This is the first time the state's natural resource agency has allowed free hunting on the first weekend of the year, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported.
The aim of the free-hunting program is to attract more people to the sport.
The number of hunters in the state has been slowly declining for about a generation, DNR spokesman Greg Lucas said. The state issued 451 hunting licenses last year, 76 fewer than in 2010.
"It's definitely not a young group out there hunting," said Lucas.
The agency is trying to change that.
It also offers the "Take One Make One" program, which pairs students ages 10 through 18 that have little hunting or shooting experience with veteran hunting club members in their area to learn about safe and ethical hunting.
Expanding the number of hunters increases the money that the agency receives through license and permit fees.
The Wildlife Management Area Program, which provides 1.1 million acres of public land for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing is funded primarily with proceeds of WMA permit sales.
"If you buy a hunting of fishing license, whether or you hunt or fish or not ... it helps South Carolina get more habitat conservation money," said Lucas. "Maybe 5 percent of those funds help animals that are being hunted."
State bag limits, methods of take and season-restrictions still apply, and a federal duck stamp will still be required to hunt migratory waterfowl.
A similar program is held in the summer for fishing, said Lucas.
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.
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