Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ACE Basin and Ducks Unlimited CEO host NAWCA Partners

Gadwall lift off from an impoundment at Bear Island WMA
DU guests got a driving tour of rice trunks and dikes

The conservation calendar has been full this fall with events relating to the 25th Anniversary of the ACE Basin, where groups like DU and private landowners placed conservation easements on properties, leading to landscape-scale protection. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act or NAWCA is a federal program that provides funding to make improvements to protected properties, and Bennett’s Point and Bear Island hosted dignitaries to salute completed projects in the Lowcountry.
The lunchtime meal on Friday November 21 at Bennetts Point was held at the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) Field Station. Dale Hall is the Chief Executive Officer for Ducks Unlimited based in Memphis, Tennessee and he made remarks at the NERR luncheon and then was given a special tour of Bear Island WMA by Dean Harrigal from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. The tour included viewing of  NAWCA projects with lots of visiting migratory waterfowl flying overhead.
Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, at ACE Basin NERR
“The first Ducks Unlimited easement in the ACE Basin was at Mary’s Island, which is now part of the Donnelley WMA,” said Hall. “The wintering grounds here in South Carolina are extremely important to migratory waterfowl who choose to overwinter here. Why? Because the ducks need food sources to get the protein and fat that are necessary to sustain them when they return to the northern nesting grounds. Ducks returning in good shape have better eggshell development which is one positive step towards future waterfowl production.”

At Bennetts Point, Mark Robertson from The Nature Conservancy shared that he sees a strong conservation ethic in South Carolina that is unique. Citing a stat that South Carolina is third in the number of total wetlands behind Louisiana and Florida, he challenged attendees to be mindful that wetlands can be lost where conservation is not present. Robertson also cited that S.C. ranks fifth in states with the least wetlands loss overall.

To view this entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 11/25/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

To view a past blog entry about surf fishing click here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

2014 Thanksgiving Harvest Photos

Timmy Benton uses a combine to gather corn
Hunter Benton cutting sorghum
Lowcountry Outdoors is all about our rural and agricultural heritage that helped to define generations of outdoorsmen. In 2014 in particular we are happy for the fall harvest of crops that help to sustain the farming families of the Lowcountry. Whether cotton, soybeans, hay or corn crops the time to harvest what was sown is upon us and another growing season awaits in the Spring of 2015.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

To view past blog entries about Thanksgiving click on Camp Chef - Quail Season Opening Day - Mixed Bag - Lady Hunter tags 10-point buck - 2009 Driven Deer Hunt - 2012 Driven Deer Hunt

Cows graze during sunset

Hay Baler producing another perfect roll

Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014 S.C. Governor's Cup Photo Essay

Micheal Krivohlavek shows that the Bite was ON

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources runs the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. A total of five offshore fishing tournaments take place during the summer up and down the S.C. coast and a Series winner is determined using a points system for billfish releases. Practicing billfish conservation while promoting the sport of bluewater fishing is the top priority for these anglers.

From the November issue of All At Sea magazine
Participating in each series event is not required but it helps to build points and Georgetown-based Rascal did just that. They fished in all five events and though they did not win a single event, their fishing luck was very consistent. Owner Norman Pulliam of Spartanburg and co-owner Foster McKissick of Greenville keep a veteran crew and they claimed the overall title of Best Billfish Boat for 2014.

Mark Rogers is the captain on Rascal and he helped guide them to releasing four blue marlin and seven sailfish during the Series. Rascal also owns the S.C. state record for a blue marlin they landed back in 2005. Though the tournament series ended in late July the official awards ceremony takes place in October. The 2015 competition begins next May and will mark the 27th anniversary of S.C. Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. 

To view this article in the magazine click on All At Sea.

To view past blog entries about the S.C. Gov. Cup click 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009.

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 Bald Head Island - Surf Fishing

Fresh caught red drum out the N.C. surf zone

The southeast coast of Brunswick County, North Carolina includes several barrier islands such as Topsail Island, Holden Beach and Oak Island. But anglers can stack the deck in their favor by heading to Bald Head Island since it juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Fishing further out means a greater variety of species can be encountered like flounder, jacks and mackerel.
There are several unique factors in play at Bald Head Island besides the logistics of a ferry ride from Southport. Only golf carts are allowed on the island, and they have a rental fleet of carts ready to go. The island is in the shape of a triangle and is uniquely situated with its main beachfront facing south. The West beach faces the Cape Fear River and the East beach extends out into the Frying Pan Shoals.
It takes teamwork to play and land larger red drum in the surf
This triangular formation means that no matter which direction the sea island breezes are bowing there will always be a protected section of beach to fish from. The shoals at the point where East Beach meets South Beach offer rough water fishing for bluefish that blitz through the surf zone during their annual October bluefish bonanza tournament.
The West beach tempts anglers to cast towards the Cape Fear River and fish for red drum along the drop offs that are a characteristic of this section of beach. A valid N.C. fishing license and some cut bait are part of the surf fishing essentials along with surf spikes and a tackle box filled with lead sinkers and fishing hooks. Slot limits apply for red drum and it’s easy to practice catch and release after skidding a bronzy redfish up onto the beach. 

