Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 Gamekeepers / Spring - FireKeepers

Gamekeeper / Firekeeper watching a string of fire
Spring 2015 Cover - Gobbler

The use of prescribed fire is the most cost effective landscape scale management tool available, but variables can dictate how and when to apply it. Keeping parts of the forest in the earliest stages of succession can become an addicting art form for some, and these fire keepers can’t wait for the annual chance to burn their woods and watch as the habitat evolves.
Geologists say that studying sand on the beaches of barrier islands is like watching the earth change at fast speed. Normally, for humans, our point of view is very slow to develop when observing nature, such as when studying the growth of a tree. Prescribed fire can also allow humans this fast forward type of view, especially when completing a regular regime of fire on the same areas over time. Old grasses and fuels are burned leaving a blackened landscape, that is quickly reborn with green growth in spring.

Nice layout on Page 42
A controlled burn begins with firebreak vigilance and it doesn’t end when the flames that were walking through the burn block have reached their intended roadblock. Strange things can happen from time to time, so a fire keeper can break for a meal or perhaps a shower to part with any soot that was earned during the day, but he better check back in the woods before leaving the property for the day. Often times a backpack sprayer is the right tool for mopping up hotspots even if it is only to provide piece of mind for the fire keeper that wants to sleep without worry.
Shed found after 2015 prescribed fire
One trick of the trade is to add an ounce of surfactant to the water in the backpack sprayer which makes the fluid stick to the burning wood, especially effective when pine tree sap is aflame. Snag trees still burning in the middle of a burn block don’t warrant much attention, but one burning near to a firebreak with plenty of fuel on the other side can be a deal breaker when it comes to calling it a day. If you have ever walked the firebreaks on a proverbial mission to identify hotspots long after a prescribed burn then you might be a fire keeper.

There is no link available to the entire feature article in the Spring 2015 issue. To join the Mossy Oak Gamekeeper club and receive a hat, Biologic seed samples and magazine subscription click here.

To view past blog entries from Gamekeepers magazine click Winter 2015Fall 2014 - Summer 2014 - Spring 2014 - Winter 2013

To view past blog entries about burning click Prescribed Fire Awareness month - 2015 Prescribed Fire - Prescribed Fire 101

Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 Prescribed Fire in March

A burned out powerline can serve as a firebreak
With March being Prescribed Fire Awareness month I wanted to share about this past winter's burning season. Typically a prescribed fire season can be stretched out during cold weather days in winter, usually during the months of December, January and February. Certainly March can be an acceptable time to burn, but the spring green up can occur by late March and air temperatures can be hitting 80-degrees once again, and prescribed fire begins to transition from a cool season burn into a growing season burn.

Stringing fire via drip torch with equipment truck close by
Wind can be used with a backfire to keep smoke off roads
This is the second straight winter where normal precipitation returned to the Lowcountry after several years in a row of prolonged drought. Land managers have to deal with the conditions on the ground when it comes to prescribed fire and beginning with a 5-inch rain that occurred just before Thanksgiving, the woods almost everywhere remained too wet to burn all winter long. We got our firebreaks plowed before the wet weather, but they stayed too wet to revisit again all winter. One can set out some prescribed fire when it's wet, but it just won't go far when it encounters moist leaf litter and soil conditions. For those committed to a regular regime of controlled fire, this fire season's conditions called for patience while waiting for a good day to burn.

Mature pines with white smoke from cool burn
March did in fact begin to dry out just a bit, and temps did in fact reach the 80's for a couple of three-day warming trends. We accomplished our prescribed fire goals in March by watching the weather like a hawk, and then burning a much as possible during long days in the field. With the ground still moist, we found that a relatively cool fire was still occurring even though the air temperatures were rising. Where possible, we countered those conditions by using the wind to help carry the fire through woodlands that had thicker vegetation and needing something more than a backfire. On these warm days we were always mindful of the bottom of the day's humidity percentage in the afternoon, and when or if a seabreeze would appear and change the direction of the wind.

The practice of using controlled burns greatly reduces the threat of wildlife all year long, and each year will present differing conditions for managers to deal with. However, with experience a controlled burn can be conducted with success despite these variations. It's not always Prescribed Fire 101 out there, it's sometimes a trial and error process, just like other land management endeavors.

