Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 9/30/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Redfish caught in the Surf Zone on 9/20/2014
Inshore: Craig Lupton at Buck, Bass and Beyond in Beaufort shares that like any time of year the bite changes daily. He presumes the relentless rain in September will hurt the redfish bite and put a hamper on shrimping plans too. His recent reports show that being closer to the ocean might be the best place to wet a line with Trenchard's Inlet and the surf providing a steady mixed bag of fish. The shrimp are running and a wide variety of species can be caught right now using them for bait including trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead, ladyfish, jack crevalle and sharks. With all of the shrimp imitators out there you can cast a Vudu shrimp in natural coloration or a DOA shrimp in holographic. For the bigger bull reds try fishing in the surf zone, at the Paradise Pier or under the Highway 170 bridge. Use blue crabs or dead baits like cut mullet on a Carolina rig for best results. The tarpon bite is still hanging on but will taper off steadily as water temps drop, which gives them a case of lock jaw. For the latest store information visit the Internet at Buck, Bass and Beyond.

Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West tells us that with almost ten days of nothing but rainy conditions, don't let that fool you into thinking that the bite has slowed down in the Lowcountry. Cooler air temps and lots of rain have dropped the water temperature considerably, which has ignited a hot trout bite. The specks are holding in 4 to 6-feet of water along shell rakes and creek mouths, and they are tearing up the live shrimp while they are running. However, a Savage Gear shrimp or a DOA shrimp can fool the fish too. Surf fishing is on the upswing with bull reds and sharks biting cut mullet, with some black drum mixed in. Shrimping season is yielding moderate to good reports coming from the harbor, but past history tells us that a rainy season is not the best for recreational shrimp harvest. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrells Point.

Offshore: Scott shares that the weather has made it tough to sneak out on the 'big pond' but those that have ventured out say the bottom fishing is very good in 70 to 100-feet of water. Triggerfish, b-liners, black sea bass and grouper are all giving a good pull for those bumping the bottom. The trolling reports were few but a strong wahoo bite was going on in 140 to 250-feet of water and a few sailfish were being found around waters about 400-feet.

Craig is still getting reports of blackfin tuna when trolling small naked baits way, way way back at first light and last light. High speed trolling has been the ticket for wahoo using darker color combinations that troll straight and true. The Dennis Braid Marauder is a great choice and so is the C/H Wahoo Whacker, Tuna Tango and Double Cavitator when fished sub-surface.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

2014 National Hunting and Fishing Day

Surf fishing is a great way to spend time outdoors
September 27 is National Hunting and Fishing Day, the day that access to public lands is FREE. This day is also a theme that folks should get outdoors and celebrate their hunting heritage and their right to fish! For more details click on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To view past blog entries about National Hunting and Fishing Day click 2013 or 2011.

Some practice this sentiment everyday

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pee Dee Student Anglers Fish SALTT Tourney Trail

McKinley Grooms and Daniel Rourk with an over-sized redfish
A new student angler saltwater tournament trail has been formed in the Pee Dee region of the Lowcountry and the first tourney was held in Georgetown on September 20. Dreary weather with no sunshine and blustery winds greeted the students as they launched from the Carroll Campbell boat landing. Some fished the Sampit River while others crosses Winyaw Bay to fish the North Inlet.

Tourney rules call for two-man teams, open only to middle school or high school students. Like most popular redfish trails, they can weigh-in only two fish on tourney day, for a cumulative weight total. Those fish must be alive in order to be eligible and they are all released after weigh-in. SCDNR rules also stipulate that a redfish must be within a slot limit of 15 to 23-inches in order to be eligible.
Ben Cooper with his winning fish

Congrats to Team Coward for winning the inaugural tourney with a total weight of 5.77-pounds for their two redfish. Angler Ben Cooper from Conway High caught both redfish, measuring 19-inches in length, winning Team Coward a plaque and a gift card. Taking second place was Team RED-iculous with a pair of anglers from Carolina Forest High. Jackson Denny and Hunter Vines weighed in one redfish that weighed 3.24-pounds, good for a plaque and a gift card.

Sportsmanship is always a key lesson when youth compete and the tough luck award goes to Team Sweet Tea for having a redfish that measured over the limit by 3/4-inch and was declared ineligible. Daniel McKinley and Daniel Rourk took the judge's ruling well though according to tourney organizer Rayburn Poston. In fact, many anglers caught large redfish on this day that were well over the limit. So it's safe to say that a fun time was had by all. For a listing of future tourney's click SALTT schedule.

