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Changes in deer hunting regulations

August 5, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Changes in deer hunting regulations

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When deer hunting season opens in the majority of the state on Aug. 15, South Carolina will become the final state in the nation to institute a statewide limit on the harvest of bucks File photo The Sun News
What you need to know about S.C.’s new deer tagging system, limit on harvest of bucks

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

August 04, 2017 2:45 PM

Changes in South Carolina’s antiquated white-tailed deer hunting laws will go into effect in mid-August following years of public input and 14 months after legislation was passed by the state General Assembly.

When deer hunting season opens in the majority of the state — including game zones 3 and 4 for which Horry and Georgetown counties are a part of — on Aug. 15, South Carolina will become the final state in the nation to institute a statewide limit on the harvest of bucks.

S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) is in the process of instituting a first-time tagging system which will require all deer harvested – bucks and does – to be tagged at the point of kill, joining most other states with similar systems.

The legislation was signed into law by then-Gov. Nikki Haley on June 8, 2016.

The new laws are the result of well over a decade of input the agency received from hunters interested in improving the quality and quantity of bucks available in the Palmetto State.

Hunter input along with an estimated 35 percent decline in the state’s deer population since the turn of the century forced members of the state’s legislative body into action.

Resident hunters in game zones 3 and 4 that have purchased a hunting license and a big game permit automatically receive a base set of tags — three tags for antlered bucks and eight date-specific antlerless deer tags.

“It’s been in the works since 2003,” said SCDNR big game program coordinator Charles Ruth. “Clearly it was something hunters initiated and it gained momentum over time. Our deer population changed noticeably during the same period of time to get where we are. (The population decline) added fuel to what changes we were already talking about.

“It wouldn’t ever have gotten to the level where the legislature was interested in it if the hunters at the local level had not continued to bring it up. Then the legislature said they really wanted to see some changes. That’s when it all started to come together.”

The agency has been busy mailing deer tags to hunters in recent weeks, a new venture for Ruth and his cohorts — and the hunters.

“Since the legislation passed, the big thing has been orchestrating this tag program, getting the tags to the hunters that are supposed to have them,” said Ruth.

As for hunters that have questions on exactly how to use the tags, Ruth has a simple message — read them.

“The biggest message we can give to hunters is simply read your tags,” said Ruth. “It all will make more sense if you just read your tag. Most of the calls I’m getting from my constituents is ‘Hey, I got my deer tags and this makes perfect sense to me.’ Each tag has verbiage on it. The entire back side has info on it. The light bulb will go off and they’ll say, ‘I’ve got this.’”

Resident hunters in game zones 3 and 4 that have purchased a hunting license and a big game permit automatically receive a base set of tags — three tags for antlered bucks and eight date-specific antlerless deer tags.

“Those eight doe tags simply replace what used to be doe days,” said Ruth. “It’s the same eight days we’ve had the last four to five years … typically Saturdays, except the last one which is Jan. 1 (2018).”

The buck restriction is designed to take the pressure off the year-and-a-half old bucks. If the hunter wants that extra opportunity he has to get those tags, but he can’t just keep harvesting little bucks.

SCDNR big game program coordinator Charles Ruth

Resident hunters in game zones 3 and 4 can also purchase two antler restriction buck tags for $5 apiece, each of which are valid only on bucks with a minimum of four points on one antler or a 12-inch inside antler spread. As in the past, resident hunters can also purchase up to four individual antlerless deer tags for $5 each.

“The buck restriction is designed to take the pressure off the year-and-a-half old bucks,” said Ruth. “If the hunter wants that extra opportunity he has to get those tags, but he can’t just keep harvesting little bucks.”

SCDNR will in the future have the ability to alter the number of antlerless deer tags available to hunters, but a change in the number of buck tags available would require legislative approval.

“The tags are the actual tool to enforce that buck limit, and part of the process is the agency wants all deer tagged which will give us a better ability to manage the antlerless harvest as we go into the future,” said Ruth. “SCDNR will be able to manipulate the number of tags, especially the optional tags for does. It has been such that people could get up to four (additional doe tags) for a long time. If the agency sees the need for it to be less than four, or more than four for that matter, they could make that adjustment.”

With the start of deer hunting season fast approaching, Ruth says hunters who are due tags will soon receive them.

“As of today, the agency is basically caught up with the initial bulk distribution,” said Ruth. “The people who have an active big game permit, if they don’t have their tags, they’re in the mail. One of the most frequently asked questions is if you have an active hunting license and big game permit you automatically get your base set of tags.”

Senior hunters, lifetime license holders and youth hunters are entitled to the base set of tags, but have to request them by calling 803-734-3833.

