Wednesday, January 15, 2020

2020 Duck Hunt in Forked Deer River, West Tennessee

Duck Hunters in the 'Ol Hole waiting on mallards to swing by
Green-winged teal in the bag
Traveling to hunt ducks in the Mississippi Flyway requires many hours of drive time from the Lowcountry, with the destination operating on Central time. Willow Tail Farms in Dyer, Tennessee offer a family-owned operation for hunting ducks in flooded bottomland timber. Located above Memphis and just shy of the fabled duck hunting waters of Reelfoot Lake, the nuts and bolts of the area they own ensures that classic duck habitat and proper water control come standard with every hunt. 

A big plus for 2020 is the brand new hunting lodge at Willow Tail Farm, a two-story metal building that is finished inside with eye-popping ponderosa pine wood. The lodge features eight comfortable rooms with two beds each, and a bathroom with a sliding barn door. An open design kitchen area allows the home-cooked meals to spread out on the dining table in full view of the adjacent living room area and big-screen TV for end of day fellowship. Dining on barbecue and grits for supper underscores the southern fare served here.

After The Hunt at the NEW lodge
Head guide Ryan Fisher is the point man for booking hunts, orchestrating multiple hunt parties, and for striving to provide more value to the hunt than simply pulling the trigger. Fisher also operates as a fishing guide in Montana during the summer, and his brother Doug Fisher oversees the day to day operations back at the farm, including the new lodge construction project. To reach the Willow Tail Lodge call 731-431-7627 or visit WillowTailFarm.com on the Internet.

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

To view past blog entries on January duck hunts click on 2019 - 2018 - 2018 -20172016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009


Cooking breakfast in the duck blind



Wednesday, January 8, 2020

2020 Grand American Coon Hunt - Treeing Walker Wins

The Final Four at the 2020 Grand American
The 55th annual Grand American Coon Hunt came to Orangeburg over the weekend of January 3 – 5. The weather always seems to play a role in the coon hunting, and 2020 was no different with heavy rain Friday night followed by lots of wind on Saturday night. The Grand American serves as a kick-off to an entire year of United Kennel Club (UKC) sanctioned events, and it attracts scores of coon hunting enthusiasts from around the country. At the end of the Saturday night hunt-off, a coonhound based out of S.C. was declared the Overall Hunt Winner for 2020.
            
The format of coon hunting on Friday night and Saturday night produces a Final Four of top coonhounds, who then compete in the early hours of Sunday morning to determine the overall winner. A three-year old male Treeing Walker coonhound named PR Hypersonic Wipeout Danger, beat out the other three competitors in that final cast. The winning owners are Bruce and Christy Rabon from Galivants Ferry, South Carolina and the handlers are Patrick Cribb from Whiteville, N.C. and Ernest Jordan III. The Treeing Walker breed of coon hound was by the most popular at the Grand American in 2020, finishing as the top dogs in most hunt categories.
            

The second place coonhound on Saturday night was a four-year old Treeing Walker named PR Mountain Valley Shorty, handled by Jonathan Long of Taylors, S.C. Finishing in third place was a seven-year old female Treeing Walker, GRNITECH GRCH PR Eastridges Tar Heel Tina, handled by Anthony Hammonds from Kingsport, Tennessee. The fourth place finisher was a four-year old male Treeing Walker named GRNITECH GRCH PR The Tree Slamming Judge, handled by Franklin Card of Johnsonville, S.C. The dog Judge and handler Card combo, won the Friday night hunt cast, vaulting them into the Final Four hunt competition, while the other three entries qualified on Saturday night. 

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

To view past blog entries from the Grand American click on 201920182017 - 20162015 - 2014 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Regional Flounder Numbers Fall Flat - S.C. Anglers To Take Survey

Southern flounder are commonly found in S.C.
The future of flounder fishing is looking flimsy according to a newly completed study. Earlier this year a comprehensive assessment of flounder numbers across N.C., S.C., Georgia and northern Florida ended with alarm bells ringing. Flounder are being found in historically low numbers, and it is likely that decades of overfishing for this popular resource is to blame. Changes in flounder fishing season dates, bag limits and size restrictions are likely coming soon, and SCDNR is asking all anglers to take an online survey concerning the state of the flatfish.
            
A common theme in saltwater fishing seems to be stress on these natural resources due to its popularity. There is more commercial fishing, more charter fishing and more recreational fishing than ever, and the natural resources are not able to remain sustainable without proactive regulation. Readers of the Colletonian recall that in 2017, SCDNR approved changes in decreased flounder limits as a path towards flounder recovery. The outlook for success wasn’t rosy but it seemed plausible. The 2019 flounder stock assessment findings are in stark contrast to that earlier optimism.
            
Biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources out of the Fort Johnson Marine Lab have two long-term data sets on inshore fisheries to harvest flounder data from. Their electrofishing surveys and trammel net surveys both show the S.C. flounder numbers are the lowest they have been since these studies began in 1990. These studies catch fish for size measurements and DNA samples, before releasing the fish back into the estuary. Over time this creates a snapshot of the health of the fishery.

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

To view past blog entries about saltwater conservation click on 2019 Cobia Migration Via Satellite -  2018 Trout / Cold Concerns - 2017 Flounder Regulations - 2014 Oyster Recycling 2013 Tarpon Law 


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's Toast to 2019

Scouting for ducks at a Lowcountry plantation
located in the Santee Delta
The Tenth Anniversary Year for Lowcountry Outdoors went by fast, and I look forward to seeing what comes into focus during the 2020 outdoors campaign. Blogging allows me to communicate about experiences from the field, while sharing life lessons that are timeless for outdoors enthusiasts. I remain thankful for the media outlets that carry my byline such as the Colletonian newspaper, Charleston Mercury newspaper, Mossy Oak Gamekeepers magazine, allowing me to cover topics ranging from hunting and fishing to conservation. I stay watchful for Field Notes along the way, and value opportunities to visit other states as a Field Expert for Drake Waterfowl.

