Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Toast to 2013

Dog on point 12/27/2013 - Finishing the year strong!!  Photo By Elizabeth Holland.
Check out the upland gear I endorse on my Bass Pro Shops blog
I Can't Complain about the year of 2013. I chose to step up my game as an outdoor communicator and I was fortunate to have opportunities that allowed me to execute that plan. HOORAY!! This final blog entry for 2013 closes the books on an amazing five-year run of stories on LowcountryOutdoors.com and in a variety of print publications. I am thankful for the additional 43 blog followers that chose to join up in 2013, bringing the total up to 189 folks keeping tabs on my writings, photography and field notes. The mission statement from 2009 on my home page states that I hope to show hunting and fishing are honorable traditions by providing positive examples to the general public. Of course, I could not execute that mission without the help of my friends and fellow outdoor enthusiasts who seek me out to share their accomplishments. My BIG buck blogs are always a favorite and anyone can surf through all five years of them by starting with the 2013 Donnelly WMA buck. Building relationships that are forged in a common love for the outdoors makes me hopeful that these partnerships will continue for many years to come! Honor, integrity and loyalty are important to me!! I receive lots of queries from those that are new to the Lowcountry, wishing to draw on my lifetime of experience about how best to proceed with their outdoor endeavors, and I am glad to help them. Sometimes this includes wild game cleaning and preparation tips, and you can find several recipe links on this year-end food blog. As a lifelong saltwater angler, the lure of the spartina marsh and its tributaries will always be a component of my character, so look for my Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports to continue, along with tournament coverage fishing tips and catches of note. In 2013 I was able to saltwater fish in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas; and fished for mountain trout in Bristol, Tennessee. I will continue to use my talents and convictions in 2014 to share similar experiences with each of you along the way. Conservation in the outdoors will always be a component of my writings, with an eye towards history and milestones of the past. A special salute goes out to those at SCDNR who do their best to serve the general public where it concerns biology, management and rules and regulations. I wouldn't want to overlook other groups like CCA which do a great job of advocating and educating for the sake of recreational anglers and for marine habitat. I look forward to working hard in 2014, with each new outdoor foray an opportunity to experience a bit more of the wonders of the Lowcountry Outdoors. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I was humbled to accept two accolades in 2013 that highlight my resolve and dedication to my work.
First, the 2013 Special Recognition Award from the S.C. Governor's Cup Billfish Series.
Second, Top Three recognition in the 2013 Realtree Website Contest through the SE Outdoor Press.

To view past blog entries with my New Year's Eve toast click 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Deer Season Final Week Hunt Tips

Friends gather for a last week deer hunt

By now every white-tailed deer in the woods has been educated about the presence of man by the scent left from his forays into the woods. The remainder of the season certainly does not rule out still hunting for deer as this technique will still be effective, but sneaky or aggressive game plans are often the best bet when targeting pressured deer.

It is no secret that one of the surest methods for late season success is to hunt a green food plot. The sneaky part of this equation is that you don’t want to hunt this particular deer stand until the deer are using the area when the crop matures in late fall and early winter. If you want to harvest a deer late in the season you need to stick to the game plan and save that stand – you’ll be glad you did.

While deer tend to stay ‘at home’ when presented with quality habitat, hunters recognize that some deer will simply never be harvested. They are too wary from pressure and may simply go nocturnal for the remainder of the season. However, some deer will retreat to an out of the way woodland pocket or thicket, and won’t stray far for food and water. These type areas offer a chance for the late season deer hunter who is willing to set up a stand on the edge of this area and be patient waiting for an opportunity.

A deer stronghold such as this can be located using a map of the property, looking specifically for an area that has little or no vehicular access. If it is so thick that not even a four-wheeler has been through that area, then that makes it a likely spot where wildlife is seeking refuge. Sometimes a ‘notch’ or outcropping of land on a lease just doesn’t get hunted, but often a scouting trip into the stronghold to look for deer sign, whether its fresh droppings, rubs or older shed antlers, will reveal clues if this is where pressured deer have been laying low.

Lastly, be ready to shoot when you see a deer during the last week in the season.

