Sunday, September 30, 2012

East Tennessee hosts Southeast Outdoor Press

Scott Leysath shows off some venison that I am about to eat!

Dan Wrinn of DU is ready to net some fish!

Morgan Promnitz came to show Hobie kayaks

The Bushnell Range with Andrew and Katie Howard
Traveling north from Charleston to Johnson City, Tenn. is a straight shot up I-26 that passes through Columbia and Spartanburg in S.C., Saluda and Asheville in N.C., and then across the Smokies into Eastern Tennessee. Needless to say, the close up views of these mountain peaks is superb, despite the fact that very little leaf color change had begun, and the gurgling streams like the Nolichucky River that  often charted the course for these roads are in easy view. After a pre-conference stop at Jones Hunt Preserve, the SouthEastern Outdoor Press Association schedule included visits to a fossil museum, local dining spots, the South Holston River Lodge and a lakeside day to test out kayaks and other fishing equipment. It was just five years ago when SEOPA visited E. Tenn. for a conference in Gatlinburg, and 'Rocky Top' seems to be a popular choice for outdoors enthusiasts since it offers a large variety of outdoor story options!

To view past blog entries about SEOPA click here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quail Hunt at Jones Hunting Preserve in East Tennessee

Bandit on point in heavy early-season cover
Pheasants, chukar and quail are all on the menu
 Located in the scenic rolling high country of Eastern Tennessee along Highway 81, Jones Hunting Preserve has a solid history of excellence in bird dog training. Once the focal point of the popular field trial circuit, today this quail hunting preserve offers both memberships and daily fee hunts for upland game birds.

Guide and all-around dog man Dale Myers is very knowledgable about his kennel of 30 bird dogs! With five different 'fields' of bird habitat under management there is plenty of ground for hunters to cover. Special care is given to groom the open fields for the habitat that benefits quail, practices like prescribed fire and attention to native warm season grasses.

There are two lodges on the property and the one I stayed in was spacious, with eight upstairs bedrooms and the entire interior was covered in attractive pine wood. This is a no frills hunting opportunity, where the focus is on hunting birds in their remote and pristine location.
Excellence in dog handling awards

To view past blog entires about quail hunting click here.

To view past blog entries about the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative click here.

Members enjoy tuning up their bird dog before Midwest trips

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tarpon fishing in S.C. - tarponist point of view

Jordan Pate with angler Bryce Pate properly display his first S.C. tarpon before releasing the fish 
If the coastal Lowcountry is in the early stages of a developing tarpon fishery, then it’s not too early to begin the conversation with SCDNR about future conservation efforts. Dedicated anglers and tarponisits ( a tarponist is my new term for a tarpon conservationist) want to know why it is still legal to keep and kill a tarpon in South Carolina, and they also believe that better education about handling tarpon would lead to a wider respect for this ancient species. It’s true that the tarpon migrate into waters managed by multiple states, but S.C. conservationists must focus on our home waters to set an example for all states, where it concerns the issue of tarpon mortality.

To read more, check out my latest tarpon article in the Colletonian.

To view a past blog entry about 2012 Lowcountry Tarpon tourney click here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CCA King Tourney in All At Sea

2012 Fishing For Miracles champs!
The October edition of All At Sea magazine revisits the near perfect script when a staunch CCA supporter won the 2012 Fishing For Miracles (FFM) tournament. Sweet Sarah IV had fished all of the prior FFM tourneys and had never claimed the top spot, so persistence truly paid off for Capt. Nick Russell, and angler Ellis Hamm - Congrats!

To view a past blog entry from the 2012 Fishing For Miracles click here.

