By Bee Frederick, Southeastern States Director
On February 27, South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Chip Campsen introduced legislation addressing current wild turkey regulations. The effort is in response to the general decline in wild turkey populations in the Palmetto State, and across the Southeast, as well as the need for enabling legislation addressing a previous change from 2016 that was enacted with a sunset provision for 2019 with a requirement for the Department of Natural Resources to study the season timing issue and report to legislation by November of 2018. A copy of that report can be found on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Website.
The current proposed legislation (S. 575) would now require turkey tags, previously free, issued by the Department of Natural Resources to be purchased at $10 for residents, $50 for nonresidents, and no cost for persons under the age of sixteen, lifetime licensees, and gratis licensees upon request to the department. Additionally, it would move away from uniform statewide regulations (outside of WMAs) and use the game zones within the state with the season in zones 1 and 2 running from April 1 to May 12 and zones 3 and 4 running from March 20 through April 30. The bag limit would remain at 3 provided that only one male turkey may be harvested per day and only one male wild turkey may be harvested within the first 10 days of the season.
The legislation passed out of the Fish, Game and Forestry Subcommittee on March 14 and will be heard in the full Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 209 of the Gressette Building.
The DNR reports notes: “The decline in turkeys in South Carolina and other southeastern states has been well documented. Although causes of this decline remain uncertain, they may include changes in habitat and forestry management practices, fire suppression, predation, and potentially the timing and intensity of hunter harvest. However, the only factor that can be managed from a regulatory standpoint is hunter harvest activities, which are typically dictated by season framework and bag limits.” Negotiations are ongoing between the legislature, the Department of Natural Resources, and stakeholders over season dates.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?