To view past blog entries about controlled burning click on Plowing Firebreaks - 2014 Dry Weather Fire Threat - SCDNR Prescribed Fire 2013 Prescribed Fire - 2012 Prescribed Fire 2009 Wildfire - 2009 Prescribed Fire Council

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Prescribed Fire Awareness - Introduction to Controlled Burns

This same burn can be carried out with as few as two people
The month of March is designated as Prescribed Fire Awareness month in the state of S.C. and this blog is supposed to be an introduction to the benefits of controlled burning via graphic illustrations.

To view past blog entries about controlled burning click on 2015 Prescribed Fire - Plowing Firebreaks - 2014 Dry Weather Fire Threat - SCDNR Prescribed Fire 2013 Prescribed Fire - 2012 Prescribed Fire 2009 Wildfire - 2009 Prescribed Fire Council

Wildlife abounds after controlled burning

Green up follows closely after controlled burning in Spring

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Smoke In The 'Boro - Barbecue Cooking Competition

Smokin' Stacks Competition BBQ came from Aiken
Pig Tales BBQ came from Charleston
This was just the second year of the Smoke In The 'Boro barbecue cooking competition. The Coastal Electric Coop's parking lot and Outback Building are the setting for the two-day event. Folks come in with their cooking rigs from all around the state of South Carolina in order to compare their butts! In fact, Friday night's competition was call Anything Butt, which was in reference to that fact that only side dishes are served, since the BBQ must be cooked all night.

Saturday is the real competition with judges looking at ribs, pulled pork and overall presentation. For some folks you just can't ever get enough barbecue, and the $1 servings allowed for a economical chance to visit the 20 or so cooking teams for a taste. This friendly competition to benefit the Colleton Center is run by Jean Harrigal, and her team of judges declared All Smoked Up from Lexington the 2015 Grand Champion. Pig Tales BBQ from Charleston won the Anything Butt contest, All Smoke Up won for Best Ribs, and Carolina Grill and Catering of Varnville smoked the rest in the Butts Contest.

Pioneer Boats in Walterboro sent over their Smoker Team
To view more pics click Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about cooking click on Camp Chef - Dead Meat TV - Charleston Cooks! - Palmetto BBQ and Brew - CCA Convention - Tony Chachere

Up In Smoke came from Rock Hill

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Soggy, Slow Start to Turkey Season; Youth Day March 28

Busted! A Boss Gobbler breaks out of full strut
as his hens head for the woodline.
Turkey hunters in the Lowcountry's Game Zone 6 are looking forward to when the weather has a consistent chance to warm up and dry out. An abundance of grey days and wet weather has kept gobbling activity at a minimum, with too few warm and sunny days mixed in thus far.

A statewide youth turkey hunting day will be observed this March 28, including the 34 counties where turkey season doesn’t begin until April 1. Another option that opens up on the first of April is the public turkey hunting at Wildlife Management Areas across the state. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) estimates that 50,000-hunters will be hunting for wild turkeys this spring, which keeps the pressure on for a turkey population that is faltering in many areas.
SCDNR turkey biologist Charles Ruth shares that the overall outlook for the wild turkey season is only fair. “Reproduction in turkeys has generally been poor to fair for the last decade,” said Ruth. “Last summer the average brood size of 3.9-poults remained relatively consistent, but there were 59-percent of hens that had no brood at the time of the SCDNR summer turkey survey. With the exception of the lower coastal plain, reproduction was poor in most of the state.”
Depiction of Flying Gobbler
“The gobbler to hen ratio is the lowest since the year 2000, and that can affect the quality of any turkey hunt since the hens are extremely available,” said Ruth. “The state’s turkey population is about 35-percent below record levels, and we need better reproduction for several years to get the population back up. Given the right weather and habitat conditions they can bounce back naturally in a short period of time.”

