|An old cork decoy tells a story of waterfowling heritage|
The wetlands of South Carolina continue to offer refuge for visiting waterfowl just as they have done for centuries, and for a certain flock of wingshooters nothing beats duck hunting. Pre-dawn rituals and post-hunt fellowship are the kind of things that foment family relations and cement friendships well past hunting seasons. It all comes together in a few moments for sporting types when they hear the buzzing sound of whistling wings dropping out of the sky and into the decoys.
Seasoned waterfowlers know and understand that the duck season has already commenced from Canada into the Northeast and the Midwest. Migratory waterfowl see hunting pressure in Canada in September and then they experience a succession of hunting season dates across individual states. The South Carolina duck season will begin on November 22 and run for a week of holiday hunts during Thanksgiving.
The first flight of migratory ducks made it to the Lowcountry in late September and early October when blue-winged teal arrived on a cool front. These ducks are among the earliest to migrate but other ducks are steadily arriving every day, and they will be looking for a place to feed and rest since they are effectively ahead of the cascading duck season hunt dates.
These early birds are not the main body of migrators that will remain ensconced in the northern states until they become iced over and so inhospitable that they have no choice but to move on. Rather, our November ducks are a piecemeal tapestry of waterfowl that can provide some of the surest duck hunts of the entire season. Many species of ducks are included in the mix including pintails, redheads and black ducks.
A couple of key factors are in play in the Lowcountry, and specifically the formation and 25th Anniversary of the ACE Basin which contributes to the stabilization of wetlands habitat. Ducks Unlimited is a national leader in wetlands conservation and in 2014 they named the ACE Basin as the #13 Great Places to Hunt Waterfowl, citing a mixture of freshwater and brackish marshes. They also cite both private historic rice plantations and public state management areas contributing to one of the most important areas in the south Atlantic Flyway.
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