Jul/Aug 2014Let's Take It Outside, South Carolinaby David Lucas and Joey Frazier

We're taking it outside and into the great South Carolina outdoors, and so should you. So here you go (with apologies to copyeditors everywhere): "12 Things Every Real South Carolinian Must Do at Least Once."

The Internet and magazine worlds have gone plumb crazy for lists. There's even a made up portmanteau for them: "listicles." Name a topic, there's probably a list with a stylistically and grammatically challenged numerical headline for it: "20 Celebs Who Used to Be Hot" (we're looking at you, Mickey Rourke); "5 Things People Say on the Internet to Appear Intelligent" (really, just five?); and (we are not kidding) "13 Things Your Pizza Guy Doesn't Want You to Know."

Well, far be it from the crew at SCW to sneer at the latest social media-driven bandwagon (we all want to be "liked" you know?), but rest assured, our "listicle" isn't one that's going to keep you stuck on the couch ogling celebrity yearbook photos. Nope, we're taking it outside and into the great South Carolina outdoors, and so should you. So here you go (with apologies to copyeditors everywhere): "12 Things Every Real South Carolinian Must Do at Least Once."

Now get off that couch and get to it!

SeptemberWinging It

Oh, you insanely fast little dive bombers, you feathered gray rockets, streaking and dodging across the afternoon sky, why do you vex us so? Add up the number of shells expended per bird, field prep, retriever dogs, travel, lunch - white tablecloth, barbeque, or sardines and crackers, depending on venue and social station - post-hunt "refreshments" and all the rest, and the money expended on Opening Day (capital letters) might rival the annual GDP of a small European country.

"Opening Day of what?" you ask? You ain't from around here, are you, son?

Opening day of the season for mourning doves, Zenaida macroura, of course, which in South Carolina ranks right up there with the Carolina-Clemson football game in importance as a social event and traditionally falls on either the first Saturday in September or on Labor Day, whichever comes first. The season for doves and other migratory birds is set by the state Natural Resources Board each year (usually in late August) based on a framework of regulations and timetables issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Want to get in on the action? Step one: start improving your wingshooting now! (Did we mention these things are fast?)

Step two: Find a place to hunt. The good news is, while you can spend a bundle on hunting doves, you don't have to. The DNR maintains approximately fifty public dove fields each year, and the mix of first-come-first-serve, adult and youth-only hunts means there's a public dove hunting opportunity available to accommodate just about everyone (white tablecloth optional). So what are you waiting on?

- David Lucas

Plan Your Trip

Location: Multiple fields and opportunities are available statewide. Visit: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/dove/fields.html to find a field near you.

On the Web: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/dove/index.html

Read More About It: http://www.scwildlife.com/pubs/septoct2011/openingday.html

Video: Watch DNR biologists banding mourning doves at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

OctoberCatch (Or Buy) It Local, Eat It Local

Down in Beaufort, where they know a thing or two about shrimp, there's a hole-in-the-wall place a couple of blocks off Bay Street that serves them up lightly breaded and hot from the deep fryer - po'boy, burger or basket. And if you look closely, you'll notice a bumper sticker attached to the cooler by the cash register: "Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Imported Shrimp."

And there you have it. Everyone loves the tastiest of crustaceans, but freshness is key to flavor, and while the price of that frozen bag of farm-raised imports lurking in the freezer section of your local grocery store might seem like a bargain, your taste buds will thank you for sticking with the wild-caught, local variety, as will South Carolina's remaining commercial shrimpers, who have been hammered in recent years with rising fuel prices and competition from the aforementioned inferior imported shrimp.

But that's all assuming you're buying, rather than harvesting your own, which many South Carolinians do, especially during the annual "shrimp baiting" season, which begins in September and lasts sixty days, usually into early November. Mail surveys conducted every year since 1988 indicate that in recent years, total catches have been less than 1 million pounds per season (heads on) after peaking at more than 3.6 million pounds in 1997. That's because the number of folks participating in the baiting season has declined, but catch per trip numbers have remained relatively stable, averaging about 20-22 quarts per trip since 2001, which suggests that shrimp abundance has remained relatively good for those folks willing to try their hand at casting a net.

Whether buying or harvesting your own, there is nothing that compares with a delicious shrimp dinner pulled straight from South Carolina waters!

