Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ACE Basin celebrates 25th Anniversary


The Lowcountry blends a unique diversity of saltwater marine environs, classic uplands and freshwater rivers filtered by swamps of hardwood bottomland. Wildlife Habitat 101 teaches that having these ecosystems adjacent to each other creates an edge effect where nature can flourish. While the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers have been flowing through the Lowcountry for eons, the formation of the ACE Basin conservation project helps to raise awareness about why it’s worthy of protection.
            
It’s always good to mark the passage of time, as in most things only get better over time. The year 1989 saw the Lowcountry devastated by Hurricane Hugo, especially the Francis Marion National Forest just north of Charleston. Vast areas of natural resources were laid flat during that hurricane, and it was just the most recent reminder that coastal S.C. is vulnerable to the fury of Mother Nature’s winds.
            
Also credited in 1989 is the formation of the ACE Basin, a meeting of the minds among conservationists, landowners and duck hunters. A Chicago businessman named Gaylord Donnelly owned plantation lands along the Ashepoo River below Highway 17 South in Colleton County, and he honored his family’s love for the area by acting to preserve it. By chance, I was recently in Chicago and saw the skyscraper downtown where the Donnelly company is located. 

ACE Basin 25th Anniversary section in Colletonian
No one man can represent the true group effort that fuels the ACE Basin. Of course, leaders will emerge over time to hold the reigns and instill the charge to continue on a course towards future preservation. It’s a similar story with national conservation groups, state agencies and county leaders. They all have a role to play in forming the tapestry of partners that is being patched together like a grand quilt of conservation. 

More than 150 private landowners placed a conservation easement on their properties to limit development in these natural areas. A celebration for the 20th Anniversary of the ACE Basin was held in Nov. 2009 at Willtown Bluff Plantation on the Edisto River. Rainy and cold weather did not dampen the celebration that day since those that love and support the ACE Basin are outdoor enthusiasts, the same types that don’t cancel a day in the field due to poor weather.

For some, stewardship of Lowcountry lands has been going on for generations. Many families in Colleton County are small private landowners who have acted responsibly for 100 years or more to protect their rural heritage. The success of the ACE Basin conservation project is the involvement of public partners working together to advance the quality of life for both humans and nature. The passage of time is non-negotiable, but protecting an environment for all-time takes a continuous message of education and outreach for those who would listen and lead.

To read the entire article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about the ACE Basin click on 2012 Update / John  Frampton or 2013 Waterfowl Warrior Hunt or ACE Basin QDMA or Friends of Nemours or Wounded Warrior Deer Hunt or Colleton Plantation Tour or Mottled Duck Study.

For public hunting in the ACE Basin click on ducks or deer or alligator.

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

To view past Birding Journal Observations click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 10/28/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Capt. Jack Bracewell (left) with an October king mackerel
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West shares that while It has been said many times before, if you can’t find something to do outdoors in the lowcountry this time of year you need to wake up! A stellar inshore bite is going on with fantastic reports of Sheepshead around the bridges using fiddler crabs, an awesome flounder bite around our inlets and rock piles using live minnows or a Zman PaddlerZ, and the bull reds are still crushing cut baits and live baits around the jetties! Further up the rivers we are seeing a solid trout bite on artificial shrimp fished under a popping float, and good numbers of schooling redfish can be found on the shallow low tide flats that will willingly take a chunk of finger mullet or a Gulp! Bait. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Offshore Report: Flat calm seas and some stellar fishing has led many boats back out on the big pond recently. Closer to shore, Jack Bracewell of Eren’s Addiction Too fishing team reports an awesome king bite in 50 to 70-feet of water live baiting over good live bottom, and even came back with a monster cobia in addition to great numbers of BIG kings. Further out, numerous boats did some high-speed trolling along the ledge this past weekend producing some solid wahoo action with fish in excess of 70-pounds being brought to the scales. Bottom fishing continues to be strong during fall months, with great reports of vermillions and triggers coming in from 75 to 90-feet and some nice grouper coming in from 100 to 140-feet of water.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chicago - Scenic Vistas

