In February, Charles Ruth, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Big Game Program Coordinator, was honored by The Deer Committee of the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society with the 2020 Deer Management Career Achievement Award, presented at the 43rd Annual Southeast Deer Study Group Meeting, in Auburn, Alabama.
This prestigious honor was first established in 1995 to recognize outstanding contributions to the understanding of white-tailed deer ecology and management in the southeastern United States.
Charles entered the deer management and research arena in 1987 and has remained involved with white-tailed deer throughout his 33-year career, the last 26 years with the SCDNR. His contributions to advance the art and science of deer management are numerous but highlighted by several significant accomplishments.
Charles has cultivated partnerships with leading researchers throughout the region and works with them to design and conduct rigorous scientific studies that address critical knowledge gaps. He has supported or conducted research to answer questions including the impact of coyote predation on fawn recruitment, deer population dynamics, deer survey methods, yearling buck dispersal, and vulnerability of deer to baiting.
Additionally, Charles is impacting our next generation of wildlife biologists and researchers as these studies have provided opportunities to more than 15 graduate students. These efforts have resulted in 40 peer-reviewed scientific papers or articles that Charles has authored or co-authored related to deer ecology and management.
Charles had long recognized the need for improved bag limits on deer in South Carolina, much of which had no previous limit. He began working toward this goal in 2003.
This work involved a series of public meetings, surveys, presentations, a comprehensive report, testimony in legislative hearings, countless interviews, conversations, phone calls, and emails. After 13 years of unwavering effort, legislation passed in 2016 that implemented a new deer tagging program and new bag limits on deer harvest in South Carolina.
This monumental change in South Carolina deer management would not have been possible without the expertise, patience, leadership, and relationships fostered by Charles Ruth.
Charles also administers the S.C. Deer Quota Program, the second-largest private lands deer management program in the country with approximately 1,600 private land cooperators affecting 3.3 million acres of land. In addition, he coordinates and manages the S.C. Antler Records Program, a collection of state record deer now numbering over 7,000 entries with over 200 new entries per year.
Charles’ positive impacts on deer populations, deer management techniques and strategies, and deer hunting reach beyond South Carolina. He has been able to accomplish these difficult and often controversial tasks by building and maintaining excellent relationships with SCDNR Board members, legislators, QDMA staff and volunteers, S.C. Farm Bureau, Academia, private land managers, deer processors, and, most importantly, the deer hunters of South Carolina.
“Charles is highly respected by his peers, colleagues, and SCDNR leadership. He has been a leader in deer research and management throughout his career and is richly deserving of this award,” said Billy Dukes, SCDNR Chief of Wildlife.