When is Turkey Season in South Carolina? A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

Gobbling with excitement? It’s almost time to dust off your camo and head to the woods for some thrilling turkey hunting action in South Carolina! But before you head out, it’s crucial to understand the specific dates and regulations for the 2024 spring turkey season.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! This guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to know, from season dates and bag limits to license requirements and safety tips.

Let’s dive in!

Season Dates: Mark Your Calendars!

The 2024 spring turkey season in South Carolina varies depending on the game zone you’re hunting in:

  • Game Zones 1 and 2 (Upper State): April 1 – May 10
  • Game Zones 3 and 4 (Lower State): March 22 – April 30

Remember: Some Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) may have more restrictive seasons, so be sure to check the specific regulations for the WMA you plan to hunt on.

Bag Limits: Know Your Limits!

The bag limit for the 2024 spring turkey season in South Carolina also depends on your residency status:

  • Residents: 3 gobblers per season, no more than 1 per day, with a maximum of 1 from April 1-10 in Game Zones 1 & 2 and 1 from March 22-31 in Game Zones 3 & 4.
  • Non-residents: 2 gobblers per season, no more than 1 per day, with a maximum of 1 from April 1-10 in Game Zones 1 & 2 and 1 from March 22-31 in Game Zones 3 & 4.

Again, some WMAs may have more restrictive bag limits, so check the specific regulations for the WMA you’re hunting on.

License Requirements: Get Your Permits!

To legally hunt turkeys in South Carolina, you’ll need the following licenses and permits:

  • Hunting License: This is required for all hunters, regardless of age.
  • Big Game Permit: This is required for all hunters 16 years of age and older.
  • Turkey Tags: These are required for all hunters, including youth hunters, except on designated youth days. The fee for a set of three tags is $5 for residents and $100 for non-residents.

You can purchase your licenses and permits online or at license vendors.

Youth Hunting Weekend: A Special Opportunity

South Carolina offers a special Youth Hunting Weekend for turkey hunting on private lands:

  • Dates: March 30-31 in Game Zones 1 and 2, March 16-17 in Game Zones 3 and 4
  • Age: For youth hunters 17 years old and younger
  • Requirements: No license or tags required for youth or adult on these designated days. Adult may call or guide, but only the youth may take or attempt to take.
  • Limit: One gobbler total for the weekend, which counts towards the season limit.

General Turkey Hunting Laws and Regulations

Here are some important general turkey hunting laws and regulations to keep in mind:

  • Sunday hunting is allowed on private lands (SC 50-11-555).
  • No Sunday hunting is allowed on WMA land (Reg. 123-51).
  • Statewide limit of 3 gobblers for residents and 2 for non-residents, no more than 1 per day (SC Code 50-11-580). Bearded hens are not legal.
  • All hunters, including hunters younger than 16 or those who are calling or guiding, must possess a valid set of turkey tags except on designated youth days. Except on designated youth days, all harvested turkeys must be tagged and validated as prescribed on the tag form before being moved from the point of kill. No person may possess more than one set of turkey tags (SC 50-11-544).
  • Hunters who have used all their tags may call or guide for other hunters provided they possess their tag form.
  • Legal weapons: shotguns, muzzleloading shotguns, bows, and crossbows. All other weapons or methods are prohibited, including rifles, pistols, slugs, and buckshot (SC 50-11-500, Reg. 123-51).
  • Turkeys may not be hunted with dogs, live decoys, or electronic calls (SC 50-11-40, Reg. 123-51).
  • Unlawful to shoot any turkey between 30 minutes after official sunset and 30 minutes before official sunrise. Unlawful to take or attempt to take a wild turkey from a vehicle on a public road. Unlawful to trap or snare a wild turkey. Unlawful to take wild turkey from a watercraft (SC 50-11-500).
  • Unlawful to hunt or take a wild turkey by means of bait or on or over any baited area (SC 50-11-510). Bait means placing, depositing, exposing, distributing, or scattering of salt, corn, wheat, or other grain, or foodstuffs to constitute a lure or attraction for wild turkeys. An area remains a baited area for ten days following the complete removal of all bait. NOTE: The following activities can result in a baited area if done prior to or during turkey season: planting, discing or manipulating chufa to expose the tubers; mowing or manipulating standing grain crops where grain is scattered or exposed; top sowing of any grains; bait or feed intended for other species.
  • On WMA lands, the practice of fanning or reaping is prohibited. Fanning/reaping is defined as hunting or stalking wild turkeys while holding or using for hunter concealment any of the following items: a tail fan, a partial or full decoy with a tail fan, or a tail fan mounted to a firearm. Tail fans include those made of real or synthetic feathers or an image or likeness of a tail fan applied to any material (Reg. 123-51). This regulation does not apply on private land.

Safety Tips: Stay Safe Out There!