To view past blog entries about the Lowcountry Redfish Cup click 2013 Finals.

To view past articles click Redfish Are Loving the Lowcountry.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Snakes Seen Slithering Ahead of Fall


Rat snake with a meal inside of it on September 12

Reptiles seem to become more active in the Lowcountry during the months of September and October, making moves ahead of winter. Some are seeking shelter, while others seek wetlands and most all of them need something to eat now. Seeing a snake in the yard is often a rare occurrence, but a couple of recent serpent sightings in my own yard raises awareness that they are an ever present part of our natural surroundings.
            

Canebrake rattlesnake crossing a road in September
A change began about two weeks ago after the typical hot and sunny August weather rolled right into September. Locals were beginning to feel the heat if you listened to the chatter about extreme conditions coming in from dove fields and deer stands. Things were getting dry and the gnat population seemed to be surging, and then the rains came. Since then, cloudy weather has brought much more moderate temperatures and farmers began to see late crops green up rather than twist in the sun.
            
The snake sightings that have been reported since the summer weather broke is nothing new since it occurs each and every year. It’s just that since many snakes are nocturnal during the hot weather, they become a bit out of sight and out of mind. Then snakes begin to move during the day, and with each road crossing and every yard visitation they are spotted with greater frequency.

Outdoorsmen of the Lowcountry must acknowledge that poisonous snakes are also moving now, perhaps searching for a suitable den for winter. Practicing vigilance such as watching where one steps, and wearing snake boots are generally sound practices that can offer protection against any unpleasant experiences. These snakes are also a natural part of the ecosystem and we trust mother nature to keep them secretive and out of the way in most cases.

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

To view past blog entries on other wildlife click on Bats or Horses or Wood Storks.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Field Notes and Photos - September 2014

This brilliant box turtle appeared on Sept. 7
A Monarach butterfly from Sept. 18
Fall migration seems to be picking up with recent arrivals of blue-winged teal to the Lowcountry. Migratory warblers like the American redstart have also been spotted recently. Butterflies have been joined by hordes of love bugs moving up from Florida. Reptiles seems to move around more in the fall when the weather cools for the first time, and I've seen more turtles crawling about than usual lately, and the snakes are slithering. It won't be too much longer until the color changes of leaves will be noticed all around the state. September 2014 started out very dry and quite hot but it will end up as a month with about 20 days where there was at least a trace of rain.

To view past Field Notes and Photos click on August 2014 or June 2014.


Yellow Jackets that I dispatched from a flowerpot

I saw a Snowman in September thanks to these mushrooms!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail


Kayak paddlers assemble for an afternoon on the water

Paddling has become a very popular way to enjoy the natural resources that really define coastal living. It doesn’t matter is you are piloting a canoe, kayak or a stand up board because the Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail (SECT) is set up to aid anyone who is up for the challenge of time on the water in a personal watercraft.
            
Established in April of 2013, SECT held its first public outing in Charleston, S.C. at the East Coast Paddlesports Festival, held at James Island County Park. It was announced that this SE paddling trail would run from Virginia Beach, Virginia all the way down to St. Mary’s Island in Georgia, just above the Florida line.

That’s a span of 800 miles of coastline that varies from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Then it continues along the Beaufort Blueway of the Lowcountry and into the spartina marshes of Georgia. This Southeast Trail was inspired by the formation of the Florida Circumnavigational Paddling Trail that begins at the state line between Georgia and Florida.

More of the population is reportedly trending towards the coastal areas to live in the coming decades, with development possibly stressing the status quo of the natural world. But in the case of paddling the Southeast coast does have some elbow room, with wide rivers and vast harbors and sounds. It’s along these paddling trails where some of the real history of the South can be found and where the adventure of being in the outdoors can still come to life.

Paddling is non-consumptive for natural resources when compared with saltwater fishing for example. Paddling requires no fuel tank fill up either, which accounts for an increase in paddling popularity since the recent recession. Its up to the individual to be ready to go for a paddle and all they need is places like access points and camping sites to be identified.

The website for the SECT has downloadable maps that paddlers can access, plus a calendar of local events within the four states. The interactive map on the site allows one to zoom in to clearly see the paddling trail along its winding path. Those who are social media aware can join paddling clubs to learn more about where paddlers frequent, and related links can be found on the Plan Your Trip page of the SECT website at www.secoastpaddlingtrail.com.

