Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 Governor's Cup Awards - 25th Anniversary

The Inaugural Campbell Award presented by SCDNR Director (left) and
Gov. Cup Bd. (right) to the late Governor's wife, son and grand daughter
Showtime wins 2013 Best Billfish Boat
The 25th Anniversary of the South Carolina Governor's Cup Billfishing Series came to a close at the Governor's Mansion in Columbia on Sunday, September 29. The annual awards reception allows the top anglers in the series to gather for some recognition of their efforts and for some fellowship. Since participants in the Series literally come from all over the Palmetto State and from other states - the Columbia location makes a good central point for meeting up and the Governor's gracious hospitality makes the visit more memorable. The brand new recognition award named after the Series founder, the late Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr., made its debut and members of the Campbell family returned to the Governor's mansion to take part in the ceremony. The top boat of the Series was Showtime from Stuart, Florida. They received many of the awards for winning the Series and congrats go the boat owner, Captain and crew for the 2013 Best Billfish Boat award. The Simmons family came up big during the awards when youth angler Rivers took home first place youth angler for his blue marlin release during the MegaDock, and Arica Simmons took home second place overall lady angler award. Angler Dixon Pearce was on hand to pick up his certificate for the largest blue marlin landed during the series. The contestants in the 2013 Carolina Shootout Team were also recognized and they are Showtime, Rascal, Sportin' Life, Arica, Game On and Cacique. Mark your calendar with the dates for the 2014 Gov. Cup!
The Simmons family racks up the individual awards

Lowcountry Outdoors was recognized for five years of Gov. Cup coverage

To view past blog entries from the Governor's Cup Awards click 2012, 2011, 2010 or 2009.
Governor's Mansion in Columbia

Sunday, September 29, 2013

2013 Lowcountry Redfish Cup - Charleston / Round Four

Team Reel Habit WIN the LRC in Charleston - Congrats!
Second place and youth angler for Team Alderman
The fourth and final round in the 2013 Lowcountry Redfish Cup was fished in sunny and windy conditions on Saturday September 28. Of the 38 two-man teams in the competition, only 18 managed to weigh-in their two-fish limit, while a total of 24 teams weighed in at least one redfish. The fourth round of the LRC takes the series into the 'playoffs' phase where the Top 15 teams in the points standings will face off over two days in November with the top team taking home a new Shallow Sports boat! The Charleston event was won by Team Reel Habit with anglers Bruce Draper and Ricky Maldonado, who weighed in a two-redfish bag that went 9-pounds and 13-ounces. Maldonado's redfish was 22 3/4-inches in length and weighed 5.04-pounds. This redfish also took home the biggest redfish prize, and any redfish under the slot limit weighing over 5-pounds is said to be RARE, and perhaps the perfect fish to catch on a tourney day. By the way, the LRC is a catch and release tourney with all redfish weighed live and then released, this time right into Shem Creek after the weigh-in at Red's Icehouse. Draper and Maldonado made a one-hour run from Shem Creek to fish in the North Edisto River where the NE wind was blowing a steady 15 miles per hour, making the water muddy. They caught their redfish near low tide using 4-inch Gulp sugar spice shrimp rigged with a Slayer 4-ought sinister hook. Team Reel Habit took home their first win in the LRC after four years of competition taking home $4300, which compliments their win at the 2012 IFA Tour event in Savannah. Second place went to Team Alderman with Geer Alderman winning youth angler. Third place went to Team Monster and fourth place went to Team Ram.
Team Monster with their scary third place redfish

To view past blog entires about the Lowcountry Redfish Cup click here.

