Monday, September 22, 2014

Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail

Check back soon for photos....

To view this entire feature article click on All At Sea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scouting is Key to September Canada Goose Success

September goose hunting succes requires teamwork

Waterfowl hunters understand that ducks and geese can simply change flight plans from one day to the next. This makes scouting perhaps the single most important ingredient for success during an early season goose hunt. The early goose season comes with a liberal bag limit and intends for hunters to keep sprawling populations of geese in check. With thirty days to work with in September, there is enough time to fine tune preparations and consistent efforts will usually pay off.
Chase Wiles, Waylon Wiles and David Felkel retrieve geese
Not every outing will be successful, and my first September goose hunt went lacking of both geese and any shooting. Hunting with Hugh McLaurin, maker of Big Lake goose calls out of Elloree, we waited for the geese to come to a roost pond one afternoon. We didn’t scout the pond, we just figured that they would show up there. While we guessed wrong that day, that is just a part of hunting, and as the Drake Field Expert for the Lowcountry I will keep hunting!
“In September the farmers in the coastal plain are cutting their corn fields, which makes the Canada geese act like nomads,” said McLaurin, a farmer himself. “They will jump from field to field when the combines move through, and they will use farm ponds along to way to rest.” Goose movement can be a guessing game, and another factor in play is that geese can live several years and the entire flock benefits from the older and more wary geese that are cautious about decoy formations and unsound goose calling.
Shane Wiles - Goose Hunter with GoPro
Brothers Shane and Chase Wiles hunt in cut cornfields in Orangeburg County and are friends with McLaurin since they share a passion for waterfowling. They had been scouting an 80-acre cutover cornfield since the season came in and watched as the goose activity continued to increase each morning until it was time to call for a hunt on Saturday, Sept. 13.
Jenni Wiles - Videographer
It’s worth noting that when the Wiles’ brothers need to round up some hunters, they simply ask their family and cousins until they have enough shooters. They ended up with three generations of their family out in that cornfield before dawn waiting on some Canada geese to show up and to subsequently strengthen their already strong love for the hunt. The photos show that they were richly rewarded that day, and McLaurin and I were fortunate to hunt alongside them.
Success didn’t come easy and began with a 5 a.m. meeting to gather goose decoys together, and to load gear into the trucks before driving out into the field. Chase Wiles took care to direct the crowd to the exact spot in the field where the geese had flown into and fed the day before right after sunrise. Everyone fanned out into the dark field to set out about 100 goose decoys.
To view the remainder of this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

To view past blog entries on September goose hunting click 2013 or 2011.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 9/16/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Flatfish abound in the Lowcountry in September
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West shares that September brings a lot more than just college football to the table. Especially here in the Lowcountry!! Shrimping season has kicked off on Sept. 12 and the mullet are about to run south as they head to the End Zone down in Florida. The flounder bite is still going strong, with flatfish found in solid numbers around the inlets and along rock piles using live minnows tipped on a Zman FlatZ jig. Trout are starting to finally produce some better numbers though many of the fish are smaller juveniles this time of year. Redfish have produced awesome tailing reports during moon tides and that should continue until October, so try using Zman Pop Shadz and Gulp jerkshads. For tarpon, try fishing large live mullet or menhaden near the tips of the Charleston jetties and in between sandbars located around our ocean inlets and then HOLD ON. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Craig Lupton at Buck, Bass and Beyond in Beaufort shares that the KingSize Tides are providing some of the best sight fishing of the summer for redfish. Whenever the surging tide water reaches further into the marshes it opens up new feeding grounds for the reds, allowing them to gorge on fiddler crabs, which can make them finicky for other baits. Craig suggests that fly anglers should cast a Gutless Crab Fly. Once the water backs off the grass try some cut mullet on a Carolina rig or under a popping cork. Good reports are coming in from the marshes along the Broad River and the Combahee River in the ACE Basin. The trout bite is slowly picking up so start the day with topwater lures and then fish for them in deep holes near creek intersections. Sheepshead are back in full swing around docks and they are biting fiddlers and mussels. The Hwy. 170 bridge is a hot spot for sheepies at the moment! And don't forget that there are still tons of tarpon around from the beach and inlets up into the Broad River. Fish for them using dead menhaden fished on the bottom near where sand bars drop off. For the latest store information visit the Internet at Buck, Bass and Beyond.