To view this entire feature article click on All At Sea.

To view past blog entries about kayaking click Edisto River or Beaufort Bueways or Fishing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scouting is Key to September Canada Goose Success


September goose hunting succes requires teamwork

Waterfowl hunters understand that ducks and geese can simply change flight plans from one day to the next. This makes scouting perhaps the single most important ingredient for success during an early season goose hunt. The early goose season comes with a liberal bag limit and intends for hunters to keep sprawling populations of geese in check. With thirty days to work with in September, there is enough time to fine tune preparations and consistent efforts will usually pay off.
            
Chase Wiles, Waylon Wiles and David Felkel retrieve geese
Not every outing will be successful, and my first September goose hunt went lacking of both geese and any shooting. Hunting with Hugh McLaurin, maker of Big Lake goose calls out of Elloree, we waited for the geese to come to a roost pond one afternoon. We didn’t scout the pond, we just figured that they would show up there. While we guessed wrong that day, that is just a part of hunting, and as the Drake Field Expert for the Lowcountry I will keep hunting!
            
“In September the farmers in the coastal plain are cutting their corn fields, which makes the Canada geese act like nomads,” said McLaurin, a farmer himself. “They will jump from field to field when the combines move through, and they will use farm ponds along to way to rest.” Goose movement can be a guessing game, and another factor in play is that geese can live several years and the entire flock benefits from the older and more wary geese that are cautious about decoy formations and unsound goose calling.
            
Shane Wiles - Goose Hunter with GoPro
Brothers Shane and Chase Wiles hunt in cut cornfields in Orangeburg County and are friends with McLaurin since they share a passion for waterfowling. They had been scouting an 80-acre cutover cornfield since the season came in and watched as the goose activity continued to increase each morning until it was time to call for a hunt on Saturday, Sept. 13.
            
Jenni Wiles - Videographer
It’s worth noting that when the Wiles’ brothers need to round up some hunters, they simply ask their family and cousins until they have enough shooters. They ended up with three generations of their family out in that cornfield before dawn waiting on some Canada geese to show up and to subsequently strengthen their already strong love for the hunt. The photos show that they were richly rewarded that day, and McLaurin and I were fortunate to hunt alongside them.
            
Success didn’t come easy and began with a 5 a.m. meeting to gather goose decoys together, and to load gear into the trucks before driving out into the field. Chase Wiles took care to direct the crowd to the exact spot in the field where the geese had flown into and fed the day before right after sunrise. Everyone fanned out into the dark field to set out about 100 goose decoys.
            
To view the remainder of this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

To view past blog entries on September goose hunting click 2013 or 2011.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 9/16/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Flatfish abound in the Lowcountry in September
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West shares that September brings a lot more than just college football to the table. Especially here in the Lowcountry!! Shrimping season has kicked off on Sept. 12 and the mullet are about to run south as they head to the End Zone down in Florida. The flounder bite is still going strong, with flatfish found in solid numbers around the inlets and along rock piles using live minnows tipped on a Zman FlatZ jig. Trout are starting to finally produce some better numbers though many of the fish are smaller juveniles this time of year. Redfish have produced awesome tailing reports during moon tides and that should continue until October, so try using Zman Pop Shadz and Gulp jerkshads. For tarpon, try fishing large live mullet or menhaden near the tips of the Charleston jetties and in between sandbars located around our ocean inlets and then HOLD ON. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Craig Lupton at Buck, Bass and Beyond in Beaufort shares that the KingSize Tides are providing some of the best sight fishing of the summer for redfish. Whenever the surging tide water reaches further into the marshes it opens up new feeding grounds for the reds, allowing them to gorge on fiddler crabs, which can make them finicky for other baits. Craig suggests that fly anglers should cast a Gutless Crab Fly. Once the water backs off the grass try some cut mullet on a Carolina rig or under a popping cork. Good reports are coming in from the marshes along the Broad River and the Combahee River in the ACE Basin. The trout bite is slowly picking up so start the day with topwater lures and then fish for them in deep holes near creek intersections. Sheepshead are back in full swing around docks and they are biting fiddlers and mussels. The Hwy. 170 bridge is a hot spot for sheepies at the moment! And don't forget that there are still tons of tarpon around from the beach and inlets up into the Broad River. Fish for them using dead menhaden fished on the bottom near where sand bars drop off. For the latest store information visit the Internet at Buck, Bass and Beyond.

