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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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Deer Strategies For The Fourth Quarter

I would like to propose a new trend among deer hunters heading to the woods during the month of December. Although it’s cold, windy, and hopefully wetter than it has been over the last three months, I’d like for you to stick your left hand out the window of the truck and hold up four fingers, just like the kids in high school football do at the start of the fourth quarter of the football game.

I’m asking you to do this for the same reason the high school football coaches require it of their players. It’s late in the game, everyone is tired, half the participants are heading out of the arena, and if we’re going to put one in the end zone, we’re going to have to dig deep and use some different strategies.

December is the time to define your goals for the end of the game. Are you headed to the woods to collect meat for the freezer or are you hoping to have a or maybe another shot at a trophy deer? 

Many hunters use the final weeks of the season to harvest does for the freezer. From a biological standpoint, not the best strategy. While not all does get bred during the rutting period, sometime in late October and early November, there’s a better than average chance the big nanny you’re eyeing through the rifle scope or sight pins is already bred, and you’re about to waste the efforts of the buck who bred her as well as all the resources she’s been consuming since September.

But if meat is on your mind, your best strategy is going to be the same one you’ve probably relied on since September – hunting food sources. The big difference now is that the natural food sources have changed and the deer are aware that something about that unnatural free meal laying on the ground ain’t so free.

With a little rain in the area since practically the beginning of the season, hopefully, the food plots that were all but dead from this year’s drought will perk up. Any clover in the plots that survived will be dead of frost by now so it’s grains like wheat and oats that will be the most common and attractive to deer, although turnips or other late bloomers will also be on the menu.

Hardwood mast crops have mostly fallen by now with the exception of some water oaks or pin oaks which typically drop later in the season. All bets are off because of the drought, but those laying on the ground have stayed fresher longer because of the lack of moisture, so those areas are worth checking out.

The big question is whether the rutting strategies should still be used during December. The answer is unequivocally yes, but at a lesser intensity than during the primary rut. Any doe that went into heat but did not breed will go back into estrous 28 days later. If the primary rut was late October and most of November this year, then the secondary rut should hit late November and most of December.

Always bear in mind that trophy bucks which may throw caution to the wind during the primary rut, are even more spooky now. The best strategy would be a food source that is tucked into thick cover or right on the edge of it, preferably facing a direction that has not seen much traffic from hunters. Does come to the food, the buck slips out to the does. 

Unfortunately, that means vacating those permanent deer stands that you’ve hunted all season and getting out in the climber, or if you planned ahead and hunt private lands, head to those one or two stands you put way back in the dense cover and haven’t hunted, waiting for fourth quarter.

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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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Late season deer hunting means digging deeper than you have all season and changing things up if you intend to fool that wary buck. Photo by Phillip Gentry. 

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South Carolina Legislative Sportsman's Caucus

State Legislators Band Together To Protect Rights of Sportsmen
 

The South Carolina Legislature, which comprises all of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, have the option to participate in one or more of only five officially recognized caucuses in the state - those being the Republican Caucus, the Democrat Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Woman’s Caucus, and the Sportsman’s Caucus. 

The purpose of a caucus being like-minded legislators seeking to band together to promote and advocate the rights of the group they represent. Since 2005 when the caucus was formed, the South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus has been one of the largest, if not the largest caucus in the legislature. During its inception year, the Sportsman’s Caucus was made up of 124 house representatives and 46 senators.

The state caucus is part of a larger assembly of the National Assembly of Sportman’s Caucuses and during the 11 years of its existence, founding member of the state caucus Mike Pitts has served as president of the National Assembly of Sportsman’s Caucuses from 2010 – 2012. The Caucus is currently chaired by Representatives Phillip Lowe, Russell Ott and Senator Chip Campson. 

Here at home, the Sportsman’s caucus has been fundamental in enacting legislation including include a right to hunt and fish, interstate wildlife violators compact, and outdoor sporting goods tax holiday bill as well as recent legislation overhauling the state’s freshwater fishing regulations and enacting more conservation-oriented big game laws.

Voters may recall a statewide referendum during the 2010 election that asked if the state should enact a right to hunt and fish as part of the state constitution. The results were an overwhelming majority of 89%. This came during a time when political correctness and attacks upon the rights of hunting and fishing came into view by animal rights groups such as PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who campaigned against passage of the amendment. 

The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact is an agreement among participating states to provide reciprocal sharing of information regarding sportsman fishing, hunting, and trapping violations and allows for recognition of suspension or revocation of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses and permits in other member states resulting from violations concerning hunting, fishing and trapping laws. 

