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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 White Marlin Open - Big Blues Too


Rock Doc Fishing Team at 2014 White Marlin Open
Click for their White Marlin Go Pro Video

Five days of white marlin fishing is only one part of what is known as the world’s largest billfish tournament. Sportfishing boats from up and down the East Coast congregate in this central location for an annual August shootout. With a million dollars on the line for white marlin, the blue marlin can sometimes be overshadowed but that was not the case in 2014 with three big blues weighed in.
            
With 288 totals boats registered to fish in the 2014 White Marlin Open, organizer Jim Motsko is appreciative for all the support. “This is our third year of increased registration after the economy dipped,” said Motsko. “Our heyday was back in 2006 when we had 400 boats fishing. The event is such a fun experience that anglers keep wanting to come back.” The fun and the 2.77-million dollar purse too!
            
“The weigh-in and festivities happen at Harbour Island in Ocean City which is off of 14th street,” said Mostko. “There is public transportation to Harbour Island which helps with our large crowds of spectators, and we have been using this facility since we started the tournament. My cousin Andy performs the emcee duties at the weigh-in and I stay behind the scenes out on the dock.”
            
September cover - Boston Whaler!
In past years the white marlin bite has been rampant but not so in 2014, and the White Marlin Open rules stipulate that any white marlin must weigh a minimum of 70-pounds or measure a minimum of 67-inches in order to be considered legal. Only one white marlin met these standards, weighing in at 78.0-pounds and giving angler John Bayliss the first place prize payout of 1.29 million dollars.

Two boats went out on Thursday August 7 and found pay dirt in the form of big blue marlin. The Gratitude out of Virginia Beach, Virginia brought a 738.5-pound blue marlin to the scales that afternoon. The Generation out of Cape May, New Jersey was fishing within sight of Gratitude and landed their own blue marlin that tilted the scales at 564.5-pounds.The crowd was in frenzy from the double dose of blue marlin, but one more fishing day remained.

            
On Friday August 8 a fleet of 270-boats went fishing for a white marlin that could displace Bayliss, or for another big blue marlin. The white marlin remained shy but Rhonda’s Osprey out of Ocean City, Maryland landed a blue marlin that went 723.5-pounds, which narrowly missed being in first place. Organizer Mostko told me he can’t recall a year when they had two blue marlin over 700-pounds at their tournament.

To read the remainder of this feature article click on All At Sea.

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Denver Downs Farm - Corn Maze and Punkin' Patch

This baby goat stood up and instinctively butted heads!
Though they are open from September thru November, it was the month of October that brought me to the Denver Downs Farm. Located in the Piedmont section of South Carolina, along the road to Clemson University, the rolling terrain is well suited for hayrides, hay romps and the like. Every day here is a fall festival, but they have fine-tuned the grounds to include lots of games for kids to enjoy, which extends the family fun time spent in the outdoors.

How 'bout a hey ride past the Punkin' patch!
A sunny and unseasonably warm day had visitors in shorts rather than fleece garb, but some Indian summer conditions are to be expected in the Palmetto State. A large parking lot in a field can handle crowds, and the kiosk to enter Denver Downs accepts both cash and credit payments. The ticket is all inclusive for games and rides but excludes food, beverage and pumpkins to take home. The day of our visit a nanny goat gave birth to two kids - and you can't put a price on the excitement and cuteness of such moments!

Good Info to Know
Youth activities included a climbing wall, zip line, hand-pumping water, a corn crib, tennis ball launcher, rolling races and jumping station. Livestock on display included multiple goats, a large sow pig, and a team of horses on a buggy ride option. Even some piglets ran in a four-way race, making the crowd 'squeal' with approval. Other activity stations provided the kind of variety where there is something to appeal to just about anyone.

2014 Corn Maze at Denver Downs
The corn maze and the hayride take the longest amounts of time and make good group excursions. Inside the corn maze of fresh green corn stalks offer plenty of directional options and everyone can take turns leading their people either deeper into the web of the maze, or perhaps to the Exit point. The hay wagons are pulled by large tractors and travel around the perimeter of the corn maze, giving visitors a different look at the splendid rural grounds at Denver Downs.

To view past blog entries about outdoor fun click on Sassafras Mountain or Sky Top Orchard.

To view Field Notes and Photos click here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sassafras Mountain - Highest Point in S.C.

