On a fall Friday night in McKinney, Texas you cannot walk into a grocery store. For that matter you can't walk into a pharmacy either and good luck trying to get a table at a local restaurant. Why? They aren't open. The reason stores and businesses close on Friday nights during the fall all across the North Dallas Metro area is because everyone is attending the local high school football game.
Now I'm not going to say that America loves bass fishing like it does football. I'm not even going to say that high school bass fishing is as popular anywhere as high school or certainly even college football, but I will say this. If you called a local hotel anywhere around Exit 19, aka Clemson Boulevard, aka the gateway to Clemson, last year's runner up to the NCAA College Football Championship, to find a room to attend Clemson's so-far biggest game of the year against North Carolina State, you couldn't get one. Why? High School Bass Fishing had taken over.
Another statistic. The widely touted and recently constructed Greenpond Tournament Ramp and Event Center at Lake Hartwell has hosted the largest bass tournaments in the country. FLW Tour events, The Bassmaster Classic, and a number of BFL, ABA and other alphabet open bass fishing tournaments. Prior to last week-end, 208 boats was the largest turnout for the megaplex.
Last Saturday, that record was eclipsed when 243 boats launched just after daylight during a high school bass fishing tournament. The event was the Fall Bass Clash, an event sponsored by Travelers Rest and Woodmont High Schools as part of the Palmetto Boat Center High School Tournament Trail.
A little over 8 years ago, the thought of a bass fishing team at the high school level was unheard of. Early on, officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources considered petitioning the State High School League to make bass fishing a Varsity level sport in South Carolina schools to see if that would muster more interest. The idea was frought with complications, especially over winning anything of monetary value in a high school sport.
What emerged was a club-driven sport that spread like wildfire from school to school. Being a club and associated with a high school allows student anglers to represent their schools and pay individual entry fees and win prizes, albeit – high school centric prizes like $1,000 college scholarships, gift certificates, and fishing gear.
Such a club obviously has limited appeal, mainly outdoors-oriented students who like to fish, or want to learn, but the following generated by the events is astounding, similar to travel ball sports where family members camp out and tail gate during the day, waiting for the weigh in to see how their team's kids fared.
At first, organizing such an event was also problematic. Each individual school deigned to host it's own open tournament while inviting other schools to participate. In some cases, three or four schools might be holding separate tournaments on opposite ends of the same lake on the same day without knowing it.
Starting the PBC Tournament Trail was the brain child of Palmetto Boat Center owner Marty Walker. Walker identified the need early on to have a third party preside over the events so the schools, complete with coaches and adult volunteers (who do not get to fish during the events) could focus on the student anglers.
"It just seemed natural," said Walker. "We put on other adult tournaments so we had the scales and the trailer and the score board. But I have to hand it to these schools and these parents and coaches. I never dreamed this trail would grow so big. It's a lot of work, but it's truly a labor of love, getting to see these kids get involved in fishing."
Saturday's event represented over 50 area high and middle schools from all over the state with schools traveling from as far away as South Florence to compete.
Top 5 Finishers
1. York County High School – Britt Myers and Tanner Maness 5 fish 12.08
2. Westside High School - John Michael Langston and Cade Langston 5 fish 12.03
3. Broome High School - Parker Sullivan and Colten Wells 5 fish 11.45
4. York County High School – Dawson Michaels and Hope Frase 5 fish 11.24
5. Greenwood High School - Jake Campbell and Jacob McLaughlin 5 fish 10.80
Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Saturday, high school bass fishing teams set the new record for the largest turnout for Lake Hartwell's new Greenpond Landing and Event Center. Photo courtesy Joel Crawford.
Last Saturday morning the first major hurricane to hit South Carolina since Hurricane Hugo in 1989 rolled into South Carolina. The landfall site of Hurricane Matthew was nearly identical to Hugo with the eye coming ashore in Awendaw, but fortunately the devastation was not as severe as many had feared it would be.
While land and business owners as well as government agencies contend with heavy localized flooding and removal of trees and other debris from roadways, the storm also took a heavy toll on the state's natural resources and has resulted in closures and delays up and down the coast line.