Illegal activities in one state can thus affect a person’s hunting or fishing privileges in all member states. The Compact obligates members to report wildlife violation convictions to Compact members, gives the members the capability to honor each other's suspensions, and provides the method to exchange violator data between member states. A conviction in one Compact member state may cause them to be barred from participating in hunting, fishing, and trapping in all member states, at the discretion of each state.

Tax holidays offer sportsmen an opportunity to purchase the equipment they need while at the same time benefiting conservation programs through increasing sales of firearms and ammunition that are subject to federal excise taxes. 

In South Carolina, one month following the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, firearms sales soared (650% increase in one day) on the first ever Outdoor Sporting Goods Tax Holiday in December of 2008. Currently, three states, which includes South Carolina in that number, have implemented such tax holidays.

In 2012, The South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus hosted the National Association’s Annual Meeting where sportsman-legislators, industry and organization representatives, and state and federal agency personnel gathered for a legislative conference focused on outdoors related issues.  

Since inception, the South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus has continued to have a strong caucus and strong leaders that produce significant pro-sportsmen legislation and protect and promote hunting, angling, and recreational shooting and trapping in 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. This week’s guest will be Mike Johnson, manager of The Clinton House. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Elk In The Upstate

Many Upstate residents enjoy the prospect of seeing wildlife around their residences. The Upstate is home to deer, turkey and even the occasional bear that comes out of the mountains, but have you ever considered the possibility of seeing an elk?

The first official sighting of an elk in South Carolina was made on Friday, October 21 at Camp McCall, the South Carolina Baptist Convention Royal Ambassador summer camp on US 178 in northern Pickens County. 

The next day, the elk was seen at the Sunset Post Office on highway 11, and on Sunday, October 23, it was observed in the Nine Times Community, in northern Pickens County. Later that day, the animal was also seen at The Reserve at Lake Keowee golf course, which is near SC 133 in Sunset. 

With such a busy travel and social agenda, officials became concerned when social media postings began showing up with photos of the elk being petted and fed by area residents.

“Rumors have persisted for some time of elk sightings around the Caesar’s Head and Jones Gap State Park areas in northern Greenville County. It was just a matter of time before one was confirmed,” said Bob Santanello of the Upstate Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

In 1990, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, , suggested that the National Park Service reintroduce an elk herd back into the southern Appalachians. Officials chose the Cataloochee Valley because of its relative isolation. What started as 40 transplanted animals nearly 20 years ago has grown into a herd of an estimated 300 to 400 animals. It was just a matter of time before a few of them wandered off the reservation.

Having been seen off and on in both Pickens and Greenville Counties over the last couple of weeks, officials from the North Carolina Wildlife and Resources Commission were able to identify the bull as one of the Cataloochee Valley herd by it’s relative size and antler configurations. 

"People get a false sense of security, because elk don't mind being approached," said Justin McVey, a wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. "But they are still wild animals and can be very dangerous. All it would take is for that elk to swing its antlers, and it could really hurt somebody."

Earlier this week, officials with the SCDNR decided the best plan of action was to tranquilize and move the animal back to it’s herd in the North Carolina mountains.

The animal was sedated and moved back to the Cataloochee Valley area on Thursday with no incident.

Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States but were eliminated by over-hunting and loss of habitat. As the crow flies, Cataloochee is less than 100 miles from the South Carolina state line.

 “These animals are known to migrate thousands of miles,” said Santanello. “The Cataloochee Valley is a natural funnel, and the animals are not fenced in. It’s beginning to get kind of territorial up there. The big bulls are running off the smaller males, so they take a couple of cows and go look for somewhere else to live.”

So far, the lone immature bull elk has been the only elk sighted in the state.

Tammy Wactor, a wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources said legislation that was passed five years ago by the S.C. General Assembly protects elk in the Palmetto State, so they cannot be harmed. The legislation was promoted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, in anticipation of elk migrating into 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. This week’s guest on the show will be SC State Representative Garry Smith to discuss the South Carolina Sportsman’s Caucus. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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After numerous sightings of an immature bull elk around the northern counties of the Upstate, officials from SCDNR have tranquilized the animal and relocated it back to its original herd in the North Carolina mountains. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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Sportsmen Suffering Through Fall Drought

At its last meeting on October 26, the South Carolina State Climatology Office changed the status on three upstate counties – Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson - from moderate to severe while the majority of remaining Upstate counties were changed from Incipient to Moderate. 

That is the state’s official way of stating “We need some rain”. While the brief rain events last week-end may help take the edge off the drought status, it is not expected to change it. While officials try to cope with reducing water usage in the wake of the drought, sportsmen are also suffering from exceedingly dry conditions.