View from observation deck at Sassafras Mountain
Conservation is the name of the game in South Carolina whether in the coastal plain or in the scenic foothills. Pickens County is home to a wedge of the Appalachian chain and the peak of Sassafras Mountain marks the state line with North Carolina. Of course the mountains of Western N.C. and Eastern Tenn. are much more extensive and offers a home to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Elevation 3553 !! Click for Video Report.
Did you know that there is an observation platform already in place at Sassafras Mountain and that plans are in place to build a multi-level observation platform on the peak when fundraising can be completed. Phase One of the plan has been executed, removing many of the trees and other woody vegetation at the top to increase the viewing potential. To read more about the plan click SCDNR.

And what a view it is, with panoramic vistas looking back towards Jocassee Gorges in S.C., and across a wider range of mountains into N.C. it lies among the 77-mile long Foothills Trail. The terrain is steep in this area, and even driving to Sassafrass can be challenging, but it's worth the trip. This area should provide a lot of enjoyment for the public, especially when it is the fall leaf viewing season.

To view past blog entries with mountain vista photos click here.
I parked my Toyota Avalon hybrid very near the Over Look

Artist's Representation of Tower


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

50th Ann. of Southeastern Outdoor Press at Fontana, N.C.


2014 is the Golden Anniversary for SEOPA

Those passionate folks in the Southeast who felt a calling to write about the outdoors banded together five decades ago to found a media organization while gathering near the Smoky Mountains in Fontana, North Carolina. The steady march of time from 1964 included plenty of hunting seasons and fishing opportunities, before it became time to plan and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. Though the recent changes in the publishing industry have been numerous it was a return to Fontana that brought attendees a tangible connection to the past.
NBCI Outdoor Communicator Award Winners at SEOPA
            
The conference kicked off with a concert by local bluegrass band Balsam Range, and their lead singer quipped that they were proud to be Appalachian Americans. The business of the annual conference is always to help the media members to become better at their craft, and to remain mindful of their professional responsibilities. Workshops at Fontana included adventure photography, writing outdoor stories for youth readers, first aid in the field and newspaper reporting. One session about the tribulations of blogging held particular interest for me since I began my own blog back in January 2009.

A large crowd gathered for the 50th Anniversary
 Ron and Karen Presley traveled from Florida
Fundraising for SEOPA includes silent and live auctions during dinner banquets at the conference. The annual awards banquet is a time to recognize the best of the best from the Southeast for their prowess in outdoor communications. While there were too many awards to list them all it is worth noting that members Bodie McDowell and Thayne Smith were inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame while at Fontana.

Viewing the mountain vistas and could be enhanced by taking a tree canopy zip line tour, or by riding on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Driving along Highway 28 includes tight turns coupled with steep inclines and is nicknamed the Tail of the Dragon. Visitors can simply stop at any of the roadside viewing areas to enjoy the visual dynamics of the mountains and to make photos. If looking for a place to spend the night while visiting, to enjoy nature and experience family fun then visit the Internet at www.FontanaVillage.com.

To read this feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from SEOPA click 2013, 2012 or 2009.

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 10/14/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
The Osprey is also known as the Fish Hawk
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West says it's wide open for some flatfish right now! The local flounder bite has exploded the past couple weeks, with numerous reports of 15-25 fish per trip and some quality size as well. Live minnows or live mullet fished behind a Zman FlatZ jig have been slaying the flounder in 3-6ft of water along rock banks and creek mouths with a hard bottom. Trout numbers continue to be on the increase as anglers report back some decent reports of catching trout by slow trolling grubs for them, as well as some solid topwater action early in the mornings producing some large trout. Sheepshead are also starting to turn on fire, with great reports from inshore bridge pilings and the jetties using fiddler crabs and even live shrimp under a small float. Shrimping season continues to be under way with solid reports coming from St Helena sound as well as crab bank in the harbor. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Offshore:
Some beautiful weather recently has allowed numerous boats to slip out in the past week and get some trolling in, with boats like the Summer Girl slaying great numbers of wahoo and numerous sails and even a couple blues being caught as well. Blackfin tuna are just starting to show back up along the ledge as well. Bottom fishing in 70-100ft continues to produce some large triggers and b-liners with some fair numbers of grouper being caught in the same depths using live pinfish and vertical style jigs.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.