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Phillip Gentry of Upstate Outdoors

Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on WORD 106.3 FM. Contact Gentry at pgentry@entercom.com.


Suburban Upland Game Hunting

Before Big Game hunting of whitetail deer and Eastern wild turkey became the flagship species for hunters in the southeastern United States, bobwhite quail was king. Back in the days when boys used to roll up into the high school parking lot with shotguns perched in gun racks in the back window of the truck (and no one minded), it was common for the boys to stop along the way to school and kick up a covey of quail before heading to class.

Back in those days, the "waste lands" that made the area much more rural consisted of cut over fields and farm lands. Those areas were perfect habitat for rearing quail, rabbits and other small game species.

Unfortunately, changes in land use from farming to timber management and urban sprawl have also changed the landscape for the hunter. The fields and farms that once held abundant quail and other small game are too few and far between and the small game animals were unable to adapt to the changing landscape the way deer and turkey have.

But does that mean that upland game hunting is a thing of the past? The answer is a solid no.

What has replaced the old days of quail hunting on the lands of your relatives and neighbors where permission was never needed is a more organized and more planned version of upland game bird hunting. It's called a hunting preserve.

Hunting preserves began showing up in the Piedmont and midland areas of South Carolina when it became abundantly clear that the bobwhite quail was fighting a losing battle for habitat. A typical preserve may encompass 500 – 10,000 acres of land and provides guided hunts for a fee or required membership to the preserve.

Wildlife habitats on these preserves are well maintained but not to the point that they can sustain the number of birds hunted. The solution is to use pen raised birds, either purchased form upland bird rearing facilities or reared on site. Prior to the hunt, a pre-designated number of birds are released or "planted" in the area to be hunted.

As upland birds prefer to hide in cover rather than fly off as other birds may do, the game remains in the planted vicinity when the hunting party returns to the area. Pointing and retrieving dogs are used, just as in the old days of plantation hunting, to point, flush and retrieve shot birds.

"I have a lot of customers who have hunted quail and other upland game birds in Texas and claim the hunting here is every bit as good and as challenging as what they get out West without having to walk 10 miles to get it," said Mike Johnson, general manager of The Clinton House in Clinton.

One of the benefits of this type hunting scenario is that not only can South Carolina hunters hunt quail in the same surroundings and environment of days gone by, but additional game birds not native to the area such as pheasant, an immigrant game bird originally from China, and chukar, a Eurasian partridge, can also be hunted.

The typical hunt is a combination of walking through mowed field lands behind pointing dogs working coveys of quail or hunting in stands of thinned pines ferreting out single birds that have broken from the field covey.

Johnson also addresses the most common criticism that he and his guide staff hear about hunting release birds – that they don't flush and fly as well or don't "act" like wild birds because they are pen raised.

"I'd invite you to come see for yourself," said Johnson. "If a hunting party comes out here and kills 100% of the birds released on the day of the hunt, I will pay for their hunt."

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Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. The show can also be streamed online at 1063WORD.com Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Upland game hunting for quail, pheasant, and chukar is still alive and well on a number of hunting preserves across the state. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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Patterning Fish During A Mild Winter

When Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog weather forecaster, made his prognostication of six more weeks of winter by seeing his shadow, many anglers had trouble begrudging him his prediction. After all, the winter of 2016 – 2017 has to date, meant regular days in the 60's and 70's along with mild overnight temperatures. Even the big snow event during January was short lived with only a few inches of snow followed by 72 degree temperatures a week later.

If anglers want to lament the weather, it's because fish of all varieties have been hard to pattern because of the constant spring like conditions. Predictable winter patterns that usually find fish holding deep and tight to cover have been replaced with patterns ranging anywhere from fish still hanging around their winter haunts to hugging the shoreline as if the spawn was in full swing.

