Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Field Notes and Photos - February 2012

Gray Fox in Colleton County with winter coat

Red berries flourish in winter

A country house mouse with cat-like whiskers

This mushroom was the size of a dinner plate

Goldfinch posing on the bird bath
Despite warm and dry conditions during the winter, those who enjoy the outdoors took advantage of the good wildlife viewing opportunities. Less leaves on the trees during winter always provide different looks at regularly-viewed vistas. A group of migratory songbirds that arrive in winter with almost clockwork like precision. This year I spotted the first cedar waxwing on 1/29/2012, and after checking my birding book I had sighted the first cedar waxwing on the same exact date the year before, 1/29/11 - and 1/27/2010 before that! Both flora and fauna are on display in winter, and they send an unmistakable message - that spring is on the way!

To view past Field Notes blog entries click here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lowcountry resident to be new SCDNR Director

SCDNR Press Release:

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources Board named Col. Alvin Taylor as permanent director of the agency during the regular Board meeting on Jan. 26 in Columbia. Taylor replaces John Frampton, who is retiring in March.

Taylor of Yonges Island in Charleston County, replaced Col. J. Alvin Wright as deputy director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement Division in 2004.

SCDNR Exec. Director Alvin Taylor
A 1976 graduate of Clemson University, Taylor completed training at the U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Training Center in Yorktown, Va., in 1976 and graduated from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy in 1977. 

In 1977, Taylor joined the state Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, predecessor of the DNR, as a private first class, teaching boating education classes and investigating recreational boating accidents statewide.

He has served as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, supervising the DNR boating safety and hunter education programs, various law enforcement regions of the state and the agency's coastal marine law enforcement operations.

I'd like to add that Taylor has been a regular presence at SCDNR Board meetings for years. He is also well-known to those who frequent events such as the Rockville Regatta, SEWE, the Governor's Cup, safety check efforts and other gatherings in the Lowcountry. All of the South Carolina Outdoors will benefit from the leadership that Taylor will deliver in 2012 and beyond.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Black Swamp duck hunt in the SRP

Waterfowl hunting is an time-honored tradition
Guide Bill Mixon and I after the hunt
The annual end of duck season hunt at Black Swamp yielded a FIRST duck for a special youth hunter visiting from Mount Pleasant. A cold 36-degree morning greeted the hearty waterfowlers that assembled in Jasper County to occupy duck blinds in the upland impoundments. ALL of the Black Swamp property is under conservation easement with Ducks Unlimited, and is one part of the greater Savannah River Preserve. Wood ducks, teal, and ringnecks were seen, as well as snipe and a host of shorebirds. A grand southern breakfast served to complete the final duck hunt of the 2011/2012 season.

Goose season does not go out on January 29 with duck season, but rather geese stay in season until February 3. Goose season does close February 4 and 5, during the special youth waterfowl days, but geese come back in season for a special late harvest opportunity, which runs February 6 – 9.

A lucky youth hunter earned his FIRST duck while hunting with his father
Good Luck Hunting!!

To view past blog entries about the SRP click here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Woodrows in the fog and rain

Ducks Unlimited and S.C. wood ducks

This is what a foggy beaver swamp woodie shoot looks like 

Notice the fog in the background

Cleaned wood ducks ready for the kitchen
If there is something about Mary - the memorable comedy motion picture - then there is something about hunting wood ducks that is just as memorable! With temperatures in the 70's during this last week of duck season, and the drought in full effect, it was finally time for waterfowlers to harvest some of those wood ducks that they had been keeping a check on. Hunting in a beaver swamp in a thick fog one morning, a great blue heron came in to land on the hummock of land I was standing on, resulting in a close encounter with the LARGE wading bird. After the heron flew off into the swamp and fog, we began to hear the squeal of wood ducks filtering into the flooded timber. Plenty of wood ducks offered some great wingshooting for the three guns that were in position, and a trusted black lab named Josie made all of the necessary retrieves. That morning the wood ducks were coming into the swamp at daybreak, but a different type of hunt came the following day when a rainy morning offered an opportunity to shoot wood ducks as they were leaving an upland pond they were roosting in. If it had been clear weather, the woodies would have left out before legal shooting time, but that was not the case this day as two guns gave the passing woodies a few salutes on the way to picking up a limit. Both hunts provided great fellowship and a chance to enjoy the Lowcountry Outdoors, even with the potential of the hunt being over after three shots. Thank You Mr. Wood Duck - we can always count on you!