To view the article in the Oct. magazine click All At Sea.
Nice tag on October cover

Karen Poots and her smoker king

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2012 Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation banquet

Five-time Olympic shooter Kim Rhode with Bruce Culpepper
The spirit of Teddy Roosevelt lives on!
The 23rd annual banquet and auction billed as a celebration of America's Sporting Heritage was held by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) on Sept. 19. Another part of the mission of CSF is to protect, support and inspire and the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. CSF President Jeff Crane welcomed his distinguished board members, and members of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus to the event, while a color guard presented the American flag. A game supper was served to those at the Hyatt on Capital Hill including rainbow trout and bison sirloin. Special thanks to John Doerr of Pure Fishing (remarks at AFWA), and Jeff Angers,  for hosting this visitor from the Lowcountry. An amazing silent auction saw unique sporting items from around the country, like the custom box call and display case from an Illinois outfitter that one lucky patron got to take home. Firearms, archery equipment, fishing rods and reels were available, and the crowd of sporting enthusiasts made hearty bids in support of the CSF. When it came to the live auction, only the top tier hunts were offered, like a two-day hunt for quail, pheasant and chukar to Nilo Farms - that's Winchester Ammo's hunt camp!! Some faces in the crowd this night included Dan Ashe, Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Pat Murray of CCA, Paul Schmidt of DU, Laramy 'Sasquatch' Miller from Outdoor TV, Jeff Angers from Center for Coastal Conservation, Robert Model from Boone and Crockett, Bruce Culpepper from Shell Oil, and five-time Olympic shooting medalist Kim Rhode stood out with her Gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics! The CSF annual banquet charges attendees to go back to their jobs and endeavor to share the experience of the great outdoors with others, and especially the next generation, to secure the future of our sporting heritage.

Pat Murray, Congressman David Rivera (Fla.), and Jeff Angers
To read an economic data report on sportsman generated funds from the CSF click here.
Custom waterfowl calls were inside this decorative box

Friday, September 21, 2012

Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation - Economic Impact Report

CSF Board member Jeff Angers and President Jeff Crane
Sen. John Thune is Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus
As part of the annual Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) banquet, a press conference was held at 3 p.m. on Sept. 19 to report on the economic data generated from hunters and anglers. Meeting in the South Hall of the new Congressional Visitors Center, we were not far from the statute of South Carolina statesman Wade Hampton, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1879 to 1891. CSF President Jeff Crane welcomed several members of the Congressional caucus to speak including Senator John Thune and Congressman Robert Latta, plus representatives from the fishing and hunting trade associations. The CSF bullet points include that sportsmen spend $90 Billion annually, and that the excise taxes on their sporting goods help to bankroll conservation by $3 Billion each year! A special nod was given to the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, which is now being guided by S.C.'s John Frampton. With 300 member in the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, it's safe to say that hunting and fishing is well-represented on Capital Hill, but the tireless work of safeguarding our rights to hunt and fish is why the CSF mission is imperative.

To view my feature article on sportsmen hitting the economic bullseye click Charleston Mercury.
CSF Board Chair Lindsay Thomas and Robert Model

Congressman Robert Latta of Ohio is sportsman's advocate
To view a past blog entry about the CSF click here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Congressman / Sportsman Jeff Duncan of S.C.

Jeff Duncan and son JP with an S.C. turkey harvest

Jeff Duncan, auctioneer, at the CSF annual banquet
Duncan and Dennis in D.C.
Congressman Jeff Duncan represents the third Congressional District of South Carolina. This upstate district runs from Edgefield through Clemson and the prior representative was the honorable Gresham Barrett, who shared a fondness for rabbit hunting. Sportsman Jeff Duncan was active with SCDNR while in the S.C. General Assembly, and I witnessed him address DNR Board meetings when issues that he cared about were being debated. Now in Washington, he continues to be a sportsman's advocate, and supports the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation(CSF). Duncan also supports other sporting groups, and we spoke a the Ducks Unlimited 75th in D.C., which began a conversation about hunting and fishing that continues today. In my exclusive interview with Duncan, he told me that he aspires to eventually assume a leadership position with the CSF. On September 19 he volunteered as an auctioneer for a part of the CSF annual banquet.

To view a past blog entry about Jeff Duncan click here.