Team Ram Trucks take fourth place

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Eleven-pointer with five kickers from Colleton County

Big buck trailcam from 2013
Butch Cooper and his trophy 11-point buck
It took two years of effort, but Butch Cooper of Cooper Iron Works tagged his trophy buck of a lifetime during an exhilerating hunt on Thursday September 26. The big buck first showed up on Cooper's trail cam in 2012, but only in the deep dark of night. But before the season ended, the buck completely left his Colleton County hunt property offering no more photos. Holding out hope that the buck could still reappear, Cooper picked the BIG buck back on his trail cam about September 15, 2013. On only his third hunt of the season, Cooper slipped quietly toward his stand a little after 5 p.m. last Thursday and noticed that the BIG 11-pointer was already in an opening with a corn pile. Not undaunted by the challenge of belly-crawling towards the buck through the woods, Cooper closed the distance from 300-yards to 150-yards. He got into a crossed legs sitting-Indian type position and rested his trusty .270 rifle on his knee, took a deep breathe, and completed an accurate shot at 5:45 , giving him the best buck of his deer hunting career - congrats! The 11-point main frame has five scoreable points, and it looks to me like the rack has a broken off time that would have made it a classic 12-pointer. The deer weighed 185-pounds and the outside spread of the rack was 18-inches. Cooper reports that the bucks have entered a pre-rut phase now with the cooler weather and are being seen during daylight conditions.
2012 Trailcam photo - Fun Pic!

To view past blog entries about big bucks in 2013 click here.

Close Up of 11-pointer and 5 kickers

2013 Huck Finn Fishing - Colonial Lake

Youth anglers line Colonial Lake
A croaker to weigh-in on Huck Finn day
The City of Charleston Recreation Department deserves some credit for helping Charleston families to 'Raise 'em Right' with their annual Huck Finn fishing day in Colonial Lake. The weather on Saturday Sept. 28 was cool and crisp and this just happened to be National Hunting and Fishing Day, and lots of youth anglers ringed Colonial Lake to try for croaker and redfish. Shrimp, blue crab and even red worms were popular baits and lots of helpful Moms and Dads were on hand to bait hooks and to help cast fishing lines. One angler had a green cane pole from a fresh cutting of bamboo, and that's a good example of the kind of spirit that anglers apply here in the Lowcountry Outdoors! Overall, the fishing was slow, and I would urge the City Rec. Dept. to once again stock the lake ahead of the Huck Finn fishing day to increase the chance of success for these youths. One or two fish caught during this day would be a great way to inspire lots of other youth anglers to come back out and try their luck another day. Let's give them a reason to continue the saltwater angling heritage that is integral to the City of Charleston!
Recreation Dept. bait station - shrimp and worms

To view past blog entries about Huck Finn fishing in Colonial Lake click here.

Family fun under ideal fishing conditions

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Toyota Trucks Drive Camp at Barnsley Gardens

2014 Tundra and 2013 Tacoma comparison

NEW for 2014 is the Tundra tailgate stamp - Neat!!
NEW redesigned rear seats fold UP !!
Ready to fly fish at the Fushin' Hole
What is brand loyalty? This is hard to define in today’s one and done, quick in and out high-tech world. My version includes proudly riding around in my 1998 Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck that has racked up 400,000-miles criss-crossing roadways and farms. My invitation to the recent Toyota Trucks Drive Camp began with a mission of test-driving a 2013 Toyota Tacoma X-runner to Adairsville, Georgia. The antebellum plantation there started by Godfrey Barnsley in the 1850’s is now known as Barnsley Gardens Resort. Event planner Pat Hill has a unique understanding of the outdoors and hand-picked this location for the Toyota Truck Drive Camp. He assembled a fleet of not-yet-for-sale 2014 Tundra pick-ups for a select group of automobile media members to test drive. Toyota surprised us by having a 2014 4Runner on hand to drive for comparison on the off road course. Once checked in to our rooms, we assembled for a multi-media presentation about the 2014 Toyota Tundra, and the five different grades it is offered in. Bill Fay is a Toyota executive who flew in from California to speak, and he began with a brief history lesson. “The first 4Runner went on sale in 1984, and the first Tacoma in 1995,” said Fey. “These trucks brought a lot of new consumers to our brand, and that same group has stuck with us.” No spotlight came my way, but I clearly was part of the demographic he was referencing. “The Tundra came out in 1999, giving us both a full-size pick up and a mid-size pick up option,” said Fay. “Toyota remains committed to a two-truck approach and this year we have more options available for the half-ton Tundra than ever before. Of course, with over 2 million 4Runners sold, we will continue to offer it as a mid-sized SUV with a Body On Frame design, which offers more flex over uneven ground.” The presentation continued when the Toyota Product Communications experts took over. Rachel Deurloo and Andy Lam took turns explaining how both Tundra and Tacoma are Made in the USA in San Antonio, Texas. And that Toyota partners with the Hiring Our Heroes program to give veterans good jobs. Also that the 2014 Tundra has the cutting edge EnTune audio system that allows a modern customer interface using Bluetooth wireless, offering satellite radio and even access to your favorite Apps. When the presentation was complete, it was finally time to drive the 2014 Tundra. Heading over to the off-road course at Spring Bank Plantation I was tasked with taking the new 1794-edition Tundra over the red clay and rock. This is the high-end version of Tundra that is named after the year the ranch was founded where the truck plant in San Antonio is now located. The 1794 has a more Western style and flair, plus all the bells and whistles of a high-end vehicle and it boasts the larger 5.7-liter V-8 engine. The evening concluded with a Southern meal in an outdoors setting, alongside the ruins of the old Barnsley Manor. My own engine of Southern pride was hitting on all cylinders as I ate field peas and fondly recalled driving these trucks off road. Guests were to depart first thing the next day, but not before I cast a line into the fishing hole next to my room. Nothing, not a nibble and not a bite, but that’s fishing!  I’ll try those fish again later, and my Toyota truck will be with me.