Probably first and foremost on the list of natural resource concerns are wildfires in the piedmont areas of the Appalachians that have been burning over the last couple of weeks. Area residents are reminded of this situation even if they can’t see the flames by plumes of smoke and smoke odor that has descended on the Upstate. 

Visual confirmation of the drought can also be seen on local bodies of water as water levels drop. Lake Hartwell is reporting levels of nearly 10 feet below normal while Lake Jocassee and Clarks Hill are at similar low levels. Area stream flows throughout the Upstate are reported as either Low or in the 10th percentile. 

Fishing forecasts for the Upstate waters remain fairly consistent for this time year. Many reservoirs are experiencing fall turnover when water that has stratified during the heat of summer moderates causing waters from the bottom of the lake to rise and replace water at the surface that has cooled in response to overnight temperatures in the 30’s. 

According to a recent report from Brandon Barber, fishing guide and owner of Riverblade Knife and Fly in Spartanburg, the lower water levels on area mountain streams have made the trout that live there particularly spooky.

“No rain means exceedingly clear water in our trout streams,” said Barber. “That doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish, but you won’t have the benefit of off-colored water to help camouflage your presentations. I’m finding the fish are less forgiving of mistakes and there are some areas where the trout just aren’t going to go because of the shallow water.”

In the woods, deer hunters are seeing reduced deer movements associated with the drought because deer are not traveling to some food sources that never matured. According to Bart Littlejohn, manager of Carolina Farm and Wildlife Supply in Pauline, deer are still keying on acorn crops that have seen a bumper crop this year and are still available to deer. He said even acorns that fell some time ago are still available because the ground moisture content that normally facilitates decay in fallen acorns has kept old crop edible for deer.

“A lot of hunters who planted food plots back in the summer or even early fall are reporting nearly total losses of these food sources for the deer,” said Littlejohn. “Around Thanksgiving is normally the time of year that deer would move from eating acorns and move into food plots. But the acorns aren’t gone yet and there’s not much planted food available. It’s really going to get bad the longer this drought persists.” 

Probably the hardest hit of sportsmen will be area duck hunters who are counting on finding some resident ducks when the first segment of waterfowl season opens tomorrow and runs until November 26.

“The drought can go two ways for duck hunters,” said Littlejohn. “If you can find water, especially anywhere near some oak trees, you could be looking at a potential honey hole, because a lot of areas that count on having water naturally are dry due to the drought. On the other hand, low water conditions are also going to concentrate duck hunters, especially on any available public land.”

Littlejohn stated that warmer conditions so far this fall have not pushed any number of migratory ducks into the state as far as he has seen or heard from his efforts and those of customers. Both he and other hunters are hoping that cold fronts forecast for the coming days and into the winter will help push waterfowl into our area, but with no water, where will they land?

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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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Recent drought conditions means increased risk of wildfire and no water for deer, fish or ducks. Area sportsmen will need to modify their efforts around reduced water to be successful this season. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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One Month After Matthew, Coastal Fishing Is Better Than Ever

Just over a month ago the prospects of fishing anywhere off the South Carolina coast looked dismal. Hurricane Matthew had spun through the Caribbean and was charging northward up the Atlantic coast as a Category 4 Hurricane bringing with it damaging winds, torrential rainfall and a nearly 10 foot storm surge.

In the aftermath of the storm, which even the most rabid weather forecasters admitted could have been much worse, homes and docks were damaged and coastal flooding was devastating. Particularly hard hit were the areas along the South Carolina/North Carolina border where the storm dumped millions of gallons of water after making landfall near Georgetown.

While government agencies and building contractors got to work on recovery efforts, fishing guides and week-end anglers worried about losing a fall fishing season that for the last handful of years has shown some stellar speckled trout, redfish and king mackerel fishing.

Now, it seems those fears are over as local guides and anglers from Hilton Head to Little River are reporting some of the best catches in recent memory.

“The speckled trout bite has just been phenomenal,” said DIG Charter Captain Justin Carter on Daniel Island. “Trout are very dependent on clear water, which is something you’d think we wouldn’t have right now, but the storm took away a lot of the mud and silt that was on the bottom and we’ve had enough a lot of really clear water.”

Carter said the speckled trout fishing along with fishing for redfish and flounder in the inshore waters around Charleston has been made even better with the fact that this season has also been one of the best shrimp crops the area has had in a long time. He said fishing a shrimp under a popping cork had been working extremely well for almost anything inshore by casting the bait near structure and working it with the current.