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

To view past blog entries about Bald Head Island click here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

2014 Gamekeepers / Fall - The Duck Truck Stop

Rice and Ducks!
Waterfowl managers already know that it takes a trial and error approach to figure out what works best by trying different plantings in their area. Much the same way that Mossy Oak Gamekeepers figure out which clover grows well in the low areas, and what fire breaks are the most valuable for starting back burns. It can take the same system of testing over time to identify the formula that best brings ducks to your waterfowl plot.

2014 Fall edition
Rice and Conservation

Hunting over large quantities of rice is becoming a scarce proposition bur rice production still offers one of the best ways to concentrate waterfowl. For those who produce rice in small plots for waterfowl, they must be careful not to flood too early before opening day, since the ducks may show up in droves. This can be the equivalent of a fireworks display for managers, with the influx of ducks a spectacular sight, but they can also eat out the rice in a hurry and then be gone for good.
Large rice production areas still exist in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas, and in California’s Central Valley. These large areas are part of the USA Rice Federation and in February of 2013 they formed a partnership with Ducks Unlimited to raise awareness about the relationship between rice production and waterfowl. These working rice lands represent a significant portion of the areas where waterfowl overwinter each year.
During my visit in October of 2013 to Southwest Louisiana I was able to witness one of the large rice operations at Grosse Savanne. Field Operations Manager Doug Miller represents DU on the  Rice Stewardship Partnership, and has been fine-tuning the Grosse Savanne rice fields for the past twelve years. Their 2000-acres of rice production annually attracts wads of waterfowl and speckle belly geese too, and during my visit it was thousands of migratory blue-winged teal that were on site for a visit during their southward migration.
Lots of info on page 30
Coastal Plain Game Plan

Plantation manager Tadpole Baldwin is native to Colleton County in South Carolina, and his family has a specific tradition of managing for waterfowl. The 2014 menu for migratory ducks at the private plantation he oversees will be a mix of approximately 600-acres of corn and 2500-acres of moist soil management. Whereas one may not manipulate any corn crop and remain legal for hunting waterfowl, the mowing and burning of natural vegetation is considered a common management practice and that area remains legal to hunt.
“The corn crop isn’t flooded using the Edisto River until just days before the waterfowl season comes in,” says Baldwin. “Nature will then take its course over time and degrade the stalks to where the corn is either blown down to where the ducks are, or perhaps the ears will simply sag enough to where they can stretch out and reach it.”
While the mere sight of flooded corn is likely to signal waterfowl to drop in, this coastal area has unique food sources that may have an even more powerful affect. “We’ll have about 1000-acres of Redroot flat sedge that is a natural food source for dabbling ducks. The Redroot prefers the areas that have peat in the soil complex, and the fall panicum grasses do better where we find mud and silt from the river.” 

To view past blog entries from Mossy Oak GameKeepers Magazine click on Spring 2014 - Summer 2014 - Winter 2013

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2014 Duck Season Opening Day is Nov. 22

A waterfowler wades out to pass shoot wood ducks at dawn

Does the thought of early rising for waterfowl season make for a better state of mind? You bet. The sunrise scenery around the waterfowling areas of the Lowcountry are hard to beat. Cold fingers look to be in the forecast for opening day, but duck hunters wouldn’t have it any other way. With record duck populations this year and cold winter air already affecting the northern states, this could be a memorable season for Lowcountry waterfowlers.
Of course not everyone is willing to forego extra hours of sleep time and head out into the cold in hopes of merely glimpsing some ducks. One local recently told me that the best part about duck hunting season is the annual Ducks Unlimited banquet, and not the hunting at all. Well everyone has an opinion about duck season, but duck hunters just always seem to be avid about their time spent in the outdoors.
Welcoming Paul Schmidt to the Lowcountry on Nov. 2
According to the 2014 Waterfowl Breeding Survey duck numbers surged upward to the tune of an 8-percent increase over the past year. This continues a three-year trend where ample rainfall at the breeding grounds have played a positive role for population increases. This is the 60th year of the survey that is a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
Paul Schmidt is the Chief Conservation Officer for Ducks Unlimited and he was in the Lowcountry on November 2 for the 25th anniversary of the ACE Basin. “We are encouraged by the population trends of several duck species, especially American wigeon, which have come back strong during the past two years,” said Schmidt. “Particularly encouraging is the entire suite of birds that are showing good signs due to available wetlands and the upland habitat to rear their young.”

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about opening day hunts click on 2012 Dove Season - 2011 Teal Season - 2011 Goose season - 2012 Teal Season - 2014 Goose season