Thursday, April 3, 2014

South Carolina offers Quality Public Waterfowl and Turkey Hunts

Thanks to artist Jim Turlington for use of his artwork

The opportunity to give a tip of the cap for a job well done does not come often enough in regards to the state-managed game lands. The high quality of public draw hunts for waterfowl is backed up by the harvest totals announced in late February. Big game season returns on April 1 to many of the same managed lands, and taxpayers will have a fair chase towards filling a turkey tag. From the beurocratic decision makers to the folks with boots on the ground, thanks to those who steward the natural resources of South Carolina.
With an abundance of rural resources in the Palmetto state it is a shame that we are not purchasing and protecting more lands to manage for the sake of future hunts. The appeal of high quality hunting has the lottery system so backed up that it takes about three years to be drawn to hunt waterfowl. After attending the Waterfowl Advisory Committee meeting at Pon Pon Plantation this fall, I can report that they are keenly aware of this congestion and some innovative options are being vetted.
In terms of waterfowl harvest from Category 1 public lands, the average was 3.3 birds per hunter, with Bear Island WMA holding down the top spot. Wood ducks remained the number one duck in the game bag accounting for 34-percent of the total harvest. Just think how many hunts are saved by one, two or maybe even three wood ducks harvested on a hunt when other ducks do not appear. Since wood ducks sometimes select wood duck boxes to bolster reproduction, it seems logical that more emphasis should be placed on woodies.

The spring turkey season now upon us and some state-managed game lands will be open to turkey hunting from April 1 to May 1. Some will host youth-only draw hunts for turkeys, where a high quality experience will be a dividend regardless of any harvest. Only the private lands in Game Zone 6, or the south Lowcountry, began turkey season on March 15 with the remainder of S.C. Game Zones opening on April 1.
Poor reproduction due to extended wet weather in the spring and summer of 2013 has the turkey hunting forecast meager for now. “The state’s turkey population remains about 25-percent below record levels of 10 years ago and we need better reproduction for several years to get the population back up,” said Charles Ruth, SCDNR turkey biologist. Turkey predation by coyotes is also a new factor to consider in the past ten years. To find public turkey hunting opportunities visit the SCDNR website, or run a search for SCDNR Managed Lands Turkey Hunting. 

To view this feature article in the newspaper click Charleston Mercury.

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