To view my feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from East Coast Drive Camp click here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Trusty Toyota Tacoma rolls over 400,000 miles

Quite a moment, crossing the 400K barrier!!
My first ever pick up truck purchase, a 1998 Toyota Tacoma, is still rolling on down the highway having recently crossed the 400,000 mile mark. Let me tell you that this was a memorable occasion, having never owned a vehicle that likes to be driven like this Toyota truck does. This is a one-owner vehicle, since I bought it new from West Ashley Toyota. I have had to replace some of the parts that wear out on autos, but overall I have employed just a regular oil change type of maintenance regime. My 5-speed 4 cylinder Tacoma has few frills, and that was always the plan since it  has regular duties on a small farm. But whether on the road back and forth to the woods, or going down dirt roads, this truck has done well and it has been fairly easy to give a vouch of loyalty in return. Upon reaching out to Toyota to tell them of this mileage milestone, they were understandably less than impressed, having seen many of their vehicles have long service lives. However, they did ask me to test drive at 2013 Tacoma X-Runner recently, and the fire engine red 6-speed with 6-cylinders had an effects package on it that made it appear more ready for urban survival than a truck suited to the Lowcountry Outdoors! Fuel economy decreases with the 6-cylinder versus the 4-cylinder, but the X-Runner has a new type of truck bed that requires no bed-liner, and it also comes with a nice rubber mat to keep cargo from sliding about. Now.... back to my trusted Tacoma to rack up a few more miles along my outdoors journey!
1998 Tacoma on farm duty in 2013

To view past blog entries about my trusty Tacoma click here.

