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Posts from March 2016

USC Goes Back-To-Back as FLW Bass Fishing Collegiate Champs

Anderson Will Represent College Series in 2016 Forrest Wood Cup

The University of South Carolina may need to rethink it’s sports marketing strategy. While it’s highly supported Division 1 football program has proven to be a poor return on investment of late, one of it’s club sport affiliates, the Anglers@USC bass fishing club team, has been kicking butt and making names.

Locally outshining the hoopla of Florida pro John Cox, who earned a check for $100,000 by winning the FLW’s Lake Hartwell Tour Event, the FLW Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship was won by Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson of the University of South Carolina. The USC anglers fished a three- day event, emerging on top of 53 college teams on Lake Keowee. 

The USC anglers posted a tournament best three day, 15 fish limit weighing 38 pounds, 15 ounces, finishing 14 ounces ahead of second place team Kennedy Kinkade and Josh Worth from Colorado Mesa Univesity. The win netted Blanchette and Anderson $29,000 in cash and a brand new Ranger Z175 bass boat and 90 HP Mercury Outboard motor.

“We’re both conservative fishermen,” Blanchette says. “We just want to go out and catch a solid limit. But we knew this is it – this is the National Championship. We came here to win, not take second or third.”

The victory posted back-to-back wins for the Gamecocks in FLW Collegiate championships following last year’s win on Lake Murray by USC anglers Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon.

For college club teams, bass fishing on a national circuit is both a blessing and a curse. The students rarely get the rescheduling consideration common with other college athletes and the anglers have to pay for their own tackle, gear and traveling expenses. On the other hand, winning a big sum of money, unheard of in other sanctioned college athletics, goes straight into the pockets of the anglers.

With regard to the FLW Collegiate National Championship, winning the event comes with another blessing and curse. The winning team gets a free berth to compete against the professional bass anglers in this year’s coveted Forrest Wood Cup, which will be held on August 4 - 7 on Lake Wheeler, AL. The curse is that only one angler can go to the Cup and the way that spot is decided is by blind fish-off the following day on an as yet undisclosed lake.

Following the awards ceremony, Blanchette and Anderson were informed by FLW officials that they would be competing against each other in separate boats on Lake Russell.

‘We both knew this was what would happen if we won, it’s just business,” said Hampton Anderson, a TL Hanna High School graduate from Anderson.

While the pros decided their fate on Sunday, the USC anglers staged their own private head-to-head competition on Lake Russell, launching from Sanders Ferry ramp on the Savannah River side of the lake.

“I haven’t fished Russell since I was a kid with my Dad,” said Anderson. “I just went out there and started beating the banks.”

At the end of the day, Anderson emerged victorious with a five-bass limit of 10 pounds, 1 ounce, while Blanchette caught four keepers for 6-6. Anderson said he simply fished around the boat ramp but figured out a pattern to catch largemouth bass, which were holding at the ends of tree blow-downs rather than concentrating on the smaller spotted bass which were everywhere else.

Anderson said he’s looking forward to competing against the pros on Lake Wheeler. A senior finance major, he said his strength as a bass fisherman is fishing slow and deep, both desired combinations for fishing Wheeler in the dead of summer.

“I’ll probably drag a jig around on the bottom and see what happens,” he said.

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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, Upstate Outdoors will have Edwin Evers, winner of the 2016 Bassmaster Classic, appearing on the show. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.

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Last Sunday, Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson of the University of South Carolina won the FLW Bass Fishing College National Championship ahead of 53 other college teams on Lake Keowee.The win represents back-to-back FLW National Championships for the bass fishing Gamecocks. Photo courtesy FLW.

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​Hunters Eager, Biologists Concerned Over New Turkey Season Opening Date