To view past blog entries from Chicago click on Ralph Lauren Restaurant or Shedd Aquarium.
Or to view scenic vistas from Western North Carolina click here.
Chicago at Night as seen from top of the Hancock Building


Chicago by Day as seen from top of the Willis Building

Chicago Canal in October Spendor

Spectacular Sunrise over Lake Michigan as seen from 42nd floor of Four Seasons Hotel

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chicago - Ralph Lauren Restaurant

RL Cafe classic - Bread and Butter
Elegant Fireplace Seating for Lunch 
Walking along Michigan Avenue and shopping the Miracle Mile includes seeing plenty of flagship stores for virtually every well-known brand name. Disney, Apple, Garmin and the like are a part of the equation but apparel stores rule this town and Chicago shopping is tailor made for any clothes horse. Even an outdoors enthusiast was able to hit pay dirt with stores by Barbour, Orvis and Timberland present, plus those stores like Ralph Lauren that cross over from haute couture to outdoor RRL style.
The Polo Store is next door

Portraits of Style on the wall in the RL store
With two recommendations from trusted sources we located the Ralph Lauren flagship store, but not so we could go shopping for the Polo label clothing that I have worn for three decades, but rather for some lunch. Say what? A full restaurant with grill room and bar with fireplace and outside seating is adjacent to the retail store, and the story goes that Ralph Lauren chose Chicago as the place to open his only restaurant in the United States. The only other RL restaurant in the world is located in Paris, France.

Iconic Books for Sale at RL including Hinckley Yachts
Our hotel concierge handled the reservation process for us and were offered a small fireplace front table with padded leather chair seating. The October weather outside was cloudy and cool and residents of the Windy City were dressed in winter coats, and the RL waitress said that the gas fireplace had just been lit for the winter season. Lots of well-dressed locals were entering the RL for lunch, but we were able to strike up conversation with some other first-time visitors to the RL restaurant.

Our meal started with an assortment of breads with butter and we sampled the calamari starter. The Polo Club sandwich was stacked high with chicken and ham, lettuce and tomatoes, but the bread slices were a bit too thick. The Grilled Steak sandwich was surprisingly tender, and was drizzled in melted provolone cheese. Main course offerings for dinner include Denver Sole, Lake Perch and Chesapeake Crab Cake Benedict. Still hungry? Check out Travel and Leisure's Best Lunch Spots in Chicago.

 To view past blog entries from Chicago click on Shedd Aquarium.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chicago - Shedd Aquarium Visit

Lovely Shedd Aquarium - sponsored by Toyota
This Moray Eel posed for the lensman from the Lowcountry
Visiting Chicago as a tourist can provide a quandry when one considers all that the Windy City has to offer in terms of architecture, floral flair and shopping on the Magnificent Mile. After flying into Midway Airport and then taking the CTA train to Chicago station, it was time to shop 'til you drop, or in this case until my feet were barking like a dog and begging for a taxi. We rode to the Chicago Cultural Center and were able to obtain a City Pass good for five must see attractions in Chi-town.

First on my list was to bounce over to the Museum Campus and visit the Shedd Aquarium, which is next door to the Fields Museum, Adler Planetarium and Soldier Field. The Shedd Aquarium building itself is a neoclassical architectural marvel that opened to the public in 1930 and is still eye-popping today. Amazingly, rail cars brought saltwater from Key West to the Aquarium in 1930 to establish a permanent marine exhibit, which was the first of its kind well inland.

Black-spotted catfish fingerlings
Make sure to visit the 4D theatre while at the Aquarium and the Beluga Whale experience is sure to please too. I passed on the stingray touch tank (no doubt) but enjoyed the Great Lakes section where I learned they comprise 20-percent of the world's surface freshwater supply!  The Shedd Aquarium juts out into Lake Michigan, providing a memorable waterfront view of Chicago. If weather permits, lunch at the outside cafe seems prudent, or try the Ralph Lauren Restaurant. For more information visit the Internet at Shedd Aquarium.

