Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trapping for Predators

Trapping season is in full swing across South Carolina and there isn’t a better way to see which predators are on your land than by trapping. Most beginning trappers are initially surprised at the variety of animals they catch. Palmetto State resident Greg McClain has been trapping his land this year and recently shared a photo of a nice bobcat he trapped. He is focused on controlling the ever-growing population of coyotes on his property, so he released this bobcat, stating his belief that native species deserve to roam freely.

Other animals that are commonly trapped include red foxes, gray foxes, beavers, and coyotes.

PhotosByGregMcClain: Greg uses soft-jaw traps that won’t permanently damage critters, so this bobcat ran off perfectly healthy after posing for another photo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Crappie Fishing on Lake Wateree

The catfishing has slowed down on Lake Wateree, but that’s no reason to stay off the water. The crappie are biting good on minnows, with a few being caught on jigs and spoons as well. Will Hinson, who fishes in the Southern Crappie Tournament Trail, is finding the fish by tight-lining 18 feet deep in 20+ feet of water. Wateree Creek and Singleton Creek are currently the best fishing spots.

PhotoByBrianCope: Long-time outdoors writer Bennett Kirkpatrick shows off this crappie he caught while tight-lining a spoon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Subcommittee on Deer Dogging

The South Carolina House Wildlife Subcommittee met this past Tuesday to discuss H. 3723, an amendment which would have changed some of the laws involved in deer dogging, or hunting deer with dogs. The amendment was introduced by Representative Duncan and would have required a dog-hunting license be obtained by the dog owners and would have called for fines to be imposed on dog-hunters whose dogs end up on property that they have no permission to be on. It also called for a “3 strikes, you’re out” rule whereby dog-hunters who broke the new rules would have had their dog-hunting license revoked after being found guilty of 3 offenses during one hunting season.

The meeting was open to the public and 11 members of the public spoke to the subcommittee, giving their personal opinions on this new proposed amendment. About half of those who spoke did not want to see this amendment enacted, with the other half either wanting it to pass, or wanting it to be strengthened.

Some of the dog-hunters argued that deer dogging is a long standing tradition in South Carolina and that this new amendment would push many people out of the sport. They argued that “dogs can’t read property boundaries” and that they have no way to keep their dogs off other people’s property 100% of the time, and they didn’t feel it fair to fine them for what their dogs sometimes inadvertently do.

Those who favored this bill, or wanted to see it strengthened, argued that their still hunts are often ruined by dogs running through their land without permission, and that something needs to be done to protect their rights as landowners. Some cited dog owners purposely running their dogs through their land without permission. They stated that it’s not only about hunting and that continuing on without penalties for deer doggers is simply allowing bad behavior to continue.

Other issues were brought up as well. Dog-hunters sometimes walk onto private property in search of their lost dogs, essentially trespassing according to land owners opposed to dog hunting. This seems to be a gray area however, as one lawmaker stated that as long as those dog-hunters do not have loaded guns with them, they are not breaking any laws.

In the end, the subcommittee moved to strike the wording from this bill and insert the wording from a different bill that has recently passed in the senate. That bill was introduced by Sen. McGill and is known as the Renegade Hunter Bill. This bill has no provisions for the above mentioned fines and it does not carry the “3 strikes” rule either.

PhotoByBrianCope: SCDNR director Frampton tells the subcommittee that the potential exists for something dangerous to happen if some changes aren't made to regulations concerning deer hunting with dogs.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2010 Marshall's Marine Show attended the 2010 Marine Show at Marshall’s Marine in Lake City this weekend. Besides the many boats that Marshall’s Marine has on hand, numerous vendors were there selling fishing and outdoors gear. Several prizes were also given away, including a Caiman boat and a gas hog cooker.

Speakers were also present, giving short seminars on how to do everything from throwing a cast-net to gigging flounder. A number of professional outdoorsmen were there as well, including Hank Parker and Shaw Grigsby. The South Carolina DNR had their “Take One, Make One” booth set up with displays for kids and adults alike.

Marshall’s Marine has been in business since 1970 and has a 45,000 square foot indoor, climate-controlled showroom displaying more than 200 boats, allowing for comfortable shopping in any kind of weather.