To view past blog entries about wood duck hunting click here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ducks Unlimited 75th Ann. Book Release

The very first DU conservation project - Photo Courtesy DU
Ducks Unlimited is commemorating its 75th anniversary year at fundraising banquets all across North America. DU also recognizes that this was a prime time to unlock their memorabelia vault and share with others 'The Story of Ducks Unlimited' - the title of their new coffee table book. The entire history of DU is laid out for readers in such a compelling fashion that it makes anyone appreciate this organization being a leader in the area of waterfowl conservation. The photography in the book is top notch and will please duck hunters, and plenty of historical photos help to tell the story of how the tough times during the depression and dust bowl led to the foundation of this organization, who owes everything to their volunteer members. I am glad to share a preview of this book for everyone as published in the Charleston Mercury.

To view past blog entries about DU in S.C. click here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

45th Charleston Trident Fishing Tournament - Awards

Eren Bracewell with the winning King at the JIYC in June
Attractive plaques got to TFT winners
January 24, 2012 marked the annual awards banquet for the year-long Trident Fishing Tournament. The awards were once again held at the Edisto meeting facility on James Island County Park, since Chas. Co. Parks Dept. is the principal sponsor of this tournament. Of course, all of the local fishing clubs line up to help promote the tournament, but this night features the anglers that made the special catches that made the 45th TFT memorable. Outstanding offshore lady angler went to Eren Bracewell of Team Eren's Addiction for her monster King mackerel caught at the JIYC tourney that went 43-pounds and 15-ounces! Oustanding Inshore Charter Boat went to Capt. Ben Floyd, and Outstanding Inshore Fly Roder went to Capt. John Ward. Oustanding Freshwater angler went to Thomas Durr. Placing in the photo contest was Capt. Robert Olsen and Monica Waller, daughter of Capt. Mike Waller. For the complete listing of winners in the 45th Trident Tournament check out LowcountryFishScales.

Capt. Mike Waller and his daughter places in the photo contest

Thomas Durr and SCSSA's Laird Staley

Jack and Eren Bracewell at the TFT awards

Capt. Robert Olsen and the subject of his photograph
To view my blog entry from past TFT award banquets click here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lowcountry Fishing Report - 1/24/2012

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:

Charleston Inshore Report:
Scott Hammond from Haddrell's Point West says that he isn't trying to jinx anything, but no one can remember nicer weather in January! Large schools of reds are all over the shallow water flats and they are eating Zman Smokey Shad paddlerz and Gulp jerkshads in black bass color. If you don't have any artificials to cast, set up on an oyster point with some cut mullet and then hang on. Sheepshead fishing continues to produce with most of the big ones coming from inshore waters where heavy structure is in 8 to 20-feet of water. Black drum are taking cut shrimp at the jetties on the falling tide. Target the tips of the jetties where the rocks first become submerged heading towards the Atlantic Ocean. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet at HaddrellsPoint.

Capt. Peter Brown with a fine speckled trout - photo by Joel Arrington
Bart Manley from the Charleston Market location of The Charleston Angler reports consistent water temperatures in the 50's, and the water is as clear as it gets here. Fishing is slow unless an angler locates a school of redfish. Approach them with stealth, then toss either a mud minnow under a popping cork or a Zman Streakz curly tail in black and gold flake color. Anglers wishing to use fly tackle will want to use darker patterns with bead chain eyes around low tide. Anticipate where the school will move to and cast ahead of them for the best chance of hooking up a winter redfish. The trout bite has slowed, so remember to target the strong currents using a D.O.A. shrimp under a popping cork. Darker colors that offer a chartreuse tail work well this time of year. For all the latest seminar information visit CharlestonAngler.

Captain Peter Brown tells me that locating impressive numbers of red drum in the shallows is typical for this time of year. Schools of fish into the hundreds can be found in water one to three-feet deep and are being caught using sight-casting techniques. Soft plastics like Gulp shrimp rigged on Falcon worm hooks have been extremely effective during this unseasonably warm winter. Hard baits like the Bomber Long-A and Heddon Swim-n-Image are working well also. Catching double-digit numbers of redfish is not uncommon in January and February, and Brown reports one client catching a 19-pound hoss redfish in less than one foot of water during a Bull's Bay trip! Fly fishermen are having success with clouser minnows and Enrico Puglisi crab patterns when they are presented correctly. It varies from day to day whether the reds want a slow retrieve or a fast retrieve. Trout fishing can be rewarding if anglers are patient enough to work mirrolures slowly. For more info about Capt. Brown check out SaltCharters.

