Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Toast to 2011

English Setters on point eye Gentleman Bob (on left)
Year number three is in the books at and I am thankful for the first 94 blog followers that keep tabs on the writings and photography of this conservationist and naturalist. Things change each year in the outdoors and 2011 will be remembered for drought conditions, affecting both fish and terrestrial species, and for the impact that coyotes are having on the deer herd. The SCDNR leadership is scheduled to change in 2011 - and lots of NGO's and regular folks are talking and watching for what the outcome will be. Our natural resources deserve the highest possible admiration and care from our DNR, the legislators of the General Assembly and from the general public. I salute those that carry the torch for conservation so that wildlife habitat, water quality and rural aesthetics can be preserved throughout the Palmetto state. Hunting and fishing are honorable traditions and I look forward to spreading that positive message, along with more coverage of everyday recreational pursuits that take place in the Lowcountry Outdoors, which we are so very blessed to live in.

To view past New Years' Toasts click here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

8-point buck down, LATE in the season

Edward Hart and I on December 29

Charles Waring and I with my 8-point buck
Patience and perseverance are but two of the keys to becoming a successful deer hunter. Harvesting a decent buck during the season is always a goal for this seasoned hunter, but for whatever reason the best bucks had not come into view for me this year. Sure I had glimpsed some racks here and there, but nothing that even had me consider raising the gun. However, I never gave up on my quest for a quality buck during the 2011 campaign, and I did not settle for lowering the gold standard: a shooter buck must possess a minimum of 8-points and the antler spread should be outside the ears or better. With just THREE days to go in deer season, I was patiently awaiting my turn and on December 29th while hunting with two friends at Snipe Hill my opportunity presented itself. Sitting on a winter food plot on a 12-foot Strongbuilt ladder stand, two deer appeared at 5:45 in dim light conditions. They were 150-yards away and  I confirmed with binoculars that one was a doe and one was a good buck with the tell-tale white rim of antlers around the ears. Shooting free-handed, I steadied the Browning .270 stainless steel stalker the best I could while dialing up the magnification on my Leopuld scope. The buck gave me a long look at his broadside, the type of look that says this must be right! After squeezing the trigger, the buck ran into the woods and I heard ONE mighty crash. Retrieving my hunt buddies from their stands was the next priority and when we returned together to look for the buck via flashlight, I took the lead. Only about 20-yards into the woods I saw the great eight-point in the brush, clearly expired from a clean kill shot. A celebration broke out, but I was especially gratified that this nice buck came after a season of 'paying dues'.

To view past blog entries about fishermen who tag nice bucks click here.
A live oak makes a great backdrop for a quality 8-point

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Charleston Mercury / Wounded Warrior hunt story

Veterans and hunt participants on December 11
Reporting on the December 11 military appreciation duck hunt in the Santee Delta, brings both a sense of honor and duty. The December 29th edition of The Charleston Mercury helps to raise awareness about the mission of this hunt by publishing the story and group photo on the front page! To view the feature story click here.

To view past blog entries about this hunt, including more photos, click here.
The hunt resulted in a fine mixed bag harvest

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santee Delta man drive for deer

Joe Sloan with his 9-point buck he harvested
David Ingle and youth hunter with Dave's doe
A large group of hunters on holiday gathered for a large-acreage man drive that figured to involve deer and pigs. With the unusually dry conditions in place, the pigs were nowhere to be found, but the deer were not so lucky. Joe Sloan, visiting from Jacksonville, was one of the drivers and he was able to jump and then shoot a fine 9-point Lowcountry buck. The first drive of the day yielded no venison even though several does were pushed, but on the second hunt the drivers bolstered there voices and made a mighty commotion. Besides the 9-pointer, a doe was also shot by hunt master David Ingle, who managed to keep all the hunters safe and sound until it was time to socialize under the oak avenue while the sun set. The weather was crisp and cool, making for near perfect hunt conditions. The drivers worked very hard during these hunts and it was their spirit which made the hunt a big success!

