Friday, January 30, 2009

CCA Convention Cook-Off






The Inaugural CCA State Convention kicked off with a team cook-off on Friday night at the Shriner's facility in Mount Pleasant. A cold night greeted the cooking teams, with overnight temperatures forecast in the upper 20's. A great crowd showed up to sample the culinary offerings, but it was a little below the 200 or so folks that were expected. Each cooking team showed some real spirit, and there is no reason why this annual cook-off won't be an excellent draw for years to come. The pictures tell the story but first lets revisit what the chapters were cooking. The Lexington chapter, with chairman Todd Stamps, were cooking Boston Butts and serving it with Asian cole slaw. The Sea Island Chapter served beef short ribs and collard greens. The Columbia chapter's cooking team is known as "the cartel," with chairman Tombo Milliken, and they served Pork Ribs, Cue Stew, Grits with corn kernels and bacon-wrapped doves. The East Cooper chapter, and chairman Pete Loy, served shrimp kabobs Shuford, Bernie's beef brisket, sweet & sour grouper and oysters obama. The Lowcountry chapter and the ACE Basin chapter teamed up to serve Frogmore Stew and brownies. The Waccamaw chapter, with chairman Chris Hawley, served Barbeque and jalepeno venison sausage. The Aiken chapter served Pork Ribs, Crab and shrimp pot stickers and prosciutto-wrapped shrimp. The Pee Dee chapter served blackened sirloin tips and venison eggrolls. Winners in the taste contest were to be announced at the state convention banquet on Saturday. The photos show Waccamaw team George Gore and Chris Hawley, The Lexington team and their butt-grabber spirit, East Cooper's Oysters Obama, The Charleston Angler Grill Team, plus Ashley and a friend trying to survive the cold! 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting



The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council held the first in a series of public comment meetings in Charleston at the Hilton Garden Inn on Monday, January 26. The SAFMC "scoping" and public hearings touched on a range of issues that concern fisherman including a Comprehensive annual catch limit, a Fishery ecosystem plan and Amendment 18 that deals with the snapper grouper complex of fish. SAFMC is based in North Charleston and their staff gave several different presentations on specifics like coral protection areas and trapping (or using pots) for black sea bass - an increasingly popular industry. Kim Iverson is the SAFMC Public Relations Officer and her office number is 571-4366 - but don't tell Kim that scoping is what happens when students intersect at The College of Charleston and Starbucks. All kidding aside, SAFMC makes recommendations to the federal government, and then Washington decides whether to implement any changes. On December 19 The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decided not to implement a four-month spawning season ban on some species of grouper. Then, in a startling jolt to the fishing community, the federal government decreed that it would close eight Marine Protected Areas off the Atlantic coast encompassing 529 square nautical miles, effective February 12, 2009. The power to close parts of the ocean to commercial harvests may be great for conservation of marine species, and clearly no one wants to see the ocean emptied of her natural resources, but many are concerned about closures that are yet to come. Besides recreational fisherman, journalists, and concerned commercial fisherman, SAFMC welcomed NGO's Environmental Defense Fund and Oceana to their meeting. Government watchdogs seem warranted in the case of ocean closures because the bureaucratic process is so convoluted. You can wade in to the morass on your own at www.safmc.net, or you can keep a check here at Lowcountryoutdoors.com for the straight talk. SAFMC will have its next annual meeting March 2 - 6 at Jekyll Island, Georgia and more public comments will be welcomed then. The photos depict the SAFMC logo and the map of the proposed Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment management area that proposes to close the Stetson-Miami terrace (in blue), which is 23,528 square miles, from bottom disturbance like bottom longlines, pots, traps and use of anchors. Thanks to Myra Brouwer for the map.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

