Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Toast to 2015

Back in the Saddle in 2015
Cheers to the year that was 2015, and this annual year end post closes out seven years of sharing my affinity for the Lowcountry Outdoors via my blog. I remain thankful for the print publications that continue to carry my byline including a dozen years with the Charleston Mercury and five years with the Colletonian. My regular contributions to magazines like Guy Harvey and GameKeepers keeps me sharp on subjects ranging from saltwater fishing to wildlife habitat management, drawing on my first hand experiences.

Looking deeper into the numbers I can count 223 blog followers at the front of the line to receive my outdoor stories. Social media awareness continues with Google + and FaceBook friends. For those within earshot of I93.7 FM in Walterboro, I am on the air with weekly radio updates about the outdoors too. I work closely with the S.C. Department on Natural Resources, and in 2015 that included contract work to cover the entire Governor's Cup Billfishing Series. In general, the public needs to raise more awareness about protection of our natural resources before the tide of development and population increases become irreversible. I can report that SCDNR is doing a good job, but there is always room for improvement.

My trusty canine companion on Dec. 19, 2015
It was a banner year in 2015 for traveling to other Southeastern states to relay what they may have to offer not only in the realm of traditions like hunting and fishing, but also for lodging, dining and all manner of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. For the best travel stories of 2015 click on Little St. Simon's Island - SouthWest Florida - Alabama Black Belt - N.C. Brunswick Islands - Jensen Beach, Florida

I look forward to working hard in 2016 to translate more experiences into blog entries and sporting tales to share. Live well in 2016, and keep one's health and reputation in mind at all times.

To view past blog entries from my New Year's Eve Toast click  20142013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Outdoor Stories from 2015

Sunlight through Spanish moss
equals scenic splendor
The outdoors blueprint for 2015 in the Lowcountry looked familiar to many, even if the weather served to camouflage our normal seasonal patterns. The year got off to a howling start when Edisto Swamp Squeaky won the Coon hunting contest at the Grand American, and a patriotic deer hunt in the ACE Basin served to bookend the year. The two most prominent storylines involve offshore fishing out of the Marina at Edisto Beach and the historic changes affecting deer season bag limits. 

Readers can recall my field trip with a trapper looking for beavers and coyotes got us started in February, before a trip to the Bassmaster Classic later that month saw S.C. native son Casey Ashley beat the competition up at Lake Hartwell. March saw S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers come to town to discuss agribusiness and programs like Fresh On the Menu and Certified S.C. Grown, which both play a role at local restaurants.

I can’t wait to begin the New Year coverage beginning with the coon dogs returning to the Orangeburg Fairgrounds on January 7 - 9.  And I look forward to another edition of the Southeastern Wildlife Expo coming February 12 - 14.  Sporting events are also in focus in Spring including Charleston Race Week, Volvo Cars Open and the RBC Heritage. Wherever the trail leads, I’ll try to bring the story to any outdoor enthusiasts who want to follow.

To view this feature article in the Colletonian click here.

For the best travel stories of 2015 click on Little St. Simon's Island - SouthWest Florida - Alabama Black Belt - N.C. Brunswick Islands - Jensen Beach, Florida

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

To view the latest Field Notes and Photos click here.

To view the latest Birding Journal Observations click here.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Field Notes and Photos - December 2015

Monarch on milkweed from December 27
Field Notes is a column I began twelve years ago in the Charleston Mercury newspaper, but as the amount of newsprint space in the 'salmon sheets' has diminished, so has the space for my nature photography. Now when I have a fresh batch of observations I share them via Lowcountry Outdoors. 

To view past blog Field Notes click To view past Field Notes click on October 2015September 2015 - August 2015 - July 2015 - June 2015 - February 2105 - October 2014  September 2014 - August 2014 - June 2014 - March 2012 - February 2012 - October 2011 - September 2011   

Commander Salamander!!

Woodland Fungi

White Swan on James Island

Thursday, December 24, 2015

High-Mileage Milestone for my '98 Toyota Tacoma

The big day was December 23, 2015
A Good Truck and a Good Dog from December 2015
While there are all sorts of ways to draw attention in these heady days of social media, the old-fashioned way would be to make some conversation with folks in person. I now understand from experience that mentioning the astounding high-mileage on my Tacoma pick up can easily perk up people's ears. Recently one such remark was made by an Uber driver who was proud of his high mileage SUV - Did you say 400,000-miles or 40,000-miles on your Tacoma? I told him that the 450,000-mile mark was at hand, and he came to realize that I was at a far greater level of accomplishment with my truck than most would imagine.

Besides my always regular and routine maintenance like oil and filter changes, so far I have avoided major issues with this one-owner 1998 Five-speed Four-cylinder truck. Some Tacoma truck owners from similar years have reported major rust issues in the frame which has hurt the longevity of their vehicles, while others have reported very similar high-mileage marks as mine. When it comes to wear and tear maintenance, I can report seeing a bit more activity regarding spark plug and wires, starters, batteries and of course tires in the past two years. Perhaps all of these products are not made like they used to be? Or maybe this Tacoma was just made better than most. Either way these expenses occurring due to high-mileage are becoming a little more expected as I cruise towards the 500K mark.

My Father and I getting our 2015 Christmas Tree
It is ironic that this latest milestone (450K) occurs at Christmas time, since that is roughly the same season when I purchased my 1998 Tacoma. My pick up truck hauled my family's Christmas tree again this year in 2015 without fail. Of course, having a trusty truck means that hauling all sorts of stuff for friends is a possibility, and this month I moved boxes, chairs, ladders, hoses, and even a snow shovel. Most of the time though I am routinely hauling my dog in a kennel box in the back of the truck, plus a cooler and a small container of tools, rope, gloves and other truck accessories.

I won't say that the 450,000-mile mark is just a bump in the proverbial road, but with this truck, who knows?! I am thankful for those who perform maintenance service on this vehicle, and its always fun to see them take some notice of the mileage, and share the positive feeling that only a good old truck can bring. It is said you can't keep a good man down, and I for one believe that to be true, but in this case I could substitute my '98 Tacoma into that saying too.

To view past blog entries for my Trusty Toyota Tacoma click 400,000 miles - 350,000 miles

To view my latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

School is now in Session for Small Game

Small Game Quail Harvest from 12/19/2015
Nothing is better than the extended holiday hunting season for those who pursue small game. An extra morning or afternoon of hunting time can provide the continuity necessary to achieve the desired results.. Not every hunt goes off as planned, and success can be hard to find, but persistence pays off. Rabbit and quail hunters have  a new opportunity to contribute as outdoor reporters to SCDNR about what they are seeing in the field regarding game populations and harvests.

What is wonderful about small game hunting is that our canine companions play such an important role in these hunts. Bird dogs are absolutely essential to the plans for any quail hunt, and beagles are renowned for their durability during a day of rabbit chases. Coon hounds will gladly tree their prey in any type of woodland environment, and squirrel dogs help to push the bushy tails into view for the sharpshooting small game hunter.

The big news in small game this year is the uptick in rabbit populations. SCDNR works with recreational sportsman to record data like number of rabbits jumped, number of rabbits harvested, and the species encountered. The results from last year’s 2014 – 15 rabbit season indicate a moderate increase in rabbits jumped and rabbits harvested. In other good news, rabbit hunters also reported increases in inadvertent flushing of quail and woodcock.

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

To view past blog entries on small game click Rabbit - Dove and Quail - Squirrel - Dead Meat TV