To view my feature article on Congressman and Sportsman Jeff Duncan is in the Charleston Mercury.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Early Season Teal hunt at C.E. Farms / Video

Teal opener with Matt Key and Chad Fisk
Early season teal limit from opening day
As dawn broke during the opening day of early teal season, I found myself in the duck blind with other waterfowling enthusiasts. We were in the middle of a 20-acre impoundment run by C.E. Farms which is located on Edisto Island, right in the heart of the ACE Basin flyway. Chad Fisk is the huntmaster who planted the food for the ducks, and scouted them for his duck club members all the way up to opening day. Shooting hours are abbreviated during early-teal season with no shooting before sunrise (and not 30 minutes before sunrise) which gave us plenty of time to watch the blue-winged teal buzz around as the sunlight struck the marsh. While taking a minute to video this activity, I recorded evidence that while a hunter may seek a 4-teal daily bag limit, there is really NO LIMIT to the bounty of natural resources in the coastal Lowcountry. When it came time for the guns fire, we enjoyed terrific wingshooting and both youth hunters and veteran hunters earned their bag limit. With early teal season lasting until the end of September, Fisk is still offering memberships to hunt ducks, doves, quail and more at C.E. Farms. Furthermore, Fisk has partnered with the founders of Oysta-flage to promote this new coastal camo. For further information visit the Internet at C.E. Farms / Tideline Outfitters.

To read my feature article on C.E. Farms click on Colletonian.

To view a past blog entry about Oysta-flage click here.

Roger Burris outside of the blind

Bart Key of Oystaflage with blogger friend

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lowcountry Fishing Report - 9/18/2012

Fishing Report for the coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Brian Lazar with a bull redfish from 9/15
Charleston Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West shares that while much of the focus is on the arrival of shrimp baiting season, the inshore slam fishery for trout, reds and flounder is going strong! Some stud flounder in the 6 to -8-pound range have been weighed in recently, with most caught on mud minnows or live mullet fished along the edges of rock piles. Trout are taking artificial baits such as Z-man paddlerz and DOA shrimp the top choices. If floating a live bait under a popping cork for trout, target shell rakes in 3 to 6-feet of water where the current is flowing good. A great number of 'tailers' are being found in the grass during the high tide stage, as the redfish seek to devour as many fiddlers as they can between now and the cool snaps of fall. During low tide look for reds on mud flats or around structure like docks. Spanish mackerel are still outside the jetties, and anglers are having success with Clarkspoons or other small silver jigs. Shrimp baiting reports have been hit or miss with the best reports coming from St. Helena Sound and Bull's Bay. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Colt Harrison at the West Ashley location of The Charleston Angler elaborates that while the water temperature around 80-degrees is great for September fishing, the bite has been off and on likely due to massively fluctuating tides. For instance, the tailing redfish are not visible to anglers for very long once the tide deepens over the marsh, forcing anglers to get to flats earlier than usual to be ready and waiting on the redfish. When spotted, a well placed cast with a Crimp Merkin fly or a texas-rigged Gulp jerk shad is good for a bite most occasions. During lower water levels the reds are following their normal fall patterns of sticking around shell banks and feeding on shrimp. The trout are concentrated in deeper creeks right now during low tide levels, and they are responding to quarter-ounce jig heads with a shad tail grub, and they were not choosey about which color to eat. Target trout during higher water along the edge of the grass with topwater baits and Mirrolures. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet at The Charleston Angler.

Josh Boyles at Southern Drawl Outfitters in Hilton Head shares that as the water temp starts to drop off, the inshore bite keeps heating up. Redfish and trout fishing is great, although a lot of the trout have been small in size. Topwater and suspended plastic baits have been taking almost all of the bigger trout. Fishing calm nights under dock lights has been producing much success. HEY, the bull reds are in Port Royal Sound and Calibogue Sound. Target the big reds right now and you also have a decent shot at hooking up with a tarpon too! It's a great time to wet a line with those two options in play at the same time.  For more store information visit the Internet at Southern Drawl Outfitters.

