Friday, January 30, 2015

Pine Top Plantation Yields Top Notch Quail Hunt

Puppy 'WeGo' and Sandy Stuhr
When Pine Top Plantation owner Sandy Stuhr told me that his new Brittany Spaniel puppy named WeGo was pointing and backing his other quail dogs I had to see it with my own eyes. We traveled to the property on the edge of the Dorchester and Orangeburg County line, also known as the Dorange area. As a lifetime Lowcountry aficionado, I was previously unaware of this geographic nomenclature, and an keen to learn more about the area.

Sandy Stuhr is well known in Charleston as the man in charge of a funeral home that is a trusted Lowcountry institution. What may not be known is this 79-year old gentleman is an accomplished outdoorsman, and he showed me that he is still nimble enough to take on the quail woods every week. Not only that, Sandy is a crack shot with a 28-gauge shotgun when the bobwhites flush. And when one hard-charging quail flew past our shots and went to the back of the property, Sandy was right there when we trekked towards that bird.

Sandy and his pointers at work in the pines
Great Logo!
This was not my first time hunting with Sandy, but with a few years in between, he impressed me with his Can Do attitude. I was glad to do all the legwork involved in the set up for a release quail hunt, but it was Stuhr who loaded the dogs from the kennel and into the quail wagon without issue. Stuhr directed the pointers to hunt while keeping 6-month old puppy WeGo on a 30-foot string that helped to corral the pup when necessary. I was amazed to see the puppy truly backing other dogs on point and WeGo has a chance to grow up into a fine quail hunting dog.

Humble outdoor writer and Hunt Boss Sandy Stuhr
After the hunt, we enjoyed a meal together and Stuhr told me stories from past days around Charleston and the Lowcountry and he named names and told stories like they had happened yesterday. I don't know if I have command over all the names from my outdoor ramblings, but I want to be like Stuhr in that regard. Furthermore, he proves that quail hunting traditions perhaps can be extended later in life than other pursuits, and anyone could only hope to be striding through the uplands when enjoying their silver-haired years.

To view past blog entries about quail hunting click Edisto Island - Red Fish Brand - FeatherHorn Farm - DeerField Plantation - Buchanan Shoals 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation expands into Lowcounty

Historic range for elk used to cover most of the Lower 48 states

With the exception of Charles Towne Landing there are no elk present in the Lowcountry. However, those who value the conservation of elk and their wildlife habitat are present, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is reaching out to them. An organizational meeting for the Elk Foundation is scheduled for February 2 in Charleston in order to set up a local chapter for big game enthusiasts who rely on public hunting grounds in other states.
Elk make a distinctive call in the wild known as a bugle. This high-pitched and sustained sound is synonymous with the call of the wild, the kind of noise that inspires outdoorsmen to pursue trophy game. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is fairly new to South Carolina but they have been a mainstay out West for 30 years, and they are 200,000-members strong. All conservation groups have come to understand that there is strength in numbers when it comes to natural resources management decisions.
With 550 existing chapters, the RMEF raises funds that are used to protect hunting grounds in a variety of ways. Some off-limits land has been opened to public elk hunting, while other habitat has been conserved through conservation easements. “We appreciate these conservation-minded landowners and our conservation partners who worked with the RMEF to protect and maintain this crucial habitat for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, V.P. of Lands and Conservation at RMEF.
The organizational meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Charleston Marriott located at 170 Lockwood Boulevard, which is across from Brittlebank Park. This hotel recently renovated its meeting facilities and the RMEF will utilize the Opal I ballroom. Those who wish to attend can contact Chris Croy, the regional director for the Carolinas, at his office in Charlotte by calling 704-301-1374. Chapter members will receive a subscription to the RMEF magazine named Bugle.
“We already have some RMEF members in the area,” said Crory. “Our mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat and we helped restore elk herds in 28 states, mostly recently in Virginia,” said Crory. “By becoming an RMEF volunteer at the local level you can share the fun and excitement of putting on a Big Game Banquet.” The RMEF has been an exhibitor at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo since 2010 and has been slowly building a network of supporters who will lead the new chapter.

