Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 Ice Storm versus 2014 Toyota Tundra

Pine Tree blocking the Tundra trail
Chainsaw repair station on Tundra tailgate
WIth nearly an inch of ice accumulating in Western Colleton County on February 12, and two nights of  well-below freezing temperatures, the ice storm of 2014 was significant. The rain gauge at the property I manage held 2.2-inches of precipitation, which is a good indicator of just how much moisture came through with this blast of winter. Historically speaking, the Lowcountry is most prone to ice storms in February, and this one took effect in an area stretching from Aiken to Myrtle Beach. Pine trees tend snap off under the stress from the added weight of ice, or their limbs shed and bang into and knock off all other frozen limbs on the way down. Our Tree Farm was no different than anyone else's in the affected area, in that a large amount of pine debris was either blocking roadways or still hanging tenuously in yards. The clean up efforts began with a chainsaw, but then continued using an iforce V8 Limited edition 2014 Tundra pick up to take on downs trees further back into the property. The crew cab easily fits four, and there were just three of us, and the Satellite radio with JBL speakers kept us listening to music most of the day. The truck bed included a Toyota plastic liner bed, and we threw two chainsaws back there, an axe, a tool kit, chainsaw chaps, a gas can and some drinks. The tailgate on the redesigned Tundra is big, like the rest of this half-ton truck, but once opened the tailgate lowers SLOWLY and one no longer has to watch out for damage from a crashing tailgate. When we reached a tree across the road, a fire drill of sorts took place with first sizing up what to do before firing up the chainsaw. Many times the pine trees were still bent or hanging and this causes the blade of the chainsaw to hang up in the tree, and usually pull off the saw. So we had a repair station set up on the tailgate of the Tundra to replace the chains, or to fill up the lubricant reservoir. As we threw limbs in the  truck's bed to haul, the back window of the crew cab could be lowered to facilitate communications from inside the truck to anyone working behind the truck. The Limited edition also has a sunroof, heated seats, traction control, 4-wheel drive and lots of features that make driving it as easy as turning on the cruise control. Of course, if you have an ice storm to deal with, it's not to shabby either.

Truck bed full of pine tree debris
To view the 2014 Tundra treehouse video click here.

All work and no play - No Way!

To view past blog entries about the 2014 Toyota Tundra click here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Ice Storm Clean Up and Chainsaw Safety

Julian Clark loads debris onto tractor with Scott O'Quinn

The ice storm just before Valentine’s Day has created so much debris from trees that citizens will be spending lots of time outdoors cleaning up. It’s likely that a renewed love affair with one’s chainsaw will occur, since heavy branches can be removed only once they are broken into small parts. Though the clean up process has already begun, a quick ride around County roads reveal that it will be an ongoing effort for many, so lets take a minute to talk chainsaw safety for all the work that still remains.
After chainsaw work, trees can be pushed out of roads
Professionals like loggers, tree trimmers and utility lineman don’t take chainsaw safety for granted and neither should citizens pressed into clean up duties. Farmers, landowners and yard services started their chainsaws right away to clear roads, gain property access and to restore order to aesthetics where able. Unfortunately, it did not take long for this outdoor reporter to learn of a chainsaw injury that produced a minor injury for a friend.
Snapped off pine tree hung up above ground
Determined to practice safety when using my own chainsaw, I first had the gas-powered device looked at by a friend who used to work for MeadWestvaco. He replaced my fuel lines, noting that they were somewhat eroded from using ethanol-laced gasoline, and he urged me to seek out non-ethanol fuel in the future. Then I headed to Summerville to meet with Grand Forest Inc. who manufactures chainsaw safety clothing called SwedePro.

Of course no tool can take the place for manpower and this woodsman had to call for some back up from friends just to regain access to agricultural fields that are in need of plowing before planting season. After a few calls were made I rounded up Scott O’Quinn from Yemassee and Julian Clark from Ridgeland and we set up a workday that fit everyone’s schedule. Armed with a farm tractor and two chainsaws we began with cutting and removing heavy limbs from the yard.

Lowcountry Ice Accumulation Map
This scene of family and friends helping with ice storm debris will be playing out across the lower state for some time to come. My hope is that chainsaw safety awareness becomes improved for those of us who use them on an infrequent basis. Protective clothing and eyewear plus a friendly observer seem to be the primary ingredients to getting the job done as quickly and as safely as possible.