Witnesses on Edisto Island which lies on the Charleston/Colleton County border south of Charleston have reported some severe beach erosion with nearly three feet of sand still covering Palmetto Boulevard which runs along the beach. In addition, Hwy 174, the only access route to the island from the mainland was still blocked with debris and downed power lines as of Tuesday.
"Lot of work ahead for the island but it's nothing we can't handle," said local charter captain Jimmy Skinner of Fontaine Charters on Edisto Island. "I'm happy to report our local shrimp boat, the Sarah Jane, made it through safe and sound. Right where we left her, tied up in one of the back creeks."
To the south, several marinas in the Hilton Head/Port Royal area have reported damage to docks as well as reported damage to several boats that were shaken loose from their moorings during the storm.
Along with cleanup of storm debris, state authorities are now having to contend with flooding as coastal rivers dump much of the rainfall that Matthew left in both South and North Carolina.
State and local officials are monitoring the Edisto, Little Pee Dee, and Waccamaw Rivers, among others. In Colleton County, the Edisto River crested on Wednesday at 14.5 feet. In Horry County, state and local officials are monitoring the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers. Officials expect the Waccamaw River to crest at 16.4 feet by the end of this week. The Little Pee Dee River in Galivants Ferry is expected to crest at 13.1 feet during the week-end. Both of these rivers will be higher than the water level recorded during the October 2015 floods.
In the Myrtle Beach area, Hurricane Matthew destroyed part of Springmaid Pier near North Ocean Boulevard. According to a report in The Sun News, Hilton Doubletree, which owns the Springmaid pier, which was the longest in the Grand Strand, is planning to rebuild the pier, and is already looking into the cost of repairs, the owners reported on Monday. In addition, parts of the Second Avenue Pier and Surfside Pier were also damaged by the storm.
Further up the coast, the Cherry Grove Community was one of the most hard hit with wind, flooding, and an electrical fire that raged out of control when fire fighters lost access to the area following the storm.
While recovering from damage on land is of primary concern, area fishermen are also lamenting the loss of prime fishing waters that had settled along the coast.
"The fall fishing patterns were pretty hot right before the storm rolled in," said local charter Captain Englis Glover of Murrell's Inlet. "The bull red bite was on fire and the fall trout run was looking pretty good. It will take a few tide cycles to clean the water back up but the problem is always the debris left behind that's makes it hazardous for any boaters. Hopefully, the fish didn't move out with the storm."
Further inland, several public hunting lands have been affected by localized flooding. Some of the same areas that saw temporary closures during the heavy rainfall and flood events that occurred this time last year will once again be closed due to flooding. Officials do not believe the flooding to be as widespread or as severe as last season and hope to have these areas back open soon.
The following Wildlife Management Areas are closed until further notice:
Hamilton Ridge WMA
Bear Island WMA
Botany Bay Plantation WMA
Bonneau Ferry WMA
Edisto River WMA
Dungannon Plantation HP/WMA
Great Pee Dee HP/WMA
Santee Coastal Reserve WMA
Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve
Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, Bassmaster Elite Angler-Of-The-Year Gerald Swindle will be on the show. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
The Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew left a mess for outdoorsmen as well, with piers damaged, flooded hunting lands, and closures of Wildlife Management Areas. Photo from USA Today Images.
who owned a big retail outdoors- hunting/fishing store
He also owned three leading bass boat companies.
That were shiny
All of them went fast
It's the story
Of a man named Dickie
Whose huge retail empire legacy was world renown
They owned more credit card accounts payable, than most banks
Yet retail sales weren't good
Then the one day when ole Johnny bought the other
And he knew it was much more than a hunch
That this group, would now dominate the outdoor retail industry
That's the way they all became the Bass Pro Bunch
With apologies to Jan, Cindy, Marsha and especially Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the news broke this week that a long time anticipated acquisition of Cabela's, the World's Foremost Outfitter, by former competitor Bass Pro Shops, had finally come to fruition.
The acquisition comes nearly a year after Cabela's stock was deemed "undervalued" by hedge fund Elliott Management and began considering ways to boost its publicly traded stock prices, including an outright sale of the company. Bass Pro has purchased Cabela's for about 4.5 billion in cash using funding provided by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and private-equity firm Pamplona Capital Management. Cabela's shareholders will receive $65.50 a share.