To view this entire feature article in the newspaper click here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 1/27/2015

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Offshore boat with Fun Fish Wrap from 2010
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West points out that Fish Don't Know How To Read The Calendar! Don't give up on the fish just because it's almost February, the month that is traditionally the heart of winter weather for the Lowcountry. A few warm weather days recently saw good catches of redfish, a few large trout and even a flounder or two?! Larger schools of channel bass are being found on shallow tide flats during sunny conditions, and they are taking live mud minnows and Zman Slim Swimz readily. Sheepshead continue to eat oysters and fiddlers along deep water bridge   pilings and at nearshore artificial reefs. Most impressively is the number of flounder caught in January both in the harbor and at some of the coastal impoundments. Live minnows is Scott's can't fail bait for the flatfish but he won't hesitate to cast a pearl white jerkshad rigged on the new Trout Eye jigheads. Trout are hit and miss but the best best to find some specks is in 8 to 12-feet of water along structure and creek mouths. To learn the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrells' Point.

Offshore Report: Scott shares that bottom fishing reports still continue to comprise the bulk of offshore trips now. Sea bass and triggerfish are being caught in 65 to 90-feet of water using squid and vertical jigs. The trolling report is that wahoo and amberjack are holding tight right along the ledge in 140 to 250-feet of water.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

SEWE awards 2015 S.C. Jr. Duck Stamp Winner

Samantha Castiller, age 13, painted the image judged to be the
2015 Best of Show, and she attends Thomas Cairo Middle School
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service runs the federal duck stamp program and the Junior duck stamp program each year to choose the conservation image that will help define each waterfowling season. The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) and marketing director Mary Roberts are now heading up the South Carolina portion of the national Junior Duck Stamp competition! SCDNR remains a partner in this program, but the Charleston-based SEWE will now administer the contest and provide for all the winners to be displayed in in a special exhibit during February at the Wildlife Expo. Students from grades K - 12 can submit entries into four different age class categories. The S.C. 'Best of Show' will then be entered into the federal Junior Duck Stamp final competition. Art teachers at schools are an important part of this type program and Lowcountry Outdoors applauds the Junior Duck Stamp competition as a way to educate youths about our natural resources, and to better prepare them for the inspiration that one naturally derives from interacting with nature. For ALL of the 2015 contest winners on the SEWE website click here.

To view past blog entries from the S.C. Jr. Duck Stamp Competition click 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Guy Harvey Magazine - Get On The Fish (Marine Electronics)

NICE Marine Electronics header - page 74!

Whether shopping for a big boat like a 57-foot sportfisher or a smaller run and gun 31-footer, it’s likely that one marine electronic device can handle your needs. The only limitations when it comes to purchasing electronics seem to be your imagination and the budget. A GPS and Fishfinder combo is a good starting point and other pieces can be added over time as needs arise for a more complete electronic array.
Diving in to the world of marine electronics reveals that while the units may offer a wide range from portable handheld devices to large touch screen consoles, buyers can reduce some clutter by first choosing a price range. This decision serves to cluster the name brand units together, keeping you fishing in the right school size for your needs, and not being tempted by what else is swimming around at the time.
Capt. Pete Loy checks his electronics to Get On The Fish!
Did you know that the world of marine electronics is changing all the time? It’s not too far fetched to say that console layouts and boat design are being driven by innovation, like wireless transducers. Older units are discontinued all the time, and newer designs are popping up just as fast as you can say software update, especially during boat show season. In general, most anglers prefer to chose one brand name and stick to it.
Capt Dale Lackey of Charleston, S.C. prefers Garmin electronics and shares that he has installed a lot of their units over time, and they have proven to be very reliable. 

While you can get a touchscreen unit at a fairly affordable price these days, the scuttlebutt is to test drive one before purchasing. Touch screens have their pluses but some can be heat sensitive, which is a detractor for smaller open boats. Some anglers just need to stay with traditional components that have switches and dials so that their fingertip dexterity can give them more feel when at the helm. 

To view past blog entries from Guy Harvey Magazine click on 2014 Boone Hall Oyster Roast - Kite Fishing - Dolphin Tagging.

To view past blog entries about Guy Harvey click S.C. Lottery - 2012 Memorial Day Visit - World Headquarters Visit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

ACE Basin: 2015 Duck Season Finale

Buck Howell and Bramblett Bradham with a limit of gadwall ducks

The January 25 ending for duck season is drawing very near so hunters will fire their final volleys this weekend at these migratory waterfowl. A small band of veteran hunters gathered recently for a late January hunt in the ACE Basin, and these wingshooters made their aim count. While the season may end soon, and similar hunt conditions with good numbers of waterfowl may not occur again until next January, the memories from this hunt and from similar efforts by other waterfowlers will endure.
Gadwall duck, also called a grey duck
It’s not really a secret that ducks are looking for something to eat when they migrate South for the winter, and they have instincts that evolve over time about where to find food. Coastal South Carolina and the Lowcountry in particular has always been a part of that equation with a nice mix of saltwater, brackish and freshwater habitat. But in order to concentrate the ducks for the sake of hunting, managers know that planting a crop in an impoundment that can be flooded is usually a recipe for success.

