Saturday, January 30, 2016

Looking Ahead to the 2016 Deer Season

S.C. Deer Limits may be nearing reality
With one of the longest deer seasons in America, the South Carolina coastal plain has a right to claim deer hunting season as a way of life. Winter wheat and oats planted in food plots will provide green sustenance for whitetails. Why is over wintering of your deer herd important? If quality bucks are in focus, then biologists have stated that the better shape a buck is in when spring arrives, the better his chance for optimum antler production. Remember that a buck’s rack is affected by three main factors: age, genetics and health.

Seven state-wide public input meetings were held this fall by SCDNR to gauge support for the change to a four-antlered buck limit per hunter per year. A comprehensive summary from those meetings can now be found on the SCDNR website, with a nearly 80-percent majority in favor of the changes. The days of a ‘no limit’ deer season for hunters in South Carolina is likely to become a thing of the past, as we catch up to all other Southeast states that have already implemented deer limits.

What is unsettling to this observer is the number of hunter reports that state a sharp decline in deer numbers during the 2015 season. These sources cite historical harvest reports, up to date trail camera surveys, and a lower frequency of whitetail encounters. While nearly everyone points to the coyote for plundering the deer herd, but managers should also remember that depravation permits also are in wide use. The 2016 General Assembly may well bring historic buck limits to South Carolina, since public support for such changes remains high. 

To read the entire article in the newspaper click on Charleston Mercury.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gray's Reef celebrates 35 years with Film Festival

Black Sea Bass photo by Greg McFail / Gray's Reef NMS
A large live-bottom reef off the coast of Georgia will be celebrated at the 13th Gray’s Reef Ocean Film Festival in Savannah this weekend. It was 35 years ago when President Jimmy Carter designated Gray’s Reef as a National Marine Sanctuary, one of only 14 places with this designation in the United States. Trustees Theatre in Historic Savannah will kick off the two-day film festival with a 3-D film called Secret Ocean by Jean-Michel Cousteau, and then screen a Guy Harvey film at Lucas Theatre on Saturday.

Gray’s Reef is located in nearshore waters, about 16 miles out from Sapelo Island, which is located just South of Tybee Island and a little North of Little St. Simon's Island. The Marine Sanctuary boundaries protect some 22-square miles of ocean, and the diverse habitat that lies 60 to 70-feet below. Gray’s Reef is known as a sandstone reef, and this rocky platform is perfect for ocean life like corals and sponges that are looking for a place to attach and carry on a symbiotic relationship with their host.

The mission statement of Gray’s Reef NationalMarine Sanctuary (NMS) is to identify, protect, conserve and enhance the natural and cultural resources, values and qualities of the sanctuary for current and future generations. The film festival will utilize other subjects found in the ocean as a way to raise awareness for marine culture enthusiasts in the Lowcountry, those living closest to Gray’s Reef. Recreational diving and fishing are allowed at Gray’s reef, but anchoring is against NMS regulations since that would damage the live-bottom.

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

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

To view my blog about the SCDNR Turtle Trawl research program click here.

To view my blog about Juvenile Gag Grouper Ingress research click here.

To view my blog about the 25th Anniversary of the S.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series click here.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 1/26/2016

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West shares that over the last few weeks the weather pattern jumped from rainy and windy conditions to downright cold. So choosing your fishing days, the in-between days when it is sunny and 60-degrees is even more important in January and February. Scott says to clean up your rods and reels, tackle and boats while nasty weather is upon us, but with days getting noticeably longer now keep the prospect of a late afternoon float trip in mind too.
The 12th SC Wahoo Series starts Jan. 29
As for the redfish, they have two priorities, don't get eaten by a hungry dolphin and try to stay warm. Days filled with sunshine and warmer temps are when the redfish feel the most limber, so look for them in schools in dark-colored mudflats. Keep in mind that if you spook one redfish, then you risk spooking the whole school, so cast wide of the school and let them find your offering slowly and in their own time. You might find that a fish caught from the edge of the school doesn't spook them all, since they will move off naturally, while your fish stays out of their way. It's not easy to do, but finding the right strike zone to leave your baits in can allow for multiple hook ups in one spot from one school over a couple of hours.
Scott recommends a combination of baits for a redfish spread including cracked blue crab, cut mullet and mud minnows so that even a finicky cold fish can find something to chew on. He likes a 3-ought Owner circle hook, with a split shot a few inches above the hook to aid in casting distance. The circle hook is designed to catch in the corner of the mouth on the fish, and not inside the mouth by their sensitive gills. Scott's Pro Tip is not to set the hook until the fish has the rod bent over taking line. If you want to switch over to the fly rod, then its OK to cast a little more towards the school since the flies presentation is delicate, then it's sight fishing at it best as you watch for a fish to approach and eat. To view the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Offshore Report: Anglers are gearing up for the 12th annual SC Wahoo Series that will be contested between January 29 through April 17. With windy winter weather an issue for offshore fishing, this tourney allows anglers to pick their days to fish.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Drake / Field Experts - Duck Hunt Filming with Friends and Family