Here at Home in South Carolina, the merger means a completion of a huge circle of either Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's stores around the entire state. Penetrating the deep south had been a long time dream of Sydney, Nebraska-based Cabela's who opened three retail stores in the state in the last four years while Bass Pro broke ground in Summerville two years ago to complement their existing store in Myrtle Beach with plans to go head-to-head in the same market with property purchased by Bass Pro in Spartanburg County just 10 miles from the new Cabela's store in Greenville.
No information has been released if the acquisition will prompt any store closings at any of the Cabela's locations or if plans to continue the expansion of future store locations will continue.
The merger also poses the question will Cabela's now begin selling marine products.
In late 2014, Bass Pro Group, the owner of Bass Pro Shops, announced it had signed a deal to acquire Fishing Holdings LLC, the manufacturer of Ranger, Triton and Stratos fishing boat brands. Since that time, these brands have operated independently, being marketed through separate dealer networks, while sister brand Tracker Marine, the owner group of Tracker and Nitro bass boats, have been marketed through Bass Pro Shops retail facilities in addition to it's arrangement with independent dealers.
Bass pro revealed in a letter to it's dealers in late 2015 that it was pursuing renaming its Tracker Marine Group and Fishing Holdings to a new, more united marine brand "White River Marine Group." The letter emphasized that the company respected the need to maintain independence and brand integrity, and in that regard, had no plans to sell Fishing Holdings brands through Bass Pro Shops stores.
"The story of each of these companies could only have happened in America, made possible by our uniquely American free enterprise system," Morris said in a statement. "We have enormous admiration for Cabela's, its founders and outfitters, and its loyal base of customers."
Representatives for Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops did not respond to requests seeking comment, questions about potential store closures or interviews with executives.
I guess only time will tell if Greg wins the surfing competition, Jan finally comes out of Marsha's shadow, and if that big chunk of land near BMW will ever be home to a shark-themed bowling alley.
Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this week, Bass Pro Shops announced it had acquired it's leading competitor, Sydney, Nebraska-based Cabela's, in a deal worth over 4.5 Billion dollars. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
With the 2016 season coming to a close, Bassmaster Elite veritable favorite Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Alabama claimed his second Angler-Of-The-Year title when the dust settled at Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota.
Swindle, known to fans as “The G-Man” didn’t have his best performance at the final event of the 2016 tour, but his five fish limit of smallmouth bass weighing 22 pounds on the final day of the event put him in 10 place, enough to maintain the surmountable lead in points he had accumulated throughout the Bass Elite Season and finish ahead of Keith Combs, Randall Tharp, and Jacob Powroznik.
Swindle also won the AOY title back in 2004 and won the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open in 2011, but surprisingly has never won a Bassmaster Elite event in his career. Swindle credits consistent finishes, a hard work ethic, and abundant support from his friends, fans, and family for winning this year’s title.
“My parents were in the crowd to watch me win AOY,” Swindle said. “And my wife has stuck by me, through thick and thin — she’s kept my head in the game and helped me stay focused when it was most important. I’m so thankful for the support I receive from her and my family. This is a team sport for the Swindles, and it’s a victory we all get to celebrate together.”
The AOY title automatically placed Swindle in the 2017 Bassmaster Classic which will be held on Lake Conroe, a 21,000-acre impoundment of the San Jacinto River in Montgomery and Walker counties and will weigh in at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.
In other news from the Bassmaster camp, a 40 year standing regulation regarding the allowable length of fishing rod legal for use in Bassmaster tournaments will be extended, literally. Starting with the 2017 season, anglers will be allowed to use rods as long as 10 feet.
The current rule allows competitors to use one casting, spin casting or spinning rod (8-foot maximum length from butt of handle to rod tip) at any one time. The long standing rule is somewhat of a throwback to days when two competitors fished from the same boat in the same tournament category. It was thought that using a rod longer than 8 feet might give one of the competitors, presumably in the front, a greater advantage.
These days, Bassmaster Elite anglers are accompanied only by a tournament marshall or cameraman who does not fish. Open tournaments involve a pro angler or “boater” who is fishing for a larger prize and a co-angler or “non-boater” who is restricted to the back of the boat and the two do not compete.