This week-end, professional bass anglers from around the country converge on Lake Cherokee in northeastern Tennessee to kick off the 2017 BASS Elite Tour. Cherokee has been compared to a combination of Lakes Hartwell, Keowee, and Jocassee in it's makeup of clear, often deep water and enough back water creeks and tributaries to make it interesting. The forecast is typical of the mild winter experienced here in the Upstate. Anglers looking for fish in deep water are likely to be disappointed, while at the same time no consistent pattern for shallow water fishing exists.

"I have a lot of experience on Cherokee," said Brandon Card of Knoxville, an Elite pro angler "But we've never had a winter this crazy, just in terms of how mild it's been. I think we've just got to expect the unexpected in this one. Fish are going to be so scattered. They'll be all over the place."

When mild winter temps make spring-like conditions for a couple of days followed by colder, and often windy conditions the next, anglers can be left scratching their heads. The reason is that fish often stay in a state of transition between deep water areas and shallow flats.

The sunfish family makes up the majority of freshwater fish such as black, bass, crappie, and bream, but even more cold water tolerant species like trout, blue catfish, and striped bass may also be found anywhere in the water column when Mother Nature become fickle.

Baitfish movements are, like most times of the year, especially important to this transition as fish will simply follow food sources when survival doesn't top the list.

The caveat is that less than normal rainfall conditions combined with the winter season when algae blooms are non-existent tend to make water extremely clear. Fish may visit the shallows to bask in warmer water that's heated from sunshine absorbed by dark muddy bottoms, but they can be extremely spooky. The best advice is to make long casts of small bait presentations and take extra precautions not to alert fish to your presence.

Local striped bass guide Mack Farr advised anglers not to overlook extremely shallow water when fishing for winter stripers.

"Don't underestimate how shallow a striper will go in these conditions," said Farr. "We frequently find them laying up on mud flats in water barely deep enough to cover their backs. This makes them nearly invisible to baitfish that push up shallow and then become an easy meal."

Crappie tournament angler Rod Wall of Nintey Six said he has experienced similar situations with crappie, except the fish hold shallow over deep water.

"The sun warms up the very top layer and crappie will just lay around sunning," said Wall. "You never see them on the sonar because they spook when the boat comes over head. The best way to get them to bite is troll a jig or something extremely light way back behind the boat."

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Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week's guest on the show will be Larry Ross, speaking about primitive/survival skills. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Mild winter weather typically puts fish in shallow water where they can be extremely spooky, but still readily bite. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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No Shortage of Hunting Opportunities During "Off-Season"

Many Upstate hunters lament the months of January, February, and March as the “off-season” of hunting after deer season has ended on January 1. The winter duck season does assist until January 29, still leaving a long seven week hiatus until turkey season opens on March 20 on private lands across the state.

According to Michael Hook, Small Game Project Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, hunters with this mentality are missing out on an abundance of small game hunting opportunities over the next two months.

“In the mountain areas, we have a rare and challenging opportunity for some grouse hunting as well as other opportunities for quail, rabbits, squirrel and a host of other small game throughout the Upstate and Game Zone 2,” said Hook.

Many hunters enjoy taking to the woods during this time of year as a chance to post-scout the previous deer season and do some pre-scouting for the Upcoming turkey season. Our Upstate woods have no shortage of squirrels which are highly under-utilized by area hunters, especially on public Wildlife Management Areas.

Unlike our squirrel populations, Hook said that both rabbit and quail populations across the state had been reduced from the historic levels of the days of our grandfathers hunting experience by a reduction in available habitat. Fortunately, he and his department have been heavily involved in the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative, a movement aimed at educating and assisting landowners and managers in recovering suitable habitat for these small game animals by altering land use practices.

“One of the most beneficial things that landowners can do this time of year is replace their habit of what we call recreational mowing,” said Hook. “Owners see a ditch bank grown up and they like to go through and mow it down for that clean look. What I suggest is changing over and do some winter discing – hook up the disc harrows to the tractor and turn over old growth which stimulates new tender growth that is more beneficial to all wildlife.”

