Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Toast to 2017

In the Field, and on the Hunt in 2017!
Cheers to the year that was 2017, inspiring my 9th annual year end post about activities and stories concerning the Lowcountry Outdoors blog. I remain thankful for the newsprint publications that continue to carry my byline including 14 years with the Charleston Mercury, and seven years with the Colletonian newspaper. Magazine publications include Tideline, Mossy Oak Gamekeepers and Guy Harvey Magazine keep me sharp on subjects ranging from saltwater fishing to farming for wildlife. I stay watchful for Field Notes along the way, and as a Field Expert for Drake Waterfowl my mission of outreach to hunters is continuous.

Travel stories opportunities arise right here at home in the Lowcountry, and across the Southeast. Thanks to all the PR agencies, CVB's, Auto Manufacturers and resort properties that partner with Lowcountry Outdoors! For the 2017 visits click on New Orleans Insectarium - South Florida -
Back On The Saltwater TOO!!
Barnsley Resort - Quail Hollow / Charlotte - Pigeon Forge / Tennessee - Augusta / Georgia - Barnwell State Park

I look forward to working in 2018 towards more blog entries about sporting tales from the outdoors, and I remain ever grateful to those who share their stories during outdoor pursuits. Live well in 2018, and keep one's health and reputation in mind at times!

To view past blog entries from my New Year's Eve Toast click 2016 20152014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Field Notes and Photos - December 2017

Crazy looking caterpillar !
Field Notes is a column I began fourteen 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 September 2017January 2017December 2016 - June 2016 - February 2016December 2015 - October 2015 - September 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    

The great Guinea Round-Up

Honey Bees Raiding the Jelly Feeder

Pine Tree Top that Tomahawked -
Look Out Below!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 Driven Hunt For Deer - Three Shots and a Miss

My three spent shells and a shed antler
The last day of whitetail deer hunting season in South Carolina is January 1, and deer drivers will spend lots of time and energy during the final days, beating the bushes looking for big game. While these driven hunts are traditional, they are still evolving too, such as when regulations change and invasive critters appear. Bringing home some meat for the freezer is always the goal, but simply getting in the field and on the hunt are the true dividends. A New Year’s Day man drive for deer on a Lowcountry plantation is my last shot at deer hunting glory this year, or else I will have to live with the three shots and a miss I recorded in December.
Driven hunts for deer are those that use dogs or horses or manpower (or any combination thereof) to motivate the deer to break cover and get up and run. Standers are prepositioned at locations where they are likely to view any game before taking aim with a shotgun and firing shells loaded with buckshot towards the target. Antler restrictions on bucks and size restrictions on does are longtime constraints, but now one must factor in the new SCDNR buck tags too. Most driven hunts today also include the opportunity to open fire at wild pigs, coyotes and armadillos if they are encountered.
The setting for a many driven hunts involves large-acreage tracts of land with a pack of deer hounds that are under the control of a huntmaster and other drivers. However, it is becoming more common to go on a driven hunt where no dogs are deployed, instead horseback drivers ride through the woods whooping and hollering as they execute a plan to drive a certain block of woods. And of course a man drive for deer can actually be productive with only two drivers, but for covering any large acreage it is helpful to enlist ten standers or more.

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

To view past blog entries about Driven Hunts for Deer click on New Year's Day 2013 - 20122011 

To view past blog entries about Driven Hunts for Deer click on Santee Delta - Middleton Hunt Club - Savannah River Site - Bang Bang Bang Bang

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Gamekeepers / Fall - Planning Tree Plots

Fall 2017 Issue - Cover Image
Many times the most revealing habitat management advice comes from someone who is visiting your property, inadvertently providing a fresh look at current conditions on the ground. In the big picture, the rural landscape in the Southeast is changing, with a distinctive lean towards pine plantations, sometimes including hardwood conversion. Planting a hardwood tree plot makes a commitment toward a long-term annual mast crop, and creates some piece of mind that game animals seeking hardwood shelter won’t pass over your habitat.

