John’s Note: Jeremy Seymour, originally from Louisville, Georgia, has lived in Greenville, South Carolina, for the last 20 years. He’s a competitive shooter and hunter and is on the Mossy Oak and PSE Pro Staffs, works fulltime for the Greenville Fire Department and is a part-time bow technician and archery instructor at Saluda River Archery (http://www.saludariverarchery.com) in Piedmont, South Carolina. South Carolina has one of the earliest deer seasons in the nation.
I’m often asked, “How many people really hunt South Carolina’s early deer season in August and September?” I usually smile and say, “More than you think.” Hardcore bowhunters want to be in the woods the first day of the season, regardless of how hot the weather is. Many younger hunters who’ve been waiting all year for deer season will be out hunting at this time of the year. We also have hunters in our state who’ve always wanted to take a buck in the velvet. Perhaps their home states may not have a deer season when the deer are in the velvet. We also get a lot of hunters from north Georgia who will come to South Carolina to hunt the early season. Many of the country’s deer seasons start at least 2 weeks later than ours. So, they’ll come to South Carolina to get those extra 2 weeks to hunt. Not many people come from the western and northern states, because our South Carolina deer aren’t as big as their deer. That’s not to say that you can’t harvest some really-nice bucks in South Carolina – you can. But generally our bucks won’t be as big as the whitetails you’ll find in the Northwest, the Midwest and farther up the East Coast.
The best and most-memorable buck I’ve ever taken was not the biggest buck antler-wise that I’ve harvested, but he had the biggest body weight and was the oldest buck I ever had taken. I took this buck just a few days before my youngest daughter was born. I was hunting a small 60-acre tract with only small strips of woods. The property was unique because there was a large wide power line right-of-way on the property. On the edge of the power line was a mixture of hardwoods and old cutover land. On the other side of that strip of woods was a gas line right-of-way. Then another strip of woods on the other side of the gas line went down into a creek bottom. I identified a small saddle coming out of the old cutover property – from the creek bottom up toward the gas line. I’d found a huge persimmon tree here in the pre-season and fertilized that tree. When I went to hunt in the saddle close to the persimmon tree that I had fertilized, it had so many persimmons on it, the fruit was almost breaking the branches.
I had found that the deer were bedding in the creek bottom in some privet hedges that were more than 6-feet tall. So, I stayed out of the creek bottom and located a trail on a little hill in a low place that went directly to the persimmon tree I had fertilized. I put a tree stand in a pin oak tree about 25 yards from the persimmon tree. I went in to hunt this site early in the morning, and I heard a deer coming through the old cutover. So, I stood up in my tree stand. Finally, I saw the deer’s antlers pushing through the brush just as he got to the saddle. He was coming straight toward me. The deer had a lot of mass on his rack, and he was a big-bodied deer. When the deer stepped out of the brush, 20 yards from me, he was looking straight at the persimmon tree I had fertilized. As the deer walked toward the persimmon tree, I gave a bleat call with my mouth to stop the buck. I released the arrow when the buck was 25 yards from me. Once the buck took the arrow, he made a half circle around me and came out on the edge of the gas line on the opposite side of my stand from where he was when I took the shot. I saw the buck drop 30 yards from where I had taken the shot.
Until I had climbed out of my stand and went over to the buck, I didn’t realize how big this buck was. The buck weighed 215 pounds – far heavier than any other South Carolina buck I’d ever taken. We pulled the deer’s jaw bone. When we aged the buck, he was 7-1/2-years old and was missing three teeth. Even though he had a lot of mass on his antlers, his antlers weren’t very wide, and he had short tines. In my opinion, for a South Carolina buck, he was a monster. He had a squared-off block neck and squared-off-looking shoulders. So, even though I say that our South Carolina deer are small compared to deer in other parts of the U.S., I’m sure there are a few like the buck I took that are older-age-class deer that have survived long enough to put on some heavy body weights.
For more information on early season deer hunting in South Carolina, go to www.dnr.sc.gov.
To get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and print books on hunting deer, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “Deer & Fixings,” click here.