The Deer Quota Program, formerly the Antlerless Deer Quota Program, is available for landowners with large properties and has been in place for over 50 years. SCDNR determines the property’s quota and issues tags based on the size and location of the property, along with the goals of the participant. A harvest report is required.

For more information on the South Carolina’s deer season visit For more information on the new tagging program visit

Cool temps, hot fishing.

August 4, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Cool temps, hot fishing.

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Dennis Caruso tosses a line from the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier earlier this summer. Janet Blackmon Morgan
Cooler temperatures allow action to heat up for anglers fishing local waters

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

August 03, 2017 6:10 PM

Look For: Black drum, flounder, spotted seatrout, red drum, sheepshead, bluefish, tarpon.

Comments: A rare cold front for late July moved through early in the week, offering a respite from the heat and a drop in water temperature to bring in August. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown noted the water temperature cooled about 10 degrees, bottoming out at 76 degrees in the Winyah Bay vicinity. McDonald had solid outings the last two days including a catch of nine spotted seatrout, four red drum, four ladyfish and a pair of jack crevalle on Thursday. McDonald used live finger mullet for bait and said one of the trout weighed more than three pounds and the jacks were in the four-pound range. “It was a busy four hours – not much play time,” said McDonald, who pointed out bait is plentiful in the bay. “You can walk on the finger mullet, there’s so many of them.” On the north end, Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters enjoyed the cooler weather while it lasted. “It’s been pretty cool in the morning and I’ve actually been wearing a jacket,” said Kelly. “It’s been nice.” Kelly has had success with a top-water trout bite at daybreak, with fish hitting Zara Spooks and Top Pup Mirrolures. Kelly has also produced black drum, red drum and a few flounder this week. Kelly also noted ribbonfish are plentiful, feeding on the numerous finger mullet that are present.

Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.

Comments: Spanish mackerel and flounder have been the hot ticket by boat on inshore waters. Spanish can be found from near the beach, especially in the vicinity of area jetties, to near-shore reefs such as Paradise Reef and Jim Caudle Reef on out to bottom spots such as Myrtle Beach Rocks and Belky Bear. Effective methods to catch them include trolling mackerel rigs (finished with a Clark or Drone spoon) on No. 1 planers or drifting/casting finger mullet. Look for the birds and bait and Spanish should be in the vicinity. Belky Bear and other spots in depths of 30-50 feet are producing good catches of king mackerel. Capt. Jeff Maples has found excellent flounder fishing on the near-shore reefs, using the plentiful finger mullet for bait. “I threw my net one time (Wednesday) and blacked out my (live) well,” said Maples. On Wednesday afternoon, Maples and crew had a blast catching numerous flounder. “We caught well over 40, on one spot,” said Maples. “For four hours it never quit. It was amazing.” With South Carolina’s new flounder minimum size limit of 15 inches, Maples brought home 7 keepers ranging from just over 15 to 21 inches. Many of the fish Maples released were measured between 14 and 15 inches. Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier said Spanish mackerel have been caught in the morning, with some spotted seatrout landed at high tide. Other species landed on the pier this week include flounder, black drum, whiting, croaker, pompano and spadefish. Goodwin noted a water temperature of 83 degrees at the surface and bottom Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Aaron Morris of The Pier at Garden City reports whiting, croaker, small pompano and ribbonfish have been the top catch this week.

Look For: Blackfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin, sailfish, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white grunts, red porgy, black sea bass, grouper, amberjack.

Comments: Sea conditions have been sloppy offshore most of the week on the heels of the cold front but blackfin tuna along with a few wahoo and dolphin are available for trolling boats. The potential is there for numerous blackfins to be landed per trip, and August is traditionally a good month for wahoo. King mackerel are being found in good numbers in depths of 50-80 feet. Bottom fishing is producing good catches of vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grouper, porgy, grunts and amberjack. Cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Red snapper must be released in the South Atlantic region.

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: River levels are in very good shape and a cold front stymied the mid-summer heat early in the week. The result? Very good catches of bream, catfish and bass on area rivers in comfortable conditions. The Waccamaw River was at 6.97 feet at Conway at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, while the Little Pee Dee was at 4.97 feet at Galivants Ferry at 4 p.m. Thursday. Look for bream in 2-6 feet of water hitting crickets or worms. A variety of baits will work for catfish including live black salties or goldfish, along with cut eels. The heat is returning for the weekend, so look for bass early and late in the day hitting swim baits, spinnerbaits or jerk baits.

