Four men are accused of illegally hunting deer Thursday night in western York County.
Caleb Harper Childers, 23, and David Tyler Saboley, 20, both of Rock Hill, and Kyle Preston Childers, 24, and Joshua Julius Maturo, 20, both of York, were arrested Thursday one week before gun hunting season is set to open.
All four were charged with night hunting. Caleb Childers and Maturo also were charged with having open containers of alcohol in a vehicle, according to the York County Sheriffs Office. They were released Friday afternoon on a $1,000 bond for Saboley and Kyle Childers and $1,262.50 for Caleb Childers and Maturo.
State Department of Natural Resources Pfc. Mark Ferrell, one of three game wardens who patrol York County, said he pulled the men over Thursday after spotting them shining lights into open fields, looking for deer, off Sawmill Road just outside Hickory Grove.
A loaded rifle was found inside the truck, he said.
State law prohibits nighttime hunting at all times of the year except when hunting certain wildlife such as coyotes, foxes and hogs.
Night hunting is something the department takes very seriously, Ferrell said.
Violators of the night hunting ban face a penalty of $1,000, Ferrell said. Hunting weapons are confiscated, he said, and if the alleged violator wants a weapon back, he must buy it back from the department at an assessed value.
The DNR also takes possession of vehicles used for night hunting, Ferrell said, and those must be bought back as well.
York County is in South Carolinas Zone 2 deer season hunting area, which includes 15 counties and parts of Greenville, Pickens and Oconee counties.
Hunting deer with dogs or baiting deer is also illegal in 18 counties in the state, including York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
The season for hunting with a muzzle loader a type of firearm that is loaded at the open end of a guns barrel instead of loading a guns chamber runs Oct. 1-10 on private land in Zone 2.
Gun season for hunting deer on private property in Zone 2 opens Thursday and ends Jan. 1.
Ferrell said night hunting generally begins in the summer and can have dangerous, unintended consequences.
Hunters shine bright spot lights into open fields, he said, and what theyre seeing is eyes.
But its not always the eyes of a deer that hunters see before they shoot.
Horses and cows are sometimes shot and injured or killed, he said, and there have been instances of houses or cars being hit.
Hunting at night with a spotlight is not just illegal, Ferrell said, its unsportsmanlike.
A deers defense mechanism is to stand still, he said.
When a deer sees bright light from a car or a spotlight, Ferrell said, it freezes and makes itself an easy target for hunters.
Most people in S.C. arent hunting illegally, he said, and licenses for the activity arent hard to obtain.
He estimates less than 2 percent of the states hunting enthusiasts are knowingly breaking DNR rules.
Drinking during an evening hunt, he said, is also usually part of the activity, which could make the situation more dangerous.
None of the four men arrested on Thursday was drunk, he said, although there was alcohol in the truck.
Illegal hunting can be reported to DNRs Operation Game Thief hotline by calling 800-922-5431.
Ferrell and other game wardens have statewide jurisdiction and can make arrests just like Highway Patrol troopers.
People calling in suspicious hunting activity helps the department crack down on hunting violations.
A lot more goes on than what we catch, Ferrell said.