2013 Toyota X-Runner arriving at Barnsley Plantation

Monday, September 23, 2013

2013 Redfish Lodge in Texas - Wall of Fame

My guide Jim and the 31-inch redfish from 9/21/2013 in less than ideal conditions 
My name is going onto this fish board and then up on the Wall Of Fame!
Fate took over on my fourth visit to fish with the Redfish Lodge in Texas. Despite a mighty wind blowing and an overcast sky that seemed destined to pour rain, I made my first cast of the day towards a grassy island as my guide had directed. The cut shrimp rigged under a popping cork must have bonked the 31-inch redfish on the tail when it landed in three-feet of water, because it only took an instant for the redfish to turn around and inhale my offering. The redfish with shoulders pulled mightily and the rod was bent like a reed in the wind, offering me the challenge to play the fish in order to land it. Twice it tried to go under the boat motor and three times it made for the anchor line, so I used a bend but don't break approach to handle these tests and to make him circle back when absolutely necessary. My guide was ready with a large net when I was finally able to surf the healthy redfish towards the boat under control. A quick layout on the measuring stick showed the redfish to be 31-inches with a pinched tail, qualifying my name to be added to the Wall of Fame at The Redfish Lodge on Copano Bay. There is a special room in the main lodge where angler names and the corresponding fish specs are added to pieces of wood shaped like fish, and then tacked to the wall for others to admire. There are only three ways to get on the Wall of Fame, by releasing a redfish 28-inches or greater, by releasing a trout 27-inches or greater, or by weighing in a black drum 30-pounds or heavier. By far most of these accolades have been awarded for the release of an oversize redfish, but it is not so common that everyone is in the club. Friends and family that are already on the Wall of Fame have bragging rights over their fishing buddies who will continue to fish towards gaining a similar status and even things up. A little competition adds flavor to the promise of good fishing in Rockport and Aransas Bay, and it's a bit of destiny to see who the fishing gods will favor with a fish experience worthy of remembering.

To view my blog entry about visiting The Redfish Lodge click on Bass Pro Shops 1Source.

To view past blog entries about the Redfish Lodge click CCA or Cast and Blast.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

N.J. man bags BIG buck on Lowcountry hunt

Guy Russon and his first ever velvet buck from August 19, 2013

An out-of-state hunter visiting Hampton County for a guided deer hunt takes his first ever buck in full velvet, and it sure is a grown one. It’s a long way from Ringoes, New Jersey to the rural Lowcountry but Guy Russo has made the trip several times in the past seven years. A slight schedule change for 2013 put him in a deer stand during opening weekend, and just before his visit was over he scratched out a ten-pointer to remember. Russo was in town to hunt a specific buck that his guide had spotted two weeks before opening day. Having been to Cypress Creek Plantation before to hunt hogs and deer, Russo was excited about his first chance to harvest a buck in full velvet. Climbing in his deer stand on August 15, Russo saw some young bucks, but not his shooter. The next night he tried a different stand but had the same result, and no shot. Then on Saturday August 17 he saw the buck he was after, however he came into the open over 600-yards away, and too far for a safe shot. Russo was crestfallen since he was to return home on Sunday, but then lodge owner Danny Harrell took an interest in his situation. Harrell agreed to take Russo hunting for the ten-pointer one more night, breathing new life into his quest. Harrell brought his sniper rifle along for Russo to use , and they climbed into an enclosed tower stand overlooking Deason Field on Pleasant Hill Plantation. At 6 p.m. the buck strolled out of the edge of the woods about 500-yards away into a cotton field before moving back into the woods. Then a bachelor group of six bucks in velvet followed one another into the field with the big buck the last one to break cover. At 6:30 Russo took a long shot of 427-yards and brought down his velvet buck. The 10-pointer has plenty of mass and beams that measure 22-inches in length. With a 16.5-inch inside spread, the buck was given a green score of 146, and was everything Russo hoped for. “I have only killed one buck bigger than this one and that was back home in New Jersey,” said Russo. Hunting bucks in velvet is a calling card unique to the Lowcountry, and hunters like Russo are keen to give their best efforts for such a trophy.

To view my feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.
To view past blog entries about bucks in velvet click here.
To view past blog entries about BIG bucks click here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TIDE magazine - Redfish are Loving The Lowcountry

Read Up why I think Redfish are Loving the Lowcountry Outdoors
Redfish on the Sept./Oct. 2013 cover