- David Lucas

Plan Your Trip

Location: Landlubbers can try the annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival in that city's Waterfront Park, October 3rd and 4th this year. For catching your own, inshore waters up and down the coast are where it's at in September and October.

Call Ahead: (843) 525-6644 for festival info.

On the Web: Species information (white shrimp): http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/species/whiteshrimp.html

Video: Learn some of the skills involved in recreational shrimping at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

NovemberHead for the Mountains

By November, only remnants of fall color still hang in the trees in our northwestern corner, but there is still much to do and see up in the hills. Now that the canopy has fallen, the vistas are even more striking, and a day hike is just the ticket to see those mountain views without pesky flying insects in your face. There are easy walks for beginners and strenuous treks for experienced hikers offering a brisk morning warm-up with the sun on your back as you traverse any of the trails around the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area in the Jocassee Gorges.

"Jocassee Gorges was recently designated as one of the top fifty wild places on planet earth by National Geographic magazine," says Mark Hall, the DNR biologist charged with managing this one-of-a-kind property. "There are more than fifty miles of access roads and hiking trails where visitors can experience mountain vistas and waterfalls, as well as unique flora and fauna within this fifty square miles of rugged terrain."

You have to get on the trail early and proceed quietly to have a chance of seeing whitetails, gobblers or black bears. Of course the real attraction is the solitude and big skies you only get in the mountains. If you plan your day trip just right, you may want to include a boat tour on Lake Jocassee to see the loons that show up on the lake for the winter. Other birding life-list opportunities include juncos, which also winter in the gorges, and the majestic peregrine falcons soaring in the thermals near Jumping Off Rock overlook. Fall trout fishing may be at its best in the nearby rivers and streams and, of course, there are the waterfalls, those sparkling jewels that attract many casual hikers to the mountains this time of year. For a more leisurely approach, there is even a driving tour of the area. By late November, some sections may be closed for special hunting opportunities, so consult the DNR's Rules and Regulations Guide before planning your trip.

- Joey Frazier

Plan Your Trip

Location: Visitors Center is located at the entrance to Keowee-Toxaway State Park on S.C. Hwy. 11 near the intersection with S.C. Hwy. 133.

Call Ahead: (864) 654-1671

On the Web: http://dnr.sc.gov/managed/wild/jocassee/index.htm

Map and Driving Tour: https://www.dnr.sc.gov/ml_images/docs/jocasseemap.pdf (PDF)

Video: Watch three fascinating trips into the Jocassee Gorges area at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

DecemberWhere the Fish Are

Though he later denied it, bank robber Willie Sutton is widely credited with the hand-to-forehead-obvious saying that he robbed banks because "that's where the money is." Budding anglers with the desire to catch a brown or rainbow trout might heed that advice and try their luck "where the fish are" - on the East Fork of the Chattooga River near the DNR's Walhalla Fish Hatchery.

The U.S. Forest Service picnic area just downstream from the hatchery, where a barrier-free fishing pier and some easy streamside trails await, is a great place for a first-time foray into trout fishing. As DNR regional fisheries biologist Dan Rankin told SCW back in 2011, "The East Fork has something for everybody. We stock trout right around the hatchery to create a little easier experience for the beginner." More experienced anglers, many of whom pursue trout using fly rods and hand-tied flies exclusively, fish along the 2.5 miles of steep, fast-moving water and isolated pools located downstream of the picnic area.

Walhalla Hatchery is open year round (except Christmas Day), and is well worth a visit for the architecture alone. The hatchery's beautiful main building was constructed from locally-quarried stone by Civilian Conservation Corps workers during the Great Depression. The facility plays an integral role in meeting the DNR's mission of providing stocked trout for the public waters of South Carolina, including brown and rainbow trout in the "put-and-take" fisheries in the tailraces below lakes Hartwell and Murray, and brook trout in more remote mountain streams. December is a great time to visit, when the fry spawned in October and November have begun to develop and can be seen in the hatchery raceways.

- David Lucas

Plan your trip

Location: The hatchery is located off S.C. Highway 107 (a beautiful, though curvy, drive) north of Mt. Rest.