Duck Hunting Success = Right Place, Right Time!
Back in January of 2014 I attended a late January lottery hunt on Bear Island WMA where the ice and cold conditions had the pintails right where we wanted, making for a great hunt memory. This January’s hunt was on a private pond in the ACE Basin and lots of gadwall ducks were in the area. It wasn’t particulary cold, but it had been a very dreary few days with no sunshine and some rain, drizzle and fog along the way. In other words, it was quite ducky weather!
Old School waterfowler

Everyone finishes up duck season with some sort of finale, and these hunts create something intangible to be savored until next January when waterfowlers get another chance to hunt late season ducks.

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Edisto Island Quail Hunt - January 2015

Two quail hunters share camaraderie in the field

When sportsmen go afield with bird dogs they honor both the tradition of quail hunting and those that went hunting before them. January is always the middle section of quail season each year, bringing a time to embrace each and every day when the weather allows an upland hunt. A recent return to rural parts of Edisto Island brought three hunters together on an afternoon where one newbie, the hunt host and I walked behind a brace of bird dogs.

Mark Steedley approaches his two pointers with confidence
Mark Steedley keeps his bird dogs ready during winter for quail season, and he enjoys time spent working them for quail, the same as many of us. I joined Steedley in an effort to share a quail hunting experience with Julie Gyselinck from Explore Edisto. This newbie lady hunter was armed with a borrowed 20-gauge double-barrel shotgun for the day, and while her shots never did connect with a flushing quail, they did serve to connect her with an in-depth appreciation for seeing the dog’s work.  

Seborn Rogers served as Gamekeeper on this hunt
At the beginning of the hunt, guide Seborn Rogers demonstrated to Gyselinck how to load and handle the firearm. Firing off some test shots into the air, she quickly learned to brace against the moderate kick from the shotgun, and to insert some earplugs too. The first point of the day came from a setter named Cha-Cha and the bird flew to my side of the hunt formation. Despite Cha-cha banging into my leg when she bounded after the flushing quail, I was able to steady my base and connect on a shot at a fleeing target.

Explore Edisto magazine was on assignment
The day ended with a pointer named Trap standing over some birds, and as I approached I recalled that I had hunted over Trap three years prior and I admired that he was still working hard in the field. Going over the same ground with a good friend and his trusty canine only brings a more resolute appreciation for the sport. Three birds flushed and two of them came to my side of the hunt formation. The first shot from my twenty-gauge double barrel went through an improved cylinder choke and was on the mark, causing the bird to fall to the earth. The second shot went through a modified choke designed for longer shots, and while striking the quail, it fell a good ways away. When Trap charged over and to find that quail and then retrieve it I was grateful for his assistance to complete a rare double that ended our day on a high note.

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

To view past blog entries from Edisto quail hunting click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 1/13/2015

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
I am now in a DOA ad in Europe - Photo from 2012 trip
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West shares that while the calendar may say that we are in the heart of winter, the fishing is more indicative of a late fall bite! It's mid-January but the trout are chomping like its still November. DOA shrimp deadly combo with a popping cork is always a good option. Or go with a Zman Slim Swimz or a Glass Minnow jerk shad fished in 5 to 10-feet of water along creek mouths, shell rakes, and rock piles. Specks in the 14 to 18-inch range are very common with gator trout being reported only every so often. Redfish continue to be found in large schools on shallow low tide flats, and mud minnows or Gulp shrimp can both be a productive option. Sheepshead are eating up fiddler crabs at local bridge pilings and at the jetties, and are always reliable when other species seem to be lethargic due to winter weather. For the latest seminar information visit the NEW website at Haddrell's Point.

Offshore Report: Scott says that a handful of nice calm days in the past stretch has led to some outstanding bottom fishing reports, including those aboard the Prowess that scored big time on the triggerfish with one approaching eight-pounds. Large sea bass continue to be found in 60 to 90-feet of water. Winter trolling along the ledge still brings in a few wahoo and blackfin tuna can be found in 150 to 250-feet of water. Fuel prices continue to drop and offshore anglers are starting to get new line on all reels in order to be ready for any breaks in the weather.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cedar Bayou Fish Pass in Texas is Open Again

Cedar Bayou Fish Pass is now open after restoration in 2014 - photo By Lisa Laskowski