Jeff and Daryl after the hunt - Photo by Daniel Sample
Blake Hodge - Calling The Ducks!
Planning for the TV show Migration Nation to make it to the Carolinas to film with a pair of Drake's Field Experts took some time. Daryl Hodge is the Lower Atlantic Flyway Manager for Darke FE's and Jeff Dennis is the Drake Field Expert for the Lowcountry. They were part of a team that hunted together on January 18, with Arkansas-based freelance field producer Daniel Sample in the blind to film the hunt on his HD video camera. Mr. Sample knows better than most that it takes a little luck to have travel schedules and a successful duck hunt come together as well as this endeavor did!

Close Up of the Color of the Ringneck harvest
Other member of the team this day included Daryl's son Blake Hodge, who is an accomplished duck calling contest winner. As the two-time South Carolina state duck calling champion, he has travelled to Arkansas to compete in the Word Championship contest on multiple occasions. Having a caller like Blake in the blind can be an advantage during any hunt, and we relied on his prowess this day to talk to the ducks. Scott Waggoner of Florence let his Chessie retriever handle all of the dog work and Matt Floyd of Blackwater Outdoors hosted the hunt, and put a few good shots on some ringneck for the Migration Nation footage. And shout out to property manager Michael Floyd for his efforts too.

To view past blog entries about Drake / Field Expert hunts click on September Geese - 2013 - 2012 - 2011

 To view more photos and details from this hunt click on Filming Migration Nation TV

Welcoming media friend Daniel Sample to the Lowcountry

Jasper, Scot and Matt soak up the sun and the good memories

A ringneck turns to avoid the steel shot

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Migration Nation TV films Duck Hunts in the Carolinas

Scot Waggoner, Blake Hodge, Matt Floyd,
Drake Field Expert Daryl Hodge and Producer Daniel Sample
Filming in a duck blind at Blackwater Outdoors
Duck hunting season and the world of outdoor television crossed paths recently in the Lowcountry. Drake Waterfowl Systems out of Mississippi is a popular choice for waterfowl enthusiasts seeking functional camo clothing. Their Migration Nation television show is broadcast nationwide and is currently filming their seventh season. Drake dispatched field producer Daniel Sample to the Carolinas, working with regional co-hosts Daryl and Blake Hodge, to capture the diversity of waterfowling found along the coast.
Outstanding retriever work was caught on camera!
For those not familiar with Drake Camo I can share that they have found a crossover appeal with hunters that is not limited to duck hunters. For example, at the recent Grand American coon dog hunting festival at the Orangeburg Fairgrounds, I’d say at least a quarter of the attendees were wearing Drake camo. Drake co-founder Tate Wood makes customer satisfaction and high-quality garments a priority.

“We went up to Albemarle Sound for the North Carolina hunt,” said Daryl Hodge. “The wind was howling one day and we had to hug the marsh, which didn’t produce much footage. The next day we were able to get into a blind on big water and scratched out some scoters and a tundra swan. After the hunt we shot some video talking about the history of the Outer Banks area.”

A Drake ringneck for Matt Floyd
The MLK holiday of January 18 was the date chosen to film the S.C. hunt at Rimini along Lake Marion. Blackwater Outdoors owner Matt Floyd and his brother and property manager Michael Floyd welcomed our group to come hunt ringneck ducks in their 148-acre flooded impoundment. As a Drake Field Expert in S.C. I was asked to attend the hunt and to speak on camera. And Scot Waggoner and his Chesapeake Bay retriever were on hand to complete the all-important retrieval work for any downed ducks. To view more photos from the hunt click here.

Some might call it a Ringneck Wrecking!
We finished a great hunt with a five-man limit of ringnecks and were out of the pond by 10 a.m. so that other ducks that were still working the area could come in to feed and rest. Back at the trucks we took some time to make photos and share fellowship about the hunt, while Sample filmed more interviews. Duck season finishes up in S.C. on January 31, and the next season of Drake's Migration Nation begins airing in the Fall of 2016, so stay tuned! 

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

To view past blog entries about outdoor filming in the Lowcountry click on Dead Meat TV - Addictive Fishing TV - Reelin' Up The Coast TV - Southern Girls Got Game TV

To view past blog entries for late January duck hunts click 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009

We enjoyed fellowship during filming of Migration Nation