Redfish on the rocks, redfish under docks, redfish in the grass, some call them channel bass. Fish for red drum in the surf, fish for red drum from your turf, fish for red drum by night, fish for red drum by sight. The redfish conservation ethic of catch and release has gone viral in South Carolina, and anglers can find a redfish just about anywhere these days. The vast spartina marshes of the coastal Lowcountry look like a field of dreams for redfishing, and this evergreen ecosystem is home to a legion of bronze-backed gamefish that anglers cherish. “Redfish continues to be the most popular and sought after inshore species in South Carolina, so consequently the history of its management really is a great success story in fisheries management,” said Scott Whittaker, Executive Director of CCA in South Carolina. “While the stock cycles up and down throughout the coast we have a resource that both fisheries managers and anglers realize is special, and both communities want the same bright future for this species. I have had the great privilege of fishing for redfish throughout its range, and each stop is always a great trip but I can honestly say the Palmetto state not only has a world-class redfish fishery, but it also has the most picturesque scenery and destination value of anywhere this fish swims,” said Whittaker. “You come one time and what you’ll find is that South Carolina will top your list for a return trip. Except for maybe your home waters, and even that’s a big maybe.” Local fishing guides like Captain Danny Rourk, of Tailwind Charters in Beaufort, will tell you that South Carolina isn’t really a redfishing destination yet for those who travel to fish, but it sure could be. Rourk has served as President of the Lowcountry Chapter of CCA for 11 years and is also a state board member with Whittaker. Our party of three used the Sands boat ramp to access the Beaufort River to redfish in the shadow of the U.S. Marine base at Parris Island.  A constant rat-a-tat of small arms fire on the gun range carries across the water, reminding anglers that the freedom to fish is not to be taken lightly! Join CCA to get a copy of TIDE magazine.

To view past articles I wrote for CCA and TIDE magazine click on 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

To view more blog entries about redfish, type 'redfish' into the search bar on the upper left side.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 9/17/2013

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
A tarpon explodes out of the surf and attacks a bait fished on the surface for Team Sperry
Charleston Inshore: Shane Clevenger from the West Ashley location of The Charleston Angler shares that with summer's heat starting to diminish, some of the best Lowcountry fishing is now on tap. The trout bite is turning on so target creek mouths with oyster banks on an outgoing tide for best results. Rigging a live shrimp under a popping cork works great but if you're having trouble with bait stealers, switch over to mud minnows or an artificial like DOA shrimp. Remember the golden rule for trout fishing, if you don't catch any in the first 15-minutes then it's time to move on. But if you do hook up, remember to cover the water and seek out the others that are likely in that same area. The avid fly fisherman is beginning to practice his knots in anticipation of the turbid waters clearing up now, and serving up some great sight-fishing. Redfish will be schooling up, and fattening up ahead of winter, so visualize that perfect cast of a crab pattern landing in front of a bronze-backed redfish with shoulders - then go make it happen! Shrimp season is off to a mixed start, with good amounts of shrimp one day and then much weaker the next, but there are 50 days left to cast your nets. For all the latest seminar reports visit the Internet at Charleston Angler.

Scott Hammond from Haddrell's Point West is telling the truth when he says there is no doubt that NOW is the best time to catch a tarpon in Lowcountry waters. The mullet run has kicked in and large pods of 'poons are right behind them! Locations like Bulls Bay, North Edisto, and the Charleston Jetties have been producing solid reports of tarpon, and here's a report form the Lowcountry Tarpon tourney.
Good baits include large mullet, blue crabs, or how about a 10-inch Hogy lure. The flounder bite continues to be strong using live minnows and Zman Diezel minnowz, and the trout have been inhaling DOA shrimp fished under a popping float. Shrimping season opened up with reports of a mixed bag, some big shrimp but some small shrimp too. An end-of-summer blitz of Spanish mackerel is now ongoing in the nearshore fishery in tidelines just beyond the beaches, so cast a #00 Clarkspoon or 3/4-ounce casting jig for some fast-paced Spaniards. For all the latest seminar information visit the internet at Haddrell's Point.

Beaufort Inshore: Craig at Buck, Bass and Beyond shares that the Broad River has come alive with jack crevalle and ladyfish. It's a jack attack alright, with lots of BIG jacks providing BIG fights. The trout reports are flooding in, but not many keeper-size specs yet. Some nice black drum are showing up under bridges and are chewing on mullet. Redfish are on the high tide flats, and are taking a Zman paddlerz in electric chicken rigged weedless on a 2/0 gamakatsu weighted wide-gap hook. Bluefish are in the nearshore and are hitting drone spoons trolled behind a #1 planer. Out in 180-feet of water, squid is tempting better than average black sea bass and triggerfish to come topside. For the latest updates visit Buck, Bass N Beyond.