The change was sought by several anglers who specialize in fishing tactics that would benefit from the use of a longer rod. Some tournaments in western states had already began allowing the use of longer rods to take advantage of the growing popularity of casting large, heavy swimbaits and spoons for largemouth bass as well as several smallmouth bass presentations.
“I don’t have anything against the new rule, it’s probably not going to be something I use because that’s just not the way I fish,” said 2015 Bassmaster Classic champion Casey Ashley from Donalds, SC. “Some of those guys in the western regions throw those big baits. So long as it’s legal for everyone, I’m OK with it but I’m not sure I could fit a 10 foot rod in my boat.”
The new rule will apply to all B.A.S.S. trails, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens and all B.A.S.S. Nation and youth events.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, local Bassmaster Elite angler Casey Ashley will be on the show. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, AL claimed his second Bassmaster Elite Angler-Of-The-Year title last week following his 10th place finish at the final event held in Minnesota. Photo courtesy of BASS.
Advancements in design, manufacture, and function make these deer hunting weapons far from primitive.
Love them or hate them, regulations that govern the public and private lands in the Upstate of South Carolina provide for specific weapons requirements during the early weeks of the whitetail deer hunting season.
In Game Zone 2, which comprises the majority of the Upstate from Abbeville to York and all counties in between, archery season for deer opened on September 15. Next weekend, on October 1, the “primitive weapons” season will open.
Primitive weapons are defined as any black powder propelled firearm that is loaded through the muzzle of the gun. In many instances the season, which runs through October 10, is also referred to black powder or muzzleloader season.
On an odd note, the definition of archery was amended several years ago to include both vertically held bows and horizontal bows, more commonly known as crossbows. The twist is that archery significantly pre-dates any “primitive” firearms by several centuries.
On October 11, the modern firearms season commences and is an allowable weapon through the end of the whitetail deer season which ends at dark on January 1. Each weapon category has a specific start date each year but is allowed through the progression of seasons.
Contrary to the name, “primitive” is probably way down the list of terms used to describe both inline black powder guns and even today’s crossbows.
The modern inline black powder rifle made popular by Tony Knight back in the mid 1980’s as well as the adaptation of “shotgun” 209 primers and pelletized powder has turned muzzle loading from a primitive weapon to a high tech weapon.
Pre-measured powder pellets are dropped into the rifled barrel, followed by a belted or saboted slug, pushed into place with an aluminum rod, and fired using a modern firing pin to impact the primer which delivers an equal spark through a breech plug. In most cases, the rifle has a composite stock and is aimed using any number of modern rifle scopes which provide dead on accuracy out to 200 yards.
The same type advancements can be found in today’s archery tackle, particularly crossbows which have given rise to more early season deer hunters in the woods come September because the bow can be cocked and locked, aimed very similarly to a gun, and fired using a trigger mechanism without the required movement of drawing the bow, sighting in with an aiming pin, and releasing the string manually.
“Speed is the key in both situations,” said Robert Mayfield of Greer, an avid deer hunter who takes to the woods on September 15 with his Barnett crossbow in hand and trades it on October 1 for his Thompson Center muzzleloader . “The crossbow is as fast or faster than any compound bow without the strain of draw weights that might require 80 pounds of pull.”
The one leveling factor across the board, whether the hunter is using the most modern crossbow or inline muzzleloader, is in 90% of occurrences shooting at a live target, the hunter gets one unhurried chance to make the shot count.
“It’s still mostly a one shot deal. It takes a fair amount of effort and movement, including getting a foot up in the stirrup of the crossbow to re-cock it,” said Mayfield. “With the muzzleloader, you still have that 5 – 10 seconds of blindness when that blackpowder fogs you in and you can’t see anything till the smoke clears. Most times the animal is long gone if you missed the first time.”
“I guess that’s why they call it hunting and not killing,” he said.