To view past entries about man drives click here.

Dowse Rustin and Jeff Dennis after the hunt

A large crowd gathered for the driven hunt

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve deer story

Early Christmas present for Jeff
The weather had been warm and the deer had not been moving at all in the evenings. High hopes for another doe harvest to convert into venison for the freezer were diminishing quickly. A new winter food plot was only just now greening up due to a lack of moisture, but it was the best option to hunt over. After an hour in the deer stand and the sun now setting, no deer movement was seen. Then the deer movement dilemma came to an abrupt end when five deer walked out single file into the food plot. Binoculars helped reveal that it was four does followed by a spike buck, who was acting amorous towards doe number four. The first two does did not stop to eat, but rather walked towards my stand from 150-yards away. The buck stopped to eat and does three and four began to play by rubbing their heads together in a back and forth fashion. For whatever reason, those first two does came right towards my stand like I had deer candy in my pocket! The first doe looked up at me from 20-yards away, got spooky and ran away - but the other four deer did not. Doe number two looked at my position very hard and I did not flinch, somewhat easing her concern, and then doe number one came back and walked just beneath my stand. With doe number one now too close to shoot, I raised my rifle and shot at doe number two from 20-yards away. She absorbed the lethal blow and stumbled to within ten paces of my deer stand and fell over dead. The other deer scattered and I was thankful for such a pulse-pounding hunt with multiple deer, and it renewed the sentiment that you have to stay ready for any situation when still hunting for white-tailed deer.

To view past Christmas hunting blog entries click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

DUDE e-zine / Quail article

Check out the winter 2012 edition of DUDE magazine! It's SWEET - DUDE! The publisher DUDE has asked for me to contribute photos (pg. 46) and a feature story on quail hunting too (pg. 19).  Just check out the SWEET photo on that page! Again..... DUDE!
The Bluffton and Hilton Head Area is the home base for the DUDE and readers can find all sorts of interesting news from that area and beyond. And yes, DUDE magazine appeals mainly to the fellows of the Lowcountry, and is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. I am thankful for the warm welcome I receive on page three, and I readily accept the invitation to become a part of the DUDE family. SWEET!

To view the winter 2012 edition of DUDE e-zine click here.

To view a past blog entry about the DUDE and view a link to the fall 2011 edition of DUDE e-zine click here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Georgia DNR celebrates 100 years

Our sister state just south of the Savannah River has lots of great outdoors traditions. Trout fishing in North Ga., quail hunting in Middle Ga. and lots of outdoor opportunities (very similar to the Lowcountry) in their coastal plain. Their wildlife resources department was formed in 1911 and is now known as the Georgia DNR - and they are celebrating 100 years of conservation!!

William Jackson and his Georgia trophy buck
One outstanding buck harvested in Georgia in 2011 came from the Panola Mountain State Park Hunt. Hunter William Jackson harvested this 11-pointer with a heavy rack, which was aged at just 3.5-years of age and carried a 22.25-inch main beam. Nice Buck!!

To view past blog entries about Georgia outdoors click here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Palmetto Wild! e-zine / flounder article

Captain Mark Nichols, founder  of DOA Lures,
demonstrates catching flounder from underneath a dock
The annual glossy magazine of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation has been mailed to their members across the state. My article on page 8 in the 2011 edition focuses on fishing for flounder using DOA lures, with special insight from Capt. Mark Nichols and Capt. Reed Simmons. To view the 2011 e-zine click here. Special thanks to the SCWF and Executive Director Ben Gregg for being supportive of hunting and fishing.