To view past blog entries about deer season click here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 12/24/2013

Craig Lupton at Buck, Bass and Beyond in Beaufort has submitted our Christmas fishing report!!
Have fun trying to name all of these saltwater species!!

The TROUT bite has been hanging in there. I have still been getting reports of large numbers of fish being caught with several bigger than normal keepers. Live shrimp fished under an adjustable slip cork seems to be the go to technique. The BILLY BAY LOWCOUNTRY LIGHTNING adjustable depth popping cork is super effective for keeping your bait in the strike zone, whether the trout are 40 feet deep or 4 feet deep. As for the artificial lure fishermen we have been selling a lot of the ZMAN Scented POGYZ and Scented PADDLERZ in the Electric Chicken color or any of the more natural colors like Pinfish or Redbone. Another hot bait recently has been the TRIGGER X  Paddle Tail Minnow in the Electric Chicken. Try fishing the soft plastics on 1/4 oz. and 3/8 oz. jig heads in red or white. Fish them slow and make sure to fish the deeper holes as I have been getting reports of Trout being caught in holes down to 40 ft. I have been hearing of Trout being caught from St. Helena Sound all the way up the Combahee past the HWY 17 bridge.

The REDFISH bite is same as usual. Lots of Reds being caught on the mud flats and the creek intersections around oysters and grass edges. The GULP shrimp in the New Penny color has been responsible for catching some nice Reds recently. Rig it on the same jig heads as you would use for the trout.

BLACK DRUM fishing has been super lately. The Broad River bridge is always a safe bet for some good action as is the P.I. Reef on the Broad. All you need is a medium heavy rod/reel combo. rigged with a fish finder slider, 1 to 2 ounces of lead, 1/0 to a 2/0 circle hook and baited with some cut Mullet. Fish close to the structure and deeper holes near structure.

If you get lucky and catch a keeper Black drum, filet the fish but leave the skin and scales on one side of each filet. Spice meat side with your favorite seasonings like garlic lemon pepper, butter and fresh lemon juice and place a few lemon slices on the fish. Place filets on hot grill scale side down cook for 5 to 7 minutes till fish is firm. The scales act like a plate and the meat separates from the skin perfectly when cooked right and there is minimal grill cleaning when finished. Serve with some New Potatoes and a fresh green salad.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Waterfowl Warrior Weekend in the ACE Basin

Leland Hoskins shows off his ducks
Taxidermist Jimmy Hortman donates duck
mounts to the waterfowl warrior weekend 

            With a tinge of the holiday spirit mixed in for good measure, the second annual waterfowl weekend for local servicemen took place December 14 and 15. With a bounty of duck hunting properties in the ACE Basin, there is a strong presence from Ducks Unlimited and their Lowcountry Initiative. The Beaufort Chapter of DU used their connections at the Marine Corps Air Station to gather those interested in some relaxing time spent in the outdoors.
            The Warrior waterfowl weekend began on Friday afternoon with a safety meeting, skeet shoot and Lowcountry boil at Nemours Plantation on the Combahee River. Longtime DU sponsor member Mike McShane is on the Board at the Nemours Wildlife Foundation and he was on hand to personally welcome the servicemen, alongside CEO Ernie Wiggers. Ducks Unlimited representatives included Regional Director James Meadows and Brett Baker of Georgetown. 
Ashleigh and Keith Peffer shot these mallards
In the duck blind on the Combahee River
            Several plantations in the ACE Basin agreed to host between one and four warriors for the duck hunt on Saturday morning, and they sent their guides to Nemours to meet them. The inaugural Warrior waterfowl weekend from 2012 was a big success and a taxidermist from Pawley’s Island who is a strong waterfowl enthusiast offered to mount the trophy ducks from that hunt. With a full year of anticipation built up, Jimmy Hortman came to Nemours to distribute about 10 mounted ducks to the servicemen.
            Sergeant Leland Hoskins and Keith and Ashleigh Peffer  reported for duty at 5:30 a.m. at Bonny Hall Plantation on River Road in Yemassee. Plantation manager Michael Thomas was glad to host the servicemen from this hunt for the second year because he believes it to be a good cause. The guests were introduced to the regular duck club members who would also be hunting, and for Sgt. Hopkins this would be his first ever duck hunt!
             When shooting time arrives Hoskins has plenty of opportunity to rise and shoot at passing ducks using his Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun. It takes a minute to get the feel on when ducks are most vulnerable in flight, and after more than a few clean misses the first duck folds cleanly and hits the water. “Duck hunting is a lot like golf,” said Guide Andrew GoDowns. “All you have to do is to make one good shot and you want to keep playing!” Hoskins kept shooting and ended up with his 6-duck limit with no problem.