South Carolina Wildlife Federation conservation awards

Clinch, Jeff and Ben with the Harry Hampton Award
Entire group of SCWF conservation award winners
Clinch Heyward takes the gavel from Johney Haralson 
Saturday January 17 marked the S.C. Wildlife Federation's 44th annual conservation awards banquet. Information about the SCWF can be found on the Internet at www.scwf.org. A welcome to all guests was issued by Johney Haralson, outgoing chair of the SCWF Board of Directors. A cocktail hour allowed time for conservationists from all across the Palmetto state to discuss pertinent issues like water quality, global warming and coal-burning power plants. After a buffet dinner, the awards ceremony at the Radisson Conference Center got under way. The conservation awards began with your literary correspondent (and blogger) being awarded the SCWF Harry Hampton Woods and Waters Conservation Memorial Journalism Award for Excellence in Natural Resources Journalism. I thanked those in the room for the award, and let Ben Gregg, Director of the SCWF, know that they have a friend here at lowcountryoutdoors.com. The journalism award does have a long name (but is suitable for long winded writers I suppose) and looks like something that SCDNR general counsel Buford Mabry might have drafted. Mr. Mabry and SCWF lobbyist Cary Chamblee were in attendance and both brought their unique insights to working with the General Assembly. Which brings us to the Legislative award that went to Kim Connolly, a law professor at USC that has written extensively on the importance of wetlands protection. The Water conservation award went to Nancy Shilling of Hilton Head who founded Friends of the Rivers in order to promote watershed/ecosystem protection. John Brubaker of Charleston won the Bootsie Manning Wildlife Habitat Award for his work with both the S.C. Native Plant Society and the S.C. Exotic Plant Council. The Land Conservation award went to The Graham Foundation of Greenville who have contributed funding to protect several picturesque tracts of land. The National Wildlife Award went to Richard Watkins who has worked since 1973 to champion what is now Congaree National Park.
The keynote speaker for the evening was National Wildlife Federation CEO Larry Schweiger, and he spoke passionately about making a difference, citing the new leadership in Washington, that will benefit his grandchildren when they grow up. Schweiger visited the Lowcountry in 2008 when the NWF held a conference at The Middleton Inn. The final order of business for the night saw incoming Chair of the SCWF board, Clinch Heyward of Pawley's Island, take the gavel of the SCWF in the name of conservation. The photos depict Clinch, Jeff and Ben with the Harry Hampton Award, Mr. Haralson passing the gavel to Mr. Heyward, and the entire group of SCWF conservation award winners.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pawley's Island - Still arrogantly shabby




Georgetown county was my setting for the final weekend of duck season, even though my sources told me that a recent aerial bird count revealed a scarcity of birds in the area. The end of the season was celebrated from the outpost of Pawley's Island, and the only ducks that were encountered were the loons rafting just off the beach and the mergansers and buffleheads fishing in tidal creeks. A rainy Saturday gave way to a blustery Sunday, but there was still a few opportunities to scour Pawley's for signs of life. Crossing the causeway onto the island brings you to Myrtle Ave. which passes through the historic district an dead ends at Midway inlet. One of the oldest seaside resorts in America is easy to walk around in, and historical markers make it easy to acknowledge the Island residents of the past. Rice planters had early outposts at Pawley's to escape malaria and they included the LaBruce family of All Saints Parish, and Robert Nesbit who owned Caledonia plantation. Joshua J. Ward was a rice planter who went on the be the S.C. Lt. Governor from 1850 to 1852. The All Saints Academy schoolhouse remains today and its headmaster Robert F.W. Allston became Governor of S.C. from 1856 to 1858. Plowden Weston served S.C. as Lt. Governor from 1862 to 1864 and his home is now called the Pelican Inn and serves guests visiting the Island. Not many visitors are headed to the beach in January when a Nor'easter is blowing though, and a thoroughly pleasing commune with nature was accomplished. The photos depict the Pelican Inn, the copious sea foam that was generated at high tide when the ocean was battering the groins, and the sun trying to shine despite heavy clouds.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Charleston Boat Show report




           The Charleston Boat show at the North Charleston Convention Center was across the parking lot from its normal venue at the Coliseum. It seems country music sensation Rascal Flatts was in town for a sold out weekend concert. It's ironic that a few years ago a bunch of friends and I had free tickets to the see the same group at the Coliseum when they were "unknown." Country music's common theme of lament might be a fitting backdrop for South Carolina boat dealers right now, because while 2009 is a new year, the weak economy hasn't sorted itself out yet. For the record, boats did sell at the show and important bonds were renewed, but not much buzz was in the air. Beside boats, vendor booths included boat towing services, online communities, clothing sales and fishing publications. Boat dealers filled the convention hall and two parking lots with their best of show. Attractive fishing platforms with powerful motors were dry-docked next to cruisers with "weekend at sea" written all over them. Boat buyers had bank financing and even Insurance coverage on-site at the boat show. No details were overlooked during what has to be considered another successful Charleston Boat Show. The photos depict a Boston Whaler with three engines, and the final coat of wax being applied to a Cobalt boat.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chester's canine pedigree


The American Field Publishing Company of Chicago has been following field trials since 1874, and has produced the field dog stud book for 133 years. Chester's breeder presented me with papers recognizing his ancestry and I have decided to enroll him in the Field Dog Stud Book, which tracks registered names, breeding records and documents ownership. Chester was whelped on 8/6/08, whelped being the canine term for birthed, and his parents were both registered English Setters. The sire was named Carolina Crockett Slick and the Dam (or bitch) was I'm Roxie Too. The Sire's Sire was Crockett's Rocket Boy and the Sire's Dam was Stewart's Dixie Mist. The Dam's Sire was Mr. Slick and the Dam's Dam was Hot Crockett's Tag. The term Crockett applies to English Setters that were bred to hunt, not field trial, and thus were bred to be smaller dogs with shorter haired coats. Chester's registered name is Chester Bandit Crockett because he is from Chesterfield County, possesses racoon-like markings over his eyes and has the body traits of a Crockett. His tri-color markings, brown and black on the face, lead some to speculate that he has some Llewellin blood in him. The average weight for a Setter with Crockett traits might be 50 pounds. Chester is roughly 35 pounds and is not quite six months old. The picture shows Chester and Jeff in between hunts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Snow in the Lowcountry


Tuesday afternoon, January 20, snow flurries and a wintry mix blew across the coastal plain. No snow to speak of was reported in Ridgeland or Charleston, but more inland locations like Bamberg and Orangeburg counties received a good "dusting" of snow. Accumulation was less than an inch due to the short duration of the snowfall that lasted approximately from 2 to 5 p.m. Snowfall in the Lowcountry is indeed rare, and the conditions of air moisture and freezing temperatures don't often coincide here. The white flakes were small, yet beautiful, as they were blown by the north wind - reminding us that January and February are still winter months - even along the Atlantic. The photo shows fresh snow on a magnolia tree in western Colleton county.

