HUNTING 2022: Opportunities abound in the ‘mecca of the outdoors’ | Outdoor

T&D staff report

The overall economic impact of hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing in South Carolina is estimated at $2.74 billion annually according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Nowhere are opportunities for outdoor activities more prevalent and important than in Orangeburg County with its vast acres of rural landscape in the state’s second largest county by area.

The longest continuously flowing blackwater river in the world passes through the city limits of Orangeburg. Two hundred and six miles of peace and serenity, beginning in Aiken County and ending at the Atlantic Ocean, the Edisto River is accessible from public landings in Orangeburg County. Once world-renowned for its robin fishing, the Edisto is more likely to give up plenty of flathead catfish these days. A boat trip in late December or January will often put a cap on wood ducks, the occasional mallard, and an extra squirrel or two in the duck hunter’s boat.

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The vast amount of water available in the Santee Cooper Chain of Lakes on the opposite side of Orangeburg County offers even more opportunities. Made up of two lakes, Marion and Moultrie, Santee has 174,000 acres of public water. The 450 miles of shoreline are dotted with publicly accessible boat ramps, free or for a small launch fee. Campgrounds, motels, and rental cabins can be found from one end of the lakes to the other in a price range to fit any traveler’s budget.

The original home of the landlocked striped bass, Santee is teeming with bream, bass, crappie, catfish and stripers. While fishing reigns as king in Santee, hunting is definitely the prince. Several wildlife management areas bordering the lakes, as well as the islands that abound above, are open to the public. The out-of-town visitor may have difficulty finding ducks in adequate numbers in the upper swamp. The ducks will be there, if the weather is nice, but it often takes years of experience to find the holes the ducks like.

Deer hunting, however, is the crown prince of the county.

Orangeburg County remains among the top producers of deer in numbers and continues to lead in record numbers of trophy bucks.

When asked why Orangeburg seems to consistently make so much money, SCDNR deer biologist Charles Ruth said, “Orangeburg County has good deer habitat, a strong agricultural base throughout much of the county, along with a deer population not too high. This, along with a reasonable number of landowners practicing good deer harvest management, explains the results.”

Orangeburg County is also home to some of the best turkey hunting, ranking among counties in the entire state for total turkey catch.

Many turkey and deer hunters have also found Orangeburg to be a good place to add a wild boar or coyote to their hunting bag. Many are taken as bycatch while hunting deer and turkey, but both hogs and coyotes are classified as non-native animals and can be hunted year-round.

Certain deer and turkeys certainly rank first and second among local sportsmen, but other opportunities abound. Quail can be hunted on several preserves in the county and doves can be found on public and private hunts throughout the county. Hunting rabbits and other small animals also seems to be becoming more popular.

Rivers, lakes, deer, ducks, pigeons, pigs, coyotes, turkeys and more. The longest venison and turkey seasons, with the most liberal bag limits, in the nation. One of only two states where it is possible to shoot a deer with its antlers still in velvet. The top five counties in the state for deer, both in number and size. Top half of the state for turkeys. Easy public access to large areas of land and water.

It’s easy to see why Orangeburg County is called an “outdoor mecca.”