Big dead tree I found at Tall Pines WMA 

To view top stories from 2019 click on Bear Island Duck HuntSassafras Mountain Observation Tower - Satellite Tracking Cobia MigrationKiawah Island Turtle Patrol - Trophy Button BuckACE Basin 30th Anniversary

To view past blog entries from my New Year's Eve Toast click on 201820172016 20152014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009  

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Late Dove Hunting Season Opens LATE - 12/28/19

More shells than doves is a typical late season scenario
Each year the hunting seasons and regulations for hunting migratory birds is formulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal government provides a framework of dates for individual state to choose from, and this year the last leg of dove season is running a little later than usual. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources shifted the late dove season, so there can be no Christmas Day dove hunts, but once the season opens on December 28, it will run two weeks longer than usual and won’t conclude until January 30, 2020. 
            
In recent memory the late dove season has run from December 15 until January 15. Most small game hunters agree that the cold of winter sometimes doesn’t build up sufficiently by mid-January and that extending the dove hunting season would be beneficial. Cold weather requires doves to eat more and stay active to keep warm, which means they are more likely to come to fields prepared for dove hunts. A couple of extra weekend hunts for doves in 2020 means that if doves congregate in good numbers due to late cold fronts, wingshooters can spend some extra time in the outdoors.
            
Losing the traditional Christmas day dove hunt is a trade off to shifting and elongating the dove season. Even though the bag limit of doves remains 15 doves per hunter per day, overall dove numbers are average at best, and doves can be especially fickle in the late season. When your humble correspondent was a young man, Christmas day dove hunts in Western Colleton County were common. Lots and lots of doves were reliable back then, so invitations to come hunt could be issued, and usually the affair ended with a barbecue pig pickin’. I was shooting a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun on one such hunt when I was a youth, and those holiday dove hunting memories still resonate with me today.

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

To view past blog entries on late dove season click on 2019 - 2016 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wild Boars Blamed for Upstate Horse Attacks

Close Up of the tusk on the wild boar shot in the upstate horse pasture
An investigation by the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division into a rash of mysterious horse injuries in the Upstate concludes that wild boars are to blame. An upstate man shot and killed a large boar in a horse pasture on December 12, which seems to offer a common sense conclusion that at least one wild boar was acting aggressively. The story of the horse injuries unfolded in Spartanburg County, requiring three horse to be euthanized due to injury. Since wild hogs are already present in every county of the state, horse owners are watching this development closely, since feral hog numbers have potential to increase over time.
            
The boar that was killed is estimated to be 500-pounds with three-inch tusks. If you aren’t a hunter, you might not hear the tales year after year of very large wild boars being killed with greater frequency. Obviously some of these wild boars possess the stealth to avoid detection long enough to grow to maturity, and they are most likely nocturnal in nature. A good defense for horse owners is to have a stout fence around their pasture, since large boars are not likely to jump a fence or to dig under it. While it’s likely that the aggressive tactics of the upstate wild boar documented by SLED is rare, wild pigs in general will likely remain on the landscape.

A book I picked up in 2011 called the Year of the Pig documented feral hogs across the Southeast. In the book’s forward Steven Ditchkoff writes that Hernando de Soto brought the first pigs to North America in 1539. They were already known as a species of survivors, and the explorers relied on the fact that a source of pork meat would be readily available upon return visits. Utilizing their short gestation period, a sow pig can have three litters in 14-months under normal conditions. Hunters are unable to keep up with the boom in feral hog numbers, and modern trapping techniques seem to offer the best prescription.

To view the entire feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian


Thursday, December 12, 2019

ACE Basin Conservation Celebrates 30 Years

Colleton County has a direct impact on all three ACE River Basins
In 1989 the river basins of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers were dubbed the ACE Basin. Like-minded conservation leaders knew that they wanted to protect the tapestry of land, water and pluff mud that defines this zone of coastal South Carolina. The word conservation was not the same term that we think of today, regarding habitat preservation through legally binding easements. Conservation efforts started by private landowners were embraced by federal and state government, leading to over 300,000-acres protected in the ACE Basin over the past 30 years.
             
The 20th Anniversary of the ACE Basin was held at Willtown Bluff Planation on Sunday, November 22, 2009. Rainy and cold weather that day did not dampen the spirit of the outdoor enthusiasts, but the big tent under the grand live oaks did offer a measure of comfort. The 30th Anniversary of the ACE Basin event returned to Willtown Bluff on Sunday December 8, with much more pleasant outdoor weather. The featured speaker in 2009 was Matt Connolly of Ducks Unlimited, and the one of the speakers in 2019 was Senator Chip Campsen. No one conservation group or set of leaders can represent what truly is a collaborative effort to grow the ACE Basin.

River Basins of South Carolina 
The ACE Basin may become a blueprint for other areas in the United States to navigate where other conservation projects are warranted. South Carolina is home to a second grand scale conservation area which encompasses from the Francis Marion National Forest up to the Santee Delta. These areas are well-known to hunters and anglers, birdwatchers and Lowcountry locals, but they are also gathering newer acclaim and partnerships. Dominion Energy recently donated a $50,000 grant to DU in recognition of the ACE Basin. Governor Henry McMaster praises natural beauty as being one of the Palmetto State’s greatest assets. “The ACE Basin serves as a perfect example of what we can do when we collectively commit to being good stewards of the natural resources,” said McMaster.

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