On Friday September 23, the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians will have a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Grand Reopening of its museum located at 210 Main Street Bryson City, NC at 2:00 PM followed by several guest speakers and a museum tour. On Saturday, September 24th, at Noon, the Museum will have its first Hall of Fame induction ceremony preceded by a luncheon. Tickets are $35.00/person. For more information, contact the Bryson City Chamber of commerce at 828-4788-3681 or Bob Nanney at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Carolina Motorfest at the Greenville/Pickens Speedway. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
Today’s modern blackpowder firearms come complete with advancements in firearms technology that lend little credence to the term “primitive weapons”. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
One of the more popular perks of being a deer hunter is that it provides food for the table. Venison is widely touted by even the most die-hard gluten-free, antibiotic free, lean meat advocates as a valuable source of protein. With deer season opening this week across most of the Upstate, the annual supply of venison in the households of hunters and those lucky enough to know a successful deer hunter starts to soar.
But what about those, less fortunate, who don’t get enough food to eat, the truly hungry that live right here in our own communities?
Another great value of the available supply of venison also helps the less fortunate, those deemed truly hungry thanks to a statewide organization known as South Carolina Hunters and Landowners for the Hungry (HLFH). This organization, which is based in Pacolet, SC, provides deer hunters in South Carolina a great opportunity to help with feeding the hungry by providing processed (ground), frozen meat to food banks throughout our state.
The organization enlists the help of a number of deer processors across the state. These processors collect donated venison from hunters and provide them to the organization. In return, HLFH solicits donations from both hunters and non-hunters alike to provide funding to compensate processing, storing, and distribution of the meat to food banks around the state.
“As the 2016-2017 Big Game Hunting Season approaches, we are asking you to consider a sponsorship of or donation to the South Carolina Landowners and Hunters for the Hungry,” said Harold Campbell, president of HLFH. “All monies received go to our sole cause, which is to provide venison to needy persons here in South Carolina, a nutritional source of food. No one in Hunters For The Hungry receives any compensation for his or her efforts. We are all volunteers.”
In the organization’s 12 years in operation, HLFH has delivered nearly 1,500,000 meals to needy families and charities in the upstate. At its inception, the founders of the organization realized that hunger is a reality in both urban and rural areas and that 1 in 5 families across the state are impacted by real hunger. Each year, tens of thousands of emergency meals are provided to South Carolinians every month from meat donated to food banks by HLFH, nearly half of those impacted are children.
It began as a vision by the group who saw a way that the sport and tradition of deer hunting could give back to the community. As the sport of deer hunting grew in popularity, the deer hunters and land owners in the community who founded HLFH recognized an opportunity.
Some deer hunters found themselves in possession of more fresh meat than they needed or wanted. This resource could be organized to benefit those in the community who were hungry, and who otherwise would do without, could be provided with quality meat.
Secondly, in a day and age where deer hunting often gets undeserved negative attention, providing this service to the community would generate positive publicity for hunters and the tradition of deer hunting.
As a service to both the community and as a management tool for one of the state’s most valuable resources, having a venue to allow unwanted or donated meat from the annual deer harvest in South Carolina can be used more effectively efficiently by eliminating waste.
“We will be holding our annual banquet this weekend,” said Campbell. “It’s going to be a great family event and we invite everyone, not just deer hunters, but anyone who wants to contribute to this good cause, to come out and help us help the needy in our community.”
This Saturday, September 17, the South Carolina Hunters and Landowners For The Hungry will be hosting its 11th Annual Benefit Banquet featuring US Representative from South Carolina’s 4th District, Trey Gowdy.
The banquet will be held at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Pauline, SC at 6:00 pm. Dinner will be provided by HLFH. Door prizes will be donated by local area merchants. Donations will be accepted at the event and all donations are tax deductible.
For more information, call 864-585-9218 or visit schuntersforthehungry.org
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 outdoor legend Hank Parker. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deer hunting is not only a popular tradition in the state, it also provides food for the table. Thanks to a local organization, it also provides food for those in need. Photos by Phillip Gentry
With Labor Day in the rearview mirror and the official end of summer here, it’s time to get serious about the upcoming deer season. For the majority of the Upstate, Game Zone 2, that means next Thursday, September 15 is opening day if you take to the woods with archery tackle. If you are not a bow hunter, you have a 2 week reprieve and possibly 3 ½ weeks if you are not a fan of muzzle loader hunting. Gun season, which includes modern rifles that don’t require black powder, opens on Tuesday, October 11.
