Shot in the dark leads to tragedy

A tragedy in Aiken last weekend reminds me once again that South Carolina has some odd hunting regulations, particularly when it comes to the definition of legal shooting hours.


Authorities charged deer hunter Samuel Stewart with animal cruelty after he shot a $50,000 show horse that was later euthanized.

According to our news coverage, Stewart was in a deer stand on land adjacent to stables where horse owner Lisa Doker kept Oree, her 2000-pound Dutch Warmblood.

He was hunting with the landowner’s permission, and acknowledged firing a shot at what he said was a buck.

Depending on various reports, he pulled the trigger at 6:30 a.m. or 6:40 a.m.

Either way, it was at least 30, and possibly 40 minutes, before sunrise.

Quite literally, it was a shot in the dark.

In Georgia and other states, legal shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. It is a generous margin that shouldn’t be pushed.

Even under clear skies, it is difficult for me to fully identify a target 30 minutes before sunrise – or 30 minutes after sunset.

South Carolina’s rules have an even wider margin: one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. I have no idea why, but it allows hunting well before and after dark.

As far as the Aiken accident, I won’t pretend to know what happened because I wasn’t there.

Perhaps the fellow shot at a buck, somehow missed and his bullet found its way into the vitals of a black and white horse.

Or maybe he mistook the horse for a deer, even though it was the wrong color, off the property he was hunting and 10 times as large as any whitetail in this part of the country.

The liberal shooting hours aren’t the only unusual hunting law in South Carolina, which is where I grew up and learned to hunt.

In many areas, you can shoot bucks of all sizes from August to New Year’s Day, with no limits.

You can also hunt from public roads if you have permission to hunt on adjacent land.

Even one of the most basic requirements of safe hunting – wearing an orange vest – is merely an option in some game zones.


DEER SMUGGLING: Lots of people are arrested for smuggling drugs. A Georgia man was fined $20,000 last week for trying to smuggle deer.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta, 48-year-old Donald Lee Vaughn, of Villa Rica, was trying to illegally ship whitetails from Pennsylvania to his Georgia ranch.

Prosecutors allege Vaughn paid $6,000 for five white-tailed deer from a dealer in Pennsylvania and attempted to transport six more deer purchased from the same dealer.

The shipment was stopped by a deputy in Yadkin County, N.C., where authorities determined there were no permits or health certificates.

Federal law requires that deer shipped out of state be tested for tuberculosis and accompanied by proper ear tags and a veterinarian’s certificate.

Deer sent from Pennsylvania to another state must be certified to be tuberculosis free.

Most states, Georgia included, restrict deer importations to prevent the introduction of chronic wasting disease.



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