To view this feature article in the newspaper click Colletonian

To view past blog entries from the start of Turkey Season click 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2010 - 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 3/25/2015

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Red Drum images on picnic table artwork
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West shares that with water temps hovering in the 60's there has not been a lot of change in the fishery as of late. Sheepshead are stirring around docks and rock piles in 8 to 15-feet of water using live fiddler crabs and live shrimp. Reds have begun to disperse out of their large winter schools into smaller packs, and can be found hanging out under docks and creek mouths as well as still on the shallow water low tide flats. Live minnows, and Gulp baits rigged on all new JNT jigheads are hard to beat for the redfish. The past week has even seen our first decent trout reports of the season, including some pushing 5-pounds, and the speck bite should only get better from now into May! For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Offshore Report: Scott is screaming like a Penn reel hooked up to a smoker HOO - The Season Is Here!! Strong reports of wahoo, blackfin tuna and even some dolphin have all been coming to the dock in the past week. While the dolphin were found way out deep, like 75-miles offshore, the tuna and wahoo are available in 150 to 250-feet of water in areas known as the deli, SW banks and Edisto banks. Bottom fishing in 60 to 90-feet of water is still producing some quality black sea bass as well as plenty of b-liners, porgies and such.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

2015 Salkehachie Longbeards Banquet

Jamey and Sharon Copeland with Andy and Erica Strickland
This dog (from silent auction) will hunt!
The 2015 calendar day for March 15 was a Sunday, meaning that the 2015 NWTF Salkehatchie Longbeards banquet came about a week after the start of the turkey hunting season, breaking a long streak of many years when the banquet was held prior to opening day. Even without all the build up and anticipation seen in past years, the banquet hall was full and a new record of 150 sponsor members kicked up their spurs in the name of hunting heritage.

Steven Murdaugh gave the invocation before Park Lane Seafood from Columbia served up fried fish, oysters and shrimp. The comfortable temperatures allowed for the fresh seafood smells to sail through the air at the National Guard armory in Walterboro. The silent auction and raffle sales put the jakes, hens and boss toms into a frenzy about how to spend their bucks in the 'Boro. Plenty of turkey hunting lifestyle merchandise went home with Colleton County families.

Auction trips included dove hunting in Argentina, quail hunting in Denmark and hog hunting on the Salkehatchie River swamp. Knife, gun and print of the year items were hotly contested with only those willing to dig deep getting the goods. One dove hunt donated by Rusty Kinard was in memoriam of the longtime auctioneer who had passed away fetched nearly $5000 dollars! The end of the night includes a general raffle giveaway, sponsor drawing and knowing that the tradition of turkey hunting is alive and well in the Lowcountry outdoors.

To view past blog entries from the Salkehatchie Longbeards banquet click 20142013 - 2012 - 2011

Unique boot scrape on live auction

Sponsor members Zeb Hutto and
Ashley Ayer from Broxton Bridge Plantation

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Crawfish Etouffee Recipe by Tony Chachere

Aspiring cook and Chef Tony talk creole cuisine

Tony Chachere seasoning and Crawfish Etouffee
The early start to turkey season in S.C. draws some hunters to the Lowcountry from other states, with one such sportsman also being a renowned chef in Louisiana. Tony Chachere and his five-man cooking team from Chachere’s Creole Seasoning came to Lodge last weekend to cook a crawfish etouffee supper, and then to do some hunting when the season came in on March 15. “This is my second year cooking here, and after 2014 I’m just glad just to be a part of hunting camp again,” said Tony Chacehere.
“My etouffee sauce started simmering about 10 a.m. and I add ingredients all day,” said Chachere. “I bring several pounds of fresh crawfish from back home that has never been frozen, and the crawdads aren’t added until about 5 p.m., an hour before we served the sauce over fried catfish filets. Other ingredients I use are butter, onions, bell peppers, garlic, parsley, green onions and I add crawfish fat to flavor it.”  Here’s hoping that Chachere finds some wild turkey meat to try with his savory sauce, just as we did back in 2012.

To view this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

Getting Shaved Up - Creole Style!
To view past blog entry recipes click wood duck - bacon wrapped doves - venison loin - quail supreme - shrimp creole

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015 Toyota 4Runner To Broxton Bridge and Meadow Wood

Neat sliding rear cargo deck option is good for sportsman
4Runner at the FCA Outdoors event in N.C.
The 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 is a far cry from the very first 4Runner's, some of which are so durable that they are still on the road. The first 4Runner's were a pickup truck with a permanent camper shell, and they were quite capable 4-wheel drive vehicles. There has been a couple of design changes over the years which have kept the 4Runner so popular that it is hard to go for a drive and not see another 4Runner of some kind on the road or parked in a driveway. The 2015 Trail Premium V6 model has 4X4 but not all of the high end options that would come with a Limited model, and I ran the Barcelona Red 4Runner from the swamps of South Carolina to the foothills of North Carolina.