Offshore Report: Colt tells us that the bull redfish are showing up in the surf now, especially at the sandbars adjacent to the inlets of the North Edisto and Stono. The tarpon can be found hammering bait balls one day, and then they are gone the next, but don't be surprised when some larger kings show up under those same bait concentrations. Bump trolling live menhaden should put the key in the igntion for the king bite!

Scott indicates that the wind has been blowing which has kept most boats in port. On the fishable days a decent number of wahoo and blackfin tuna are coming in the 140 to 350-feet of water range. Bottom fishing for grouper in the 90 to 150-foot range has been pretty good. Plenty of triggerfish are being found by dropping down in the 75 to 110-feet range. Keep in mind that black sea bass season is closed as of Sept. 4, and that red snapper will be back open from Sept. 21 - 23 with one keeper fish (no size limit) per angler per day.

Josh shares that the offshore reports for dolphin has really dwindled, and that the wahoo bite has been slow. Blackfin tuna are on the way though, which are one of his favorite targets. During the first red snapper weekend his customers reported no trouble finding their limit of one fish to keep.

To view past fishing reports for the coastal Lowcountry click here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 BTT Lowcountry Tarpon tourney

The 2012 tourney was held in Georgetown
Andrew McLain and Paul Sasser serve as event organizers
The third edition of the Lowcountry Tarpon tourney put on by the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) was fished September 14 and 15 out of Georgetown. Sixteen boats entered the event that is slowly growing in name recognition as the tarpon tagging research tourney in S.C. - with some guides saying that this area of the coastal Lowcountry will be famous sooner rather than later for their tarpon activity. Over the two days of fishing a total of four tarpon were caught and released by three boats, and one tarpon was tagged by Bruce Unger of Miami who brought the BTT's tarpon tags to town. Congrats to Capt. Steve Roff who guided a three-man team to victory with a tarpon release on each day of the tourney. Angler Ashley Coleman of Jackson, Alabama released his first-ever tarpon on Sept. 14 when a 125-pounder ate a croaker at 4:30 in the afternoon, and after a 35-minute fight resulting in swivel to rod tip, the fish broke off the line and this tarpon was not tagged. Then on Sept. 15 it was Daniel Dunbar who caught his first ever tarpon around noon on (a top-secret artificial lure), and after a brief 10-minute fight from anchored position the 60 to 70-pound tarpon was released without being tagged. Third team member William Powell of Hartsville, S.C. was glad to witness all of the excitement - winning the event with two tarpon releases. Captain Steve Roff was featured in my recent article about S.C. tarpon fishing in TIDE magazine. One lucky tarpon swam off with a $5000 satellite tag when Capt. Doug Miller, guide Jay Nelson and angler Antonio Castellvi of Spartanburg hooked up at 1:30 on the 15th. This was Castellvi's first S.C. tarpon and Miller reported that this was a real 'cordial' tarpon that made a good candidate for tagging. The Lowcountry tarpon tourney saw a lady angler, a British angler and even an angler in a wheelchair, all go fishing in pursuit of the silver king, which carries a common allure for anglers. An awards dinner and raffle was held at Land's Inn restaurant in Georgetown so that all of the fish tales could be shared as the sun set on another memorable and successful tarpon tourney in the Lowcountry outdoors.

