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Palmetto State turkey population strong

April 2, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Palmetto State turkey population strong

image turkeys
Wild turkey hunting season is underway in South Carolina. Photo courtesy S.C. DNR

Palmetto State turkey population strong despite decline

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Biologists in numerous southern states have observed a significant drop in wild turkey populations since the turn of the century and in response have coined the term Southeast Turkey Decline to describe it.
South Carolina is one of numerous states that has seen such a decline, with approximately a 30 percent decrease in the population since the record numbers of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Charles Ruth, Wild Turkey Program Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, stresses this isn’t a dire situation for the Palmetto State’s population of wild turkeys.

“An important message is, while we’re talking about fewer turkeys, we’ve still got a strong turkey population in South Carolina,” said Ruth. “We just don’t have as many as we did during the peak.”
Some observers may immediately think the establishment of coyotes throughout the state over the same time-frame as the population decline has had a significant impact. Ruth isn’t so sure.
“The message is there’s always been a long list of predators on turkeys and turkey nests – opossum, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, snakes, owls, hawks, coyotes,” said Ruth. “Research is ongoing in a number of states including South Carolina in an effort to determine why turkey numbers have decreased.”
Ruth points to a number of possible reasons behind the decline.
“It’s a combination of changes in habitat, perhaps increased predation, weather in certain years,” said Ruth. “We’ve had gradual habitat changes over time, perhaps the nesting and brood-rearing cover may not be as good as it used to be. Personally I think that’s a lot of it.”
South Carolina is in its second year of an expanded wild turkey hunting season, which opened March 20 and will close on May 5 on private land statewide. The traditional turkey season has run from April 1 to May 1, until the S.C. Legislature implemented the expanded season for a three-year trial beginning with the 2016 season.
“(The longer season) increases the opportunity for hunters by nearly 40 percent,” said Ruth.
An ongoing study conducted by Ruth and other biologists deals with nesting ecology and timing, and determining the impact of the longer season.
“We’re trying to determine if the season is coming in too early,” said Ruth. “We’ve first got to allow the turkeys to successfully reproduce and second allow hunters to hunt during the peak of gobbling. When (the legislature) passed that legislation, we were supposed to report back to them after three seasons of the new framework, as far as what we think is going on. We will have to revisit it or it will revert back to (the) April 1 to May 1 (season).”
With the season already underway, Ruth expects fair results for the estimated 50,000 hunters who will try to take a mature gobbler over the next four weeks in South Carolina’s woods, fields and swamps.
“Reproduction in turkeys has generally been low for the last decade leading to significant declines in harvest,” said Ruth. “However, recruitment (into the turkey population) has been somewhat better the past few years in many parts of the state and the spring 2016 harvest responded with about a 10 percent increase.
“Although the total recruitment ratio of 1.6 (poults per hen observed during the 2016 Summer Turkey Survey) was still low, it was slightly better than 2015. Therefore, if trends hold the harvest in 2017 should be similar to that in 2016.”
NWTFSC Banquet
The Coastal Carolina Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation South Carolina will stage its annual banquet on April 7 at the Waccamaw Shrine Club in Conway, located at 10 Elm Street. For more information, contact Logan Skrabak at 803-729-0547 or

Catches hit or miss in estuaries

April 1, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Catches hit or miss in estuaries

Locals Day at Apache Pier
Hundreds of fishermen lined the rails of the Apache Pier for the ninth annual Locals Appreciation Day last year. Jason Lee

Fishing report: Catches hit or miss in estuaries, but arrival of bluefish a good sign

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Look For: Spotted seatrout, flounder, black drum, red drum, sheepshead, bluefish.
Comments: March is a transition month, for weather and for the fish. Spotted seatrout, flounder, black drum and red drum are all available in local estuaries from Georgetown to Brunswick County, N.C., but catches have been hit or miss this week. With April arriving, air temperatures should moderate in the next few weeks, the water temperature should rise and catches should become more consistent, especially for flounder. One sure sign of spring is the arrival of bluefish, and they showed up in good numbers this week in the near-shore waters in the Atlantic Ocean and in the estuaries. Capt. Mark Dickson reports that Capt. Ken Salos of Shallow-Minded Inshore Charters has produced trout on Vudu shrimp and has landed a few flounder this week in the Little River area.
Look For: Bluefish, black sea bass, weakfish, black drum, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: Bluefish, and lots of them, have made the scene in the inshore waters, especially on near-shore artificial reefs. “Weakfish and blues, a bunch of blues,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters on what he’s caught this week on the reefs. “We haven’t seen any Spanish (mackerel) yet, but we think (they will be here) within a week. The water temperature is 62-63 – it is prime.” Black sea bass, with a minimum size limit of 13 inches, are also available on the reefs. Action is on the verge of breaking loose on Grand Strand piers, too. Carsten Fischer of Apache Pier reports anglers were catching bluefish as of Thursday morning on the pier. Whiting and croakers with a few flounder have been the main catch on the piers, to go with the bluefish. Michael Wallace of Cherry Grove Pier reported an ocean water temperature of 61 degrees at surface and bottom Thursday morning.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: There are over two weeks left in the 2017 South Carolina Wahoo Series and action is heating up in the event. On Thursday, Wasted Time out of Murrells Inlet weighed in the biggest fish of the tournament thus far, a 100-pound, 5-ounce monster, and Hay Fever of Walterboro has the second-largest fish on the board, a 97.9-pounder. Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center reports Team OIFC and Team YellowfinOnly teamed to land an 82.8-pounder on Wednesday, the third-largest weighed in thus far. The series format is a two-fish aggregate, and boats can fish a total of two days by April 16. All three of the leading boats still have one more day to fish. Stay tuned. Boats have also been landing some sizable blackfin tuna, and look for dolphin to join the offshore trolling party in the next two weeks. Vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grunts and porgy are the top catch on bottom fishing trips, with triggerfish and amberjack also available. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30. Red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.
Comments: Prime spring river fishing has arrived. “The bream have really been biting,” said River Squires of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “We’ve sold so many crickets this week it’s not funny.” Squires says bream are hitting crickets in 2-4 feet of water off the banks, with the Little Pee Dee and the big Pee Dee at Yauhanna among the top areas. Catfish are hitting cut eel and shad while crappie continue to take minnows. “The bass are biting pretty good on a little bit of everything,” said Squires. “On the Waccamaw they’re hitting top-water, swim baits and frogs.” Squires notes the Little Pee Dee is a little high but the Waccamaw is “making a heckuva tide.”

From Educator to Fishing Guru

March 25, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on From Educator to Fishing Guru

Educator traded in football pads for fishing poles. Now, his huddle is bigger than ever

 image custom outdoor furniture