To view my past article in the 2010 Palmetto Wild! e-zine click here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Purvis Crew joins Wrecking Crew for ducks, geese

Shane, Vernon and Chris Purvis on Dec. 10 after the hunt

Drake Waterfowl Gear and the Dec.10 harvest

Purvis Crew (plus two) during the Sept. 2011 early goose season
The opening day of duck season in S.C. after the split is a great time to hunt waterfowl that have gathered up during the break. The Purvis family hunted Canada geese during the September season and were keen to call in some ducks this December. For each hunt they chose to join the Wrecking Crew guide service based out of Lancaster County. These waterfowl guides are Pete, Daryl and Blake Hodge - which are three generations of waterfowlers. Add in the Purvis crew of father Vernon and brothers Shane and Chris - and you have a special family celebration going on in the field. Guide Daryl Hodge is a Drake Waterfowl field expert and always supplies the best gear for the Wrecking Crew hunts. On Dec. 10 the hunt party left a boat landing on the Catawba River to hunt public waters that the Wrecking Crew had scouted out during the season split. The guides and Robbie Boone had been out to set up the dekes well before the Purvis family joined them. Lead caller Blake Hodge worked four groups of mallards this day, and all but one of the groups locked up, letting their bright orange feet lead the way into the spread while back-paddling with their wings. When the shooting was over, a harvest of six mallards was accomplished and a lone ringneck who decided to buzz the decoys was also brought down by the Purvis guns. There is no doubt this won't be the last time the Purvis crew taps the Wrecking Crew for some waterfowl action!

To view past blog entries about the Wrecking Crew click here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lowcountry Fishing Report - 12/16/11

Capt. Mike Waller with a 10-pound 6-ounce sheepeshead
The latest Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina, as published in the Charleston Mercury.

For past fishing reports click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Year Of The Pig - Book Review

SHOOT 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM - 11/6/2011 in Santee Delta

According to the Chinese calendar 2007 was the Year of the Pig, and that tempted Auburn University science researcher Mark Hainds to hunt feral hogs across the Southeast that year as research for his book. The detailed account of hunting wild pigs in eleven southern states includes quick and easy hunts as well as marathon dry spells. The entire book mixes in ecosystem appreciation contrast and comparison comments that bring an added dimension of enjoyment to the reader.
Mark Hainds is also research associate with the Longleaf Alliance at the Solon Dixon Forestry Center in Andalusia, Alabama. He regularly contributes technical papers like “Distribution of native legumes in frequently burned longleaf pine wiregrass ecosystems,” which appeared in the American Journal of Botany. Part of Hainds’ message is that man should strive to restore more longleaf pine and to leave a few less pigs than we will encounter.
In the book’s foreword Steven Ditchkoff writes the Hernando de Soto brought the first pigs to North America in 1539. Already known as survivors, the explorers knew that fresh pork meat would be readily available upon subsequent return visits to the new world. “The feral pig has become an incredibly successful invader, especially considering their short gestation period, a sow can have three litters in 14 months under good conditions,” said Ditchkoff. “While it is sporting to hunt them, pigs should be eliminated with extreme prejudice.”
In a second foreword, Mark Bailey writes that the feral hog, or Sus scrofa, is not a game species to be managed for sustained harvest. “Feral pigs are an invasive, exotic and ecological nightmare and are a scourge on the southeastern landscape straight out of Pandora’s box,” said Bailey. “The answer to solving the wild pig dilemma lies in concerted efforts of public education, landowner incentives and persistent management programs on a landscape scale.” Leave no pig behind!
Hainds did not hunt in South Carolina for the Year of the Pig but he praises the forestry and natural resources advocates of the Palmetto state. “The S.C. Association of Consulting Foresters has received the message of fire ecology from the Longleaf Alliance with tremendous enthusiasm,” said Hainds. “The list of agencies in S.C. working to promote longleaf goes on and on, an endeavor which will restore her native forests and promote prescribed fire.”
A common theme of the hunt narration in Year of the Pig is the central role that wildlife feeders play. Always waiting on the spinning cycle so that the corn would make the telltale rattle against metal as it is distributed to the ground, signaling nearby swine to come and dine. If the feeder is clogged, then not enough corn comes out to lure the feral flock consistently, and if it spreads during the night, then the feral vacuum cleaners will do their business under the safety of darkness.