PhotosByBrianCope: Hank Parker discusses fishing with an expo attendee. The SCDNR helps hook a kid on fishing with their Take One, Make One trailer. Dan Kibler and Bret Holten of NC Sportsman and SC Sportsman Magazines man a booth at the show.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Conversations with Conservationists

Senators Phil Leventis and John Courson hosted Conversations with Conservationists on Wednesday January 13th at the Gressett Building in Columbia. attended the breifing, which consisted of 5 conservation advocates speaking to the public, and our state senators, about a host of conservation topics that are important to everyone in the state, including sportsmen.

While only 5 speakers presented, they represented over 30 agencies that were in attendance at the briefing. The five key areas that were touched on were public health, water matters, protecting natural resources, land protection, and clean energy. Among the points these speakers made were that some of South Carolina’s waterways have up to 7 times the amount of acceptable mercury levels in them, what we can do to change that, and what a negative effect that has on not just water quality, but fish and irrigation as well.

One speaker, Dr. Harry Shealy, a professor at USC-Aiken and chairman of the Conservation Voters of SC, informed the audience that about 200 acres of forest and wetlands is currently being transitioned to developed land per day. He urged our senators to increase funding for purchasing some of this land to keep our state from losing these valuable resources.

Cary Chamblee, lobbyist for the SC Camo Coalition, informed that the organization is a staunch supporter of the proposals made during the briefing. He stated these initiatives, like the Clean Water Act, will help everyone—sportsmen, our wildlife, our businesses, and tourism into the state.

Each presenter ended with asking our senators to take up action through introducing bills and pushing for funding to better handle these environmental shortcomings.

PhotosByBrianCope: Senator Phil Leventis speaks with constituents after the briefing. Hamilton Davis of the Coastal Conservation League urges the panel to increase funding for developing clean energy sources within the state of South Carolina.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lake Murray Striper Report--Looking Good

For striped bass anglers on Lake Murray, things are looking up for 2010 according to preliminary SCDNR studies. Catching a keeper—at least 21 inches long—will be easier this year than it has been in quite some time. Hal Beard and Ron Ahle, both biologists with the SCDNR, presented their findings at the Midlands Striper Club’s December meeting.
A similar study was conducted in 2008, and it called for a poor 2009 striper fishing year on Murray. That prediction rang true by all accounts, lending credibility to the current study. The difference in that study and the latest one can be measured in both inches and numbers. Through gill net sampling, the 2008 study showed the lowest ratio of keeper fish in 10 years. It also pointed to the shortest average-length fish in many years—17.1 inches.

Conversely, the latest study shows an improvement in the keeper ratio, and an increase in the number of fish sampled so far. The average striper sampled during this recent gill netting was 18.2 inches long. This points to a better 2010 and beyond.

Some reasons for the improved outlook include fewer drought conditions in 2009 than we had in 2008. Droughts deplete the oxygen levels and cause fish kills, evident by fish floating dead on the water’s surface. In 2008, over 325 striped bass were recorded floating on Lake Murray, while 2009’s numbers were under 100.

One of the other reasons the striped bass fishery has struggled lately is the existence of white perch on Lake Murray. During the December meeting, Beard and Ahle stressed to anglers that white perch do a lot of damage to striper fingerlings. They also emphasized the DNR removed gamefish status from the white perch last year in an effort to shrink their population from the state’s waters. Where anglers had to limit the number of perch they once took home, the DNR know encourages everyone to “keep all they catch.”

Questions on this striped bass fishing report should be directed to Ron Ahle at and Hal Beard at

PhotoByBrianCope: Lake Murray's striper fishery has been down in recent years, but new studies show a rebound is in order for 2010.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 Grand American Coon Hunt

The 45th annual Grand American Coon Hunt was held in Orangeburg this past weekend. Close to 300 dogs were entered in the event, which many call the Super Bowl of coon hunting competitions. The overall champion of this year’s Grand American came all the way from Indiana. Bellar’s Get Ahead Lil Red, a Redbone handled by Mike Nelson, was crowned the winner at the end of the coldest Grand American in history. Though the temperature was forecast to be in the mid-20’s, the windchill on the final night was around 15 degrees.
The cold weather wasn’t the only record broken during the weekend’s competition. The other record—of the final four dogs, three were Redbones. This had never happened before and is a good sign for the Redbone breed. The fourth dog was a Treeing Walker named Hall’s Kentucky Bruiser, who finished 3rd in the final hunt. Kentucky Bruiser hails from Jonesville, SC and had a much shorter trip than Lil Red.

The other two of the top four dogs were Mantana Red Ranger, another South Carolina dog and the 2nd place finisher, and Bing’s Tess who came down from the Tarheel state to take 4th place.