To view this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Ice Storm photos and Video

Iced Over Pine Trees - Very Wintry Scene / For Clean Up Story click here

Twisted powerline in ice storm aftermath

Rural Roads became nearly impassable

One lane clearance around pine tree debris

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SwedePro Chainsaw Chaps By Grand Forest Inc.

Swede Pro protective apron chaps in high-vis orange
The ice storm of 2014 created a need for a long and sustained clean up of downed trees and limbs for folks with large yards and rural property owners. Limbs that often appear small enough to grab a hold of in order to drag off, but once gripped almost always they are too heavy, since they are green with sap. Therefore a chainsaw must be employed to make smaller pieces which can then be removed. One exhibitor at the SouthEastern Wildlife Expo is Grand Forest Inc. out of Summerville, who manufactures chainsaw safety clothing and distributes swedish made axe products.

Behind-the-leg fasteners to keep them in place
Picking up a pair of SwedePro protective apron chaps to utilize during clean up, I learned that they are filled with a material named Engtex, which is designed to immediately clog up the chain and stop the saw if it comes into contact with the chaps. They fasten above the waistline and extend down the front of the leg only, with straps around the back of the leg to hold them in place. These apron style chaps are cooler than ones that fit over your pants.

The chaps are important because most chainsaw accidents occur on legs, with arms and hands a close second. A lot of accidents involve a kickback from a chainsaw so remember to hold the saw firmly, do not overreach to cut, don’t use the tip of the saw for cutting, run the saw at high speed when cutting, and do not cut above shoulder height. This last tip is especially important given the number of partially broken off limbs still hanging in trees.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Quail Season finale at Deerfield Plantation

Guide retrieves a quail from Turbo for me
English Setter STYLE from Molly
Continuing a trend of quail hunting up until the end of the private lands season, which ends each February 28, I went to hunt bobwhites in Dorchester County. Just south of St. George lies a property that has cobbled together different parts of longtime family farms. Owner Hugh Walters began with his own family farm and then bought the adjacent property which included the historic house which now serves as the hunting lodge at Deerfield Plantation. A mix of hardwoods along Indian field swamp and a sprawling tree farm of pine trees help to define the property, and we hunted in pines that had been thinned and burned looking for five coveys of pen-raised quail. Longtime guide Harry Batten had us hunting over a French Brittany spaniel names Turbo and a classy English Setter with black specks named Molly. Together these dogs did the trick and I was able to pick up a dozen quail during our brief hunt. Then we headed back to the lodge for a home-cooked meal of southern cube streak with rice and gravy, green beans, and pineapple dressing washed down with some sweet tea.

Shooting down for a low bird

Quail finale - photography team

To view past blog entries about the quail season finale click 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 Wild Game cook off for Smith Endowment

Donated artwork for the silent auction
Winning Team from the wild game cook off
The February 22 date for this second annual Wild Game cook off and Auction was not chosen randomly, since it's the birth date of Miss Calista Lynn Smith. The Odum farm was once again the setting for this night of respectful remembrance that will also eventually yield a scholarship from the endowment. Cooking teams produced delicacies like shrimp and grits, shrimp bog, mustard fried venison, venison tenderloin, dove bites, quail bites, duck bites and alligator fingers. After the judges tasted all of the game dishes it was Team Turkey Run Farm that came out on top in the 2014 Cook Off. The fundraiser continued with a couple of raffles, and a silent auction with plenty of hand crafted donations from the community. A live auction included furniture, fire pits, antique trunks, golf packages and of course hunting trips for turkey, waterfowl and quail. The bidding was brisk and all for a good cause, while the good weather conditions made it possible for a large crowd to attend.

To view past blog entries from the Smith endowment click here.

Crosby family at the Odum farm

Event logo

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jungle Jack Hanna gives SE Wildlife Expo high marks

Jungle Jack Hanna poses with a Koala Bear,
and passes along his autograph to a fellow wildlife enthusiast