Charleston Offshore Report:
Bart reports a few sailfish still being caught, but the real focus for offshore fishermen might be trolling for wahoo. Winter is a good time to taget hoos since they bite well in the cold, when others tend to get sluggish. Pay attention to moon phases, and troll Black Bart Rum Candy lures at high speeds.

Scott reports that wahoo in the 40 to 60-poiund range have been caught recently just outside the ledge in 200 to 350-feet of water. The wahoo are not in great numbers however. At the nearshore reefs like the Lowcountry Anglers Reef, the North Edisto Nearshore Reef and the Charleston Nearshore Reef try dropping down some fiddlers to stop some medium-sized convicts in their tracks.

To view past fishing reports click here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Deer management is at a crossroads

Roadkill buck from 1/22/12 in Colleton County
Deer herd management is a constant balancing act for Mother Nature, ...and then mankind gets involved. When deer season ends, a host of deer hunters immediately quit putting out feed corn (all of a sudden the corn is way too expensive) and deer become stressed and step up their search for food. All too often, January and February appear to be have high deer and vehicle collision rates, as deer ramble close to roadways looking for green grass to eat. The small 8-point buck pictured here, made it through hunting season just fine. He did not fall under QDM guidelines for some sportsman, and he slipped by all the others. Despite having the potential to become a shooter buck next season, he did not make it past a busy Saturday night of automobile traffic. Broken pieces of auto headlights in the road were not hard to find, and one hopes that the auto's occupants drove off just fine. Deer mortality is coming under new focus these days, with the influx of coyotes likely at least partially to blame for the decrease in deer herd numbers. Habitat changes have also negatively affected deer herd numbers, but with the SCDNR set to propose buck limits to the S.C. General Assembly, hunters had better prepare for changes. South Carolina may join other states that have already chosen buck limits. For an overview of the deer management recommendations click here.

75th Ann. of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program

Hardwood Bottomlands at the Webb WMA
Have you ever purchased firearms, ammunition, bow and arrows, fishing equipment and the licenses for legal hunting and fishing? If you answered YES, then you are already a part of the efforts of the conservation programs run by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program(WSFR). The WSFR is celebrating 75 years of outdoor traditions in 2012 and their efforts have resulted in millions of acres of habitat saved. Increased levels of game and fish from protected acreage give sportsmen more of the opportunities they desire in the outdoors. A review of the history of the WSFR shows contributions in South Carolina beginning n the 1940's for projects like developing the Waterhorn Tract in the Francis Marion National Forest as a turkey management unit - which of course was a Huge success. In 1941they purchased the Webb Center Wildlife Management Area, all 5837-acres of it for $37,725! The funds they administer are combined with matching dollars from each state to fund conservation, and this program remains in full blossom and deserves credit for work in all the states across the U.S.A.

To view a past blog entry about the the Ducks Unlimited 75th anniversary book click here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Debutante Hunters Film

Lowcountry ladies armed and ready for the hunt
Several local lady hunters came together to make a short documentary film in 2011 about why they choose to hunt. The film debuted at the Terrace Theatre on James Island and is now featured at the Sundance Indie Film Festival. I am proud to have shot guns alongside Susan Frampton, a retired SEWE executive, and Sara Frampton - at Safari Club outings. The mother and daughter hunting team are just one of the storylines during the 12-minute film, that does a good job showing how some girls are comfortable in the field, as well as at home. One female hunter even has a good cry over the fact that she loves the hunt, and I just wanted to salute these Lowcountry ladies for doing a good job of promoting our outdoor traditions as honorable and worthy of their best efforts. To view the film click here.

To view past blog entries about lady hunters click here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 SCDNR Weather Recap

A lack of rain made 2011 a good time to be outside with family

2011 South Carolina Weather in Review

2011 was another year of extreme weather events in South Carolina. 
June through August 2011 was the second warmest on record statewide (out of 117 years). The year’s temperature extremes ranged from a low of 5 degrees at Jocassee, Jan. 13, to the summer’s warmest temperature set at the University of South Carolina campus, 107 degrees, July 22. 
It was also another year of drought for South Carolina with portions of the state in incipient and moderate drought with six counties upgraded to severe drought in Nov. It was the driest year since records began in 1903 for Walterboro receiving only 27.78" (normal 48.5") !! 
Mount Pleasant Regional Airport recorded the state's unofficial highest accepted observed heat index value, 124 F, on July 13 at 3 p.m.  "Thankfully there were no hurricanes that made landfall for South Carolina this year," noted Assistant State Climatologist Wes Tyler, "but Hurricane Irene did bring bands of rain, gusty winds and significant beach erosion."