Local tarpon art from John Witzel

Lady angler and son who pursue tarpon

Satellite tag for tarpon
To view a blog entry from the 2011 BTT Lowcountry Tarpon tourney click here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

2012 Shrimp / Teal / Doe deer - Opening Day

'Coolered Out' equals a legal limit of shrimp
This is a prime teal set up in the marsh
Doe deer harvest retrieval on a game cart
It's time to get the jump on the sporting seasons of fall - in a big way! Seafood leads the list concerning the next round of season openers with recreational shrimp baiting season opening at noon on Friday Sept. 14. This shellfish is possibly the tastiest morsel in the saltwater estuary, and this year they are abundant and it should prove to be a banner opening day. While the season begins at noon, most shrimpers will wait until dusk to cast their nets, since the shrimp tend to run best just after dark. The shrimp bating season lasts 60 days and residents must purchase a $25 license, and 48-quarts of heads on shrimp is the daily limit. The early season on migratory teal begins on Sept. 15 and runs until Sept. 30, and includes both green-winged teal and blue-winged teal. Remember to carry all the correct licensing like federal, state and HIP permits - and to observe waterfowl shooting hours and the four-teal daily limit. Finally, this Saturday morning (Sept. 15), deer hunts can include the harvest of doe deer, which greatly enhances the chances of pulling the trigger. Doe tags and a hunting license are required, but the doe season remains in effect all the way until January 1. Those wishing to control deer herd numbers through a strong doe harvest will want to get to work right away, before does are bred during the rut of October and beyond. Football season is here, but the Lowcountry outdoors will offer a bevy of sporting pursuits for those who choose them!

To view past blog entries about the 2011 opening day click here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Youth Dove Hunt in ACE Basin

Group photo from CPA youth dove hunt
Tyler Johnson GOT ONE!
Fifteen youth hunters from Colleton Prep Academy (CPA) got to swing their guns on some doves Saturday, Sept. 8 due to a couple of sporting gentleman. Dr. Joe Flowers is well-known as a Colleton County Council member, and he donated a day of dove hunting at his farm in Western Colleton County to a fundraiser for CPA. Then Allen Bell secured the rights to the hunt and declared that this would be a youth-oriented hunt, and made sure to have an adult supervisor for each youth shooter. The entire group enjoyed a cookout lunch of hotdogs and hamburgers, which was followed by a lengthy meeting about the Do's and Dont's of the dove field. No one lost attention as Flowers and Bell made their point that safety was going to be a focus of this hunt. Youths were spaced properly in the field since each station had been marked with a piece of tape by forester Tracey Butram, whose daughter and son were also on the hunt. Flowers told me that he is glad to share a love of nature with these youth and that he believes in teaching outdoor education. Really hot weather ended with a terrific thunderstorm about 5:30 that day, but everyone retreated to the picnic shelter to talk about college football, eat some Benton's peanuts and to discuss other upcoming opportunities to go hunting.
Allen Bell mentors Tyler in the field

Youth listening to the safety meeting
To view past blog entries about dove hunting click here.

To view article in newspaper click Colletonian.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fish and Wildlife Agencies Meet in Hilton Head

Rob Keck, John Frampton and Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops

A sampling of DNR's that attended the AFWA meeting

John Frampton, Johnny Morris accepts award from John Gasset

SCDNR hosted this annual meeting
The 2012 Annual Meeting for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) met in Hilton Head, and the meeting was hosted by SCDNR. Those who work full-time to steward the USA's natural resources were present in the Lowcountry, and I spoke to visitors from Alaska, Missourri, Pennsylvania and all points inbetween. The conference began with a plenary session of keynote speakers like Jay McAninch with the Archery Trade Association, Thm Dammrich with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Steve Sanetti with the National Shooting Sports Foundation and John L. Morris, Founder of Bass Pro Shops. It was John Doerr, with Pure Fishing based in Columbia S.C., who said that Wildlife Agencies need to become more 'customer-centric' in the future. Citing cuts to the SCDNR budget the past few years due to a stressed economy, he urged listeners not to forget that hunters and anglers are the 'paying customers' who drive conservation funding, and that when his company remits their excise tax payment to the IRS each year, he views it as an investment in the future. Doerr cited John Frampon as a leader who understands that outdoorsmen are seeking a quality experience when they buy their license, and especially when they get time for an outing. He expressed that these agencies need to key on engaging the customer, even re-organize if need be, to produce a high level of customer satisfaction. His company sells many quality products, but this blogger is most familiar with Penn, since a Penn reel attached to an Ugly Stik rod is what worked well fishing in the waters of the Lowcountry when I grew up - for more info visit Penn Reels. Later in the AFWA conference a special luncheon was held for the Director's of these Agencies and S.C. Director Alvin Taylor was present, along with past Director John Frampton. After lunch the first ever Citizen Conservationist of the Year award was presented to John L. Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, who has been a tireless promoter of outdoor education and conservation. Morris has the luxury of employing Rob Keck to bring a special level of leadership to Bass Pro's efforts to not only contribute funds, but to set goals for the future and to see them through. Morris relayed that he grew up float fishing the Ozarks in Missourri, and he expressed gratefulness to the assembled agency heads that shore up the boundaries/limits that conserve our resources. Other events at AFWA included a meeting of the Bird Conservation Committee, led by N.C. Director Gordon Myers, that saw the top-tier of birding experts speak about a wide variety of subjects including the state of birds in Canada, the Southern Wings program, the National Flyway Council and much more. The sharing of ideas at the AFWA conference is a great way for agency leaders to network and then provide a higher level of service when they return to their home states.