Nearshore and Beach: Craig reports that the Hunting Island State Park Pier is producing some great big fish for visitors. The same goes for Pritchard's Inlet too for redfish and trout. Watch for bird activity that can point out bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel cruising through the area. Cast bucktails tipped with Gulp swimming mullet or spoons for these schooling species.

Offshore: Craig reports that lots of wahoo are being caught as well as some blackfin tuna. It's a long run in late summer, but it sounds a little more worthwhile right now, especially if you have time to stop and bottom fish too. Great reports for vermillion snapper, black sea bass and grouper are coming in and they are all biting live pinfish. The Betsy Ross artificial reef is still producing cobia on the weekdays when pressure is down. A kingfish or even a sailfish may show up there too so keep and eye out for their sign and keep a live bait ready to rock and roll.

Scott reports that the past week includes a surge in the wahoo bite offshore, with best results coming in from 130 to 250-feet of water, though several nice hoos were reported from as shallow as 90-feet. Decent numbers of sailfish have still been hanging around in 200 to 400-feet of water and the king mackerel are staging in 50 to 80-feet of water. Bottom fishing continues to produce some huge triggerfish and quality b-liners with the better reports coming in from 75 - 90-feet of water using cigar minnows, cut squid and jigging butterfly lures for grouper.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sky Top Orchard is Ripe for Apples in Western N.C.

Red baskets mean ripe apples at Sky Top Orchard
Check Them Out for Outdoor Fun
Apple orchards are usually open to the public seasonally, and Sky Top Orchard is no exception. Located near Flat Rock, N.C. this orchard opens in August and helps to kick off fall for visitors touring the mountains, and especially for folks driving up from the city of Greenville. Traveling to visit them at 1193 Pinnacle Mountain Road I began to notice conservation easement signs by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy on some of the windy roads in the area with scenic mountain terrain. Next I was seeing colorful signage that directed me to turn into the 60-acre apple orchard.

A large parking lot can handle lots of traffic at this family fun destination. A huge barn houses an apple merchandise center that sells cider, nick nacks and or course piles and piles of apples. These apples are not marketed for the grocery store, and this small family farm intends for the fresh apples to be consumed and enjoyed in a timely fashion. For those wishing to actually pick their own apples, the orchard will supply baskets and carts and then allow visitors out into the property.
Twenty-Two great reasons to Visit

The picking schedule is posted in several places, and out in the orchard, so that only the apples that are ripe shall be picked. The apple season includes August, September and October and continues until the orchard closes on December 15. Warm and wet weather during the first of September had the orchard and the mountains lush and green during my visit, but one can imagine that orchard visits later in the fall will also include viewing the leaves changing colors.

Just love this vintage sign about the apple biz
Apples trees are totally bare in winter but the buds open into flowers during the spring. Pollination is the next order of business since each flower will turn into an apple. Sky Top has a working bee hive in the big barn that serves to educate visitors (and kids) about how these bees live in harmony with the bustling business of orchard sales. Environmental education in an outdoors setting like this is very valuable and I salute the Sky Top Orchard owners for a job well done.

To view past blog entries for Western N.C. destinations click on The Orchard Inn.

To view past blog entries from the Green River Games click on 2014 or 2013.




Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Early Teal Season and Bait Shrimping Begin Today

Cast netting for shrimp is FUN
It's a double-header for September 12! Thirty minutes after sunrise the early season for migratory teal kicked off in S.C. with an increased bag limit of six teal per day. Teal season goes out on Sept. 26. Then at noon the S.C. bait shrimping season kicks in with a 48-quart cool full of shrimp the legal daily limit. Shrimp season lasts for two months. What a day to be outdoors with a new twist on Cast (throwing nets for shrimp) and Blast (hunting blue-winged teal). Trying for Shrimp and Teal in the same day is certainly a different twist on Cast and Blast - on that makes the coastal waters of the Lowcountry outdoors THE place to be!

To view past blog entries on Cast and Blast click on TIDE magazine or Charleston Mercury.

For the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

For a past blog entry on early season hunting for marsh hens click here.

Blue-winged teal offer a passing shot

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 Green River Games in Saluda, N.C.

Kayak race start on the Green River
Stand Up Paddleboard Race Winner
The second year for the Green River Games saw a scheduling shake up, and the awards ceremony moved from an outlying location to downtown Saluda where the public can now join in the celebration.  The 2014 Green River Games canceled the 6K road race set for Friday, and the welcoming reception at the HQ for Green River Adventures Zip-Line lookout. As a result, it was quiet in Saluda on Friday since the games would now start on Saturday morning.

