Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Lack of Ducks at Bear Island WMA Draw Hunt

Decoys at dawn on Jan. 26 at Bear Island WMA
The SCDNR lottery system that determines who will hunt ducks on state-owned property is straining to keep up with demand. Many of the hunters gathered at Bear Island WMA on January 26 for a draw hunt reported waiting four years to be selected. It takes consecutive annual payments and applications to navigate the system, and the general hope is that one might have a good chance at shooting some ducks on their hunt. The climactic conditions this winter didn’t seem to favor duck migration to S.C. and the final hunt at Bear Island WMA reveals that migratory ducks are still not present heading into February.

Paddling around looking for ducks, but finding none
Hunting partner Charles Waring back in the marsh
Getting drawn for a public draw hunt is never a guarantee that their will be ducks to shoot, but after years of waterfowl harvest results by SCDNR, these hunts can provide a high percentage chance of success. Readers of the Colletonian can recall that your outdoor correspondent recorded great success at this same hunt place and time four years ago during my last draw hunt. It is humbling to report that this year both my hunt partner and myself were skunked at this hunt. The entire field of hunters at this hunt only harvested a few ducks, a tally that will hurt this season’s waterfowl harvest percentages.

After setting up our decoys, hiding the boat in the grass and setting up a duck blind we watched the dawn break. A huge cloud of blackbirds was first to appear on the sunlit horizon and together they made a wild and raucous sound as they flew by us. Large flocks of glossy ibis began cruising right over our location in the middle of the marsh, along with all manner of wading bird. Then shorebirds like snipe began zipping low to the ground and darting around with purpose. The only thing missing in this early morning tapestry of aerial display was the presence of ducks, and they never materialized.

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

To view past blog entries from Bear Island WMA click on 2014 Duck Hunt - 2012 Youth Waterfowl Hunt - 2012 Droptine Buck - 2010 Birdwatching - 2009 Duck Hunt - 2009 Birdwatching  

To view blog entries from 2018 Waterfowl Workshops click Catfish Farm - Nemours 

Friday, January 25, 2019

2019 SE Wildlife Expo features Jeff Corwin

African Eagle Owl at 2019 SEWE Media Luncheon
The countdown is on for the 2019 edition of the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, better known as SEWE. It’s no accident that this weekend for wildlife lovers also falls on Valentine’s Day weekend, providing a good reason to take your sweetie to SEWE. Television show host Jeff Corwin will anchor the daily live animal shows at the Gaillard Center, providing interaction and education for SEWE patrons. The artwork at SEWE this year returns to its roots with a Southern outdoors theme, including the 2019 featured print depicting a covey of quail flushing in front of a BoykinSpaniel.

For the last few years the S.C. Junior duck stamp contest winners have been announced just before SEWE, and then going on display downtown. New for 2019, this year’s S.C. Junior duck stamp competition will take place later in the calendar year. Also new for 2019 is the YETI coolers wildlife scenery auction, where two of the most popular SEWE artists paint a one-of-a-kind wildlife scene and then auction it off for conservation. Artists Ryan Kirby and Chad Poppleton attend SEWE regularly and both have an active presence on their respective Facebook pages.
Sporting Art at Hall's 5 Faber Street Facility
There are five venues at the SE Wildlife Expo but the most popular is Brittlebank Park along the Ashley River. The exhibitors on site tend to celebrate the sporting lifestyle that Lowcountry outdoorsmen cherish, and to have so many quality vendors in one place is truly rare. Food options, live music, sheep herding and dock dogs all take place at Brittlebank and new for 2019 the SEWE staff is expanding their footprint to include a larger section for family fun. General admission tickets admit you to any of the venues, and they can be purchased for any single day, or a three-day pass option is available.

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

To view past blog entries about the S.C. Junior Duck Stamp competition click 2018 2017 - 20162015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011

To view past blog entries from SEWE Sunday click 2018201720162015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 

To view blog entries from 2018 SEWE click on ACE Awards

To view past blog entries from the SEWE Gala click 20182017 - 2016 - 2015- 2014 - 2013 -  2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Youth Shoots First Dove on Season Finale Hunt

Happy to celebrate 11-year old Axel Gruber's First Dove on Jan.12
Dove hunting season extends into the middle of January, outlasting the South Carolina deer season by a full two weeks. If maintaining a dove field to hunt is a marathon, then the final two weeks of the season is more like a sprint to the finish line. At one season finale hunt an 11-year old youth made a pretty passing shot on a dove, sending the grey bird on its rainbow arc descent to the ground with feathers flying. The youth let out a whoop over this rite of passage, resonating with all the wingshooters in the field.

Capturing the moment with Uncle Charles Waring
My longtime colleague CharlesWaring elected to bring his 11-year old nephew Axel Gruber of Charleston to the dove hunt. Gruber has been with his uncle on a deer drive before, but he had never been to a dove hunt and was eager to attend. The two hunters would share a stand in the field and Waring would mentor everything from how to use hearing protection and rising up to shoot his double-barrel 20-gauge shotgun. A lone dove crossed the field, flying past the powerline at his stand, and Gruber took his shot. The bird folded and finished well away from his position, which is a sign that the bird had some momentum. Julian Clark and myself echoed the youth's boisterous yell because we both had a clear view of the momentous occasion.

Late season doves in the bag
Gruber took advantage of this opportunity by harvesting his first dove on the last day of dove season, and just one month before his next birthday. It’s hard to believe I don’t recall the exact age when I shot my first dove, but I know that I was very young and that I was with my father, who took me dove hunting early and often. With decades of dove hunting notched on my belt now, I know that it takes much  effort to prepare a dove field and that each hunt opportunity is a blessing.

We also had an 80-year old gentleman hunting with us that day. Any outdoor activity in life where people with a 70-year age range can participate together has merit. The older hunter doesn’t take a day in the field for granted, while the younger hunter often taps into a more heady experience of achievement. Traditions like these make Saturday afternoons during dove season extra special, and wingshooters will be counting the months until Labor Day restores them to the sporting calendar.

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

To view past blog entries about dove season opening click 20162014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009