Civil War reenactors consult the map of Sherman's Raid
This 30th Anniversary 4Runner lists at $40,880 and sports a kinetic dynamic suspension system, and a neat sliding rear cargo deck with storage compartment underneath. The EnTune sound system and standard back-up camera make the center console a focus of attention. Lots of storage for drinks, cell phone and nicknacks are another positive of the roomy cabin. This 4X4 sits up high, so it takes getting a leg up just to get inside, and a short person might be challenged by this. No step rail is on this model, but that might be the likely solution for this issue. One of the best things about all 4Runner's have is the power back window, which goes nicely with a power moonroof for cruising along with good airflow.

CSA Post Office replica welcomes visitors the 4Runner
When I visited Broxton Bridge Plantation in Western Colleton County for the 150th Anniversary and Reenactment of the Battle Of Broxton Bridge, the Salkehatchie River was in flood stage. My plans to drive the 4Runner across the swamp had to be scuttled in favor of a drier ride along the edge of the swamp. The 4-wheel drive engaged easily and performed well, and I am grateful to survive this swamp test. The Living History day showed me that civilization has come a long way from frontiersman blazing trail to tourists driving out in 4Runner's to see how the rural countryside measures up against the concrete jungles in our cities.

Next up I loaded my over and under shotgun to head off to Meadow Wood Farm in Monroe, N.C. for a sporting clays shoot with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes(FCA). The Hank Parker Invitational in now in its 4th year and each year cold weather is part of the equation. With a 29-degree start and some light icing of the roads, I had very little to worry about with the heavy 4Runner just riding along fine. The gas milage rating for this vehicle is 18 miles per gallon, and that is about what I got during my ride on the Interstate to and from the event. Very nice SUV and I understand that the Toyota Sequoia is the largest SUV in their fleet.

To view past blog entries about my trusty Toyota Tacoma click 400,000-miles.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 FCA Outdoors - Pheasant Tower Shoot

Hank Parker brings his christian message to attendees
The main draw for most of the attendees of the Hank Parker Invitational at Meadow Wood is the morning pheasant tower shoot. This gives everyone time in the outdoors and a chance to wingshoot at passing pheasants that are released from a 60-foot tower. With a prevailing wind the pheasants tend to go in the same direction once released, which is why a pheasant tower shoot advocates rotating the shooters through the blinds so that everyone can have an equal opportunity.

Hopeful shooters head to the woods
Ryan Succup, Clebe McClary andHutch Eckerson
Assigned to shoot with NFl players Ryan Succup and Hutch Eckerson, the first three stations offered no shooting whatsoever due to the wind affecting the flight of the pheasants. However, that time served to build up the anticipation for when we would rotate through the stations that were getting most of the shooting. These pro footballers also used this time to ramp up the christian trash talking about who was going to shoot the best and who was going to miss a lot - revealing that these two good friends jaw back and forth over just about everything. I can report a couple of misses, but like other wingshooters, they quickly warmed up and began to find their mark.

The FCA celebrities were on the course at the shooting stations to greet the gunners as they rotated through. Retrieving dogs worked to gather any downed pheasant, and some gamebirds simply outflew the shotgun shells and made it into the hardwoods surrounding the pheasant tower shoot grounds. I made a group photo of all the hunters in front of the harvested pheasants, before we all returned to the barn at Meadow Wood for lunch.

2015 Pheasant Tower Shoot group photo
Lunchtime is when Hank Parker delivers his keynote address about why he lends his support to FCA and how important he believes it is to become totally saved by Jesus Christ. He is a compelling speaker and each year the organizer Alan Welch listens to requests to please allow Parker more time to speak so that he can convey his message of christianity and salvation. A quick fundraiser for FCA follows lunch and then everyone is back out into the woods to shoot a round of sporting clays at Meadow Wood's first class facility after a quick safety talk from manager Larry Snyder. Sporting clays are followed by an awards presentation, silent auction wrap up and the always unique football kicking demo.