Outdoorsmen who think of themselves as keen observers will enjoy reading Year of the Pig, which is told first from the perspective of a hog hunter, and second from the perspective of a naturalist. Hernando de Soto will never know the plight of feral hogs in North America, or how the topic of discussion after so many modern day hunts ends up with the quandary of - What are we going to do about these wild pigs?

To see a past blog entry about hog hunting click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wounded Warrior Project - duck hunt report

WWP's Chris Uggiano and Vietnam veteran Alex Miller after the hunt
WWP hunters and their guides with lots of ducks after the hunt
The Wounded Warrior Project's (WWP) mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors. With one war ending in Iraq and another war winding down in Afghanistan, there is no better time to thank our veterans and Wounded Warriors. Chris Uggiano is a regional coordinator for physical health and wellness  from the WWP, and is based at Fort Bragg. WWP and Patriot Hunts accepted the invitation to bring four Wounded Warriors and sixteen active duty soldiers to the Santee Delta for a special Dec. 12 duck hunt. That invitation was issued by the Georgetown Chapter of Ducks Unlimited in parternership with the plantations of the Santee Delta that actually hosted these deserving waterfowlers. The premise began when Dan Ray of Annandale Plantation asked himself what more could he do to thank our wounded warriors, so he picked up the phone and soon was in contact with the top brass at DU HQ in Memphis, as well as the WWP leadership. When neighboring landowners agreed to join in this idea to sponsor a hunt, then the Inaugural Wounded Warrior duck hunt in the Santee Delta was moved into execution mode. Sunday night included a catered supper for the Warriors which was followed by a special auction and country music concert. Celebrity Rusty Wallace and driver-son Steven Wallace were present to shake hands with Warriors and to donate items, while Nashville recording artists Lee Brice (Curb Records) and Tyler Farr (Sony Records) flew in to join local crooner Phillip Lammonds for the concert. After an overnight stay on the plantations, the Warriors and their guides fanned out into duck blinds with high hopes of successful duck hunting. Cloudy, cold and windy conditions cooperated nicely and the ducks flew well - with a mixed bag of gadwall, black ducks, pintails, wood ducks, a mottled duck, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal being harvested. After the hunt, I spoke with a Warrior named  Jim (last name withheld)  who told me that he had not smiled this much in a long time!! He also added that he was keen to go deer hunting again too, after three years of service in West Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is recovering well, after a traumatic brain injury. In summary, this hunt was all about getting the Warriors into the outdoors to enjoy the positive dividends of a duck hunt. However, taken as a whole, the entire event exceeded all expectations. To view blog entries from successive hunts in the Santee Delta click 2012 or 2014. To view a blog entry from the ACE Basin veterans duck hunt click 2013.

Willie and Jason, Organizer Dan Ray, Scot

For more photos from the 2011 Wounded Warrior Project duck hunt click here.

To view my feature article on the 2014 S.C. Duck Stamp click here.

To view blog entries from past Santee Delta duck hunts click here.

DU staffers James Meadows, Jim West and Brett Baker

Wounded Warrior Project - duck hunt photos

Twenty Warriors from Fort Bragg, N.C. and their Santee Delta hunting guides on Dec. 11

 Rico, guide Jim Clark, Sam 

NASCAR's Rusty Wallace donated a racing fire suit to the auction with help from his son Steven

Linda Ray, Nan Johnston, Dianne Peace, Emily and Schall Ragsdale

Phillip Lammonds shares the stage with Nashville stars Lee Brice and Tyler Farr

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hampton Plantation State Park