Offshore Report: Scott says no reports of any epic sailfish bite has been heard yet. Bueller?? There is still time yet however. Some nice blackfin tuna action remains in 130 to 200-feet of water, and some stud wahoo are also mixed in. Bottom fishing is producing good numbers of grouper, sea bass, vermillion snapper, and triggerfish over live bottom in 75 to 150-feet of water. Cut squid and cigar minnows will work for all but grouper prefer a live pinfish or a butterfly jig.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 BTT Lowcountry Tarpon tourney

George Douglas, Capt. Robert Mayer and Spencer Faw
2013 Event Flier
BTT's Dr. Aaron Adams and Dr. Jerry Ault

The fourth annual Lowcountry Tarpon tourney put on by the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) was fished September 13 and 14 out of Georgetown. Seventeen boats entered the event that is growing in recognition. Over the two days of fishing a total of four tarpon were caught and released by three boats. Congrats to Captain Robert Mayer who guided his crew aboard a 22-foot Scout to release two tarpon on Friday, good enough to win the event. George Douglas and Spencer Faw each released one tarpon when the fish began to bite around mid-day. The first tarpon ate a 12-inch mullet fished on top, and the 80-pound fish was leadered as a legal release after only a five-minute fight. The next tarpon ate a 4-inch mullet on top, and the 140-pound silver king was at the boat for a legal release after a one-hour fight. Mayer kept the tarpon on the line and called for Dr. Jerry Ault to bring and apply a satellite tag to this large specimen. Upon arriving, the tarpon broke off the fishing line, and the best hope for tagging a tarpon during the 2013 tourney was dashed. The first tarpon release of the tourney was handled by organizer Cheech Castellvi, fishing with Jay Nelson and Captain Douglas Miller. The release was completed by 7:30 a.m. and this trio has the distinction of releasing a tarpon in back-to-back years of the tourney. Captain J.R. Waites guided angler Scott Lanzon to a tarpon release on Friday as well, going one for three on hook-ups. With a Northeasterly wind blowing on Saturday as the first cool front of fall settled in, the tarpon bite diminished and no hook-ups were recorded. An awards dinner and raffle was held at Land’s Inn restaurant in Georgetown, and Georgetown Landing Marina served as host for the 2013 tourney.
S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen talks tarpon conservation

This is the same group of conservation minded anglers that helped propose the new tarpon law in S.C.

To view past blog entries from the Lowcountry Tarpon tourney click here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013 Gator / Shrimp / Teal / Doe deer - Opening Day

Shrimp baiters stake their poles
Gator on bank in snare trap
It's a trifecta weekend for the Lowcountry outdoorsman, with three days in a row of sporting seasons set to commence. On Friday September 15, the S.C. alligator season opened up. Then at noon on Friday the S.C. shrimp-baiting season kicked in - and this annual sunset tradition lasts for 60 days. Then at 30-minutes before sunrise on Saturday, September 15 the early teal season began. Word on the street, and in the marshes, is that the blue-winged teal are LATE this year and there is very limited opportunity for opening day teal hunting. Finally the doe deer harvest season will allow big game hunters to have lots more items on the menu during the hunt. Doe tags are issued by the SCDNR, and with a declining deer herd, a few less doe tags are issued every year. However, the S.C. deer population is stable and at a healthy level presently.

To view past blog entries about the Shrimp / Teal / Does deer opener click here.