On the Gulf of Mexico the lingo can be just a little different, and what some on the East coast may call an inlet, the Texans call a bayou. Furthermore, Cedar Bayou separates Matagorda Island and San Jose Island just north of Rockport, but it isn’t open for boats to navigate. Cedar Bayou is what they call a fish pass, and after being closed for more than two decades by siltation, it was reopened in September as a water exchange between the Gulf and Mesquite Bay.
It was back in 1979 during an oil spill in the Gulf that decision makers decided to close off Cedar Bayou via heavy machinery moving earth and sand, to avoid contamination of the entire inland estuary. The strategy worked, but over time the fish pass stayed silted in and the flush of water from the Gulf no longer occurred there. Texas is CCA country, and the Coastal Conservation Association represents recreational anglers, and they were keen to take this project on in the name of conservation.
A healthy Texas redfish caught and released
Researchers from the Harte Research Institute for the Gulf of Mexico began conducting biological surveys in the area and noticed that the ecosystem was healthy, but perhaps not firing on all cylinders. The smallest and most delicate parts for the ecosystem were no longer present without any saltwater flow from the Gulf. September 25, 2014 is the date that Cedar Bayou was reopened and amazingly by October 14 researchers found that red drum larvae were newly present in the area.
January 2014 Issue
The project cost 9.4-million dollars to implement and took years of commitment by Aransas County. Texas Parks and Wildlife contributed a significant sum to the total cost and CCA Texas put in 1.6-million of the total. Now that Cedar Bayou is open the county pledges to keep the pass flowing via maintenance dredging as warranted. After all, it’s not just about the fish since the entire ecosystem will benefit including blue crabs, which are an interesting part of the food chain.
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) runs along the coast and an Endangered Species of wading bird seeks this area out as a wintering ground. Blue crabs are the preferred food of Whooping Cranes and they migrate down to Aransas to stay warm and to eat well. While there is fishing in Aransas NWR, the birdwatching may be better. While fishing near Cedar Bayou via airboat, I had trouble deciding whether to concentrate on the fishing or on my birding, and I can't wait to return in 2015 to continue that debate.

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

To view past blog entries about CCA working with Guy Harvey click here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 Grand American Coon Hunt

Jacket Logo for the 50th Grand American

Sometimes when a good thing gets going such as the Grand American did 50 years ago, it’s like a train headed down the tracks that can only lead to more outdoors enjoyment. The NewYear got off to a grand start for raccoon lovers with a dinner on January 1 to celebrate the Golden Anniversary, followed by two days of festivities at the Orangeburg Fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday. After two nights of coon hunting it was ‘Edisto Swamp Squeaky’ of S.C. that took home the title of 2015 Overall Winner.

Edisto Swamp Squeaky - 2015 Champion!
While New Year’s Day started with near freezing temperatures, by the coon hunt on Saturday night it was back into the 60’s with heavy clouds and some rain. Of course the hunt must go on no matter the conditions, and while all hunters endure the elements from time to time, coon hunters are the ones who do it with the most regularity. The hunt is always challenging since it takes place in the darkness of night and in remote woodlands, but can also be complicated by water holes, briar thickets and other impediments which the raccoon will be sure to use in their attempt to escape.
David McKee is President of S.C. Coon Hunters
with Lee Currens
Coon Hounds are Very Real Canines
No raccoons are harvested at the Grand American, they are only chased and treed so that the field judges can grade the coon hounds on their abilities. Once the judge has made his decisions the coon hounds are led away and the raccoon is left to pursue their own nocturnal habits. After the Saturday night hunt, the winners returned to the fairgrounds for an awards ceremony in the pre-dawn hours, run by American Cooner magazine in conjunction with the United Kennel Club (UKC).

Golden Anniversary Artwork
The Grand American also awards winners for Bench Shows and Treeing Contests and for all the hunt results visit the Internet at For those that attended this year’s event they saw countless coon dogs and all the necessary hunting gear up for sale. The demand for all the hounds and the accessories is driven by the desire to come out on top one day at an event like the Grand American, and it’s great that the outdoors can provide such positive drive for those who are inspired by the outdoors.

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

To view past blog entries about the Grand American click 2014 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010

To view the 50th Anniversary of Saluda (N.C.) Coon Dog Days click here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Birding Journal Observations - November / December 2014

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker sneaks up to my Suet Feeder
The final two months of 2014 closely resembled the previous year with some bitter cold days and wetter than average conditions. Just before Thanksgiving parts of the Lowcountry set a new low record temperature with 22-degrees for two straight nights, which quickly killed fall foliage causing it to fall to the ground in short order. Just after the cold a five-day stretch of rain with around 5-inches of rain set the stage for another wet winter in the woodlands.