The Rutledge family home is only open for tours
The grounds at Hampton are well-maintained
Old plat of the rice fields of Hampton Plantation
The Avenue that Archibald Rutledge planted circa 1937
Situated along Wambaw Creek in the Santee Delta, Hampton Plantation is preserved now as a state park. Best known as the former home of Archibald Rutledge, the mansion is open to the public for tours on certain days of the week. The grounds of Hampton offer a look into mature pines and live oaks, the kind that have marked a homesite for a long, long time. The history of Hampton involved the rise and fall of rice culture, and later the sporting tales of Archibald Rutledge, which would forever label the Santee Delta as a mecca for wildlife adventures. The road leading to Hampton offers a stark reminder of the dangers of wildfire - since a large swath of privately-owned acreage was blackened over 6 months ago. The pine trees have now been clearcut to salvage their timber value, which also ensures that insects will not invade the already stressed ecosystem. The open acreage has been re-planted in native longleaf pine trees which will restore a natural beauty that visitors will enjoy on their way to Hampton Plantation. Archibald Rutledge was also an avid gardener and he gathered native plants and trees from his property and transplanted them into the yard. Dogwoods and Holly trees line the driveway, offering a look at the softer side of the Bard who wrote this poem entitled "The Garden I Made."

Whenver I think of life's light that must fade, the gleams and the glow that must pass in the shade, when hopes that I had now but leave me afraid, with joy I remember the gardens I made.
The redbuds and dogwoods I planted will grow, the flaming azaleas will blossom I know, the chaliced syringa's wild beauty will snow, when I shall be one with the long, long ago.
The glimmering gardens, the wildflowers wan, the red rose, the lilly as white as a swan, the garden I made will keep blossoming on when life with its fevers is faded and gone.

For a past blog entry about coastal state parks click here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

10-point buck harvested in O'burg man drive

B.J. Compton is is 29 years old, started hunting at the age of six with his Dad, and he was just nine when he harvested his first deer. What started out as a friendly traditional hunt on Saturday Dec. 10 ended as a great day. Every year his friends get together at the end of deer season for a traditional man drive on some private property in Orangeburg County. Man drives are a popular practice across the Lowcountry late in the deer season. They met up at 7:30 am to go over their safety plans on how they would conduct the drive. When the first man drive began, deer were jumping up and slipping out of the woods but none came into any openings to present a shot for any standers. For the second man drive they moved down towards the North Edisto River. This tract is a one-year old 90-acre cutover, and the drivers slowly and carefully slipped around to the back of the cutover and got into position to start pushing. Once the last driver got into place, he let out the first holler and the drive began. Immediately shots rang out on the other side of the cutover from the standers. The cutover was just tall enough that you couldn't see across it, but there were stumps about three-feet tall which allowed the drivers to hop up on for a better view. Standing on a stump, B.J. heard something crashing through the weeds and all of a sudden a huge 10-point buck ran right into a skidder lane and stopped at 20-yards from him presenting a perfect broad side shot. He shouldered the Mossberg 835 12-gauge, took aim, and fired. The 3-inch double 00 buckshot took down the buck with the first shot. He went up to him noticed the buck trying to get back onto his feet and so Compton quickly fired a second shot behind the shoulder so that this buck of a lifetime would not get away. After finishing the drive, they looked for another nice buck that was shot at but never found. Also, 135-lb doe was harvested by a young stander. Everyone is very excited about Compton's 10-point buck and B.J. said he knew this deer was definitely going on his wall. His personal best buck carries an 18-inch inside spread, and it weighed 155-lbs. Compton is grateful to have connected on his very nice buck and to have shared this hunt with his friends.

To see past blog entries about fishermen who also tag nice bucks click here.

The 10-point buck was also captured on trail cam

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SCWA Walterboro hunts second season opener

A nice mixed bag of ducks from the SCWA second season opening hunt

Walterboro Committee in the pole barn blind, wearing a Drake Old School parka

Decoys and still conditions on Dec. 10

Stuart Cochran is the Duck Breast Commander
The S.C. Waterfowl Association has a tradition of giving back to their local chapter committees by hosting them for a hunt at the Camp Woodie education center in Rimini. Opening day after the split in waterfowl season saw the Walterboro committee chairmen, plus several other leadership teams from other chapters, come into camp for a dinner and banquet the night before the duck hunt. Dinner featured grilled duck breasts and a barbecue pig, followed by a live auction for gear and duck hunts, plus a special donation from the Marlowe family to SCWA in memory of their loved one. The next day the blinds were buzzing with the wingbeats of waterfowl under cloudy but still conditions. Most blinds hunted until 10 a.m. and came away with a mixed bag of green-winged teal, northern shovelers, ringnecks, bluebills and mallard ducks. A Lowcountry breakfast was served up after the hunt to committee members before they left to head back to their respective counties. The Walterboro Chapter is in the planning stages right now for their January 14, 2012 banquet and auction at the armory - so please save the date!