Why plant trees when the proverbial low-hanging fruit would be more traditional agricultural plantings? That is a tough question to answer and from my point of view the answer came after years of tweaking management plans. I have shared with Gamekeepers before that a trial and error should play out in whatever you are managing for, as it’s a surefire method to find out what works and what doesn’t work.
Seedlings I started out in planting pots

Having experimented in the past with random hardwood plantings in woodland areas where I thought they would look nice, I found out the hard way that the soil must have include a certain level of moisture content, or else you invite failure. So the first step to identifying a good area for a tree plot might be to work adjacent to or inside a hardwood bottomland area. Many counties offer GIS mapping references online now, and simply clicking on the topography link allows you to view a historical depiction of these areas on your property.
Always advocating for hardwoods!

To join the Mossy Oak Gamekeeper Club and receive a free hat, Biologic samples  and a magazine subscription click here.

To View past blog entries from Mossy Oak Gamekeepers Magazine click Spring 2016 Winter 2016 - Fall 2015 - Summer 2015 - Spring 2015 - Winter 2015 Fall 2014 - Summer 2014 - Spring 2014 - Winter 2013

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 SCDNR Free Hunting Days

Two free hunting days for some S.C. residents
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is charged with enforcing legal hunting statewide, and the state agency made history in 2017 with the implementation of a tagging program for antlered white-tailed deer. Now SCDNR is conducting outreach to recruit hunters, and future hunt license revenues, by offering free hunt licenses and deer tags for two days. Specifically, these free hunt days are only available to residents of South Carolina, and not to out-of-state hunters, and is only available for those S.C. residents who do not already have a valid hunting license.
The free hunting days are for any game species that is in season on December 26 and 27.  The thought process behind the SCDNR free hunting days is that the holiday provides the free time that may allow for hunting newbies to get in the field. Also, this might provide the impetus for a hunting mentor to take a friend or neighbor hunting, but there is no stipulation for experienced hunters to be a part of the free hunting day equation.

Hunting on private lands requires an invitation, but the SCDNR free hunting days also includes the lands they manage known as Wildlife Management Areas or WMA’s. There is real value in the free hunting days when it comes to hunting WMA’s, because WMA access requires extra fees for regular licensed hunters. Allowing this extra hunting access to WMA’s for free is commendable since SCDNR is charged with providing outdoor opportunities on these state-owned lands. Small game in season includes squirrel, rabbit and quail and these might be easy to target on WMA’s.

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

To view past blog entries on S.C. deer hunting in 2017 click on Law Enforcement Hunt - Wounded Warrior Hunt - Outdoor Dream Foundation - Inaugural Buck Tags

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017 Christmas Wish List - Bird Feeders

Cardinal carving out a cylinder feeder
The holiday season calls for family and friends to celebrate religion, and to focus on the Christmas wishes of children. Unless a specific wish list is supplied by someone to use as a shopping guide, then many will opt to give a gift of cash or perhaps even a gift card. While toys and such are still preferred for kids, it can be tougher to figure out a thoughtful gift for adults. Giving the gift of a bird feeder is a small way to increase habitat for wildlife, without breaking the bank, and it also can serve as the type of gift that keeps on giving all year long.

It is easy to locate bird feeders for sale, since they can be found locally at department stores, hardware stores, feed stores and even in antiques stores. The cost of a new bird feeder is not usually out of reach for gift givers, but the wide variety of feeders can sometimes make for a tough decision about which one to buy. The model of birdfeeder chosen will have some impact on the type of birdseed that will go inside to fill it up. Since the birdseed will not last forever, the birdfeeder can simply be enjoyed temporarily, or the new owner can decide to fill it up whenever they want to welcome some feathered friends to their yard.

Don’t forget that the perfect companion to birdseed for attracting backyard birds into view is a simple bird bath. Usually a shallow basin of water works best, and remember to vary its location to find out where it seems most effective. For instance, placement next to a bush that birds can scoot into for cover is always a good idea, and the closer to the ground the better. Birds come to feeders, and to water, during activity cycles that are hard to predict, which makes spotting them more of a treat. Weather changes can also make birds feed voraciously and learning to witness such events can make for memorable encounters, creating the kind of cheerful memories that Christmas gift givers hope to inspire.

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

To view my latest Birding Journal Observations click on September / October 2017