To view past blog entries from the FCA Outdoors Hank Parker Invitational click 2015 - 2014 Shooting Sports - 2014 - 2013 - 2013 Photos -2012 - 2012 Photos

Shotgun shell ejects with wad heading
towards the pheasant

2015 FCA Outdoors - Hank Parker Invitational

Hank Parker is glad to headline the FCA Outdoors event
2015 marks the 4th Annual Hank Parker Invitational administered by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or FCA. The pheasant tower shoot and sporting clays tournament is held at Meadow Wood in Monroe, North Carolina. I had recently seen Hank Parker at the Bassmaster Classic weigh-in and he was already getting fired up about sharing his message of christianity with the attendees at the FCA event. Cold weather gripped the morning of Friday March 6 in what has become a familiar script.
S.C. FCA Outdoors at Meadow Wood USA

Phil Ford, Bob Bolin, Ryan Succup and FCA's Alan Welch
The bass fishing legend isn't the only celebrity to attend and the event starts with a special VIP night on Thursday for sponsors. A whole hog barbecue supper was served and after dinner a three-person panel of stand out athletes witnessed to the crowd about how religion helped guide their paths. First up was UNC basketball star Phil Ford who drove down from Tobacco Road in order to share how the recent passing of Coach Dean Smith further galvanized his faith. The former major leaguer Bob Bolin told his stories of faith back when he was playing for pennants and praying for slugging percentage, and his gregarious conversation proves that he is still up to bat for God. Current NFl player Ryan Succup brought a close to the discussion talking about changes from USC to Kansas City and now on to the Tennessee Titans. Organizer Alan Welch finished up with a prayer for some of the celebrities that were unable to attend due to illness, and we all hope they will return for the 2016 FCA shoot.

FCA's John Claterbos and Bliss Steele
To view past blog entries from the FCA Outdoors Hank Parker Invitational click 2015 Tower Shoot2014 Shooting Sports - 2014 - 2013 - 2013 Photos - 2012 - 2012 Photos

Saturday, March 14, 2015

2015 Battle Of Broxton Bridge - Reenactment Photos

Close Quarters Sword Skirmish
Union Cavalry Assembles
The Sesquicentennial or 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Broxton Bridge was carried out over two days. Scores of reenactors visited to take their place on the battlefield, with lots more women and children dressing the part just to keep the encampment more realistic. These battle photos come from small skirmishes fought ahead of the main battle, which is the way that I envision much of the encounters during Sherman's March playing out. The confederates certainly knew their swamp and how to defend it, but superior numbers with luxuries such as engineers and artillery helped the Union army win this battle near the end of the Civil War.

To view past blog entries from Battle of Broxton Bridge click on 2015 Living History Day - 2015 Preview -2009

Cavalry Campsite

Artist's Representation on Cross Cut Saw Blade

Don't forget the Saltketchers Regiment!

General with armed guard escort

Well-trained troops holding tight during skirmish

Smoky showdown in the woods - very realistic

Friday, March 13, 2015

2015 Battle Of Broxton Bridge - Living History Day

Frontiersman with coonskin hat,
turkey feather arrow and rattlesnake longbow
Tools found at blacksmith shop
Day One of the Sesquicentennial or 150th Anniversary of the Battle Of Broxton Bridge was dubbed a Living History Day. There was no charge for admission to the plantation grounds and busloads of school kids began arriving at 9 a.m. from four different counties for a field trip back in time. At different learning stations the groups of kids were told about a wide range of subjects from frontier living, the Hunley submarine and everyone's favorite - loud cannons! New this year were three outbuildings that were constructed where Gen. Sherman had burned them down, so in an attempt to preserve history a post office, a blacksmith shop and a chapel are now open for reenactments at Broxton Bridge. Lving History day is also arrival day for many of the reenactors who have to set up their tents, give their horses hay and water, and begin setting the tone for the remainder of the weekend.
Sherman's Raid Map created on a tarp

Working hot stove at blacksmith shop
To view past blog entries about Battle Of Broxton Bridge click 2015 Preview - 2015 Battle2009

Sesquicentennial Cake

 H.S. Hunley traveling exhibit
Confederate States of America - Post Office

New Chapel with chaplain reenactor