Gryphon’s crew wins Governor’s Cup

July 29, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Gryphon’s crew wins Governor’s Cup

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The crew of Gryphon works to release a blue marlin at boatside during the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. Submitted photo
Gryphon completes dominating Governor’s Cup win

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

July 28, 2017 6:11 PM

The Isle of Palms crew of Gryphon took a business-like approach to the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series in 2017, and the returns were phenomenal.

Owner Colby Griffin’s crew got off to a hot start by releasing three blue marlin to win the series-opening event, the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament, in mid May, and off they went.

When the series finale, the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament, was over last weekend, Gryphon had completed a dominating – and record-breaking – run to the Governor’s Cup championship.

With veteran Governor’s Cup Captain Chucky Moore at the helm and budding super-angler Chandler Griffin – Colby Griffin’s son – handling the rod on most billfish, Gryphon accumulated a Governor’s Cup-record 7,475 points for releasing eight blue marlin and 13 sailfish while fishing all five series tournaments.

The previous record for total points in a Governor’s Cup series of 6,075, set by Reel Passion in 2011, was blown out of the water.

“We took our Governor’s Cup approach a little different,” said Colby Griffin. “It was more of a hobby in past years. This year we set our goal to be serious about it. We kind of ran the tournaments as a business as opposed to going fun fishing. Everybody had a defined role and we were a lot more successful.”

Mister Pete finished a distant second with 5,675 points, followed by Toast in third (5,475). Anticipation (5,275) was fourth followed by Artemis (4,875) in fifth.

A pair of Georgetown boats were next in the final standings. Blue Sky had a strong finish in the last two events and wound up in sixth place with 4,675 points. Rascal was seventh with 3,475.

The elder Griffin and crew put their faith in 15-year-old Chandler Griffin, who celebrated his birthday in June in the middle of the series, to serve as the crew’s primary angler. He was the angler on five blue marlin and 12 sailfish releases.

“Chandler’s been killing it this season,” said Moore. “He had a really good season.”

Colby Griffin is thrilled with the performance of the crew, led by Moore, aboard his 60-foot Hatteras, but especially proud of his son.

“It’s the first major event we’ve ever won,” said Colby Griffin. “We’re extremely excited. I’m proud of Chandler – he’s come a long way. He worked real hard this year to become a better angler. To catch a lot of blues at any age is a difficult task.”

Chandler Griffin’s list of achievements is already a long one.

He won first-place as the Outstanding Youth Angler in the Governor’s Cup series this year after finishing second in 2016. He was the top Youth Angler in three of the five tournaments in 2017.

Chandler Griffin was also the top Junior Angler in the meatfish and billfish categories in the 2016 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, according to Colby Griffin.

For Capt. Moore, an elusive Governor’s Cup Billfishing series victory is finally in his grasp. A Charleston native, Moore has been a captain for, he estimates, 25 years, and has fished in the Governor’s Cup as a captain for 12 years.

In 2005, Moore was the skipper on Chicora and finished in second place to series winner and Georgetown entry Rascal by 18 points. Rascal, captained by Mark Rogers of Georgetown, landed the state record blue marlin, an 881.8-pounder, in June that year to highlight the 2005 series win

But this wasn’t a near-miss – it was a dominating win from start to finish for Moore and crew.

“I’ve got two Governor’s Cup records – most points and closest finish,” said Moore. “We were very blessed – we caught what the good Lord gave us. We’re pretty excited, and Chandler has the most youth points. It’s going to be a tough one to beat.”

Other Gryphon crew members included mate Bryce Bell, mate Mark McDevitt, Ted McNair, Brian O’Quin, Jeffrey Mitchell, Ross Miller, Brad Kicklighter and Michael Krivohlavek.

Wildlife, owned by Ken Strickland and captained by Jamie Brown, won the Edisto tournament, releasing one blue marlin and eight sailfish to accumulate 2,200 points.

Anticipation was second with one blue marlin and six sailfish releases for 1,800. Mister Pete was third, also with one blue marlin and six sailfish releases for 1,800.

“The fishing right now is incredible,” said Moore. “The last day of the Edisto Tournament, there were plenty of boats that saw over 10 billfish.”

For more info on the series and the Edisto Tournament, visit
Reel Kids, Reel Fun

The Bobby Clarke Memorial “Reel Kids, Reel Fun” Fishing Tournament will be staged at Georgetown Landing Marina on Aug. 5.

Local fishermen are invited to take children out for a day of fun fishing with a cookout and awards ceremony to follow at the marina.

The tournament is named for the late Capt. Bobby Clarke, who passed away in 2006 after his charter boat, Super Suds II, capsized while returning to Murrells Inlet from a fishing trip.

For more information, contact Michael Smith of the Florence Bluewater Fishing Club at 843-307-0425.