Nearshore and Beach: Craig reports that the Hunting Island State Park Pier is producing some great big fish for visitors. The same goes for Pritchard's Inlet too for redfish and trout. Watch for bird activity that can point out bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel cruising through the area. Cast bucktails tipped with Gulp swimming mullet or spoons for these schooling species.

Offshore: Craig reports that lots of wahoo are being caught as well as some blackfin tuna. It's a long run in late summer, but it sounds a little more worthwhile right now, especially if you have time to stop and bottom fish too. Great reports for vermillion snapper, black sea bass and grouper are coming in and they are all biting live pinfish. The Betsy Ross artificial reef is still producing cobia on the weekdays when pressure is down. A kingfish or even a sailfish may show up there too so keep and eye out for their sign and keep a live bait ready to rock and roll.

Scott reports that the past week includes a surge in the wahoo bite offshore, with best results coming in from 130 to 250-feet of water, though several nice hoos were reported from as shallow as 90-feet. Decent numbers of sailfish have still been hanging around in 200 to 400-feet of water and the king mackerel are staging in 50 to 80-feet of water. Bottom fishing continues to produce some huge triggerfish and quality b-liners with the better reports coming in from 75 - 90-feet of water using cigar minnows, cut squid and jigging butterfly lures for grouper.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sky Top Orchard is Ripe for Apples in Western N.C.

Red baskets mean ripe apples at Sky Top Orchard
Check Them Out for Outdoor Fun
Apple orchards are usually open to the public seasonally, and Sky Top Orchard is no exception. Located near Flat Rock, N.C. this orchard opens in August and helps to kick off fall for visitors touring the mountains, and especially for folks driving up from the city of Greenville. Traveling to visit them at 1193 Pinnacle Mountain Road I began to notice conservation easement signs by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy on some of the windy roads in the area with scenic mountain terrain. Next I was seeing colorful signage that directed me to turn into the 60-acre apple orchard.

A large parking lot can handle lots of traffic at this family fun destination. A huge barn houses an apple merchandise center that sells cider, nick nacks and or course piles and piles of apples. These apples are not marketed for the grocery store, and this small family farm intends for the fresh apples to be consumed and enjoyed in a timely fashion. For those wishing to actually pick their own apples, the orchard will supply baskets and carts and then allow visitors out into the property.
Twenty-Two great reasons to Visit

The picking schedule is posted in several places, and out in the orchard, so that only the apples that are ripe shall be picked. The apple season includes August, September and October and continues until the orchard closes on December 15. Warm and wet weather during the first of September had the orchard and the mountains lush and green during my visit, but one can imagine that orchard visits later in the fall will also include viewing the leaves changing colors.

Just love this vintage sign about the apple biz
Apples trees are totally bare in winter but the buds open into flowers during the spring. Pollination is the next order of business since each flower will turn into an apple. Sky Top has a working bee hive in the big barn that serves to educate visitors (and kids) about how these bees live in harmony with the bustling business of orchard sales. Environmental education in an outdoors setting like this is very valuable and I salute the Sky Top Orchard owners for a job well done.

To view past blog entries for Western N.C. destinations click on The Orchard Inn.

To view past blog entries from the Green River Games click on 2014 or 2013.

Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Early Teal Season and Bait Shrimping Begin Today

Cast netting for shrimp is FUN
It's a double-header for September 12! Thirty minutes after sunrise the early season for migratory teal kicked off in S.C. with an increased bag limit of six teal per day. Teal season goes out on Sept. 26. Then at noon the S.C. bait shrimping season kicks in with a 48-quart cool full of shrimp the legal daily limit. Shrimp season lasts for two months. What a day to be outdoors with a new twist on Cast (throwing nets for shrimp) and Blast (hunting blue-winged teal). Trying for Shrimp and Teal in the same day is certainly a different twist on Cast and Blast - on that makes the coastal waters of the Lowcountry outdoors THE place to be!

To view past blog entries on Cast and Blast click on TIDE magazine or Charleston Mercury.

For the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

For a past blog entry on early season hunting for marsh hens click here.

Blue-winged teal offer a passing shot

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 Green River Games in Saluda, N.C.

Kayak race start on the Green River
Stand Up Paddleboard Race Winner
The second year for the Green River Games saw a scheduling shake up, and the awards ceremony moved from an outlying location to downtown Saluda where the public can now join in the celebration.  The 2014 Green River Games canceled the 6K road race set for Friday, and the welcoming reception at the HQ for Green River Adventures Zip-Line lookout. As a result, it was quiet in Saluda on Friday since the games would now start on Saturday morning.