The weather on September 6 was quite warm in the mid-80's and it was super muggy. Trail conditions were said to be soggy after several days of rain leading up to the weekend. The bike riders, Stand Up Paddleboarders, kayakers and runners all faced the same conditions though, and the warm conditions just added one more layer to what already was going to be a great test of fitness, or at least some very good exercise.

Hammer Factor Rapids on the Green River Narrows
John Grace and the Top Three Silverback Winners
The flagship race of the Green River Games is called the Silverback and it is a combination of kayaking, biking and running. The race began near the Tuxedo Hydroelectric station at 11 a.m. and took competitors down the green river narrows - which is not for amateurs. Spectators can watch the kayakers pass by at Fish Top Falls, but in general it is tough to view the Silverback competition unless one is prepared to access rugged hiking trails that shadow the Green River. This race is divided into segments to allow participant that don't want to complete all three disciplines, but they are all worthy of congratulations. For the Silverback Race results click here.

Rapids Soaking a Silverback competitor
Something like eight separate competitions were held on Saturday and two more trail runs on Sunday. The awards party in downtown Saluda featured food, a T-shirt station, band and a beer booth. Organizer John Grace kept the awards on schedule, with many of the competitors dog tired after a day of racing in the heat. Overall I would say that participation was up slightly in 2014 and the event highlights outdoor enjoyment for fitness enthusiasts, which is a genre that is sure to grow. It doesn't hurt that the natural resources in this section of Western North Carolina make for a great proving grounds.

To view past blog entries from the Green River Games click 2013.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2014 ACE Basin QDMA - SCDNR report / NDA Intro


SCDNR's Charles Ruth and QDMA's Joe Hamilton
Deer hunting enthusiasts gather on Sept. 6

With deer hunting season in full swing, the local ACE Basin branch of the Quality Deer Management Association held its annual whitetail seminar. QDMA began 26 years ago right here in Colleton County and founder Joe Hamilton was in attendance, along with Branch President and QDMA National Board member Nicole Garris. SCDNR’s Charles Ruth is the big game biologist for S.C. and he traveled from Columbia to address deer populations for the large crowd of hunting enthusiasts.
            
Garris welcomed everyone to the Coastal Outback building on Sept. 4 by announcing that their Venison For The Hungry campaign is underway once again this year. Hunters can drop off harvested deer at participating venison processors that will direct that protein to those in need, with 1290-pounds of meat supplied in 2013. She also reminds everyone that QDMA license plates are available from the SC DMV for those who choose to support conservation via their automobile.
South Carolina needs more of this!!


“In a brief snap shot of deer history in South Carolina I like to remind folks that about 200 years of cotton farming kept habitat at a bare minimum,” said Ruth. “Then in the 1920’s the dual forces of a depression and a prolonged drought caused the demise of large scale cotton farming. These cleared lands began to grow back and by the 1970’s the entire state was once again forested with great habitat for white-tailed deer.”
            
Program from ACE Basin workshop
“It was about this time that forestry began to flourish all across the Southeast,” said Ruth. “In S.C. the practice of clear cutting created a spike in the overall deer population as the early successional habitat began to grow back. However, today’s deer numbers are down about 30-percent from the high numbers during the 1980’s and I cite several factors. Site preparation for planting of pines today often involves a herbicide treatment to suppress vegetation, which used to equate to high quality deer browse.”


“For those practicing quality deer management, our research reveals some things about buck movements,” said Ruth. “Young bucks stay with their mother for the first year so they only know her home range. But when they reach 1.5-years of age and grow their first set of small antlers, these same young bucks strike out on a trail to establish their own home range.” This type of movement by young bucks can disappoint deer managers who find that smaller bucks are often killed on neighboring properties with no antler restrictions, which is why QDM cooperatives can be mutually beneficial.


Joe Hamilton said that the newly formed National Deer Alliance, or NDA, will serve as a unified voice for deer hunters from all states in the U.S. to speak to legislators in a unified voice. Not to mention that a greater coalition of deer hunting groups like QDMA and Whitetails Unlimited will help to protect the future of deer hunting. Hamilton stresses that it is free to join the NDA, and that as founder of QDMA he supports everyone joining this new group.

To view this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about the ACE Basin QDMA workshop click in 2012 or 2011.