Another small game opportunity is trapping. Most hunters and landowners are familiar with setting and working traplines to reduce predator populations of coyotes and raccoons, but additional recreational opportunities exist for trapping other furbearers like bobcat, otter, mink, muskrat, skunk and weasel.

In addition to the grouse hunting opportunity mentioned, other small game bird species that are in season during this time also includes crow hunting.

Crow hunting has gained a respectable following from a number of die-hard hunters who equate hunting the large black birds to inland duck hunting. The two most popular tactics are a run-and-gun approach where hunters routinely monitor large areas for passing flocks of crows and call to them to get them stirred up. Creating such a loud, boisterous spectacle has the potential for drawing in crows from a radius of greater than a mile as the birds flock to a fight.

Crow hunting is also accomplished by setting up a “blind” near a food source and calling in and shooting the birds with the aide of decoys – hence it’s comparison to inland duck hunting.

One of Hook’s personal favorites is grouse hunting, which is open only in Game Zone 1, an area that comprises the northern section of Greenville, Pickens, and Oconee Counties. Hook stated the terrain and the availability of birds make it a challenging past time, but like most sporting activities, has it’s rewards.

“You have to reset your expectation level when it comes to this kind of bird hunting,” he said. “Flushing a couple and getting a shot is a good day. The terrain is rugged and these birds are especially wary. Bagging one is a real accomplishment.”

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, the show will be broadcast live from the Upstate SC Boat Show held at the TD Convention Center in Greenville.  Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Hunters needn’t lament the “offseason” time between deer and turkey seasons. Plenty of opportunities for small game hunting exist in the Upstate to tide sportsmen over. Photo by Phillip Gentry.   

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State House Making Attempts At Regulating Deer Dog Hunting

Legislation would only affect Game Zones 3 and 4 in the Low Country

A little over a year ago, this column reported an incident that occurred in Horry County where the carcass of a hunting dog was discovered hanging on the entrance gate of a hunting club with a handwritten sign indicating the dog had been found trespassing. The incident made the rounds on social media and was used to illustrate growing tensions between deer hunters.

The incident underscores a growing controversy between two segments of deer hunters – those who “dog hunt” using coordinated efforts between groups of deer hunters and packs of dogs to drive deer toward the hunters, and another group of deer hunters who “still hunt” individually from elevated stands and attempt to pattern the deer by hunting in proximity to where the deer travel on it’s own accord.

At issue is that during dog drives, still hunting land or land otherwise not designated for deer hunting at all, is adjacent to land that is being driven by the dogs. With few of these areas typically bordered by little more than a barbwire fence, if at all, dogs are known to trespass on adjacent lands in search of or when pursuing deer.

While hunting with dogs is only legal in the lower part of the state, those areas that comprise Game Zones 3 and 4, many Upstate deer hunters have an interest in the controversy as Upstate hunters frequently own or lease land in those areas or travel down to hunt during the early deer season before the Upstate County seasons open.

Hunting deer with dogs is a long standing traditional rite of hunting that involves much camaraderie and history dating back to colonial times when deer were hunted on old southern plantations. Since that time, the traditions and tactics of deer hunting have swayed over to still hunting, a more individualistic method for hunting deer. Part of the decline of dog deer hunting is that large tracts of a land, several hundred or even thousand acres are required to hunt deer in this fashion while still hunting make more efficient use of land. A 10 acre tract of land can be successfully still hunted without intruding on adjacent properties.

In response to the growing issue, State Representative Robert L Ridgeway III of Clarendon County has introduced a bill that would place stricter requirements on identifying dogs that are employed in deer dog hunting and governing the handling of those dogs that are found trespassing. 

The bill, H 3272, is in the very early stages of legislation, having been pre-filed in mid-December and referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs after it’s introduction and first reading.  The tenants of the bill provide rights and regulations on both sides of the deer dog issue.

Of particular interest is that a legally identifiable deer dog found trespassing shall be restrained and returned to the owner who pays $50 to the person restraining the dog.  Dog owners caught entering land without permission to retrieve are subject to fines starting at $100 per occurrence. The bill also states that hunting deer with dogs would be unlawful on land that is less than 1,000 contiguous acres or surrounded by a fence capable of enclosing the dogs. 