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

To view past blog entries about waterfowl hunting with veterans click here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Swallow-Tailed Kite sightings data

The Swallow-Tailed kite continues to use South Carolina's coastal plain extensively during their spring migration and nesting. Florida remains the favorite for swallow-tailed kites but as the climate has become more mild over recent decades, these raptors have sought to spread out their range. For instance, 2013 was the FIRST year that they were observed in the state of Maine! To view the exciting information in the 2013 sightings data report click here.

To view past blog entries about the Swallow-Tailed kite click here.

To view past past blogs click here;
Birding Journal Observations
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
International Crane Foundation

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Top Tier Gear - Wish List for Hunters

Bushnell Laser Rangefinder and D.T. Systems collar
It’s never too late to please the outdoorsmen with a simple offering that will help them navigate their outdoors experience. Heck, with the price of ammo these days, even a box of shotgun shells makes for a thoughtful gift. Going beyond gunpowder, some items help to draw game near and identify their proximity for harvest. While other items keep the hunter in comfort where the rubber sole meets the woods, and improves communication between the master and his hunting dog.

The second session of duck season has begun and waterfowlers will have until January 26 to practice their duck calling. Big Lake calls out of Elloree produces a Cocobolo double reed call that boasts a unique stainless steel T-reed. The engraved wood barrel is topped by a chartreuse colored polycarbonate insert, and for a more raspy call be sure to order the #4 size reed.

The Bushnell Laser Rangefinder is a tool that can aid many different types of hunting, and the Primos hunting team endorses this new model dubbed ‘The Truth.’

Man’s best friend takes on a higher status when that dog is used for hunting and the DT Systems electronic dog collars can improve the quality of those hunts.

Leather boots always look sharp, but a waterproof lightweight leather boot is sometimes hard to come by. But Irish Setter boots can deliver this rare combo.
Big Lake T-Rex duck call

Dangerfield turkey pot call

Cooking up wild game is best done outdoors and the Camp Chef cooking system offers multiple accessories to the sporting chef in everyone.

If you are looking forward to spring turkey season more than the holidays, don’t overlook Dangerfield Turkey Calls made in Orangeburg County. The double-sided pot calls with slate and aluminum are made by hand by John Dangerfield II, who comes from a family with a rich tradition of turkey hunting in the Lowcountry. Each call comes with a striker and instructions on how to create sounds like the purr, cluck, cutt, cackle and Kee Kee run. These calls are suitable for display during the off season but are designed for use by those who want to talk turkey over and over again.

Each outing into the woods can be different and while a rangefinder may not be essential one day, it may be worth its weight in gold on another. The high-quality gear I recommend here can never take the place of those cherished moments between hunter and quarry where anything can happen. So besides the gift of gear, the intangibles your happy hunter can take with him when returning to the woods include a wish of good luck and a clear understanding that hunting is a meaningful part of the holidays.