Phone Ahead (recommended for large groups): (864) 638-2866

On the Web: http://hatcheries.dnr.sc.gov/walhalla/index.html

Video: Take a tour of the state's only coldwater fish hatchery at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

JanuaryRoast 'Em if You Got 'Em

Friend, whether you were born and reared here, or are one of the many thousands of newcomers who have chosen to make the great Palmetto State your home, you cannot truly call yourself a Sandlapper until you have experienced the gustatory nirvana of a freshly roasted South Carolina oyster, Crassotrea Virginica - opened on the spot and dredged through a spicy cocktail sauce - sliding down your gullet. That's just how it is.

During months with "R" in them, oyster festivals and community roasts abound in our state, and restaurants and oyster bars will set you up by the half-dozen or bucket year-round (though beware, what you are sucking down might not be the real deal, but rather one of those larger but less-flavorful bivalves trucked in from the Gulf (bless their hearts) or Lord knows where. To ensure the authentic pluff mud-to-table South Carolina-grown oyster experience, you're going to want to harvest them yourself and roast them over an open fire in the backyard.

You'll need a S.C. Saltwater Fishing License, and maps to the public and state shellfish grounds where recreational harvesting is allowed, both available from the DNR. The agency also works hard to ensure that harvestable oysters will be available both now and in the future through its shell recycling and SCORE (South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement) programs. As SCORE program coordinator Nancy Hadley noted in a November-December 2013 SCW article, "There is no shortage of oyster larvae. There is a shortage of habitat, so one solution is to encourage more oysters by providing more places where oysters can settle and grow."

- David Lucas

Plan your trip

Location: Find state and public shellfish grounds published by the DNR here: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/shellfish/shellfishmaps.html

Phone Ahead: Closure dates for all shellfish grounds are subject to change. For up-to-date information, call (843) 953-9300.

On the Web: Visit http://score.dnr.sc.gov/ to find out more about SCORE and how you can volunteer.

Read More About It: http://www.scwildlife.com/articles/janfeb2010/oysters.html

Video: For an A-Z tutorial on harvesting your own shellfish, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

FebruaryDevelop One-Shot Skills at a DNR Shooting Range

To be successful, regardless of the game pursued or the weapon used, hunters must practice and develop good marksmanship skills. Shot placement is critical to making clean, ethical kills and avoiding lost game. Learning to shoot well is a key for beginning hunters, and the goal should be "one-shot" accuracy. Visiting a DNR-managed shooting range is a great low-cost option for honing your skills and making sure your equipment is ready before heading afield.

There are DNR-managed shooting ranges in Hampton, Laurens, Pickens and Spartanburg counties, and the DNR maintains a statewide listing of other public and commercial ranges on its website. Also, during the month of February, the DNR, in partnership with South Carolina's 4-H program, offers a "Shooting Sports Field Day" at Palachucola WMA, near the James A. Webb Wildlife Center in Garnett, which offers the general public a chance for safety instruction and supervision with a variety of archery and firearm shooting stations.

"The field day is ideal for the novice shooter, both youth and adult, interested in learning about shooting and hunting," says Webb Center manager Jay Cantrell. "Shooting experts provide firearms safety training and individual shooting instruction with shotguns, .22-caliber rifles, air rifles and archery equipment."

In July of 2013, the DNR completed work on a new pistol range at Belfast WMA in Laurens County, complementing the rifle range that opened there in 2011. Both ranges are state-of-the art in terms of design and safety, and were built with funding support from the National Rifle Association and the Federal Wildlife Restoration program. The Belfast Range is open Wednesday through Saturday during daylight hours and on Sundays from 2 p.m. until dark.

- David Lucas

Plan Your Trip

Location: Various locations and operating schedules, statewide.

Phone Ahead: Get more information about the DNR's Shooting Sports Field Day at (803) 625-3569.

On the Web: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/shooting/ and http://www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting/fielddays.html

MarchDigging into South Carolina's Past

Okay, admit it, you have, at one time or another, imagined yourself in the middle of an Indiana Jones-style archaeological adventure. Well, that's Hollywood, but right here in South Carolina, archaeologists with the DNR and partner agencies are digging up ceramics, stone tools, clay potsherds and other artifacts - and most importantly history - at heritage preserve sites around the state with culturally significant resources. Now digging or removing artifacts from our public lands is strictly against the rules, but each year during March the DNR's archaeology team invites the public to come to the Johannes Kolb Archaeology Site on the Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve where you can observe the scientific methods archaeologists use to excavate, find artifacts and preserve the stories those artifacts may tell. You will even have a chance to get dirty and touch the past as a volunteer on the site.