On the opposing side, deer dog hunters are protected in having their dogs restrained in a humane manner and returned to them within 24 hours so long as the dogs have identifiable owner information attached. 

Regardless of the outcome of this bill or others to follow, it appears that the southern, traditional, future of deer hunting is in for some changes.

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Scott Whitaker, Executive Director for South Carolina – Coastal Conservation Association.  Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Ice Fishing Southern Style

Despite anyone’s lingering feelings over the extreme cold temperatures suffered last week-end during what meteorologist called “Winter Storm Helena”, our local lakes and reservoirs around the Upstate of South Carolina rarely freeze over and if they do, it’s never to the extent that anglers would feel safe driving automobiles out onto the ice and setting up ice fishing shacks.

However, here in South Carolina, a local fishing lure manufacturer hit upon a crazy idea taken from the same tactics used by ice fishermen up North and uses it to load the ice box with a fish common to both locales – crappie. 

“Crappie are as dormant as they’ll be at any time during the year when it gets this cold, but they never completely shut down. That’s why the ice fisherman up North catch them through the ice” explained Mundy, who owns Fish Stalker Lures, a fishing lure company he started in his garage in Laurens County (www.fishstalker.com). “The only thing they’ll eat is something that’s right in their face. They won’t chase it and it has to be small.”

Mundy explained that he stumbled on the pattern a few years back when doing some field research for a soft plastic bait that he was considering marketing. He wanted a small bait that could be used “finesse style” similar to methods bass anglers used when fishing in the winter. The first place he thought to look for crappie in the winter was in and around concrete bridge pilings, a location that he had read attracted crappie when the weather turned cold because of the slow release of heat from the concrete. In taking a closer look he also found that these locations also most always had other structure under them that crappie favored—brush piles, logs and other woody debris.

“I’ll start looking for crappie to move to the deepest water they can find under concrete bridges starting in mid December. This starts to happen when overnight low temperatures drop into the 30’s. Once they move in, there are generally fish to be found until the end of February when crappie move out in response to spawning urges,” he said. 

The trick to the bite was that the tip of the rod he was using was quivering as he reeled. Mundy uses super ultra light rods that incorporate a tip so fast that it is impossible to hold still-- except when a crappie bites. Initially he built these rods in his shop to sell to the public but the tactic became so popular locally, he convinced a panfish fishing rod manufacturer in Mississippi – B’n’M Poles from West Point, to produce them under his specifications.

“When the rod tip stops quivering, it’s because a crappie has gently inhaled the bait,” he said. “Time to set the hook.”

As if a light rod wasn’t enough, Mundy uses four pound test hi-visibility line which he claims is imperceptible in the deep, dark water below the bridges. Tied to the end of that whisper thin line is one of his Fish Stalker Slab Tail jigs impaled on a tiny 1/64 oz. jig head. Mundy makes both the jig and the jig head and uses #8 hooks for his jig heads.

The final key is the jig action itself, a “do-nothing” presentation which in continuously in motion. The tail of the skirt resembles a little flap which Mundy hooks to ride flat in the water.

“It may not be fishing through a hole in the ice, but at times it is like fishing in a 5 gallon bucket,” said Mundy. “That’s how tight you have to fish to the cover and about how far that crappie is going to move. But when you get dialed in on a whole school, you’ll start flipping them in the boat.”

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Bob Santanello from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Ice fishing tactics are usually reserved for anglers up North, but after downsizing his gear and designing a new fishing rod, Fish Stalker Lures owner Tom Mundy found he could fish the same way for crappie on our local waters. Photo by Phillip Gentry

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Follow The Birds, Find The Bait, Fool The Fish

Many outdoors folks may find themselves at a loss after the holidays for what to do in the great outdoors. The end of deer season leaves a void that can be easily filled by small game hunting, water fowling, or on the non-hunting side there’s plenty of hiking, biking, paddling and other outdoor recreation to be found.