Jungle Jack Hanna was back in town for the Southeastern WIldlife Expo, and is a tireless ambassador for the animal kingdom. Some thoughts Hanna shared included that his flight from Florida to Charleston was canceled so he drove himself to keep his appointments beginning Thursday night at the Gala at Charleston Place Hotel. It was Hanna who drew the name of the winner for the raffle for a brand new Scout boat, since the Scout representatives were away and attending the Miami Boat Show.
The next day Hanna began a string of sold out educational shows at the Music Hall on John Street. Hanna quipped that he had been coming to SEWE for so long that he went to the wrong location for this first show, forgetting that the Gaillard Auditorium is closed down now for extensive renovations. It takes an affable man to admit that he can take a wrong turn just like anybody else.
Hanna wasn’t done sharing though and he announced that his wife and family were in the audience, and that due to his extensive travel schedule that this was rare, and his wife stood up to take a bow despite being on crutches. Hanna talked about his career beginning to wane and that of all the wildlife events he has attended worldwide, SEWE offers something special to patrons.
Hanna described how SEWE has the right mix of vendors, artists, educational events, and youth activities to make it a total package that should continue to prosper into the future. Then Hanna launched into his animal program that included rattlesnakes, birds of prey, foxes, alligators and even a three-toed sloth. The audience views multiple videos that Hanna stars in and was treated to an hour or so of quality time with Hanna on stage. After the show he made sure autographs and photo opportunities were met as usual, with the same vigor as in prior years. Thank You Jungle Jack!

To read this feature in the newspaper click Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from the 2014 SE Wildlife Expo click here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CCA is Keepin' It Coastal for fisheries management

CCA's educational outreach is highlighted in the February 2014 issue

Recreational saltwater anglers may already be familiar with CCA, the Coastal Conservation Association that is based out of Texas. Others may be glad to learn that CCA is the largest marine conservation group that stresses science-based fisheries management decisions. Going beyond catch and release, CCA strives for long-term coastal ecosystem health. Bringing together marine biologists for a summit at The Redfish Lodge in Texas with CCA leaders serves to update the current conservation calendar.
Great slogan, CCA teaming up with Costa sunglasses
Pat Murray serves as President of the membership-based CCA, which has 17 state chapters overall, including each of the coastal Southeastern states. Putting together conservation projects like artificial reefs and oyster restoration takes funding, and Murray announced a 1.5-million dollar donation from Shell Oil Company to bring these projects to fruition over a three-year period. CCA’s Building Conservation Trust program will oversee these marine habitat projects, designed for use by recreational anglers.
Several marine biologists from the Harte Research Institute attended the meeting in Rockport, Texas at The Redfish Lodge. The Harte Lab is based in Corpus Christi and is part of Texas A & M University. Topics discussed ranged from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that undergo a transition into artificial reefs, known as the Idle Iron program, to inshore sites like the Lap Reef in Copano Bay that benefit the building blocks of the food chain. The Harte Lab is also tagging dolphin-fish in the Gulf and monitoring for Hypoxia episodes, also known as dead zones in the water due to high nutrient runoff and low oxygen levels.

Whether one fishes in the Gulf, in Florida or the Carolinas the objective of CCA is to enhance the present and future availability of those coastal resources. If that same mission requires outreach in Washington, D.C. or perhaps legal counsel then CCA is meeting those obligations. Keep an eye out for CCA action in your area or plan to attend one of their conservation banquets in order to meet fellow anglers. For more information visit the Internet at

To view my feature article click on All At Sea.

To view past blog entries from the CCA Summit click here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 SEWE Sunday - Sporting Village

Chris Johnston with Braeval shows Jay Cantrell
the new gentleman's leather jacket
Bart Key and me with oystaflage brush pants
The final day at the 2014 Southeastern Wildlife Expo was sunny and warm and patrons flocked to Brittlebank Park for fun and fellowship. The Sporting Village tent is home to outfitters, guide services and top notch destinations and offers something for everyone. For example, kids were enthralled to see the life size bear mount inside the tent, and plenty of folks purchased turkey calls and duck calls and began to sound off in a raucous cacophony of sounds. Word of mouth from many vendors put SEWE at the top of their list for attendance, with other shows not able to deliver this same clientele. Brittlebank Park has also become transformed during SEWE by the power of the Dock Dogs jumping competition, because everyone brings their dog with them in what has to be one of the most canine friendly events in the Lowcountry! Clark Coker brought his dog to jump for fun in the amateur tank, while others registered and waited in line to enter their dogs in the long jump competition. Many splashes from dogs entering the water at a frenetic pace motivated the crowd to cheer and applaud, and the 2014 edition of SEWE closed around 5 p.m. with next year's dates already set for February 13 - 15, 2015.

To view past blog entries from SEWE Sunday click 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 or 2009.
Kyle Ziegler and DuBarry boots crew

Carolina Kettles will keep you warm!