Besides all the fun you will have watching and helping the team at work and touring this beautiful property, archaeologists will be on hand to answer your questions and offer insights about the need to protect and preserve cultural sites in our state. And while you can't take home the artifacts you find, you can bring along a camera to capture some great memories of a day well spent in the outdoors soaking up more than just some sun.

- Joey Frazier

Plan Your Trip

Location: Kolb Site - Great Pee Dee River Heritage Preserve and WMA

On the Web: Visit https://38da75.com/

Read More About It: http://www.scwildlife.com/articles/marapril2010/archaeology.html

AprilMake a Date to See Some Fish

Remember the feeling you had the first time you watched the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, when Kirk Douglas and crew are taken aboard the Nautilus, and fish start swimming by the observation window as the sub descends beneath the waves?

No? Well, try standing next to a group of excited youngsters in the viewing room of the fish lift at the Cooper River Rediversion Project (also known as the St. Stephen Dam), and you just might experience that feeling all over again. The lift, built by the Army Corps of Engineers and managed by the DNR's Freshwater Fisheries Section during the spring spawning season, is the only one of its kind on the Atlantic Coast and provides visitors with a unique chance to see a number of anadromous fish species up-close and learn more about them, all without ever leaving dry land!

The dam and fish lift were built as part of a strategy for the "rediversion" of water flowing through the Santee-Cooper lakes from the Cooper River to the Santee River, undertaken in 1985 to alleviate silting in Charleston Harbor. Rediversion solved the silting problem, but it also changed the path those fish once used to get into the lakes. The lift moves fish intent on travelling upstream to spawn past the dam and into Lake Moultrie, and also helps the fisheries biologists studying these important species better understand how many are making it. The lift was engineered into the dam itself, and includes a viewing room where scientists and visitors can watch (and count!) as fish swim by in the spring. Recent improvements to the signage and educational materials available in the viewing area make it a popular educational outing for school groups. It's also been known to rekindle a sense of awe in adults, so start planning your trip for spring 2015 now! The fish lift is open to visitors from March 15 to April 30. Scheduling in advance is recommended for groups, but walk-in visitors can be accomodated between 10am and 3pm, Monday-Friday during the season.

- David Lucas

Plan Your Trip

Location: Off S.C. Highway 52 near the town of St. Stephens

Phone Ahead (Recommended for groups): (843) 825-3387

On the Web: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/fish/fishlift/fishlift.html

Video: Watch the fish lift in action at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

MayBirding in the ACE

Birding is great in the ACE Basin any time of year, but May is especially good because the temperatures are warming up, but the bugs are not yet out in full force. Although some of the migrating species may have moved on by now, painted buntings, herons, ospreys and wood storks, just to name a few, are fairly easy to see.

Bear Island and Donnelley Wildlife Management Areas are located off Bennett's Point Road in the heart of the ACE Basin. Each area offers miles of dikes and unpaved roads to get you around the impoundments, which are beautiful in their own right. Take some time to study that marvel of hydrologic engineering - the rice trunk. On these wildlife management areas you will be seeing Combahee River-style trunks, still used to raise and lower water levels as needed to manage these critical wetland habitats.

"Bear Island is a premiere waterfowl hunting destination," says DNR wildlife biologist Dean Harrigal, "but its diverse habitats also offer outstanding views of many wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds and bald eagles."

Bring good walking shoes or a bicycle, because most areas on Bear Island are closed to motorized traffic, and you will need your spotting scope and telephoto lens to capture a memory without disturbing your feathered friends. Water, bug spray and sunscreen are also good ideas. Be aware that creatures besides birds also inhabit this property. Alligators, some ten to twelve feet long, may be resting on the dikes or in the shallows just off the road beds, so take caution before you walk into tall grass or brush.

- Joey Frazier

Plan Your Trip

Location: Bennett's Point Road, Green Pond, SC 29446.

Phone Ahead: (843) 844-8957

On the Web: https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/

Video: See more of the beautiful ACE Basin at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

JuneFishing in the Big Pond

By now, the kids are out of school and everyone is ready for vacation or at least a quick getaway. What could be more fun and relaxing than a fishing trip. If you want to kick it up a notch, make it a saltwater fishing trip where everything is bigger, including the adventure and fun. Now you might imagine that such a trip can be costly, but it does not have to be. There are surf fishing opportunities on DNR properties with free access and county fishing piers (constructed by the DNR with money from the Saltwater Stamp program) including very nice examples at Knowles Island and Bolan Hall in Jasper County. You just need to bring your own tackle and some bait, a picnic lunch and a big appetite for fresh air and fun in the great outdoors. If you have a boat, the DNR offers several free access ramps for launching your next excursion.