To view past blog entries about weather click here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 SCWA Walterboro - Conservation banquet

Custom SCWA cornhole gameboards on the auction
The Walterboro Chapter of the S.C. Waterfowl Association held their annual conservation banquet on January 14 at the armory building. Funds raised go towards the Craig Crosby memorial scholarship fund which pays for youths from Colleton County to attend Camp Woodie, SCWA's environmental education facility. A large turnout of waterfowl enthusiasts enjoyed a seafood meal for dinner before partaking in silent and live auctions and special raffles too. A large number of sponsors and donors made the event a success even before the spirited bidders began to claim the merchandise, guns, duck hunts and turkey hunts that were on the menu. A special SCWA 25th anniversary Browning shotgun was just one of the unique items available, as well as the custom oyster tables and cornhole boards made by Walterboro committee members. Several youths that had already attended Camp Woodie spoke to the crowd about what they liked about their experience, and these same youths stayed front and center and engaged during the entire auction. The general raffle ended the evening on a high note when an excitable female patron won the Drake apparel package and jumped up and down with excitement and screamed loudly. Special thanks to Big Lake Duck Calls for donating calls, a lanyard and a Camp Woodie scholarship check too!

For past blog entries on the SCWA Walterboro chapter click here.

Chapter Co-Chair Jim Minor and the raffle girl smile in the armory

Camp Woodie alumni address the crowd

SCWA Walterboro sweeties

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sportsmen support Vick for Congress

Duck hunters who support Ted Vick for Congress with their waterfowl on January 14

Andy Lawrimore, holding his wire-haired puppy,
alongside Lee Daniel after the duck hunt
Holly, Taylor and Lee are the next generation of the Lawrimore family
Ted Vick, Kyle Daniel, Jeff Dennis and Andy Lawrimore
State Representative Ted Vick (d) has announced that he will run for the U.S. Congress, in the new district that encompasses Myrtle Beach and the Pee Dee Region. Sportsmen who support Vick, a proven outdoorsman himself, will be able to participate in fundraising options during the first quarter of 2012. With the election set for June, Vick will canvas the Lowcountry Outdoors in Georgetown, Williamsburg and Horry counties - and into the Pee Dee. Andy Lawrimore and family hosted Vick and his supporters at their private property in Johnsonville for a chance to rally other sportsman and to consult with Clive, a truster senior advisor. An afternoon hog hunt did not yield any meat, but many deer were spotted moving around due to the cold weather. An evening meal of barbecue chicken was served with the vinegar-based sauce that is a trademark of the Kingstree area. The fellowship that followed the meal inside the nostalgic confines of the renovated tobacco barn was a combination of past history and the present rural farming traditions that continue today. Representative Ted Vick is in tune with this rural way of life and understands that hunting and fishing are honorable traditions worthy of being held high in terms of public opinion. The entire extended Lawrimore family personifies these same values and their property is a perfect example of how the preservation of rural aesthetics can and should be achieved.

To view past blog entries about Ted Vick in the outdoors click here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Charleston Mercury - Quail and Sporting Gear Story

English Setters on Point for an upland hunter

Browning's Bird'N'Lite series comes in a coat or vest

Thanks to Eddie Salter for recommending TEK4 clothing 
The fits and starts of cold weather have made the upland hunting season a challenge thus far in 2012. Timing these hunts to coincide with cold snaps is important for the dog work, and the feature article in the Charleston Mercury discusses some of the new gear to consider carrying into the woodlands. Also, be sure to check out the new look fishing reports link!

To view past blog entries about sporting gear and Eddie Salter click here.