This conference coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Sportfish and Wildlife Restoration Program.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 Lowcountry Longbeards banquet at Shem Creek

Guy Harvey magazine and 'Amigos' print on NWTF auction
Mike Hofstatter and Bob Aiken of NWTF
The 4th annual Lowcountry Longbeards banquet of the National Wild Turkey Federation was held at the Lighthouse on Shem Creek on September 6. Sunny and hot weather greeted the attendees that gathered on the back deck during the social hour to enjoy the incoming tide along Shem Creek. The event leadership team included Mike Hoffstatter, NTWF Regional Director who told me he works seven days a week on behalf of the wild turkey, State Board Member Bob Aiken and Chapter President Matthew Moore. A silent auction included turkey calls, NWTF merchandise like flashlights and knives and a special signed and numbered Guy Harvey print. Thanks to Guy Harvey Inc. for partnering with Lowcountry Outdoors in an effort to raise awareness about conservation. A seafood dinner served by Park Lane catering out of Columbia was followed by a terrific live auction. Framed prints of the wild turkey and other game items like the preening wood duck decoy filled the menu, but the bidding pace picked up when it came to a Simons Cuthbert box call and the NWTF gun of the Year! The general raffle at the end of the night saw gear boxes, dove stools and even a few shotguns awarded to those who chose to support Lowcountry Longbeards in their efforts to raise funds that the NWTF will spend on conservation right here in South Carolina.

Pres. Matthew and Ryan Moore

To view past blog entries about the Lowcountry Longbeards click here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Managing Tidal Wetlands - USACE General Permit

Travis Folk, LTC Chamberlayne and Ernie Wiggers at Nemours
Nemours is located along the Combahee River
What does the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have to do with hunting ducks in the historic rice fields in the Lowcountry outdoors? The earthworks that surround these impoundments date back in time and are subject to erosion due to Mother Nature. Therefore it takes a constant regime of maintenance to keep them in working order, and the USACE oversees the permitting process for that work. Private landowners in the ACE Basin led the efforts to partner with the USACE to streamline that permit process for the future. This reduction of 'red tape' will help wildlife managers provide a higher level of care for those waterfowl, wading birds and more that visit these impoundments during their annual migration. Essentially, this is a modern day tweak to historic engineering technology - using trunks and gates as a way to control water flow, to increase wetland habitat for all wildlife.

Nemours Plantation hosted both a stakeholder meeting two years ago that began this process, and a luncheon celebrating the new General Permit on August 15. Video shows Craig LeSchack with DU speaking before the luncheon.

To read my feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.
To read an except from the Waterfowl Advocate click Ducks Unlimited.
To view past blog entries about bird watching and rice fields click here.

Mike McShane presents a model trunk to LTC Chamberlayne

Travis Folk, USACE staff, and Ernie Wiggers