In that short time, there is much to be done if you plan on having a decent season this year. Private land hunters have it a bit easier than public land hunters. First off, you can start planning locations for stand placement and even erect those stands, put out trail cameras to make sure you’ve made a wise choice, and even begin sweetening the site with bait if so inclined.
Public land hunters will need to reserve doing anything permanent or even semi-permanent to the land you intend to hunt and baiting is not allowed. The biggest difference will be preparing private lands to try to coerce deer to show up where you want them to versus scouting and trying to figure out where deer will be naturally and making plans to hunt those areas on public land.
Either way you go, the first suggestion is to locate food sources. Early bow season will find deer making use of soft mast and browse foods – wild berries, honeysuckle, muscadines, and green browse plants. By the time gun season rolls around, you can expect acorns to start falling and deer will walk away from a fresh pile of store-bought corn to eat acorns.
Now is the time to find those trees that are laden with hard mast and decipher which direction deer are most likely to enter and exit those areas. Once well-worn trails are identified, stands that offer concealment and are located downwind will be the most beneficial. It is not a hard and fast rule, but here in the Upstate, winds tend to be from the south when the weather is warm and stable and from the north when things are changing or cooling off.
If you have the opportunity to establish food plots, now is the time to be doing that. Don’t be overly concerned about the noise or traffic of a tractor bush hogging, plowing, or planting an area. Deer will discover soon enough that it is hunting season and the appeal of ripe greenery, which if planted now will sustain your hunting activities beginning around Thanksgiving, will give them reason to overcome the intrusion.
Finally, if you have areas where permanent stands are erected, now is the time to inspect those stands for safety. Ropes, chains, and straps used to secure the stands need to be checked and invariably, some burgeoning timber will need to be manicured so you can see the approach of deer around the stand.
As stated, hunting season is here. Last week-end’s dove shoot and the area lakes becoming deserted will have to wait. Days spent toiling now will pay off in spades once the weather cools and quiet crackle of leaves means more than just an inquisitive squirrel.
Game Zone 2 - Private Lands
Buck Limit: 2 per day, 5 per season (all methods and hunt periods combined)
Antlerless Limit: One (1) per day on either-sex days or with individual antlerless deer tags. Archers may take either-sex during primitive weapons seasons (including archery only season) without being required to tag the animal.
Archery Only: September 15 - 30
1 antlerless per day - 2 total.
Primitive Weapons: October 1 - 10
Muzzleloader is buck only, except Antlerless on October 1, 8 or with individual antlerless deer tags. 1 antlerless per day - 2 total.
Gun Hunts: October 11 - January 1
Buck only for all weapons except on either-sex days or with individual antlerless deer tag. 1 antlerless per day. Total 5.
Either-Sex Days: October 15, November 12, 19, 26; December 31; January 1
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 Kyle Clark from Doc’s Deer Scents. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
With deer season just a week or so away, deer hunters need to spend some time planting and scouting for food sources that will produce deer throughout the season. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
For most hunters, the parts are greater than the whole.
This Labor Day week-end kicks off the beginning of hunting season when hunters take to the fields on Saturday for the first of this fall’s hunting seasons. Each season is successively followed by another season, but for the true outdoorsman, the parts add up to much more than the total because no matter what quarry is being sought, it’s about hunting season…
It’s about crickets. It starts with those constant companions who slip in during the last days of summer heralding the arrival the fall season, when geese and ducks take flight in the evenings and the sounds of summer fade away.
It’s about mowed fields. The smell of the harvest on the cooling evening breezes bringing back memories of all the hunting seasons that have been and all those yet to be.
It’s about muddy boots. Who yearn to soak up the clay of the great outdoors and transport their owners to those special places where no tire dares to tread then humbly wait by the door at the end of the day to seek the next adventure.
It’s about dog hair and feathers. Of course, it’s always about dog hair. In the truck, in the house, on your clothes, but the feathers are a prideful reminder than some dogs are meant to be more than just pets and who, like the hunter, also seek the solace of outside.
It’s about high school football. Not from the bleachers, but the sounds of the bands and the dimmed cheers of the crowd that waft across the landscape reaching even into the tree tops where the solitary hunter waits in with great anticipation for his own game to begin.
It’s about orange in the windshield. That unspoken custom in the language of the outdoorsmen who simply acknowledge one another with a nod or raising of the hand at a stoplight or passing on some lonely rural highway at all hours of the day.