Third annual Winyah Bay Heritage Festival report


The weather on Sunday was truly "duck weather" and patrons wore their finest camo or waxed cotton jackets to ward off the cold and drizzle of the elements. The two-day festival is a celebration of art, hunting, fishing and conservation that benefits the Georgetown County Historical Society. The festival organizers can be proud of the artists they assembled to tempt the public with their sporting smorgasbord. From plates and prints with dogs and gamebirds to decoy carving and painting, there was something for everyone. The Georgetown fishing guides were huddled together in East Bay Park for anglers to visit, and the South Carolina state duck calling contest was held under a tent at the park. Marc Ackerman, maker of Swamp Thing Mallard Calls, runs the tournament that determines the Sr. and Jr. state champion. A duck calling contest in Georgetown really makes sense because this area has a strong waterfowling heritage that includes hunting in historic rice fields. Information for next year's festival can be found on the Internet at www.winyahbayfestival.org. The mallard duck artwork earned Erin Courtright an honorable mention in the student art competition.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Tackle Show


While saltwater fishing is truly a year-round sport, most folks don't use their boat much during the cold weather months, and this can be a great time of year to talk tackle. Tackle shops are placing orders right now on what will be hot new products come this spring, plus they are stocking up on the tried and true products. The Henry's Tackle Show in Greenville drew fishing professionals and product manufacturers from all across the Southeast. Local faces in the crowd represented Haddrell's Point, Charleston Angler and Z-man baits to name a few. While the tackle show presents a tremendous variety of choices to the buyers, regular anglers can rely on their judgement based on careful choices about which products to bring home. Warm weather will be here soon and there is no better season than winter to get your tackle box ready to go again for day one of spring fishing. The Photo depicts the many different colors offered by Capt. Mark Nichol's D.O.A. lures collection.

Bird Dog In Training


Winter arrived in January, and the cold temperatures were just in time to provide some upland quail hunting time for my new bird dog. Chester is an English Setter, and is named for his roots in Chesterfield County, which is where I acquired him from Moree's Sportsman's Preserve. At age five months Chester is pointing birds just fine - in fact he has yet to take a normal "dog walk" as every walk turns into a hunt, with Chester locked up with excitement about all manner of avian life. No doubt this bird dog will be the focus of many upland hunts to come. Quail hunting for wild birds is extremely rare in the Lowcountry, although I do know of at least a few notable exceptions. These exceptions prove that if you work on your habitat and keep the faith that gentleman Bob can make a comeback, then anything is possible. Upland songbirds and the bob white all benefit from prescribed fire, which is also an economical land management tool, so if you have any opportunity to conduct or promote controlled burning, then by all means 2009 is the right time to get started. The photo shows Chester with his first quail, being handled by Trainer Scott Edwards of Bayville Shorthairs.

2009 Deer Season gets off to a good start

Man Drivers, happy in their work, pose with my New Year's Day harvest
Lowcountry outdoors has hurdled several obstacles in early 2009 to bring you this blog, including domain registration, website development, business planning and even exploration of various social media. Now that the "technical" issues are somewhat behind us - the outdoors related community can look to this site for notable happenings and reports on current events related to our natural resources.
Hunting and fishing will be in focus during this blog and a quick review of 2009 events thus far begins with hunting. On a very cold last day of deer season I found myself on a man drive at Spring Hill Plantation in Ridgeland. Host Julian Clark delivered careful instructions about stand assignments and made sure everyone was dressed in blaze orange and was thinking safety first. This was not our first time to conduct this traditional hunt, and we were surprised when the first drive was completed that no shots had been fired. The drivers reported jumping three deer, but they did not cross the path of any standers. On the second drive of the morning, I was stationed at the "end zone" of the drive - if any deer got pushed they would likely  have to come by me. Standing very near to a cedar bush I was hidden well when two does came bounding by my stand. My 12-gauge shotgun bellowed once but the shot was errant, and I fired two more rounds of buckshot and issued a red light to the deer traffic. The other drivers soon came to my position to hear my story of woe or glory, and we made this fine photo to show that the 2009 deer season was already underway.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lowcountry Outdoors is coming to life in 2009. There are so many great events and happenings that are newsworthy, beyond the hunting and fishing seasons, and you may now find out about all manner of outdoor-related pursuits on this blog.