So what do the climactic observations have to do with birding? Well these subtle natural factors have an affect on avian life in terms of food production and suitable habitats. In 2013 the conditions led to a brown-headed nuthatch visiting my feeders for the first time ever, but no such luck thus far in 2014. Of course different types of feed attract different types of birds and peanuts and suet seem to really be the best birding feeders to have up during winter.

Notable observations include pine warbler on Nov. 13, and on Nov. 15 the first goldfinch, yellow-rumped warbler and ruby-crowned kinglet were recorded. Other observations include white-throated sparrow, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, dove, chipping sparrow, cardinal, downy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, kingfisher, great blue heron, great egret, Canada goose, red-bellied woodpecker, Carolina wren, mockingbird, merganser, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Carolina chickadee, brown thrasher and towhee.

To view more 2014 Birding Journal Observations click here.

To view past Birding Journal Observations for Nov. / Dec. click on 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Begin Crafting Your 2015 Outdoor Journal

Good friends share stories by the fire after a day spent outdoors    

Each and every year the outdoorsmen of the Lowcountry get to write a new chapter in their sporting journal. Some factors that frame our outdoor pursuits each calendar year are related to work and family commitments, but setting some goals can help to make the most of any free time. Success can come in many forms and whether hunting or fishing, sometimes the outdoor experience can outweigh any harvest.
Think the last day of deer season after the New Year’s Day hunt means that your pursuit of a trophy buck will be put on hold. Not a chance, because as many dedicated deer hunters know, scouting can often provide the intelligence necessary to cross paths with a mature buck. Any time after the New Year, bucks begin to cast their antlers, and so sportsmen should be out hunting for shed antlers.

Finding a shed antler equates to turning up an important clue regarding the mysterious whereabouts of a buck. A great place to look for sheds is in food plots that are planted with winter crops, the kind of green growth that attracts white-tailed deer well after corn piles are left unattended. Once the pressure of hunting season shuts off on January 2, don’t be surprised if deer return to old haunts and become more visible. The only question is if these clues are seen by a hunter with an agenda in 2015.

There certainly will be plenty of fishing options in the New Year for those more inclined to get on the water and wet a line. The up and down rollercoaster of winter weather these days means that there will always be sunny and warm days to go saltwater fishing. Anglers can study the weather before heading out to target spotted seatrout or sheepshead, and a redfish can be rounded up 365 days a year.

This outdoor enthusiast has immediate plans to spend time behind a brace of pointing dogs in search of bobwhite quail. Watching the weather for the coldest possible conditions will be a part of the routine for January and February. Small game hunting for squirrels and rabbits will always be an option when the opportunity arises. In each of these endeavors, the wild game meat will provide sustenance against the chill of winter.

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 New Year's Day Driven Hunt for Deer

Big group and BIG success on New Year's Day
The annual New Year's Day man drive is a time-honored tradition to close out one deer season, and to usher in the next one. Arriving in Jasper County at 8 a.m. a group of 25 hunters were invited to attend a safety meeting about how the hunt would be conducted. About five man drivers were chosen to walk through the woodlands and to hoot and holler in hopes of stirring up the deer, while the rest of the group would take positions as standers.

Deer standers are ready to deploy into the woods
The first drive of the morning started off with multiple gunshots all around the perimeter of the swamp that was surrounded by hopeful hunters. Of particular note was hunt host Spencer Clark who stopped two running does during this drive, but he had forgotten his shotgun shells in the early morning hours. Lucky for him I was on hand with some extra double-ought buckshot and Clark borrowed five shotshells. He proceeded to use all of my shells while dispatching the deer, so while I saw no deer to shoot at, at least my ammo got in on the action.

Brandon Twitty and Spencer Clark - first drive
One man driver was able to harvest a young buck, and two other standers were able to harvest one doe apiece, making a total of five deer taken on the first drive. The second drive of the morning yielded less shooting, which translated into two more does harvested. Many people saw multiple deer, and some of them shot at and missed their targets. Those of us who saw nothing remarked on what a beautiful day it was with a 30-degree morning and clear sunny skies. This type of hunt takes a group effort so any success is attributable to everyone on the hunt. On this day, the 2015 deer season got off to a great start!
Danielle Worthen visits the Lowcountry

To view past blog entries from New Year's Day click on 2013 - Doe with foundering - 2011 - 2009

To view past blog entries about man drives click on Santee Delta - ACE Basin -