“The water temperatures have come down to the 70’s and upper 60’s and that’s what you want for both trout and redfish,” said Carter. “There is plenty of bait left in the creeks but everything is pushing out so the best fishing will be around the mouths of the larger rivers like the Wando, the Cooper, and the Ashley and even out into Charleston Harbor.”

Further up the coast, anglers fishing from Georgetown to Little River are also catching plenty of speckled trout, redfish and taking advantage of fall migrations of many species of nearshore and inshore fish.

“The bull reds, fish up to 40 inches are pretty thick around the Murrell’s Inlet Jetties and even in the surf around some of the smaller inlets,” said Mike Eady of Black Water Outfitters near Conway. “The trout bite has also been good and the spot run, which a lot of people look forward to every year, didn’t miss a beat because of the hurricane.”

Although the hurricane did cause of major damage to fishing piers along the Grand Strand, particularly the Springmaid Pier which is closed until repairs can be made, anglers are reporting record catches of king mackerel near the state line from the Cherry Grove Pier. In addition, pier operators are reporting good catches of Spanish mackerel, bull redfish, bluefish, whiting, and croaker. The top bait choices have been live shrimp, finger mullet for most species and whole menhaden for the kings.

The Hilton Head area, according to fishing guide Dan Utley, may be a little slower than the rest of the coast to rebound, but he said anglers fishing the Port Royal areas near Beaufort and Hilton Head can still catch plenty of speckled trout and slot-limit redfish by fishing with live and cut mullet or casting artificial grubs on a jig head near the grass lines.

“Now that the weather is changing, the fronts are moving through, so wind is going to be a concern,” said DIG’s Justin Carter. “That’s good in a way because it keeps the bugs down, but things can get a little bumpy in open water. I think this bite we are seeing for a lot of species is only going to get better over the next several weeks.”

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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 Davy Hite, Bassmaster Elite angler from Nintey Six. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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DIG Charters fishing guide Justin Carter said inshore fishing around the Charleston area and all along the South Carolina coast has rebounded to phenomenal levels less than a month after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative

Back in the day of our fathers and grandfathers, the populations of bobwhite quail in South Carolina rivalled that of Texas and Georgia. However, changes in land use and land management practices, couples with other environmental factors, have seen a sharp decline in this most ubiquitous of game birds across the state.

In an attempt to counter the decline, The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative was established in 2015 to restore bobwhite populations to early-1980s levels. Based on a plan written by the SC Department of Natural Resources and supported nationally by the NBCI (National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative), the work is directed by the SC Quail Council, a group of government and non-governmental agencies, organizations, and individual landowners.

Over the last 30 years, segmented efforts have resulted in little results for the state’s quail population. Unlike deer or turkey, which can and do adapt to changing land use and are more than capable of surviving in segmented pockets, bobwhite quail require a more continuous environment across the state.

Growing bobwhites requires many parties working together on timber management, prescribed fire, planting, discing, cutting, funding and cooperation between neighboring landowners across a wide landscape.

Until now, a coordinated effort to restore bobwhite quail and suitable quail habitat on a coordinated statewide basis had not existed.

“Bobwhite quail used to thrive in South Carolina primarily based on the land use of row cropping and share cropping and now a lot of that type agriculture has gone away,” said Mark Coleman, SCBI Outreach Committee Member. “The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative is a statewide effort, working to help land owners and lease holders create and maintain the type of habitat that will help these wild birds thrive.” 

Probably the biggest encroachment on quail habitat both here in South Carolina and across the southeast has been land use change from agricultural pursuits to urban development and timber management, particularly growing stands of longleaf and loblolly pine tree for timber and paper products.

But the two goals are not mutually exclusive. While growing quail in the suburbs is not feasible, making stands of pine plantations more conducive to quail habitat certainly is. It’s also possible in areas to make areas that are still predominantly agricultural more quail-hospitable.

To this end, the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative provides many services and cost share opportunities to landowners who are interested in providing quality habitat for bobwhite quail in the state. This effort starts by providing technical assistance on land management practices that not only benefit quail, but enhance overall hunting land health for growing other game species such as deer, turkey, and rabbits.

At the meat end, the SCBI also offers financial assistance or cost share arrangements administered through several of it’s partner agencies to offset costs associated with effecting changes in land use.

Another valuable asset offered by the organization is the availability of tools and equipment that can be provided or rented to plow firebreaks for planting food sources, offering prescribed burning services, and providing seed and shrubbery available for purchase to enhance a landowner’s habitat. 