To view past blog entries click on Audubon Aquarium New Orleans or South Carolina Aquarium.

To view past blog entries on Sustainable Seafood click Circa 1886 .

 To view blog entires on ocean conservation click Guy Harvey.
October weather was cloudy, cool and WINDY

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Looking Out for the Right Hunting Gear


Sure-Shot grunt call sounds great in the woods

The heart of the rut is here, and the buck movement seen by hunters is at an increased rate. Warmer than average temperatures have kept the bugs around, but a light jacket is now essential for making trips to the deer stand. The pinch of daylight savings time will not affect the animals in the natural world, but many sportsmen are about to see more sunrise hunting opportunities. Each fall hunting season is a command performance of the last, and one constant is that this year’s gear will tempt us to try something different.
            
Sure-Shot Game Calls out of Texas are best known today for their duck calls, with their Yentzen duck call named after one of the early Texas call makers. George Yentzen made duck calls out of black walnut in the 1940’s and passes that tradition on to Cowboy Fernandez by 1960. Their business was the foundation for the Sure Shot calls of today led by Charlie Holder.
            
Thermacell goes PINK for lady hunters!
During this time of year in the Lowcountry deer woods, an aggressive call can sometimes be met with reaction from a mature buck. The Grunt Deer Call by Sure Shot is east to use and caries a rich, deep tone that will carry sound through past the remaining leaves on the trees. They also offer a rattling bag which can be used effectively during those times when only a short window of time permits a hunting opportunity. Rattling demands that the hunter be ready to shoot, since the bucks will most likely be moving to better see and smell what is making all that rattling noise.

Most outdoor enthusiasts have heard of the Thermacell or ‘bug machines’ that have proven to be effective against biting insects while in the deer stand. New for this year, and just in time for breast cancer awareness month is the Realtree Pink Camo appliance for lady hunters that want to sport the right look. It runs on the same butane cartridge as the original Thermacell which provides an odorless repellant against pesky mosquitoes.

To read this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about hunting gear click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wood Duck Boxes available from SCDNR for S.C. Landowners


Wood Duck box from SCDNR after
several years in the pond

The number one duck in the bag for hunters in South Carolina year after year is the wood duck. Plenty of Lowcountry duck hunters target only wood ducks and a bag of three woodies is the equivalent of a great hunt. A few years back the daily limit per hunter was raised from two to three wood ducks per day. This increase is a result of thriving wood duck populations, and a couple of woodie character traits help to play a role.
            
First, wood ducks will make use of nesting boxes, while almost all other waterfowl will shun them. Two, wood ducks earn their nickname of ‘summer duck’ because some of their population will stay in the area year round. Setting out wood duck boxes can help wood ducks to acclimate to those areas so then when breeding season arrives in February they are ready to raise more ducklings.
            
SCDNR biologists know that wood ducks will use natural cavities in hardwood trees in our bottomlands for opportunistic nesting. However, there are fewer hardwoods today due to human activities like clear-cutting of swamps, and development. Now private landowners can assist wood duck populations by applying for a free nesting box to install in suitable areas for nesting.
            
Applicants must realize beforehand that these same nest boxes require annual maintenance in winter, before nesting season. While this is a chore that can require clearing out wasp nests and possibly getting a little wet, it is the type of outdoor activity that anyone can enjoy, whether they are a hunter or not. My pro tip would be to install a game cam near the opening of the nesting box in order to monitor its use over time.
            
Only a limited amount of wood duck boxes are produced and available each year, and the deadline to apply is Nov. 1, 2014. For more information visit the Internet at SCDNR.

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

For past blog entries on wood ducks click on hunting or cooking.