It’s about blood. Because let’s face it, hunting is about killing, and killing involves blood and the shedding of the quarry’s blood is sacred and not to be taken lightly, either in action or responsibility, but provides color to the soul.
It’s about country diners that open at 4:00 AM. The din and clatter of coffee cups and plates, feeding the hungry who have little time to eat. It’s about bleary eyed hunters, dressed in drab clothing, and bleary-eyed waitresses trading cash for calories in the fluorescent glare of pre-dawn darkness.
It’s about bullets. Bullets everywhere – in pants pockets, in the washing machine, in the console of the truck, but never one more when you need it the most.
It’s about empty boat ramps and empty beaches. It’s about the fear that while you rekindle the feel of the rod after a long hot summer the trophy buck you’ve been chasing will let his guard down and you won’t be there.
It’s about a whole new wardrobe, designed not to stand out in a crowd, but to blend in with nature. It’s about long forgotten gloves and hats, tucked away in heavy jackets, religiously stored away and washed to retain no human scent, but still smell like old dirt.
It’s about hunting buddies – past, present and future. The memories of those who have gone on to better hunting grounds and those oh-so-predictable ones who show up every fall. It’s about those who now have responsibilities and just can’t be there and those who just need a little more time.
It’s about hunting season…and it’s about time.
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 Jamie Burnett from Egret Baits. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regardless of the quarry sought, for true outdoorsmen, hunting season is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
Dig if you will, a picture – of a late summer afternoon as the sun is moving from scorching hot to almost tolerable. A cut-over grain field lays sheared in strips accentuated with round bales of hay strategically placed to conceal figures clad in camouflage clothing and a dog. Off in the distance, just above the tree line, a trio of tiny gray streaks, mourning doves, come flying into view. The species of bird is unmistakable by the hooked shape of the head and beak as the birds enter the field.
The sight is underscored by the pop ,pop, pop of the hunters closest to the far end of the field as the hunters rise up and attempt to bring down the little rockets with shotgun blasts. In no time, all horizons are marked with birds as they circle the field hoping for an opening to descend and land.
This is what it looks like, when doves fly.
12:00 Noon on September 3rd will mark the opening of the 2016 Dove Season. Possibly more than any other shooting sport, dove hunting conjures up memories of both hunts and hunters from days gone by. The sport has changed in some ways due to better management of the resource but at the basis is still an outing where friends and family members gather to spend time in a dove field and fellowship over the opening event of hunting season.
Here in the Upstate, the prospect of the upcoming dove season is good. Preparing for dove season is a labor of love for field managers who begin plotting and planting fields in late April and May to insure that food crops, used to draw birds to the hunting fields, are fully ripe and mature come opening day.
Richard Morton, Region 1 wildlife biologist whose territory includes most of the Upstate said dove hunters who planted their crops early this year should have a better than normal shoot when the first of the three-part dove season opens next week-end.
“If you had your crops in the ground before the drought set in, things are looking pretty good,” said Morton. “The rain we’ve had over the past few weeks has greened everything up and I’ve seen some good looking millet and sunflower fields.”
“I’ve also talked to a lot of area dove field managers and they’re reporting the birds are moving into the fields regularly so it looks like everything is lining up,” he said.
Mourning doves are classified as migratory birds under Federal regulation but the majority of doves that will come into play next week are resident- South Carolina born and bred birds. As the fall progresses and the second and third hunting seasons open in the state, hunters will begin to see more of an influx of migratory birds moving down from northern states.
Morton said that dove hunters who do not have private lands to hunt can view a listing of public dove fields made available by the state and are hunted on a first-come-first serve basis. These public WMA fields are only open on certain days of the week to limit the amount of hunting pressure on the birds. A full listing of public dove fields along with full season dates for the three dove seasons that will occur this year and additional information regarding regulations and bag limits can be found on the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website at dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/dove/fields.
Morton said that dove fields in the Upstate, both public and private, are trending upward in the number of birds they attract and hold in one area. He said that the lower occurence of competing agricultural fields compared to the Low Country is a benefit to Upstate dove hunters.