Let’s also not leave out winter time fishing.

It’s a fallacy that good fishing doesn’t occur throughout the Upstate until the weather warms up in the spring. The winter months of January, February, and early March often produce some of the most consistent catch rates for some of the largest specimens of fish.

Winter fishing requires a bit of a mindset change as fish, whether you are targeting bass, crappie, stripers, or catfish rarely spend lengths of time in the shallows as they are prone to do in the spring.

One of the best ways to pattern winter fish is by watching the skies. As the water temperatures get cooler, baitfish schools, primarily threadfin shad, group tightly and may even start to die off as the colder water slows their metabolism. 

This vulnerability makes them prime targets for aquatic birds – seagulls, loons, and terns, that migrate inland from the coastal regions over the winter when saltwater baitfish vacate the marshes for the open ocean.

If you’ve ever watched one of the nature themed television shows about the blue ocean, a similar scenario is taking place on the dull-green reservoir. Baitfish are pushed towards the surface by predator fish while birds dive down and pick at the schools from the surface.

At the top of the target fish species list locally for this pattern are freshwater striped bass and hybrid striped bass that become considerably more active during the colder months because the cooler water is more suitable to their cold North Atlantic ancestry during the winter than in the summer and fall.

Surface schooling action can be fast and furious for striped bass while anglers cast noisy top water or sub-surface baits into boiling water to fool stripers charging up from below.

Anglers targeting largemouth, spotted bass, or even crappie in Upstate lakes can find similar success targeting bottom structure as the sunfish species are less prone to chasing baitfish in open water than hiding around structure and ambushing them as they swim by.

Probably the most dependable of all winter fish species in the state’s freshwater reservoirs are the non-native but delicious white perch, which are in the same family as striped bass. White perch feed aggressively throughout the winter.

Large schools of white perch will move frequently but tend to gravitate to points. Anglers choosing to target white perch will benefit from having a decent sonar unit attached to the boat. In addition to the aforementioned water birds ear-marking feeding activity, look for white perch to stage on these long points on the windward side of the lake. 

Artificial bait anglers simply need to tie on a small to medium jigging spoon in flashy colors to tempt winter-feeding fish into biting. The size of the bait mimics the size and swimming action of threadfin shad. Live bait anglers can drift or troll with multiple hooked rigs of small to medium minnows or pieces of cut bait.  

Either method will frequently result in anglers catching a mixed bag of striped bass, hybrids, black bass, crappie and possibly even a catfish or two.

Finally, much of winter fishing success is watching the weather. Gray, overcast days will provide much better bird-watching, surface-schooling action longer into the day than a bright, blue bird day. Days will minimal winds up to 10 mph are also preferred over gusty windy days.

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Chuck Mulkey from Chuck’s Taxidermy and Deer Processing. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Keeping an eye on  the skies for feeding seabirds can lead you to feeding fish during the winter time fishing. Phillip Gentry.

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Deer Season Nears End With Several Record Buck

With only a couple of days remaining in the 2016 Deer Hunting Season across the state, it’s safe to Say that 2016 will go down in the history books for some pretty impressive deer harvests. In fact, there’s also a decent chance that the 20 year old all-time typical deer record could be broken.

On November 11, twelve-year-old Justin Hodges of McCormick County harvested an impressive 19-point buck that could topple the 176-inch buck taken by William C. Wyatt in Pickens County as the all-time top buck harvested in South Carolina. Hodges’ deer has been green-scored at 178 inches.

Young Hodges first had to overcome some bad luck with equipment problems after missing 3 deer earlier in the year before taking his massive buck. Hodges father Jason allowed his son to hunt with his Remington 7mm mag which was the weapon the boy used to take the big deer. 

The Hodges were hunting together during the evening of November 11 from a box stand where the buck had been sighted just prior to deer season. 

Just before dark, young Hodges spotted the massive deer back in the roadbed 100 yards from the stand and dropped the animal with one shot.