Nice doe harvest from 2012

Blue-winged teal opener in 2012

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Trophy 10-point in velvet / 2013 Opening Days Success Story

Mike Casstevens and his Hampton County trophy ten-point in full velvet
Hunters seeking a big buck encounter must practice patience for the right mature whitetail to come along at the right time. Being a professional land manager enables Mike Casstevens to take a long-term look at habitat management and the trophy bucks that go with it. On the fourth day of the 2013 deer season, after a sleepless night, the conditions were right for Casstevens to take a long-range shot at this dream buck. This same buck was in the fallow field known as Big Causey in 2012, but Casstevens passed him up as having greater potential to be a trophy buck with another year of growth. With main beams that measure 22-inches in length and G2-times that are 12-inches long, it is evident that his patience was rewarded. The rack has good mass, carries a 15 and 3/4-inch inside spread and was green-scored at 152. This BIG bruiser of a buck also weighed in at 226-pounds. The 450-acre tract that Casstevens hunts along with one other partner contains a long and narrow field that goes for nearly one mile. No longer used for agricultural practices, Casstevens makes use of it as a place to encourage deer browse and bedding areas by discing the fallow ground every other year in a rotational basis. The same area is adjacent to Pleasant Hill Plantation and other large tracts of land that uphold strict quality deer management standards. The Big Causey field buck was on game cameras as being in the area for opening day, but Casstevens did not like the East wind that was blowing on August 15 and 16, electing not to hunt.  With the wind shifting to the Northeast on August 17, Casstevens went to his deer stand, located 400-yards from where the big buck was likely to be. Though he spotted the buck before dark, he did not have a clear shot due to dog fennel and other vegetation near the buck. That night Casstevens was preoccupied with the image of the big buck in his crosshairs and he knew that he was on the eve of a potentially great hunt. Like any other excited sportsman, he did not get much sleep in this state!! Then on Sunday August 18 Casstevens was back in his stand at Big Causey, and when the ten-pointer in full velvet stepped out at 400-yards he was in the clear. Letting the big buck graze towards him, it was about 8:10 p.m. when the 376-yard shot rang out and his trophy buck went to the ground. Congrats!

To view my feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.
To view past blog entries about bucks in velvet click here.
To view past blog entries about BIG bucks click here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

East Coast Drive Camp at Barnsley Plantation

Red road and Rock were no match for Tundra
As a long-time owner of a Toyota Tacoma, it was exciting to travel to North Georgia and test-drive the new 2014 prototype of Toyota Tundra pickup truck. Lodging in Adairsville at Barnsley Gardens Resort, we were able to take advantage of winding roads in the foothills for scenic driving tests, and the uneven red clay and rock areas were good for off-road trials. The half-ton Tundra pickem'up truck drove like a sports car on the scenic roads, and it hardly knew that I was taking it over rough ground at the off-road course!! The Tundra debuted in 1999 and has grown larger since the original design, making it a half-ton pick up today. These trucks are Made in the USA in at a plant in San Antonio, and for 2014 Tundra will come in five different grades. The newest, more Western grade, is dubbed the '1794' edition - named after the founding of the ranch in Texas where the plant is now located. The new EnTune audio and video system in the center of the dashboard brings the latest technology into the cab of the 2014 Tundra with satellite radio, bluetooth phone and access to all your favorite Apps too. Also, new for 2014 is the distinctive stamp of Tundra into the tailgate.

 North Georgia church seemed like a good photo op
To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