The SCBI is also constantly looking for volunteers to do birds counts or fox squirrel surveys. There may be opportunities to assist with annual surveys on the focal areas around the state. The organization frequently organizes volunteers willing to put in the time and effort to go through training to learn to identify several grassland bird species of concern by sight and sound and the willingness to assist in several days of monitoring various wildlife populations throughout the year.

“That’s what we are here for,” said Coleman. “We want people of all walks to get involved, to call us and say what can I do to get more bobwhites on my land or what can I do to help these wild birds recover?”

For more information, visit dnr.sc.gov/quail or contact the SCDNR Small Game Project at 803-734-3940 or scbobwhites@dnr.sc.gov.

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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 Lee Griffin from Karolina Koaches in Piedmont. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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The Bobwhite Quail’s road to recovery in the state is dependent on coordinated land use management. That is the goal of the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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Stuck In The Rut

Now that we’re getting some cold weather, the deer rut is really going to get started.

Have you ever heard this statement around deer camp in October – “We need to get some cold weather to get the rut going?” of course you have. You might have even been the one who said it. If you did you’re wrong.

According to Mark Buxton, of Southeastern Wildlife Habitat Services in Magnolia, Alabama, a company that provides deer management services across the southeast and the Carolinas, the rut for whitetail deer is not triggered by weather or temperature but photoperiod – the amount of daylight that strikes a deer’s eye signaling the appropriate time of year.

“The timing of the rut will occur at different times in different areas” said Buxton. “In places like Alabama and Mississippi the rut may not occur until late January or even February while in North and South Carolina the rut occurs in October and November, and will even vary by a couple of weeks across that area, but it rarely varies much year to year because the photo period remains pretty consistent.” 

Unfortunately for deer hunters, when the rut does kick in during a period of warm weather, most of the rutting activity, and that means movement –does running and being chased by bucks – occurs during the most temperature comfortable time – at night. 

“Temperature will restrict deer movement during daylight hours. By the fall, deer have shed their summer coats and put on their winter coats,” said Buxton. “Just like you and me, they aren’t in much mood to be active while it’s hot and they’re wearing long johns, so all the activity occurs after dark when the temperature is cooler than during the day.”

If the does are not moving, the bucks will not be moving either. It’s an unfortunate cycle that many hunters blame on the moon phase or even hunting pressure when you see the majority of your deer standing on the side of the road on your way home than you did when sitting in the deer stand.

Buxton added that a well-defined rut has much to do with a well-balanced deer herd, and hunters who have never hunted a properly managed property during the rut really can’t comprehend what “hunting the rut” looks like.

“When your herd is out of balance, and by that I mean your buck-to-doe ratio and the herd age structure, you get a trickle rut,” said Buxton. “All does should go into heat within the same 7 – 10 day period. When your herd is well -synchronized, you’ll have bucks chasing does all through the day and all over the property. That’s when you understand what the rut is really all about.”

Buxton concluded that hunters who want to witness a synchronized rut, a week to 10 days when “the rut is wide-frickin open” and you’re as likely to see bucks chasing at noon as early or late in the day, need to focus on three things to get their deer herd in balance.

1. Good buck to doe ratios. Typically, 1 buck per 3 to 6 adult does, but may vary.

2. Properly balanced age structure. This means your property will contain almost as many mature deer as young deer but with an appropriate year class system to replace those deer that are harvested or ago out.

3. Good nutritional plan. Deer are healthy with a well-balanced diet which includes year round food and mineral supplies.

According to Charles Ruth, Deer Project supervisor for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the historical data for the Palmetto State shows that most record book deer are taken by hunters during the last two weeks of October and the first two weeks of November. 

“Trophy deer management is in the eye of the hunter,” said Ruth. “Most deer clubs that try to promote trophy management require deer have at least 8 points or at least 4 points on one side and antler mass that extends outside the ears. Others require that any buck that’s harvested be a “mountable” deer-again relying on the eye, and the wallet, of the beholder.”

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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. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Most hunters believe the rut is triggered by weather, when in fact photo period, the amount of daylight is the single factor that triggers breeding in white tail deer. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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Upstate South Carolina Becoming A Stronghold For High School Bass Fishing

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

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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. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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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. 

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Hurricane Matthew Leaves A Mess For Low Country Outdoorsmen in It’s Path

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. 

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The following Wildlife Management Areas are closed until further notice:

Palachucola WMA

Hamilton Ridge WMA

Webb WMA

Donnelley 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

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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, Bassmaster Elite Angler-Of-The-Year Gerald Swindle will be on the show.  Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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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. 

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