Results of the 2021 Deer Hunter Survey conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources indicate that the statewide harvest of deer decreased by about 12% last season.

The harvest was comprised of an estimated 95,351 bucks and 79,218 does, which made up a total harvest of 174,569 deer, down from the 197,893 estimated harvested in 2020, according to Charles Ruth, SCDNR Big Game Program coordinator.

Between 2002 and 2015, the deer population in the state trended down with the overall reduction in harvest likely attributable to a number of factors, including habitat change, two decades of aggressive antlerless deer harvest, and the complete colonization of the state by coyotes and their impact on fawn survival. Although the harvest in 2021 decreased, since 2016 the state’s deer harvest has generally been increasing possibly because of declining coyote densities that would naturally occur following colonization.

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“Explaining the decline in harvest in 2021 is relatively easy,” Ruth said, “and stems from a decrease in hunter numbers. Overall hunter numbers were down about 13%, which coincides closely with the 12% decline in harvest.

Coming Sunday: T&D Hunting Edition 2022

“Explaining why deer hunter numbers were down in 2021 is more problematic. Hunter numbers increased during 2020 about 6% likely due to COVID-19 and the notion that people had more time and flexibility to hunt.

“On the other hand, during the fall of 2021, things were returning to normal and people may have opted more for nonhunting activities, many of which were not feasible during the pandemic. In any event, it will be interesting to see what deer hunter numbers are in 2022.”

Top counties for harvest in 2021 included Anderson, Spartanburg and Saluda in the Piedmont, and Bamberg, Hampton and Orangeburg in the coastal plain, with each of the counties exhibiting harvest rates of more than 10 deer per square mile, which Ruth said should be considered extraordinary.

Although the harvest is lower now compared with its peak some years ago, South Carolina still ranks near the top among Southeastern states in harvest per unit area.

All areas of South Carolina have long and liberal firearms seasons, and most deer (145,416) were taken with center-fire rifles in 2021. Bows (9,601 deer) and shotguns (13,093 deer) also contributed significantly to the overall deer harvest, whereas muzzleloaders, crossbows and handguns combined (6,460 deer) produced less than 5% of the total statewide harvest.

Although the annual Deer Hunter Survey focuses on deer-hunting activities, there are also questions on the survey related to the harvest of wild hogs and coyotes in the state.

Results of this year’s survey indicate an estimated 16,298 coyotes were taken incidental to deer hunting. This figure represents a 14% decrease from 2020, continuing what seems to be a declining trend in coyote numbers in recent years. Additionally, an estimated 27,964 wild hogs were killed by deer hunters statewide, virtually the same number (28,043) as 2020.

Other survey statistics indicate that about 115,862 South Carolina residents and 13,729 non-residents deer hunted in the state in 2021. Deer hunters reported an overall success rate of 69%, which Ruth said is outstanding.

Overall hunting effort was estimated at just over 1.8 million days. The number of days devoted to deer hunting in South Carolina is very significant and points not only to the availability and popularity of deer as a game species, but to the obvious economic benefits related to this important natural resource. About $200 million in direct retail sales is related to deer hunting in South Carolina annually. has a new special: $1 for 26 weeks

The complete 2021 SOUTH CAROLINA DEER HARVEST REPORT can be viewed at

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