Commercial Fur Harvesting regulations.

Trespassing Laws

  • Consent Requirement: It's unlawful to enter another's land for hunting, fishing, trapping, or dog retrieval without the landowner or manager's consent.

Hunting from Public Roads

  • Permission Requirement: Hunting from a public road is illegal without adjacent property hunting permission.
  • Definition of Loaded Weapon: A weapon with any ammunition is considered loaded. Exemptions include weapons in a closed compartment or trunk, or in a vehicle on a public road.
  • Penalty for Violation: Unlawful road hunting leads to a one-year hunting privilege forfeiture.

Negligent Hunting

  • Use of Weapons: Criminal negligence, defined as reckless disregard for others' safety, is illegal during any hunting-related activities.

Night Definition

  • Time Frame: Night is the period one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise of the next day.

Night Hunting

  • Permissible Species: Night hunting is legal for raccoons, opossums, foxes, mink, skunk, coyotes, armadillos, and hogs.
  • Use of Artificial Lights: Restricted to treed or cornered animals by dogs. Power-amplified light devices, including night vision and infrared, are considered artificial lights.
  • Ammunition Restrictions: No buckshot or shot larger than No. 4, or ammunition larger than .22 rimfire is allowed.
  • Rabbit Hunting: Legal at night without weapons on private land.


Wild Advisor Pro


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.