A mandatory 60 day drying period will be required before the deer’s rack can be officially scored for the record book.

On October 22, Bryan Farley of Mauldin took his all-time largest buck, a 163-inch brute, a few minutes after 9 o’clock in the morning in Abbeville County. 

Although he had never laid eyes on the deer prior to the fateful hunt, Farley had seen signs of deer activity while turkey hunting the area that led him to believe there was a trophy deer in the area.

In fact, Farley started his planning early by scouting using aerial photography to locate a good stand site and hanging the stand in July. He then patiently waited until the wind, moon, and weather were all in his favor before going in to hunt the stand.

After watching some does and even shooting some video, Farley spotted the trophy deer coming in behind one of the does. 

Using his father’s Remington 700 .30-06 rifle, the hunter managed to keep track of the buck despite one of the does discovering him and sounding the alarm and took the animal with one shot to the vital area.

The deer is suspected to be the second largest buck ever killed in Abbeville County. 

Mike Kossover of Spartanburg began what would become a three year quest to kill a trophy buck back in 2014 after he captured photos of a huge Spartanburg County buck on motion-activated game camera.

The three-year effort paid off on September 18 when he finally killed the 210 pound, 10-point Spartanburg County buck that was green scored at 154 1/8 by his taxidermist. 

Kossover said trail camera photos taken of the animal in 2015 helped him narrow his hunting area to an extremely thick clear-cut.  In 2016, his preseason plans focused on targeting the deer. He spent most of the pre-season scouting and placing a ground blind where he could intercept the animal.

Kossover hunted the deer on Opening Day but wind conditions changed and delayed him hunting again until September 18. 

After sitting in the midst of several smaller deer, Cossover finally saw the antlers of the deer he had nick named “Mac Daddy” .working his way toward his blind.  

In fading light, Kossover managed an almost point blank shot at the deer with his crossbow and recovered the animal less than 50 yards from where he had shot it.

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, 1063WORD will broadcast the year-end Best Of Upstate Outdoors. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Mike Cossover ended a three year quest when he arrowed this deer on Sept 18, one of the many record book deer that would be killed during the 2016 deer hunting season. Photo courtesy Chuck Mulkey.

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State Parks Recovering

Mother Nature takes her toll on everyone, but the last few months of 2016 have been especially hard on both ends of the state with the landfall of Hurricane Matthew slamming the coast in October and the wildfire outbreaks that plagued the mountains after a summer-long drought.

Particularly hard hit areas of the state’s natural resources included some our State Parks. For State Parks Director Phil Gaines, the entire month of October was spent overseeing recovery efforts at coastal locations on Hunting Island State Park and Edisto Beach State Park. As soon as those areas could be dug out of the aftermath of a hurricane, wildfires were summoning the director to the opposite end of the state to help battle wildfires.

“In December, I decided that if I woke up in the morning and saw locusts or frogs, I was getting back under the covers,” said Gaines.

At one time 17 state parks were under closure orders in the aftermath of the hurricane, but imminent danger was present for several long days for Gaines after the wind shifted on Pinnacle Mountain sending wildfire over the ridge toward Table Rock State Park.

“Thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated folks, the wildfire on Table Rock was contained,” said Gaines. “On my rush from the coast to the Upstate, I was receiving  reports that the iconic Halfway Shelter, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps 80 years ago had been lost, but it’s OK. The fire came within 5 feet of the structure.”

The majority of damage at Table Rock was in the natural forest through which the hiking trail winds on it’s way to the top of Table Rock. Without hiking the trail, which was reopened last Saturday, visitors may have a hard time seeing any effects of the wildfire at Table Rock.

Gaines stated that State Park visitors can also rest assured that the historic landmarks on Hunting Island and Edisto Beach have survived, although park closures remain in effect along the coast and are expected to extend in some cases as long as a year.