The bitter cold did not seem to deter the crowd, which was estimated to be in the 30,000 range over the course of the weekend. Many vendors were on site selling everything from ATV’s, dog food, boiled peanuts, hunting clothing and equipment. Dog breeders were on site as well, selling started pups and fully trained hunting dogs.

PhotosByBrianCope: The Grand American trophy stage shows the magnitutde of this event; the $2500 price tag on this dog may seem high, but some dogs on sale at this event commanded much higher prices; daytime events like this treeing contest are just one of many non-hunting competitions that take place during the Grand American weekend.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Red Drum Stock Assessment

Check out the latest saltwater column in South Carolina Sportsman magazine for my interview with SCDNR's Robert Boyles about the current status of red drum stocks. Congratulations to Robert for recently being elected the Chairman of the ASFMC or Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Here's the link:

PhotoByBillyDowner: caught this slot-sized red drum while visiting South Carolina's Lowcountry.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wateree River Duck Hunting visited with a few successful duck hunters earlier this week. Willis Trapp and two friends hunted on the Wateree River between Boykin and Horatio. Despite the local gab that no ducks were in the area, this trio managed to bring down a handful of woodies on the frigid morning.

Hiding on the river was no problem. The water is still so high that they simply wedged their johnboat in a cluster of oak trees that are usually not even wet. They set out mallard decoys, but none showed up. Still, this group of hunters were happy with their day's bounty and hopeful that the bitter cold will bring more ducks to hand in the coming days.

PhotoByBrianCope: Willis Trapp and his four-legged hunting partner show off a cold morning’s bounty of woodies shot by Trapp and two friends on the Wateree River.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Browning X-Bolt receives 2009 award

Browning firearms introduced the X-Bolt rifle in 1998, raising the standard in the bolt action centerfire market, a standard that Browning previously set with their reliable A-Bolt model. Browning just received the “Best In Class” award for 2009 in the centerfire rifle category by Gun Test magazine. Publisher Timothy Cole said, “We don’t accept any advertising so consumers have confidence that our picks are derived by firing test results and not by anything else.” X-Bolt features include a feather trigger, X-Lock scope mounting system, Bolt unlock button, 60-degree Bolt, Inflex recoil pad and Rotary In-Line feed magazine.

PhotoByJeffDennis: Browning bolts can also receive a custom engraving like on my A-Bolt

PhotoProvided: Browning X-Bolt gun

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Midlands Striper Club Results and Banquet

The Midlands Striper Club held their December Double Points Tournament on December 19th from Lake Murray’s Spinner’s Resort. 26 anglers braved the cold weather as the Angler of the Year (AOTY) points race got a little shook up.

James Lindler won the Double Points Tournament with a combined weight of 18 lbs, 11 ozs, rocketing him from 5th place to 2nd in the AOTY points standings. Tom Gitto was close behind with his 17 lb, 7 oz bag which moved him from 8th place to 3rd for AOTY. Jody Wetzel improved his AOTY position, surging from 14th to 6th place, by taking 3rd in this tournament with a weight of 14 lb, 7 ozs. Wetzel also caught big fish of the tournament.

Entering the event, former Midlands Striper Club president Lee Thomas was sitting in the top AOTY spot, and despite all the leapfrogging that took place, he was able to hold on to the lead, winning his 6th Angler of the Year award, an unprecedented feat in the club’s 30 year history.

The club will be holding their annual awards banquet this Saturday, January 9th beginning at 6 p.m. Bar-b-que, fried chicken, and all the fixings will be served at the Saluda Shoals Park River Center as the 2009 Angler of the Year and 2009 Team of the Year will be crowned. 2010 officers will also be inducted. Like all Midlands Striper Club activities, this will be a family event and some great door prizes will be given out.

Located on Lake Murray, Midlands Striper Club is one of the oldest striped bass organizations in the country, and their goal is to generate the public’s interest in striped bass fishing. For more information on Midlands Striper Club, visit their website at

Photos courtesy of Midlands Striper Club. 1st photo-December Double Points tournament award winners, from left to right: James Lindler took 1st place, Van Cook took "smallest legal creel" award, Joby Wetzel finished 3rd and won Big Fish honors, Tom Gitto finished 2nd.
2nd photo-Former Midlands Striper Club president Lee Thomas held the competition off to win his 6th Angler of the Year award.