The warm weather that has spread across the Upstate in what was promised a few weeks ago by the Ground Hog has a lot of outdoorsman grinning ear-to-ear. Reports of fish invading the shallows and turkeys gobbling in the bright morning sunshine are reasons to smile.
When it comes to the latter, biologists with the SCDNR have a little cause for concern. Last year the State Legislature passed laws that would standardize turkey season on private lands across the state. For the first time, this season Upstate turkey hunters will take to the woods on March 20 whereas in years past, the opening date for turkey season was not until April 1.
SCDNR Turkey Project coordinator Charles Ruth is happy that a compromise could be reached standardizing season dates, but has concerned that an earlier hunting season may interrupt breeding for a species that has shown a drastic decline in numbers across the state in recent years. Historically, Low Country hunters were allowed to begin hunting on March 15, but will hold off 5 days and start with the rest of the state.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Ruth. “Personally, I think it’s a bit early. The birds are still flocked up right now and even though it’s common to hear gobblers gobbling in March, the hens will not start laying until the first week or so into April.”
Ruth’s concern is that by hunters harvesting male turkey too early in the season, breeding success may be reduced. Based on historical data, gobbler practice a lot of styling and profiling for hens before they get down to the business of reproduction. This posturing is sometimes good for hunters because birds tend to make a lot of racket, cluing the hunter in to their location on the hunting grounds.
“It’s a balance of insuring reproduction of the species while allowing hunters the opportunity to hunt during times of frequent gobbling,” said Ruth.
In addition to the new season start date, the spring turkey season also extends into May with a closure slated for May 6. Ruth said a lot of hunters concentrate on killing turkeys the first week of the season but could also have success by hunting gobblers later in the season after hens have left the flock and are incubating the nest.
“Hens lay a clutch of up to 15 eggs, but they may only lay one a day so there’s some time involved there,” said Ruth. “But once she has committed to incubation, sitting on the nest, she does leave that area and that’s when hunters speak of gobblers getting lonely and will range farther to find the last available hens.”
Of note to hunters in preparation for the beginning of the season is that the bag limit on gobblers has been reduced to three per season, down from 5 per season in prior years. In order to legally hunt turkeys, all hunters, including hunters under the age of 16, must possess a set of turkey tags. Hunters 16 and older must also possess a hunting license and big game permit. Hunters may not possess more than one set of turkey tags, and all harvested birds must be tagged prior to being moved from the point of kill.
As was the case last year, handwritten wild turkey tags are no longer available over the counter at local vendors. Turkey tags are available over the counter at S.C. Department of Natural Resources offices located in Clemson, Charleston, Columbia, Florence and York.
Hunters need to also bear in mind that the revised season dates only apply to privately owned, leased or permissive use lands. Hunting on public lands and WMAs will adhere to the traditional season opening date of April 1.
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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. Podcasts of the show can be found at www.1063word.com Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.
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While turkey hunters eagerly await the earlier opening day of turkey season, biologists are concerned that hunting my interrupt the breeding cycle. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
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State Legislature Making Progress Towards Establishing Deer Limits

House Makes Changes To Senate Bill

Long awaited and much anticipated legislature aimed at curtailing the decline of South Carolina’s whitetail deer herd made progress over the past week as the House of Representatives took control of S454, a Senate bill that was approved last March. The House withheld voting on the bill last session until the SCDNR held an additional round of public consensus meetings to discuss the proposal of limiting the harvest of antlered deer and establishing a tag system to regulate the harvest of both bucks and does.
Last week, a House sub-committee approved legislation by making changes to a companion bill, H4943. The changes centered around removing the proposed $15 tag fee and allowing all in-state deer hunters who purchased the already required Big Game Permit to receive 3 buck tags and 8 date-specific doe tags. The date specific doe tags would supplant the existing doe day system where hunters are allowed to harvest antlerless deer and put in place tags that could only be used on specific dates.
Additional buck tags would be available for purchase but would carry an antler restriction, where only bucks with at least 4 points on one side and a 12 inch inside spread were legal for harvest.
In the public consensus meetings, many hunters expressed interest in establishing some “trophy management” criteria in the state similar to legislation already in existence in other states.
The doe tag program whereby hunters could purchase up to 4 antlerless doe tags for $5 each would remain in place. The intent of the original doe tag system was to allow antlerless deer harvest on days other than designated doe days and was amended prior to last season to include any doe harvested during any season regardless of weapon.
The Deer Quota Program, used in place of individual doe tags by owners and managers of large tracts of private land with an overabundance of deer, would be amended to include both bucks and does and set harvest allowances outside of the newly proposed tag system.
Finally, non-resident deer hunters would see a significant increase in the cost to hunt in South Carolina while allowing the purchase of up to four buck tags, two of which must include antler restriction. The cost would be $50 for the first tag and $20 for each additional tag.
“This revised proposal represents what we consider to be a middle ground between the original Senate bill and the results of our public meetings,” said Charles Ruth, Deer Coordinator for South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “This proposal doesn’t essentially reduce any of our deer regulations that have been in place for some time. It does put a limit on bucks in the lower state areas  and it provides a tagging system so we can accurately keep track of the deer that are harvested.”
Currently South Carolina is the only state in the country where there is no limit on the number of bucks that can be killed. The Upstate areas of Game Zones 1 and 2 have an honor system limit which is essentially unenforceable for prosecuting wildlife cases and Zones 3 – 6 have no limit.
“(If passed), this would protect a lot of the year and a half old bucks and help them reach maturity,” said Ruth. “In addition, the tag system will allow some flexibility in the future for limiting or expanding doe harvest based on the trending population.”
If the House proposal is passed, it would have to go back to the Senate for approval before being sent to the Governor’s office to be signed into law.

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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 Charles Ruth, Deer and Turkey Coordinator for South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Contact Gentry at pgentry6@bellsouth.net.
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A House Sub-committee has approved a bill that would finally establish antlered deer harvest limits in South Carolina and institute a tagging program for all deer. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
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