“The historic lighthouse on Hunting Island is OK,” said Gaines. “The entire park will remain closed at Hunting Island until Memorial Day, at which time we are planning to re-open the Day Use areas. We expect the beachfront campground will probably be closed all year.”

Like Hunting Island, Edisto Beach is suffering the effects of Hurricane Matthew which deposited up to six feet of sand in some areas along the beach. Gaines said the state park end of Edisto was likely the hardest hit of the entire island.

“All of the electrical and plumbing utilities at the beach campground were ruined from the sand and salt water that inundated the area,” he said. “The Live Oak campground which is further inland has been re-opened as are the general use area and we hope to have the beach campground at Edisto open by the end of this coming summer.”

Visitors who had reservations at any of the affected state parks in South Carolina have been contacted by the State Parks Department to either offer a refund on paid reservations or were allowed to change their reservations to another open campground at the site or at any state park campground anywhere in the state. 

The state parks are continuing to accept reservations in advance for those areas that are back open but will not take reservations for the beach campgrounds at Hunting Island or Edisto Beach on the popular ocean sides until reconstruction has been completed.

“We had to refund a lot of folks and we hate that,” said Gaines, “it just seems Mother Nature had other plans. But, I promise when we get these areas back open they will be better than ever and we welcome visitors from all over the world to come see the beauty that is South Carolina.”

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. Online broadcasts and recorded podcasts of the show can be found at www.1063word.com Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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The last quarter of 2016 was particularly hard on some of South Carolina’s State Parks with both Hurricane Matthew and wildfires plaguing each end of the state. Recovery efforts are well under way and most areas that were closed due to natural disaster have re-opened. Image courtesy USAToday.

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Public Duck Holes

The second season of the 2016 – 2017 winter waterfowl season opened last Saturday, December 10 and will run consecutive dates until January 29, 2017. If you look at the regulation charts, there are a myriad of seasons for birds that can be classified as waterfowl. There’s an early season for teal, an early season for Canada goose, plus marsh hens, rails, coots, and several others but the next 44 days are what most hunters commonly refer to as “Duck Season”.
A preview of sorts is offered on duck season the week of Thanksgiving. It’s a short 8 day season that allows web-footed hunters the chance to get out on the water while relatives are in town and do a little shooting. The preview didn’t look so well this year because there was no water and hence very little shooting.
Premier places to duck hunt in the Upstate are as rare as hen’s teeth. South Carolina’s supply of ducks is contingent  upon resident populations of birds that lives on our area lakes, rivers, swamps, and even golf course ponds. Typically any duck that has survived at least one season in the Upstate learns pretty quick where to roam and where not to.
Public places to duck hunt are available, although the vast majority of those locations, other than major reservoirs, are located in the lower half  of the state in the coastal regions.
Otherwise, sanctioned public duck hunting areas can be broken down into two categories – Catergory I – Draw Hunt areas and Category II – First Come, First Serve areas. The draw hunts require prior application through the SCDNR where the hunter and his party choose from a number of hunt units and dates. If the application is drawn, which most duck hunters would claim happens if you apply in consecutive years, occurs about every 3 – 4 years and that is for a single day hunt. The plus is that the hunt site is typically well managed and hunter success averages 2 – 3 birds per hunter depending on the location.
The Category II First Come, First Serve areas are open to anyone. At last count there were 18 of these areas in the state, again with only a handful in the Upstate. Category II WMAs are typically open to waterfowl hunting only one or two days a week and some may have wildlife officers stationed at the entry ways on hunt days while others are monitored by routine patrol.
The Upstate’s shining star of Category II WMAs is Lake Cunningham Waterfowl Management Area, located between Lakes Robinson and Cunningham on property owned by the Greer CPW in Northern Greenville County. Cunningham is open only on Wednesday mornings and only in the designated areas upstream of  the SC Hwy 101 bridge. It is a first-class operation for its category but see’s its share and more of hunter participation each week.
“We are real big on promoting safety in our waterfowl area, because it is a small area compared to other WMAs in the state,” said Robinson and Cunningham Lake Warden Chuck Barnes. “Game wardens are in the area throughout the hunt and will be checking all of our guests after the hunt.”
Growing concern exists over the future of the 100 acre swamp as housing development in the area has seen a boom of late which leaves many hunters wondering how long the area will continue to operate.
For the time being, the Open for Business sign is still out and for those who go, the experience of duck hunting is still alive and well only a few miles north of Greer. Before you make your trip to Cunningham or before panning any duck hunt on public land, it is always best to check with local wildlife authorities if any special permits, regulations or check-in are required as well as getting a thorough understanding of which areas are legal to hunt.
State and Federal law requires all waterfowl hunters must have a state hunting license, state waterfowl permit, HIP permit and a Federal duck stamp.
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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Phil Gaines, Director of South Carolina State Parks.  Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.
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Public duck hunting opportunities exists all across the state, including a couple of areas in the Upstate. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
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How To Christmas Shop For Your Sportsman