To view past blog entries about the ACE Basin QDMA banquet click 2014 or 2013 or 2012


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Orchard Inn - What's New and Improved in 2014

The spacious front porch welcomes guests
How about a cozy room with a view!
A mix of business and pleasure brought me back to the Historic Bed and Breakfast in Saluda over the weekend. Western North Carolina still simmers in summer's heat during early September, and we experienced temps in the mid-80's with high humidity and scattered rainshowers. The Orchard Inn keeps a tradition of being open air, and it works well since they are on a ridgetop and on a heavily wooded property that retains cooler air. Still, each room in the Inn has a small window unit for patrons to utilize when ready, like perhaps overnight during sleep. In the big picture, things are not about to change when it comes to the warmth and service that is standard for all guests. Likewise, the Orchard Inn is in good shape and nothing will change the already welcoming and comfortable look inside according to owner Marc Blazer.

Scrambled eggs and Organic sausage - YUM
The Canine Committee
During my weekend stay I did find a few new wrinkles to expand and improve the experience for guests. First, the Internet signal is much improved after an upgrade, and I was able to post a blog from the comforts of my upstairs room. The number of bedrooms with a King mattress has increased to three after repeated requests from customers, and a few of the upstairs bathrooms are set for renovation in the next 12 months. A name change adopted in September of 2014 means that the Orchard Inn is now home to Neuman's Restaurant. All of the food will still be served out of Marianne's Kitchen, but the addition of the restaurant name will raise awareness that the public can choose to dine at the Inn for dinner or Sunday brunch, without having to stay overnight. While weddings are not new at the Orchard Inn, new ground was broken on Sept. 8 when the first fashion show and fundraiser was held. Lastly, on the 'green' front the Orchard Inn is in negotiations with Tesla electric cars to establish a plug-in station for all travelers with electric autos.

Sunrise from my room window on Sept. 7
A reminder about some of the already great experiences at the Orchard Inn include being greeted by the friendly boxer breed dogs upon arrival at the Inn. The hardwood floors are well worn but still beautiful and shows that the railroad outfit that built the structure did not spare any materials during construction. The baby grand piano in the main room saw two guests play freely one night, which makes me think that more music should be made in the future at the Orchard Inn. My upstairs room had a great view of the nearby mountain peaks, and once again I could smell the bacon cooking downstairs before breakfast was served at 8:30, and it's a great motivator to rise and get moving. Starting one's day with juice, fruit, granola, scones, and two happy eggs (from happy chickens) provides the sustenance to walk the hiking trails and enjoy the splendor of the Western N.C. Outdoors for much of the day.

To view past blog entries from the Green River Games click on 2014 or 2013.

To view past blog entries about The Orchard Inn click here.

To view past blog entries from Saluda click on Coon Dog Day or Pearson's Falls or Sky Top Orchard.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Early Release for Bobwhite Quail Begins in September


A covey of quail flushes from their cover to disperse

Brad Jones is a consultant from Georgia with the Jones and Morris Wildlife Company, and he came to Orangeburg in August to speak at a seminar about early release quail tactics. A lot has changed in the quail woods since Jones began hunting wild quail with his grandfather, a World War II veteran who helped to instill a love of the outdoors. Listening to Jones speak about his trial and error experiences ranging from raising quail to handling the dogs brought a real connection to this audience of land managers.
            
“The quail hunting tract of land that I manage is about 2000-acres,” said Jones. “This operation is run by a private landowner who budgets about 300K annually to cover all operations, right down to the shotgun shells. For early release success be sure to seek out a strain of quail with good genetics. An experienced manager can spot which birds are superior beginning with the characteristics displayed by day old chics. I prefer to release quail that are only 8 to 10 weeks old, which is before they are full-grown adults.”
            
“Our hunting season begins at Thanksgiving but we release 5500 quail into the woods from early September through mid-October,” said Jones. “I have tried manufactured quail covey supplemental watering stations, but mostly rely on the scattering of grain sorghum as a way to keep the quail healthy. Our sandy soil in the coastal plain can produce broomsedge and lovegrass in large quantities and we try to use prescribed fire on half of the property each year to maintain that cover.”
            
“I have found that creating abnormally large coveys with 30 to 35 quail during early release compensates for the hunting pressure that lasts until March 1,” said Jones. “We maintain ten quail courses that are 170-acres each, and guests may hunt half of that course during a three-hour morning hunt. We average 14 coveys per hunt and we try to maintain a ten day rest between hunts on any course.”