Turkey hunting can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, but it’s important to prioritize safety. Here are some essential safety tips to remember:

  • Always wear blaze orange during turkey season. This will help other hunters see you and avoid accidental shootings.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and identify your target before you shoot. Never shoot at anything you can’t positively identify.
  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
  • Never climb a tree or cross a fence with a loaded firearm.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions and dress accordingly.
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Carry a first-aid kit and know how to use it.
  • Respect other hunters and their property.

Additional Resources: Stay Informed!

For more information on turkey hunting in South Carolina, please visit the following resources:

Now that you’re armed with all the essential information, you’re ready to head out and enjoy the 2024 spring turkey season in South Carolina! Remember to follow all the regulations, prioritize safety, and have a blast!

Setting Spring Hunting Seasons by Timing Peak Gobbling, Peak Breeding and Peak Incubation

The Wild Turkey Research Project was created by the South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department (SCWMRD) in 1970, and it is still one of the special program areas under the Wildlife Section of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) today. The Turkey Project’s initial goals were to create censusing methods for tracking the piedmont’s rapidly growing turkey population and determining patterns of distribution in relation to habitat management strategies. In order to determine the optimal time for the spring season to begin and end, studies were also conducted to identify peak gobbling and nest incubation periods. Spring seasons were open only in areas of the state with adequate numbers of turkeys. Because there were few or no turkeys, there was no open season in a large portion of the state, especially in the coastal plain. The Department created a thorough biological plan in 1975 for the recovery of turkeys in the coastal plain. Between 1976 and 2003, this restoration plan was carried out, leading to the capture and relocation of about 3,542 turkeys on 204 restoration sites around the state. With the exception of recent restoration sites, all counties were fully open for spring gobbler hunting in 1998. A portion of all counties were open for hunting in 1993.

South Carolina’s wild turkey seasons are determined by SC Code of Laws Sections 50-11-520 and 50-11-560. In South Carolina, the spring gobbler season started on March 15 and ended on April 15 until 1976. The dates of the spring turkey season were modified as a result of gobbling and nesting studies carried out in the piedmont and coastal plain in the 1970s. The Department recommended a statewide season from April 1 to May 1 based on the findings of these studies. This season offers the following advantages over the previous one, which was from March 15 to April 15: better weather, less disturbance of breeding activities, fewer accidental or illegal hen kills, and the opportunity to hunt during the longest and most reliable peak in statewide gobbling, which will increase gobbler responsiveness to hunters’ calls.

Since 1976, the SCDNR has advised that the seasons in Game Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 be from April 1 to May 1 (SC Code 50-11-520). On the other hand, the General Assembly did not give SCDNR the authority to establish seasons in Game Zones 6 (lower coastal plain), so in 1976, the Department decided to incorporate the Department’s recommendation for the newly established biological season into the previously established socio-political season (SC Code 50-11-560). This resulted in a March 15-May 1 season in the twelve counties that makes up Game Zone 6.

Peak breeding, peak gobbling, and peak incubation are the three main factors that should be considered when determining the timing of spring gobbler seasons in South Carolina, as they are important for both biology and successful hunting. Seasons can be set taking these factors into account to give hunters the best chance to hunt at the best time (i.e. e. peak gobbling period) without inhibiting reproductive success.

The following describes how the current April 1-May 1 season was developed in South Carolina.

Male wild turkeys gobbling in order to attract hens for mating purposes, usually happens in the spring. While there is usually some gobbling in South Carolina in the middle of March, hunters shouldn’t be concerned about this being “the peak” of gobbling. This gobbling is associated with the breakup of winter turkey flocks (Figure 1). The true peak in gobbling, which happens around a month later, is more consistent and lasts longer than the gobbling associated with winter break-up. Mid-March gobbling is mostly done by subdominant males who are trying to break away from winter flocks that contain hens. Dominant gobblers will inevitably leave winter flocks where the majority of the hens are arranged in a harem. The winter flock breakup is well under way by the third week of March, at which point gobbling reaches its initial minor peak. There is very little gobbling for almost two weeks after flock breakup, when the majority of breeding takes place (Figure 1) Hunting during this period can be frustrating because as hunters say, “they are all henned up”.

By the first week in April the nesting phase of the wild turkey breeding period is underway. During this time hens will lay one egg per day until the clutch is complete. Since most laying in South Carolina takes place in a span of two weeks, the majority of hens initiate incubation in the initial part of April. When the majority of hens begin incubation gobbling begins in earnest. Remember, male turkeys gobble to attract hens. During peak breeding hens are available, therefore, little gobbling takes place. The longest and most stable peak in gobbling happens when hens start to spend more time away from the gobblers (longer stays at the nest and eventually continuous incubation) (Figure 1) This time frame offers the best opportunity to hunt gobbling birds.