It is said that men are hard to buy for. You can double the degree of difficulty if that man, or woman, loves to spend their free time in the outdoors. The problem with buying “stuff” for anyone who is deeply entrenched in any given sport or activity is knowing what “level” the gift receiver is at and determining if the gift fits that level. 

Just like hunting or fishing, you need to pattern the quarry and decide on a strategy.

Depending on what your particular sportsman likes to pursue will determine what he or she will be the most happy with receiving as a gift. Below, we can break down some strategies based on quarry and seasonal patterns. 

Unless your sportsman told you exactly by make, model, size, specification, etc what they wanted under the Christmas tree, don’t try to buy them a primary piece of gear. That means high dollar items like guns, rods & reels, bows, depth finders, and the like. These items have too many specific features to guess at a good fit. If you want to get that item, go with a gift card, double the amount you were thinking it would cost, and let the sportsman pick it out later or take the sportsman with you to the store (or the website), let them pick the item out, most likely by ordering, and then wrap it up and guard it till Christmas.

Accessorize. If you don’t know specifically what he or she wants, then accessories with a general use or uses across several outdoor activities work well. Coolers, knives, sunglasses, and truck/SUV accessories are similar, which is why you see so many “gift packs” of these items this time of year. Don’t buy junk, buy quality.

Buy clothing. There are two kinds of outdoor clothing - utility and show. Utility clothing, especially this time of year, means warmth and fit. Good generic choices are items like quality wool socks and the new space age material thermal underwear. Color isn’t a big concern because hunters will put camo outerwear over it and anglers typically don’t care.

Show clothing is easier to buy. If your sportsman drives a Ford truck, fishes from a Skeeter boat, shoots a Browning rifle, hunts with a Matthews bow, and or fishes with St Croix rods, every one of these manufacturers sells logo apparel. Much of the apparel is even meant to be worn in the field. 

Being seasonal is important. You’ll find a ton of deer hunting gadgetry on sale now that looks ideal for the deer hunter, and there are a ton of hunters out there. The problem with South Carolina deer hunting is that it’ll all be over for the 2016 season the week after Christmas since the season closes on January 1. Rarely is deer hunting stuff a good Christmas idea. It’s probably a better idea to look at what season is coming up next.

Probably one of the better outdoors-oriented Christmas gifts I have ever received was a well-fitting, two piece Gore-Tex fishing suit. Bass Pro, Cabela’s, and Academy all have their own name brands but the items are similar in construction. The jacket and bibs overlap so no wind or rain can get it. The sleeves are velcroed with neoprene cuffs so no water gets in on that end either. The hood is fitted and adjustable and will wrap completely around the head without binding.

The suit blocks cold wind as well as water so I wear it when it’s cold even if it isn’t raining. Add a good pair of boots and gloves and wintertime fishing is almost as comfortable as spring.

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest on the show will be Adam Ruonala from Palmetto State Armory. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Shopping for Christmas gifts for the sportsman in your life can be a challenge. Logo apparel or clothing that help them extend their seasons are good choices. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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