To view this gear article in the newspaper click Colletonian.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Irish Setter Brand - Leather boots for the field

Irish Setter Havoc pull-on boots
Leather boots always look sharp, but a waterproof lightweight leather boot is sometimes hard to come by. The Irish Setter brand Havoc 802 slip-on boot by Red Wing Shoes seem to meet that criteria quite well right out of the box. These non-insulated boots are 10-inches tall and offer an athletic fit in the front and an adjustable buckle and strap over the instep. The side zipper is heavy duty and Irish Setter boots are made to be durable, with the leather fitting better over time.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 12/10/2013

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
18-inch trout pushed out for effect!
Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West is an astute observer and states the the weather could not be any more inconsistent these days. Despite the whiplash weather that has left many anglers with a head cold, Scott reports that the fishing action has remained constant. Sheepshead are shomping on fidder crabs, clams and live shrimp at the jetties, bridge pilings, and all heavy structure located near deep water channels. Redfish have begun to school up in large numbers on the shallow tidal flats now that water temps have dropped down into the 50's, with live minnows and Zman scented Ultra Shrimp being go-to baits. Trout are being found on shell rakes and grass edges near high tide and will eagerly take soft plastics this time of year. Employ trolling tactics to locate the specks then stop and slowly work your bait along the bottom. Scott's rule of thumb is that if you can find two trout in any spot, then are are likely more in that vicinity. For the latest in seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Shane Clevenger at the West Ashley location of The Charleston Angler made a video recently of SCDNR releasing 3000 stripers into the Upper Ashley River. Striper Video.

Craig Lupton from Buck Bass and Beyond in Beaufort shares that the fishing report is like a broken record. The trout bite is still off the chain with lots of nice fish being caught on live bait and artificials. Soft plastic grubs in electric chicken still seems to be the biggest producer. One customer landed a five-pound speck and then lost it's twin right at the side of the boat. Those trout are famous for their mouth that is easy to tear. Fishing reports have been strong for both trout and redfish in the Combahee River and anglers should move upriver in order to target deeper holes with structure. Redfsih are being caught on the flats with soft plastic jerk baits on weighted flutter hooks in natural colors. The Broad River is producing many reports of schoolie reds, and black drum are being caught on cut mullet and Carolina rigs at the Bridge pilings. Craig's Pro Tip is not to overlook the cobia that are hanging out at the Betsy Ross wreck just this week. Also, black sea bass and weakfish are biting too. Try using a Gulp swimming mullet on an SPRO jig, and remember to trim the hair just up to the hook bend. For more store information visit the Internet at Buck,Bass N Beyond.

Offshore Report: Scott reports flat conditions have allowed some boats to slip out of their respective marinas and into the deep blue sea. There have been several good reports of boats high-speed trolling for wahoo in 150 to 200-feet of water. Some blackfin tuna are out there too and they are falling for cedar plugs rigged with skirted ballyhoo. Bottom fishing in 70 to 90-feet of water is yielding solid reports of triggerfish and large sea bass, as well as some decent grouper reports using live baits and butterfly jigs.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

D.T. Systems - H2O electronic dog training collar

D.T. Systems electronic dog collar 
Man’s best friend takes on a higher status when that dog is used for hunting and the DT Systems electronic dog collars can improve the quality of those hunts. The H2O 1850 model is fully waterproof and is used by both novice dog handlers and professionals. The remote handset gives a one-mile radius over flat ground and provides both a nick button and a continuous shock button. This model also has the beeper and locater buttons, which are handy when the bird dog goes on point while out of sight. The beeper is very loud and easy to hear.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bushnell Laser Rangefinder - 'The Truth' by Primos

Bushnell Laser Rangefinder
The Bushnell Laser Rangefinder is a tool that can aid many different types of hunting, and the Primos hunting team endorses this new model dubbed ‘The Truth.’ This item is small and operated easily using one hand with its simple one-button operating system. Simply place the reticle on the target and depress the button for a quick and accurate range reading. Serious bow hunters will be glad to know that this unit comes with a bow mode setting to provide true horizontal distances.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reflections on wild game harvest and consumption

Reflecting on the third anniversary of The Colletonian yields many fond memories for this outdoor communicator. This locally owned newspaper with a positive feel has demonstrated a connection with the outdoors from the onset. Fishing tournaments for billfish and red drum are not overlooked, and non-consumptive outdoor enjoyment like bird watching and forestry also have made memorable subjects. But Colletonians with a way of life revolving around white-tailed deer season and other wild game harvest make the headlines come true on a weekly basis.
Scott Leysath in the Lowcountry with a rabbit and raccoon 
With one of the longest deer seasons in America, the South Carolina coastal plain has a right to claim deer hunting season as a way of life. New Year’s Day is the final day of hunting season, but that is also the time when deer herd managers get active regarding habitat management to increase the carrying capacity of their acreage. Winter wheat and oats in food plots will provide sustenance for the deer, and trapping for coyotes and hogs is most productive prior to spring.