Only double guns are allowed for shooting in 20-gauge or lighter, and they keep records on mortality rate and also for crippled birds. “We us the same number of birds each year, and have roughly the same amount of guests, but the harvest rate can still vary,” said Jones. “This tells us that the quality of wingshooter comes into play each year, and that is a factor that cannot be controlled.”

“Also consider that my research indicates that when the humidity drops below 20-percent the pointing dogs cannot scent the quail,” said Jones. “These are all parts of the quail hunting experience though and we embrace our days in the field with Gentleman Bob. In general the early release quail flush wild when we are hunting them.” Put and take of quail is common now at game preserves, and many of those birds need to be kicked up, but Jones says anything that keeps hunters tuned into bobwhites has merit.

Other tips gleaned from the early release seminar include that predators can take out up to 40-percent of quail before hunting season begins, making a trapping program a cost-effective tool for land managers to employ. Also interesting is that fire ants do not seem to be at the top of anyone’s list as a major inhibitor of quail restoration efforts. Hawks will likely always be the number one predator of bobwhites, but quail hunters recognize their place in nature even as they compete for the same resource.

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

To view past blog entries on quail click SC or NBCI or Fall Field Day or QU or Quail Season Finale.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inaugural World Shorebird Day is Sept. 6

We have a variety of shorebirds in South Carolina
In an effort to celebrate conservation efforts and raise public awareness about shorebird population declines, an international network of birders and scientists is launching the first annual World Shorebirds Day on September 6, 2014. Manomet Shorebird Biologist Brad Winn is organizing efforts to celebrate World Shorebirds Day on the Atlantic coast of the United States.

“Shorebird populations around the world can benefit from a collective, international recognition and appreciation,” Winn said. “These unique birds are experiencing similar threats on all sides of the globe.  It doesn’t matter whether it is an American Oystercatcher on the New Jersey coast or a Pied Oystercatcher on the beaches of Australia, the pressures threatening the survival of these birds are the same.  We need global public appreciation to motivate conservation action to stem population declines. World Shorebirds Day is a brilliant and fun way to join together to recognize and celebrate these incredible and beautiful birds.”

To vote on the 2015 Shorebird of the year click here.

To view past blog entries about Red Knot shorebirds click here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Louisiana Hunter Takes Gnarly Lowcountry Buck


Mockey Terry Jr. with his unique trophy buck

The state of Louisiana may be known as a Sportsman’s Paradise but they don’t have early deer season in August. Mockey Terry Jr. is originally from Estill, S.C. and now resides in Louisiana, but he makes sure to return home to hunt deer each August. During this year’s hunt he bagged his best buck ever and scored a real trophy with this unique rack of horns.
           
A lot has to go right before anyone can tag a big buck like this 11-pointer, and this hunter’s previous best buck was an 8-point that he put on the wall back when he was 13 years old. He paid a lot of dues between then and his fateful still hunt on August 22, when he went hunting in 99-degrees of scorching summer heat. “It’s simple, I only had two days to hunt before I headed back to Louisiana, so hot or not I was going,” said Terry.
            
Terry went to his deer stand about 6:30 p.m. on that Friday afternoon. Sitting in a 10-foot ladder stand he had a clear view of a cotton field in front of him. It didn’t take long for the Hampton County deer to begin moving and soon he was watching four does, four yearlings and three bucks. “I had a 4-point, 6-point and an 8-point in the field but they were not shooters,” said Terry.
            
“The private land on Williams Wood Plantation where I was hunting comes with some deer management restrictions,” said Terry. “A buck needs to be 8-points or better with a spread that is wider than his ears. When the buck with the gnarly rack stepped out it was already 8:10 p.m. and I only watched him long enough to count his tines.”
            
Two hogs had joined the party at the corn pile and the big buck was looking directly at them. Then Terry took a 60-yard shot using his Savage .308-rifle and made a good hit. “I had no idea at all that this nice buck was in the area and I was quick to go look at him,” said Terry. “This clearly was the biggest buck I had ever shot. The rack is unusually curved and I haven’t seen anything like it before. I guess maybe it is a non-typical rack?”
            
The buck weighed 175-pounds and the rack sports 11-points including a sticker point off each of the G2 tines. An impressive 17.5-inch spread further accents the curving affect at the end of the tines. A basket rack buck is a common term for a buck with a narrow spread, but this rack looks more like two hands, with the tines resembling fingers grasping at something. A unique rack is certainly something worth preserving through taxidermy and Terry plans to mount the buck with the velvet still on the antlers.
            