Duck Guide service from North Carolina

Safaris with Shaun (on right)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 SEWE Saturday - Marion Square Park

Big T''s Provisions in the Cooking Demo tent
A mighty wind blew through the Holy City on Saturday and reminded everyone that we were not so far removed from the ice storm of 2014, despite Friday's balmy temperatures. In golf, Saturday is known as moving day, and it's the same thing where Marion Square Park is concerned since hordes of SEWE patrons move through this central location on sunny days like Saturday. The food court, children's attractions, cooking demo tent, and conservation village are all together here this year since the Gaillard Auditorium is closed for renovations. Add in the spectacular Birds of Prey flight demos in the Square at 11 and 3 and you have more than enough reason to linger outside. Next up, stop inside the Embassy Suites Hotel to see wildlife photography exhibits, and swing by John Street for the Busch Gardens wildlife show. Snakes seem to be very popular both in the Charleston Music Hall and at the Edisto Serpentarium booth - and that is one of the intangibles that SEWE provides when providing animal education to those who might not otherwise be exposed to it. In the case of a native rattlesnake encountered in the outdoors, folks are educated that they are not really interested in harming humans, though a good measure of caution is warranted. The take home message from Lowcountry Outdoors would be NOT to dispatch a random snake encountered outdoors, but rather take a look and go another route so that everyone can have a story to tell about the wonders of nature. Again, use caution and do not handle any snake, but one may also appreciate snakes for their place in nature.

Sponsor Heiner Hartling, Artist Julie Jeppsen
with SEWE's Jimmy Huggins
To view past blog entries from SEWE Saturday click 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 or 2009.

Educational moment with snakes

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 SEWE Friday notes - Decoy Auction

Barred owl, Screech owl and Great Horned owl at SEWE
Jack Hanna is always a fan favorite, posing for photos
The first full day of the 2014 Southeastern Wildlife Expo just happened to be Valentine's day, creating a two-fer for wildlife lovers. An early bird VIP hour at Charleston Place Hotel kicked the day off at 9 a.m. and all exhibits opened at 10. The first of a sold-out run of jack Hanna shows started at 11 a.m. at the Music Hall on John Street. Hanna's wife and family were in the audience and Hanna volunteered that his career is waning now, but that SEWE has all of his criteria for being a first class quality festival that should continue to prosper for years to come. The audience gasped during his snake research video and laughted when a playful pelican took the stage. Other animals in his presentation included a three-toed sloth, snow leopard, alligator, grey fox and birds of prey. As usual, Hanna was gracious about signing autographs and making photos with patrons after the show, and he is a tireless ambassador for the animals that he loves. Over at the Marriott Hotel was the annual decoy and memorabelia auction that is gaining steam as a must see event, and is in the same room with sporting antiques and collectible firearms. Across the street in Brittlebank Park the Dock Dogs competion got underway in sunny and warm conditions and the sporting village vendors boasted hunting lodges, taxidermists and clothiers from around the SouthEast. The Boykin Spaniel Society conducted retriever trials, and the food court kept the hungry crowd supplied with gyros, barbecue and beer.

To view past blog entries from SEWE Friday click 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 or 2009.

Decoy auction by Guyette and Deeter
Red Fox Red Wine Label

Friday, February 14, 2014

2014 SEWE Gala at Charleston Place Hotel

Cindy and Mark Munn with SEWE featured artist Chad Poppleton
Neal Robinson, Jack Hanna and Jimmy Huggins draw a winner
The most anticipated evening of the year for wildlife enthusiasts is always the black tie Gala on Thursday night of the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. This serves as a preview for the artwork on display in the ballroom at Charleston Place Hotel, with artists on hand to inform art lovers and art collectors about what makes their work unique. The annual live auction offered a varied list and went down as one of the best in the 32-year history of SEWE. Patrons dined on seafood and soaked up the electricity of the night, with fine wine and spirits in the mix. An array of politicos were in attendance including Congressman Sanford, Speaker Harrell, Chip Limehouse and Ag's Hugh Weathers. The ladies of the Lowcountry wore their black dresses and colorful evening gowns and were able to equal the beauty depicted on the canvases. Don't forget the world-class wood carvers and the bronze sculptors who can take their medium and turn it into a delicate feathered bird representation that rivals the real thing. Plenty of art is snapped up the night of the Gala but the atmosphere is absent of the 'hard sell' - rather a high level of art appreciation is always present. Even Jack Hanna made an appearance, giving a helping hand when it came time to draw for the winner of the Scout boat raffle. Win the winning entry went to a man in Illinois, SEWE's Jimmy Huggins quipped that he had no idea how to get a boat to Illinois, and the light-hearted moment set the stage for the auction. Items included stays at Palmetto Bluff, Sea Island Resort, and Cabin Bluff, with hunting trips to Spain and South Africa also up for bids. 2014 Featured Artist Chad Poppleton's original of the official SEWE poster was sold as were antique duck decoys and collectible knives. After the auction special animal appearances by various owls and even a sandhill crane kept everyone entertained in grand SEWE style!
Gigi and Mike McShane with Nemours Wildlife Foundation