The weather on September 6 was quite warm in the mid-80's and it was super muggy. Trail conditions were said to be soggy after several days of rain leading up to the weekend. The bike riders, Stand Up Paddleboarders, kayakers and runners all faced the same conditions though, and the warm conditions just added one more layer to what already was going to be a great test of fitness, or at least some very good exercise.

Hammer Factor Rapids on the Green River Narrows
John Grace and the Top Three Silverback Winners
The flagship race of the Green River Games is called the Silverback and it is a combination of kayaking, biking and running. The race began near the Tuxedo Hydroelectric station at 11 a.m. and took competitors down the green river narrows - which is not for amateurs. Spectators can watch the kayakers pass by at Fish Top Falls, but in general it is tough to view the Silverback competition unless one is prepared to access rugged hiking trails that shadow the Green River. This race is divided into segments to allow participant that don't want to complete all three disciplines, but they are all worthy of congratulations. For the Silverback Race results click here.

Rapids Soaking a Silverback competitor
Something like eight separate competitions were held on Saturday and two more trail runs on Sunday. The awards party in downtown Saluda featured food, a T-shirt station, band and a beer booth. Organizer John Grace kept the awards on schedule, with many of the competitors dog tired after a day of racing in the heat. Overall I would say that participation was up slightly in 2014 and the event highlights outdoor enjoyment for fitness enthusiasts, which is a genre that is sure to grow. It doesn't hurt that the natural resources in this section of Western North Carolina make for a great proving grounds.

To view past blog entries from the Green River Games click 2013.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2014 ACE Basin QDMA - SCDNR report / NDA Intro

SCDNR's Charles Ruth and QDMA's Joe Hamilton
Deer hunting enthusiasts gather on Sept. 6

With deer hunting season in full swing, the local ACE Basin branch of the Quality Deer Management Association held its annual whitetail seminar. QDMA began 26 years ago right here in Colleton County and founder Joe Hamilton was in attendance, along with Branch President and QDMA National Board member Nicole Garris. SCDNR’s Charles Ruth is the big game biologist for S.C. and he traveled from Columbia to address deer populations for the large crowd of hunting enthusiasts.
Garris welcomed everyone to the Coastal Outback building on Sept. 4 by announcing that their Venison For The Hungry campaign is underway once again this year. Hunters can drop off harvested deer at participating venison processors that will direct that protein to those in need, with 1290-pounds of meat supplied in 2013. She also reminds everyone that QDMA license plates are available from the SC DMV for those who choose to support conservation via their automobile.
South Carolina needs more of this!!

“In a brief snap shot of deer history in South Carolina I like to remind folks that about 200 years of cotton farming kept habitat at a bare minimum,” said Ruth. “Then in the 1920’s the dual forces of a depression and a prolonged drought caused the demise of large scale cotton farming. These cleared lands began to grow back and by the 1970’s the entire state was once again forested with great habitat for white-tailed deer.”
Program from ACE Basin workshop
“It was about this time that forestry began to flourish all across the Southeast,” said Ruth. “In S.C. the practice of clear cutting created a spike in the overall deer population as the early successional habitat began to grow back. However, today’s deer numbers are down about 30-percent from the high numbers during the 1980’s and I cite several factors. Site preparation for planting of pines today often involves a herbicide treatment to suppress vegetation, which used to equate to high quality deer browse.”

“For those practicing quality deer management, our research reveals some things about buck movements,” said Ruth. “Young bucks stay with their mother for the first year so they only know her home range. But when they reach 1.5-years of age and grow their first set of small antlers, these same young bucks strike out on a trail to establish their own home range.” This type of movement by young bucks can disappoint deer managers who find that smaller bucks are often killed on neighboring properties with no antler restrictions, which is why QDM cooperatives can be mutually beneficial.

Joe Hamilton said that the newly formed National Deer Alliance, or NDA, will serve as a unified voice for deer hunters from all states in the U.S. to speak to legislators in a unified voice. Not to mention that a greater coalition of deer hunting groups like QDMA and Whitetails Unlimited will help to protect the future of deer hunting. Hamilton stresses that it is free to join the NDA, and that as founder of QDMA he supports everyone joining this new group.

To view this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about the ACE Basin QDMA workshop click in 2012 or 2011.

To view past blog entries about the ACE Basin QDMA banquet click 2014 or 2013 or 2012