Turkey Hunting in South Carolina

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  • B
  • 120,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Easterns

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 40,000

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • $18

    Hunting license ($12) and big-game permit ($6).

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • $225

    Annual hunting license ($125), and big-game permit ($100). Ten-day ($75) and 3-day ($40) hunting licenses are available.

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

South Carolina hunters had long enjoyed a generous bag limit of five spring turkeys.

In some ways, they’d been the envy of some of us living in states with just a one- or two-bird limit.

That’s changed.

As you know from this Realtree.com turkey blog post, it's been cut to just three gobblers per season (check Wildlife Management Areas for other regulations).

That's still a higher season limit than other spring states around the country, perhaps owing to the fact they offer no fall turkey hunting.

Traditionally, South Carolina has a deep turkey hunting tradition and good numbers of birds in the right habitat areas.

Just over a decade or so ago, the Palmetto State probably would have pulled an “A” grade, but turkey populations have declined due to poor hatches over recent years.

We're inclined to give the state a "B" (but with a minus) for an outlook this season. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recently updated with this information:

Approximately 50,000 turkey hunters take to the woods annually in South Carolina with hopes of harvesting a wily gobbler, and the 2019 spring turkey season was no exception. With an estimated harvest of 15,783 adult gobblers and 1,591 jakes for a total of 17,374 birds, the spring turkey harvest was down a little more than 3 percent from 2018.

Legislative changes that went into effect in 2016 provided an earlier starting date and increased number of days in the turkey season in 34 of 46 South Carolina counties. The effect of this season change was a 50 percent increase in opportunity (days) for the majority (74%) of the state. Although the harvest was up a combined 24 percent the first two years of the new framework, it has been down 10 percent the last two years.

This apparent up-and-down cycle related to harvest under the new season framework may be explained in two ways. First, perhaps turkey numbers initially increased when the new season went into place, leading to an increase in harvest because more birds were available for harvest on the landscape. Alternatively, more hunter effort associated with the new framework may have increased the harvest regardless of the number of turkeys on the landscape.

South Carolina turkeys can be exceedingly tough – these are cagey Easterns indeed. 

Want upside? With 50,000 hunters, you’d peg South Carolina for heavy hunting pressure.

But, if you're willing to hike a little, you can find seclusion in the state's 630,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas.

Turkey Hunting in South Carolina (c) Tes Randle Jolly photo

But wait.

There's even more good news on public land ...

Add to that another million acres of public hunting on U.S. Forest Service lands (600,000-plus acres between the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest), more than a quarter-million acres of DNR lands, plus state Forestry Commission lands as well as timber company properties open to public hunting.

Fun Fact: Edgefield, South Carolina, is the longtime home of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

– Steve Hickoff

South Carolina Turkey Hunting Regulations

Go here for more Realtree turkey hunting.