"South Carolina boasts some of the best inshore and nearshore saltwater fishing in the Southeast," says Robert Wiggers, public information specialist for the DNR's Marine Resources Division. "And as the weather heats up, so does the fishing. The great thing is, you don't necessarily need a boat, nor do you need to spend lots of money to catch a fish. Some of the biggest sheepshead can be caught off the Mt. Pleasant Pier in Charleston Harbor, and red drum can be caught while wading the flats during high tides."

But before you purchase equipment or bait, check the DNR's Rules and Regulations Guide booklet for license requirements, seasons, limits or restrictions that may apply to your activity. And please remember to be safe both on and around the water.

- Joey Frazier

Plan Your Trip

On the Web: For a list of public access piers, landings and marinas, visit http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/marinaslandingspiers.html. For information about all state saltwater license requirements and fees, visit http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/license.html

JulyThe Sounds of the Surf and the Sea Breeze, that's Real Beach Music

For many Sandlappers, July is the month to get some sand between your toes at one of the Palmetto State's great beaches. If we may be so bold as to suggest one beach in particular, plan a daytrip to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area on historic Edisto Island. Of course there is a great shell-strewn beach - one of the best in the state - where you can splash in the waves or take a long stroll on the sand. But besides fun in the surf and sun, Botany Bay also offers 4,687 acres to explore.

You will find great hiking trails, a driving tour and even an easy throw-in kayak/canoe launch for some salt-creek paddling. You can inspect the ruins of two antebellum plantation sites, Sea Cloud and Bleak Hall, and maybe get a glimpse of local wildlife in this little corner of the ACE Basin. Don't expect to be alone; DNR Region Four Coordinator Sam Chappelear emphasizes that Botany Bay WMA is one of the DNR's most visited properties, averaging 48,000 visitors per year.

"The beach gets a lot of attention," Chappelear says, "but the uniqueness of this entire property is really what draws most of the visitors to Botany Bay."

The focus is the management of wildlife habitats, so some hunting opportunities are available in season (the property is closed for other activities during scheduled hunts) and there is great birding in any season. If you look closely, you may see white-tailed deer or a wild turkey on the uplands portion of the property or even an alligator in one of the freshwater lakes. Make certain you obtain a day pass at the entry kiosk, where you will find volunteers eager to help you find your way around this most special coastal preserve.

- Joey Frazier

Plan Your Trip

Location: 1066 Botany Bay Rd, Edisto Island, SC 29438, closed on Tuesdays for maintenance

On the Web: https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/ManagedLand/ManagedLand/57

Video: Watch loggerhead sea turtles nesting on the beach at Botany Bay at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCNaturalResources (scroll down to the "Let's Take It Outside" playlist).

AugustDown by the Lazy River

August in South Carolina can be brutal, as temperatures and humidity both are on the rise, but it's a great time of year to take a lazy paddle trip on one of our scenic blackwater rivers. Take your pick, from the popular Edisto rivers (North, South or mainstem), the Lynches River, the Black River, the Little Pee Dee River or the Waccamaw River, among others. These trips offer exercise and a cool splash as you bring your paddle around for another stroke. Some folks may even be tempted to bring fishing gear along, watching for the telltale tug of a redbreast bream while drifting through mysterious coastal plain landscapes. The tea-colored water that gives these rivers their "blackwater" name comes from tannins leaching into the water from decaying plants and leaves in the swamps these rivers meander through.

Experienced paddlers and campers may enjoy a solo trip; however, if you are a novice at outdoor adventuring, contact one of many commercial river guide services that offer group or individual guided trips to help you get your feet wet before venturing off on your own.

- Joey Frazier

Plan Your Trip

On the Web: For more information about blackwater rivers, visit https://www.dnr.sc.gov/education/pdf/BlackwaterRivEdGuide.pdf. For more information on the DNR's Scenic Rivers program, visit http://dnr.sc.gov/water/river/index.html.

Read More About It: http://www.scwildlife.com/pubs/septoct2011/takemetoriver.html

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