“There are so many dove fields in the Low Country that it tends to really scatter the birds out and you don’t get much concentration in any one area,” said Morton. “In addition, there are agricultural fields that have nothing to do with hunting, that also spread out the numbers even thinner over a larger area.”
In regards to planning an Upstate hunt, Morton said he feels certain most fields will get hunted on opening day Saturday, Labor Day and the following Saturday. Otherwise he said hunters can increase their chances of success by coordinating hunts with surrounding properties to keep doves from accumulating in one field that is not being hunted.
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 Morgan Promitz, Fishing Product Manager for Hobie Kayaks. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
Dove hunters who planted their fields well before this summer’s drought set in should expect to have a better than average year as dove season comes in next week. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
Earlier this month, on August 7, John Cox of Debary, FL won one of the most coveted titles in professional bass fishing. He won the Forest Wood Cup. To say Cox ran away with the event held on Wheeler Lake in Alabama doesn’t give much credit to the other competitiors, including local favorites Bryan Thrift from Shelby, NC, Todd Auten from Lake Wylie, SC and Brandon Cobb, from Greenwood, SC, but he did. Cox won the event by over four pounds across four days of competition.
You have to give substantial credit to Cox on how he won the event. Cox is unconventional - an extremely likeable guy who makes his own fishing rods from scratch, even doing so in his hotel room the night before a tournament. Cox also fishes from an aluminum boat.
The media circus that follows the FLW Tour around have nick-named him “The Tin Man.” You might also remember Cox when he walked away from the competition on Lake Hartwell in March during a sight fishing festival, again fishing from his aluminum boat.
Make no mistake, Cox isn’t fishing from an old john boat that he loads up in the bed of his pick-up truck at the end of the day. He has a really nice Crestliner aluminum bass boat that has all the same bells and whistles as a big fiberglass bass rocket, duly wrapped in vinyl detailing promoting his fishing sponsors and powered by a big 200 HP Mercury outboard. But the heart of the Tin Man remains the same.
“I started out bass fishing from an old aluminum boat,” said Cox. “After I started fishing pro, I won my first event in an aluminum boat. I have fished out of glass boats, but that’s just not my style, so I went back to the aluminum.”
In the circumstances of his Cup win at Lake Wheeler, having a durable aluminum ride was one of his primary reasons for winning the event. Cox said he’s never had much luck fishing on Wheeler and wanted to get as far away from the main lake as possible, while still staying in bounds.
With scorching daytime temperatures and water on the main lake approaching the 90 degree mark, Cox picked one of the tributary creeks that feeds Lake Wheeler, Cotaco Creek, and ran it about as far back upstream as he could go. Along the way, he left all of the competition behind, both literally and figuratively.
“The water in the creek was a lot cooler, with plenty of shade from over-hanging trees. I had to jump over a number of stumps and logs to get back up in that creek, but once there I found what I was looking for,” said Cox.
The backwaters of Coataco Creek are laden with weeds, making it a perfect scenario for fishing a topwater frog in the same surroundings as fishing the farm ponds of his youth.
“When I got back there in practice I realized I was going to have the whole area to myself, nobody else was coming, even the media boats had a hard time getting over all the downed trees,” he said, “but once there, the fish were willing, and what better way to have four days of fishing than catching hungry bass on a topwater frog.”
In winning the Forest Wood Cup, Cox set a precedent of sorts, that winning a prestigious event doesn’t require an expensive fiberglass bass boat that costs as much as a small house.
Marty Walker, owner of Palmetto Boat Center on the I-85 Frontage Road in Piedmont agreed. Walker said he sees a lot of competitors choosing to fish from an aluminum bass boat.
“We have a lot of high school kids who are fishing for their schools in aluminum boats but there are plenty of adults who fish from them as well,” said Walker. “An aluminum boat comes rigged every bit as nice as a fiberglass boat, and the best thing is that you can get in a brand new top end aluminum boat for the same price as an entry level fiberglass boat or a used high-end boat.”
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 Ashley Clark, Area Chairman for Greenville Ducks Unlimited. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Cox recently won this year’s Forest Wood Cup as well as the FLW Tour Event earlier this year on Lake Hartwell, all while fishing from his trusty aluminum bass boat. Photo courtesy (Andy Hagedon/FLW).