Figure 1. Gobbles heard per hour from an unhunted area in the piedmont of South Carolina (adapted from Bevill 1975). The longest and most consistent gobbling occurs from April 16-28. Data from the lower coastal plain is similar with peak gobbling about one week earlier (April 6-22).

Thorough studies on Eastern wild turkeys have demonstrated that latitude alone can be used to predict the timing of breeding (Whitaker et al. , 2004) and breeding is relatively consistent from year to year. Photoperiod or length of day is likely highly involved in this latitudinal predictability and consistency in breeding. In South Carolina peak breeding commences following the winter breakup that takes place in mid to late March. Hunters often complain that spring gobbler season begins too late. However, for several biological reasons, seasons should not begin before the peak of breeding.

First, the effects of removing dominant gobblers prior to breeding are obvious. Turkey populations may decline if there are insufficient dominant gobblers left to breed hens, as this could affect reproduction (fertilized eggs). Also, removing dominant males leaves mostly subdominant gobblers to breed, which may have negative consequences over time.

Second, gobbling activity is poor during peak breeding. It is a fact that male turkeys gobble primarily to attract hens. There is minimal gobbling activity during peak breeding because hens are easily accessible because they stayed with gobblers right after the winter flock split (Figure 1) As previously indicated, the large number of hens and low gobbling during this time of year can make hunting frustrating.

Lastly, a number of studies have demonstrated that hens can be highly vulnerable to unintentional or unlawful killing before they reach the peak of their incubation.

In addition to the fact that spring gobbler seasons should start after the peak of breeding, they should also align with the peak of incubation. Peak incubation is defined as the period during which the majority of hens are on nests. In South Carolina, the final two weeks of March and the first week of April are when wild turkeys breed at their peak. The peak dates for starting incubation are April 1–15, given that fertilization and egg laying take about two weeks (Figure 2). Seasons should align with the height of incubation in order to reduce unintentional or illicit hen harvesting.

Recall that during the busiest breeding season, hens spend a lot of time with gobblers and frequently respond to the calls of hunters in addition to the gobbler. Numerous studies have demonstrated that an important cause of springtime mortality is the unintentional or illegal harvesting of hens. Any spring turkey guide or seasoned hunter who regularly guides other hunters will tell you that it’s important to take precautions to prevent accidentally killing hens, especially when the hens are around gobbling toms. However, after incubation starts, the hens are left alone and only spend a small amount of time on the nest every day. In summary, hens are less vulnerable to unintentional or illegal killing during the egg-laying phase and even less vulnerable during the incubation period. Finally, peak gobbling is stimulated by the fact that hens are no longer present since they are incubating.

Figure 2. Timing of the start of incubation for hens in the piedmont (adapted from Bevill 1975). Peak incubation occurs the first two weeks in April. Data for lower coastal plain is similar with peak incubation about one week earlier.

Turkey Tour Day 16 – South Carolina PUBLIC LAND (Opening Day Turkey Hunt)


Is SC good for turkey hunting?

South Carolina is a great place to go hunting, whether for turkey, deer, or bears. How you travel to go turkey hunting in South Carolina matters just as much as what you’re hunting for.

Which state has no turkey season?

Thanks to this conservation, every state except Alaska has a spring hunting season for turkey. And that’s simply because the turkey range doesn’t extend into Alaska. After deer, turkey is the most common animal hunters choose to hunt. There are a few key things to know before heading out for your spring turkey season.

How many turkey tags are there in SC?

All tags must be validated as prescribed by the department before a turkey is moved from the point of kill. No resident may obtain or possess more than three wild turkey tags, and no nonresident may obtain or possess more than two wild turkey tags.

When is wild turkey season in South Carolina?

Wild turkey seasons in South Carolina are established under authority of SC Code of Laws Sections 50-11-520 and 50-11-560. Prior to 1976, all spring gobbler seasons in South Carolina began on March 15 and ended on April 15.

Is fall turkey hunting allowed in South Carolina?

Since the advent of modern fish and wildlife management, fall turkey hunting has never been allowed on a statewide basis in South Carolina. However, a 6-day either sex fall turkey season was scheduled in the Central and Western Piedmont from 1981 though 1990.

Are there Turkey harvests outside of South Carolina?

Finally, based on reports to SC Game Check, hunters from 34 states outside of South Carolina reported a turkey harvest. However, nonresidents comprised only 9 percent of the overall harvest in 2023.

Where can I Hunt a Turkey in SC?

Turkey hunts available by public hunt lottery only. Contact: Carolina Sandhills NWR, 23734 Highway 1, McBee, SC 29101 or call 843-335-602 Wildlife Management Areas Open to Turkey Hunting April 1 – April 30 Areas Open Limit Aiken Gopher Tortoise HP WMA 2 Bluefield WMA (Adult/youth Only,…

Leave a Comment