To view past blog entries about hunting gear click here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lowcountry Fishing Report - 1/11/2012

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:

Cole and Neal Whittaker from Tennessee
Photo by AffinityCharters.com
Charleston Inshore Report:
Bart Manly at The Charleston Angler, in their new Market Street location, reports that water temps remain variable in the lower 50's - which isn't too shabby for fishing! The redfish are schooling up on the flats, following their instincts to avoid the predators which can use the clear waters of winter to their advantage. Once located, cast a Z-man Streakz curly-tail in black and gold flake at the channel bass schools. If you want to make your bait disappear quickly, ask Bart about the new Houdini paddle tails! Another bait option is the Berkeley Gulp jerk shad in sapphire shine color. Fly fisherman should continue to use darker fly patterns in hopes of not spooking the schools. A good tactic is to try and anticipate where the school will be moving to and cast there well ahead of them, then wait for a well-timed TWITCH. To target trout Bart recommends a DOA shrimp under a popping cork like the glow color with chartreuse tail. Look for strong currents that trout favor and switch to Gulp jigheads with white curly tails if you need to keep your bait down. For the latest seminar information visit their website.

Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West states that while a few bitter cold days may have slowed down the number of anglers hitting the water, it has not slowed the fish down at all. Fantastic numbers of redfish, including schools of 100 fish, have been found on low tide flats and are eager to eat an assortment of baits. Gulp jerkshads, Gulp swimming mullet, Zman paddler series, and Zman ultra shrimp with pro cure scent have all been deadly on the schooling redfish. In addtion, old standby baits such as mud minnows and cut mullet are also effective this time of year. Sheepshead are still feeding heavily along structure in 8 to 20-feet of water with fiddler crabs, oysters and barnacles the best baits. Often over-looked by anglers, black drum can often be found with consistency in the same areas that sheepshead are found. Using cut shrimp is hard to beat for black drum. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet.

Charleston Offshore Report:
Scott repeats that with grouper season closed as of January 1, opportunities for offshore anglers are fairly limited. However, good reports of triggerfish continue, especially in water 60 to 90-feet deep. The nearshore reefs can be a great option this time of year to target sheepshead, weakfish and black drum. Scott recommends the shallow reefs in 25 to 35-feet of water. Drop your favorite color 4-inch grub on a .5-ounce jighead to get on those weakfish!

Bart says there is not alot of offshore activity with the grouper and black sea bass closures. There are still a few scattered sailfish and wahoo to be found though. For sailfish, use small sea witch lures in either blue and white or pink and white combinations, paired with a dink ballyhoo. For wahoo, high-speed trolling with Black Bart san sal candy lures is always a good bet.

To view past fishing reports click here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TIDE magazine - Sheepshead article

Cover photo for the Jan. / Feb. 2012 issue
The January / February 2012 edition of CCA's TIDE magazine contains several stories about fisheries conservation. On page 28 you will find my feature entitled "Chief Thief"which is regarding the S.C. fishery for sheepshead. The article addresses how sheepshead are being managed differently from now on, since it no longer will fall in the snapper / grouper complex. Another feature in TIDE is the Coastal Conservation Association Cook 'N' Tell archives and this edition features a Texas style Lowcounty Boil from the Redfish Lodge.

For past blog entries about TIDE magazine click here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012 Grand American and Coon Fest

4th/3rd Nite Champion/High Scoring English Female: NITE CH ‘PR’ Swamp Bottom Star, owned by Greg Ervin, right, of Watkinsville, Georgia, 550+. Also shown is Blake Ervin and Alan Short. Photo by UKC.
Great independent logo for the event 

An array of lights were available for sale

Choose a hat with your favorite coon dog breed on it
The 47th Annual Grand American Hunt and Coon Fest was held in Orangeburg on January 6 -8 at the fairgrounds. Known as the Super Bowl of coon hunt competitions, it draws dog lovers from states all across the Southeast. The gates for Coon Fest opened at 7 a.m. on Friday, followed by opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. and a treeing contest after lunch. A Bench Show, or dog show, is also a part of coon fest and entrants registered for the Saturday show competitions which included a kids division. Two nights of hunting for UKC-registered dogs were held on Friday and Saturday nights with the presentation of trophies and results taking place at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning after competitors come out of the woods of Orangeburg County. Racoons are hunted, tracked and trees but none are injured or killed during the Grand American. Coon fest is a two-day celebration of all things involved in the coon hunting lifestyle, including vendors selling clothes and night-lites, and breeders selling coon dogs. A community spirit graced the 2012 coon fest and the hunt competition between dog breeds like Reedbone, BlueTick, Plott's, English and Walker. Congrats to Greg Kennedy of New Zion, S.C. for his coon dog named McGhee's Sailorman taking first place on Saturday night. For all the Grand American results view the UKC site.

For past blog entries on the Grand American click here.