To view past entries on the Walterboro Chapter of SCWA click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hortman Taxidermy - waterfowl specialist

A Drake Green-Winged Teal

Jimmy Hortman holds a coot next to a coot, David Wielicki

A drake spoonbill, or Hollywood mallard

The Real Deal - Opening day ducks!
Jimmy Hortman of Pawley's Island is delighted that hunting season is in full swing, meaning that lots of deer and ducks are heading his way to be mounted. Case in point, Capt. John Ward's recent 10-point buck harvest is now in Hortman's capable hands. Hortman grew up in Moncks Corner, and has great respect for the artistic talents of his father Robert who is an accomplished sculpter, painter and also and avid saltwater angler. Jimmy has all the tools to excel in the field of taxidermy and beyond, and he also has saltwater in his veins with a deep love for king mackerel fishing. Hortman knows the Lowcountry well and supports organizations like the S.C. Maritime Foundation, the S.C. Memorial Reef, and the S.C. Waterfowl Association. Hortman traveled to Rimini to  support Camp Woodie for the annual opening of duck season banquet and displayed a few of his waterfowl mounts, including a drake green-winged teal, a drake spoonbill (or Hollywood mallard) and even a coot!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter food plot planting

Use a grain drill to get the seed into the dirt

A powerline can make an excellent food plot

Quality Seed is always a must
A good example of food plot dividends
Land managers know the value of having 'green patches' during winter to help wildlife populations remain in good shape when other food sources are scarce. The lack of rain is a concern when planting, but in general these type food plots can flourish with even a little ground moisture in the soil. Disc the ground, then apply fertilizer, and then disc the seedbed again. A mixture of oats and wheat is a good combo to capture the interest of the deer, turkeys and other non-game species that will use these food plots until spring corn crop planting begins. Remember, a working farm requires that the land be worked to some degree, and food plots are an affordable way to make that happen.

For past blog entries about land management click here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chas. Co driven deer hunt - 2011

Harrington Bissell, Buist River and Michael Lolich in the swamp
Standers enjoy the hunt recap in between drives
Harrington Bissell accepts payment from 
Dan Mengedoht for an errant shot
The annual end of the season driven hunt for white-tailed deer was held at a Charleston County property that practices still hunting and quality deer management. After very cold weather hunting on this annual hunt the past two years, the pendulum swing was notable with sunny skies and 70-degree temperatures in the woods. A snake was seen crossing the road and deer hunters were mindful that Mr. No Neck was still in business. The first drive of the day began with three horse drivers and a small pack of dogs. Anticipation ran high for all and when the first two does were pushed, they ran right through the three-shot barrage offered by Dan Mengedoht, making him the first to pony up for a big miss. On the second drive of the morning a different doe slipped into 'the front pocket' of Buist Rivers causing him to make a shot that did not connect with its target - chalk up another chance encounter with fate. The final drive of the day saw the driver's push up a big 8-point buck with a perfectly symmetrical rack, and although I was sitting on my lucky stand from 2009 I never saw the buck. In fact, no deer were harvested on this hunt which demonstrates that no one ever knows if they will get to shoot on a driven hunt - but they all come to enjoy the outdoors and to play their role in order to continue the heritage of hunting. A great meal in the form of mustard fried venison followed the hunt.

Henry Lowndes and Jeff Dennis after the hunt
For past blog entries about the Chas. Co. driven deer hunt click here.