Why now is the best time for turkey hunters to pounce
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
March 23, 2018 06:15 PM
Updated March 23, 2018 06:21 PM
The vernal equinox, the official beginning of spring, occurred on Tuesday and coincided with the arrival of spring turkey hunting season.
If one wasn’t aware of opening day, a good glance at social media made it clear – plenty of turkey hunting enthusiasts took to the woods in South Carolina and had success calling in gobblers.
Spring turkey hunting is clearly a passion for many in the Palmetto State. Besides, South Carolina designated the wild turkey as the state wild game bird in 1976.
“We’ve got a good turkey population and obviously South Carolina is a hotbed of turkey hunting,” said Charles Ruth, Turkey Project Supervisor for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Ruth expects 50,000 hunters to talk turkey in the Palmetto State’s woodlands and swamps during the season, contributing an estimated $30 million in direct expenditures to the state economy.
“There are some very avid hunters among those 50,000 and most of them want to take advantage of the season as soon as it opens,” said Ruth.
The 2018 season marks the third season with an earlier March 20 start date, set beginning in 2016, after years of the season opening on April 1. It’s no wonder why hunters want to hit the woods as soon as the season opens.
“It’s the opening-week phenomenon,” said Ruth. “Typically with any type of hunting season, the animals are naive the first week. What we’ve seen over the years, regardless, within reason, no matter when we set the season, 40 percent of the birds (harvested in the season) are going to be killed the first week. After opening week, there are not as many are out there to harvest.”
The turkey season dates for private lands are March 20 to May 5 statewide. For all Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) where turkey hunting is allowed, the season will open on April 2 and close on May 5. The statewide bag limit is three gobblers per hunter with no more than two taken in one day. Possession and use of turkey tags remains in effect for all hunters.
The earlier start to the season results in a 50 percent increase in hunting days for 34 of the 46 counties in South Carolina, as 12 Lowcountry counties already had the March 20 start date in place.
The result has been an increase in the number of man/days of hunting effort, which reached an all-time high in the 2017 season and represented a 27 percent increase over 2015, the last season prior to earlier start date being initiated.
Not surprisingly, the number of turkeys harvested has increased by 24 percent since the earlier start date was instigated statewide in 2015.
Meanwhile, turkey reproduction has improved slightly over the past two seasons but not enough to account for the increase in harvest.
“Are there more turkeys on the landscape or is it people having more time to harvest them?” said Ruth. “From my perspective, it’s increased effort rather than the slight increase in reproduction we’ve seen.”
S.C. DNR will report to the S.C. Legislature on the impact of the earlier and thus longer turkey hunting season this November.
“That was part of the law (mandating the earlier start date) when it was put in place that we report to (the legislature) in November, 2018,” said Ruth. “They will deliberate that and either keep the new season or make some kind of adjustment for the future, but that (adjustment) may not take place until 2020.”
S.C. DNR staff is in the fourth year of a major study in Hampton County related to determining the optimum time to set the turkey hunting season in the state.
The study involves 50 sophisticated recording devices put in place for three months, from early March through early June.
“(The recording devices will be) going way beyond turkey season,” said Ruth. “This will help us paint a picture of the gobbling season.”
During the course of the study, DNR staff has placed GPS tracking units on a number of turkeys.
“We’ve been able to monitor females as to when they start to nest, incubate and come off the nest with young,” said Ruth. “All of that information will give us an indication of when the best time to start the season is – when you can allow hunting and not interfere with breeding but also afford hunters a good frequency of gobbling by the toms.”
Southern Anglers Radio Show
The popular local radio show focused on fishing is on the move.
The show will continue to be aired on Saturday mornings, but in a later time slot, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and a different station, now WGTR, Gator 107.9 FM, beginning on March 31.
Featuring Kenny Moore, Capt. Englis Glover and Tony Carter, the show focuses on saltwater and freshwater fishing along the Grand Strand, with plenty of good times and fishing humor mixed in.
“We have a great audience that we have deemed ‘The Fish Heads’ and we hope that our school will grow as we move to the much larger audience of Gator 107.9,” said Glover, also host of the local television fishing show Reelin’ Up The Coast. “Our new time slot will be so much better as people are up and stirring and on the water.”
The show discusses fishing trends and provides fishing reports for the entire Grand Strand, plus has fishing experts as guests, including celebrity anglers such as George Poveromo and Mark Sosin.
The Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina will host its annual banquet Saturday at 6 p.m. at Sunnyside Plantation, located at 3741 Hwy. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet.
Tickets are $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA.
For more information, call 843-455-0371 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wahoo, like this one caught in the Florida Keys, are the target of the 118 boats entered in the annual South Carolina Wahoo Series that runs through April 15. Submitted photo
Weather thwarting fishing attempts in South Carolina Wahoo Series
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
March 22, 2018 10:06 PM
Look For: Red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: For now, red drum with a few black drum are providing the most action in local estuaries. But the calendar is inching closer to April and, even with water temperatures in the mid 50s, the flounder bite will get started soon. For now, a few flounder are being caught but most are under the 15-inch minimum size limit. “I think with the full moon coming up (March 31) and warmer temps next week we should really see an influx of bigger fish,” said Capt. Englis Glover of Reelin’ Up The Coast and Southern Anglers Radio Show. Red and black drum can be found in shallow areas and in holes in tidal creeks.
Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: It’s been another week of chilly, windy weather, and fishing action has been slow in the near-shore waters and along the beach. “It’s just been a few little whiting and croaker, that’s been about it,” said Ronnie Goodwin of the Cherry Grove Pier, who noted a surface ocean water temperature of 56 degrees and 55 on the bottom Thursday afternoon at 5:15 p.m. Although few boats have made their way to the near-shore artificial reefs, sheepshead are the best bet at spots such as Paradise Reef, Jim Caudle Reef and Ron McManus Reef. The daily bag limit is 10 sheepshead per person and a boat limit of 30 per day with a minimum size limit of 14 inches (total length). Other species to look for on the reefs include black sea bass, weakfish, black drum and flounder.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.
Comments: The old adage goes, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. For fishermen eager to get offshore, catch some wahoo and compete in the 2018 South Carolina Wahoo Series, they certainly hope so near the end of the windiest March in recent memory. Some 118 boats have watched the wind blow virtually all month and are eligible to fish two days each in the 7th annual series, which opened Feb. 2 and runs through April 15. On pretty March days with blue water in areas like the Winyah Scarp, Black Jack Hole and Georgetown Hole, trolling can produce great catches of wahoo and blackfin tuna, with a few dolphin mixed in. Bottom fishing is typically good for black sea bass, grey triggerfish, vermilion snapper, amberjack, red porgy and white grunts. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30 and red snapper are closed indefinitely in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.
Comments: “There ain’t much happening, this weather just kills everything,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “Very few people have gone this week.” Bream are back in deeper water with the colder weather and water, and anglers are lead-lining worms for them in depths of 5-15 feet. Stalvey notes the catfish action was “phenomenal” in the Tricky’s Fish Shack Annual Spring Catfish Tournament last weekend. Capt. Jason Britt of Wet Dreams landed a pair of flathead catfish weighing 45.7 and 42.5 pounds for an aggregate of 88.2 pounds to win the tournament on the Waccamaw River over a field of 27 boats. Capt. Andrew Lathrom of Team Hairy Bush Hooks was second with a big fish of 44.2 pounds.
This group is getting ‘down and dirty’ for marine conservation
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
March 16, 2018 05:12 PM
Updated March 16, 2018 05:55 PM
This is an organization whose members don’t mind getting practically knee-deep in pluff mud to get the job done – whatever it takes to enhance, conserve and protect South Carolina’s treasured marine resources.
The members of the Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina will host its annual fundraising banquet Saturday, March 24 at Sunnyside Plantation in Murrells Inlet, on the banks of the same estuary where they have virtually wallowed in the pluff mud to build and enhance oyster reefs to help improve water quality.
“We like to have a good time, fish, and have a good banquet but we also like to get down and dirty for marine conservation, especially in our Murrells Inlet,” said Chris Hawley, Waccamaw Chapter Chairman.
The Waccamaw Chapter is one of 14 local chapters within CCA South Carolina, which, when founded in 1986, marked the first CCA state chapter established along the East Coast north of Florida.
Obviously, the Waccamaw Chapter is very active in S.C. DNR’s South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program in conjunction with CCA’s Topwater Action Campaign.
The partner programs are focused on improving and maintaining water quality in the estuaries along the South Carolina coast, particularly by placing used oyster shell in strategic locations to build new oyster reefs or enhance existing ones.
CCA SC members and volunteers have put several oyster reefs in place in Murrells Inlet, plus established the program’s first oyster reef in Georgetown’s Winyah Bay.
The benefits of strategically returning used oyster shell to estuaries are well-documented.
Oyster shell is the preferred and natural surface for spat, or oyster larvae, to attach to, creating new oysters and in turn new oyster beds. Oyster beds are the critical foundation of the marine ecosystem in our estuaries along the Palmetto State’s coast.
CCA SC’s Topwater Action Campaign deals with more than oyster reefs, though. The program also is involved in helping create and enhance near-shore and offshore artificial reefs, improving and monitoring water quality, providing education on the state’s marine environment and scientific research.
With fishing pressure on the saltwater scene at unprecedented levels throughout the Southeast, CCA SC is heavily involved in the state’s saltwater fisheries legislation, serving as a watchdog and pushing for needed changes to protect valuable fish or other marine species.
The organization has been instrumental in spearheading current legislation that has designs on reducing the daily bag limit and banning gigging of red drum, widely considered the most important species that inhabits South Carolina estuaries.
The setting for the banquet is perfect, under the mossy oaks at Sunnyside Plantation, on the waterfront in the heart of Murrells Inlet. You may even see a tailing redfish in the shallows from the banquet site.
The event gets underway off at 6 p.m. on March 24, starting with a social hour during which attendees can enjoy an open bar, bid on silent-auction items and enter raffles.
Dinner, featuring seared tuna, shrimp and grits, a fajitas bar and wings among other items, is next.
The night is capped by a live auction, which will feature various hunting and fishing trips among other items.
“We’ve got a loaded silent auction, a very good general raffle and some outstanding new trips in the live auction,” said Hawley.
Tickets are $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. Sponsorships are available starting at $300.
For more information, contact Hawley at 843-455-0371 or email@example.com.
If you go
What: Coastal Conservation Association Waccamaw Chapter’s Annual Banquet.
Where: Sunnyside Plantation, located at 3741 Hwy. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet.
When:Saturday, March 24, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. Sponsorships are available.
Info:843-455-0371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.