Mockey Terry Jr. did go hunting the next night as well, since Saturday was his last chance to hunt an S.C. deer for a while. But he saw no deer at all and passed up a shot on a couple of wild hogs, so he is back to paying dues. He tells me that back in Louisiana he spends his spare time chasing redfish and enjoys hunting waterfowl during duck season. No doubt he is telling his Cajun friends about the big gnarly buck from South Carolina, and the sporting tales coming out of the Lowcountry outdoors will continue to gain respect.

To read this feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about Opening Days Deer Success Stories click on 2014 or 2013 or2012 or 2011 or 2010 or 2009. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 9/2/2014


Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina
South Lowcountry Tarpon - Photo By Mattson Charter Service
Inshore Report: Craig Lupton from Buck, Bass and Beyond in Beaufort shares that redfish still seem to be the most plentiful fish to target. They're being caught up in the grass flats on our big tides. Look for the high tides that are early in the morning or right before dark. Try using anything weedless like Johnson or Bagley spoons tipped with a soft plastic curly tail grub cut in half. He likes the GULP swimming minnow in chartreuse the best, and the scent seems to help a great deal. Red Fish Magic lures by Strike King work great and casts a mile keeping you from spooking the fish. Another great bait is a Gulp jerk shad or Zoom super fluke rigged weedless on a wide gap worm hook. After the tide starts ebbing, ease back into the feeder creeks and fish minnows, shrimp and quartered crab pieces under a cork around grass edges and oyster bars. Use the same baits on Carolina rigs fished in the deeper holes on low tide. The trout bite is picking up slowly as the water cools down. You can't miss with a shrimp under a cork right now as the creeks are full of shrimp. If flinging artificial baits is your thing try using a Storm Chug Bug or a Heddon Spook Jr. over and around oysters on a moving tide. You would be surprised how many Specks will eat a spinner bait or shallow diving crank bait too if you are just willing to try it. Sheepshead are a great target right now with lots of fish being reported. Use a fiddler crab on a 1-ought hook with as little weight as possible to keep your presentation vertical and line tight. Use a medium action rod with 20-pound power pro and a long fluorocarbon leader an appropriate egg sinker with a small split shot to keep it in place. Target any structure that is barnacle encrusted and maybe even try a littles chumming. Sheepshead have great noses and a chum sack full of crushed oysters, mussells and barnacles can be deadly. Flounder should be biting right now and those who practice gigging are doing pretty great. A good bet is fishing creeks and creek intersections or any small drainage you find with live mud minnows under a cork set so the bait just touches the bottom. Or try dragging a mud minnow on the bottom on a Carolina rig. If your wanting something bigger to run some drag off try chasing some the Silver King. Tarpon are everywhere right now, from the inlets all the way to the backs of the smallest creeks. You can't go wrong with live or dead menhaden fished on the bottom on a fish finder or Carolina rig. The fishing rips off of Bay Point are always a sure bet for a tarpon and I saw a bunch of Tarpon on Parris Island spit the other morning busting up schools of menhaden. The pelicans gave them away so keep your eyes peeled for bird sign. I've seen huge schools of tarpon along Hilton Head Island beach as well as singles and doubles all the way inshore up Chowan Creek. If you fish the inlets and passes right now put a couple live baits on the surface way back and you get a good chance of a nice king mackerel with some Spanish mackerel mixed in. For the latest store information visit the Internet at Buck, Bass and Beyond.

NEAR SHORE: The kingfish bite is hot and they are being reported from the beaches on out to the artificial reefs. The best bet is slow trolled or drifted live baits on kingfish rigs around schools of bait on the beaches or over live bottom or structure farther offshore. It never hurts to fish a big Spanish or ribbonfish on the down rigger either. Craig likes to put one bait 5 to 10-feet off the bottom and another bait half way down.

OFFSHORE: Craig reports that some wahoo and small mahi reports are still coming in, but those catches are getting thin. The bottom bite is still hot though with anglers reporting great catches of black sea bass, vermillian snapper, triggerfish, scamp and gag grouper being caught on chicken rigs and jigs. Other reports include some nice cubera snapper being taken on pinfish fished on jigs or Carolina rigs. Start around 100-feet of water over live bottom or any structure you know of, then take a look with your sounder to confirm fish and bait. If you don't see anything, then it's time to move on to the next spot.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.