One memorable story from December of 2012 involving game preparation includes a visit from Scott Leysath, otherwise known as The Sporting Chef. He came to Colleton County to film a rabbit hunt for his TV show, but found we had a lot more to offer. Leysath lives in California, so he was delighted to take part in a coon hunt too, before enjoying local oysters prepared by Jamey Copeland. We cooked a little bit of everything that day as a fire burned in the kettle, burning memories of both the game harvest and consumption that sticks with us today.
Another fond recollection involves the story I wrote about duck season winding down with only a few last chance hunts remaining. With an invitation from a friend, I hunted his swamp and was able to harvest some wood ducks the day that article published. Stopping by the newspaper’s office on Washington Street, we made a quick photograph that shows that this outdoor writer can deliver both the headline and the harvest.

To view the feature article in the newspaper click Colletonian.

To view past game recipes click for wood duck,venison, quail, and dove.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Conservationists convene to protect diverse habitats

Conservationists convene at an Edisto Island oyster roast 

The fall season renews the conviction for many that a day spent outdoors is a good day. Punctuating those outdoor notions is the arrival of cooler than normal weather during November. With Lowcountry populations set to increase, all of the outdoor pursuits can go away if we don’t preach and practice conservation. These three organizations help to celebrate conservation across the broad spectrum of habitat in the coastal plain.

There may be no better example of ACE Basin protection involving the conservation of uplands and marine areas than Edisto Island. The Edisto Island Open Land Trust (EIOLT) convened for an oyster roast at historic Sunnyside Plantation on one of the prettiest days in November. With the help of local leaders EIOLT has conserved around 50-percent of Edisto Island, and they are looking to do more.
New EIOLT Executive Director John Girault is still settling in to his position, after relocating to his catbird seat of conservation in the ACE Basin. “The conservation ethic in this region of the Lowcountry is exceptionally strong,” said Girault. “Next year marks our 20th anniversary and we placed two conservation easements on strategic properties in 2013.” The landowners that are willing and able to preserve the natural integrity of Edisto Island are not unlike those across the coastal plain who place a high value on the protection of both woods and waters.

To view the remainder of my feature article on conservation click Charleston Mercury.

To view past blog entries about conservation
click on Tall TImbers, The Nature Conservancy,
and Edisto Island Open Land Trust.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Red*Trout Celebrity Classic - Photo Essay

THANKS to Mark Nichols and Blair Wiggins
Mac Macintosh with a fly-rod redfish,
guided by Capt. Graham Hegamyer
It was another great year for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in the Lowcountry, and the 2013 Red*Trout Celebrity Classic went off without a hitch. Check out the tourney report and my photo essay in All At Sea magazine, with the who's who at social hour and during the fishing hours.

To view past blog entries from the Red*Trout Celebrity Classic click here.

Lowcountry Red*Trout logo

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bacon-wrapped doves recipe

Grilled doves served with rice and giblet gravy
Bacon-wrapped doves on the grill
By far the hardest part of the recipe for bacon-wrapped doves is to get into the field and knock down a dozen or so mourning doves. It takes only a little bit of time to clean the birds with game shears by clipping off the head and wings, before removing the skin and feathers from the dove breast. Rinse under water and refrigerate. Wrap each dove breast with one-half piece of bacon and secure using toothpicks. If adding and extra ingredients such as jalapenos or cheese, a whole piece of bacon may be required. Fire up the grill but not more than a medium heat, good for slow-cooking, with care not to put the breast over a section of the grill that may have flame flare-ups. Cook for about 20-minutes while turning the doves several times. Serve with gravy over grits or rice.

Prepared doves ready for Camp Chef grill

Just a few dove and you're ready to eat

To view past recipes click for wood duck, venison, quail