Pheasants sculpture at Charleston Place

To view past blog entries from the SEWE Gala click 2013,  2012, 2011, 2010, or 2009.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 SEWE begins at Mills House Hotel

SEWE ice sculpture
Wiley and Foster Marshall with McNair Rhodes
With a fierce February ice storm causing havoc in the midlands and laying a foot of snow in the upstate, the Holy City of Charleston remained unscathed with temperatures staying above freezing. The Southeaster Wildlife Exposition kick off party went off as planned at The Mills House, but patrons realized that we were not at capacity because some visitors were not able to travel to join us. With an excellent weekend weather forecast ahead, we hope that everyone travels safely on their way to SEWE.  Local artists like Shannon Wood, Carol Segars and Amanda McLenon displayed their paintings at the Mills House while a guitar duo serenaded from 6 to 9. The wild game theme for dinner featured petite Carolina crab cakes, wild boar barbecue on cheddar biscuits, smoked duck sausage, and fried quail egg on chorizo crostini. Everyone utilized the special display of Landrum tables to eat dinner, and these tables are locally made by Capers Cauthen. The entire weekend of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, and for those who cherish wildlife art, is in its 32nd season and for full details visit SEWE.
Roseate spoonbills at Donnelly WMA

To view past blog entries from the 2013 SEWE click here.

Joey and Shannon Smoak with Tate Seabrook

2014 Quail hunt with Red Fish Brand

Chief the English Setter, Curtis Hart and Jake the English Pointer

In 2012 a local Educational Endowment was founded in memory of Calista Lynn Smith. The inaugural fundraiser for that endowment was held in February of 2013 including silent and live auctions items. The second fundraiser, including a wild game cook off will be held February 22, 2014 with proceeds going to the endowment.
We did our best to imitate this classic sporting depiction!
A quail hunt at Maxfield Plantation appealed to this outdoor enthusiast at the 2013 auction, and I purchased the outing from the live auction without knowing even where the property was located. It turns out that Maxfield is along I-95 in Ridgeland, and is a private property. Donnie Fender served as the hunt guide for myself and guest Curtis Hart of Red Fish Brand clothing out of Hilton Head.

NEW duck belt from Red Fish Brand
A cool morning around 40-degrees was welcome since hot weather serves to tire out bird dogs quickly. Fender hunts with an English Pointer named Jake and an English Setter named Chief, and they worked well together with Chief honoring any point ahead of him. A quick blow on the whistle from Fender will release the backing setter to move a bit closer to the hidden quail so that the hunter’s can move in before Fender flushes the quail.

Both Hart and myself were shooting double-barrel twenty-gauge shotguns that provide a sporting option when wingshooting for pen-raised quail. The heavy game bag that Fender showed us at the end of the morning hunt outweighed a fair amount of missed shots.

All along the way, Fender was gracious about explaining any questions regarding the hunt, and we all reflected on the reason that we had gathered together. The Calista Lynn Smith Educational Endowment states that future scholarships will be offered to high school seniors who are Christians and who LOVE the outdoors.

Overall, we easily accomplished our mission of fellowship in the field, while walking a country mile back and forth across the quail woods at Maxfield. We witnessed multiple flushes of quail that offered a challenge even for an experienced shooter. We were glad to view the dogs enjoying their time in the field as well, working hard to pick up our downed birds and revealing that the work of our canine companions is one of the best parts of the upland hunt. 

Guide Donnie Fender retrieves a cock bird
With such splendid results, perhaps we had an angel watching over us.

To view this article in the newspaper click Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about Red Fish Brand click 2013 quail hunt or duck coat.