2014 Tundra Specs

2013 East Coast Drive Camp!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Orchard Inn - Historic Bed and Breakfast

Innkeepers Marc and Marianne Blazer await your arrival
Scones and granola for breakfast each morning, before omelette
Comfortable lodging upstairs with a mountain view
Listed on the National Registry for Historic Places, the The Orchard Inn of Saluda was built in 1926. It's original mission was to house multiple employees of the railroad while on annual retreat, which is why the main building is well-suited to modern life as a Bed and Breakfast. The pleasing and soothing majestic North Carolina mountain vistas from The Orchard Inn are still the same today as guests view Warrior Mountain, Melrose mountain and the famed Tryon Peak atop White Oak mountain. What has changed over the years are the owners who sought to steward the 12-acre property that boasts five cabins and a private hiking trail too. Charlestonians will recall that Bob and Kathy Thompson ran the Inn for 13 years, before selling to new owners just three years ago. Marc and Marianne Blazer found their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in Saluda after searching the U.S. for a suitable Bed and Breakfast to make a part of their lives. Upon arrival guests will be greeted by Marc and will soon be tasting culinary treats prepared by Marianne, with her scones deserving special recognition as terribly tempting. The downstairs of The Orchard Inn is an open commons area with a dining room at the back, where the blue ridge escarpment can be viewed with a breathtaking 270-degrees. One can only imagine the vibrant reds and yellows that will bring life to this view during the peak season in October! Comfortable lodging is found up one flight of stairs, and guests will find these arrangements to be a refreshing place to sleep during the cool nights. A brief footpath tour of the grounds begins in the front parking area. Walking to the right down a smoothe gravel path one passes a hammock hanging between two large poplar trees, and after 60-paces arrives at the back porch with a two-person swing hanging underneath a wisteria-shaded arbor. A joggling board is also available, and when weather permits a special request to dine in this same area may be entertained. Continuing 37-steps brings one to the bird feeding gardens which are set up to bring goldfinches, titmice, cardinals and hummingbirds to within easy view for those dining inside. A further 47-steps downward takes guests to the three-level vineyard trellis that serves as a backyard and a home to more flowers. From the bird feeding station it's 50-paces to the area where five cabins await those who desire separate lodging. An easy 60-strides brings one past the wrap-around front porch and back into view of the signature green and white awnings that adorn the second story windows. For those with more desire to walk, I can recommend the hiking trail that takes about 20-mintues to circumnavigate the woods surrounding The Orchard Inn. My insider tip to those wanting to get a taste for The Orchard Inn is to first go for a meal, since they accept reservations for breakfast, dinner and Sunday brunch for visiting diners. But don't be surprised when you return to Saluda with an excuse to be an overnight guest, perhaps while attending an event such as the Green River Games or Coon Dog Day. Day trips for fly-fishing and to Pearson's Falls are also popular diversions for the outdoors enthusiast.
A breakfast table with a VIEW

Vineyard steppes in the backyard of The Orchard Inn

Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 Green River Games in Saluda, N.C.

Kayakers come down the Green River in the Silverback race
Demanding switchbacks on the bike trail course
Extreme Sports has found a new venue in an old wilderness! The Green River Gamelands of North Carolina are situated near Saluda, N.C. and have been offering hunting, trout fishing and hiking to outdoorsmen for years. Now that a new form of grueling extreme games has been introduced to the area, it is sure to draw the attention of the region's toughest competitors. Organizer John Grace of Asheville has imagined a race in a place where others did not, and the inaugural Green River Games on September 6,7 and 8 have now set the bar for others to chase. For instance, on Friday afternoon a 6K road race took place, but this race was uphill on a road that features 17 switchbacks and an unnerving 1000-foot elevation change. Congrats to winner Joshua Marcus who tamed those hills in 30-minutes and 45-seconds! Saturday began with an 8-mile mountain bike trail ride through utterly gnarly woods trail, on ground that was rutted and rough after summer rains. A very nice 70-degrees greeted the 30 bikers when the race started at 8 a.m., with the first biker to cross the finish line almost 3.5-hours later. What a race! Next up is the Green River Games' version of iron man - called the Silverback. All this race requires is for a kayaker to navigate the famed Green River narrows (a Class Five rapid) before jumping onto a mountain bike to tame a goat track of a course, before dismounting and running uphill along a hiking trail. The Silverback takes Extreme to a new level, and every entrant in this race displays the guts that define any extreme athlete. And what's more - they were the FIRST to do this, but I predict that others will be drawn to test themselves in this area of the Smoky mountains in Polk County. There was even a SUP race down a portion of the Green River! A reggae band and beerfest for all the athletes is in Saluda on Saturday, before more biking and running races will close out the games on Sunday. To see a map of the venue for all the races visit the Internet at Green River Games. Nearby lodging at the Orchard Inn of Saluda is very convenient, and out of town competitors enjoyed comparing notes before and after the games in the relaxed atmosphere at this bed and breakfast with a mountain view.

To view past blog entries about Blue Ridge diversions click here.

Congrats to the first ever competitors in the Green River Games!

Stand Up Paddleboarding down the Green River