• September 2012 - Volume 19, Number 9


    North Carolina’s public lands provide hunters with access to every wild-game species available. Here’s your guide to these pieces of property.

    North Carolina’s 89 game lands cover 2 million acres and spread from the mountains to the sea. They offer sportsmen who don’t have access to private property many opportunities to hunt every species of game in the state — from doves to black bear.

    The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s biologists and crews manage these public lands, which also play a key role in conservation and preservation. Commission staff members create habitat not only for wild game, but for animals that aren’t hunted plus for native plants, streams and the fish that swim in them.

    The waters off Charleston beckon when kings reign supreme.

    The murky waters of the Intracoastal Waterway were a poor substitute for the blue serenity that awaited over the horizon for Capt. Robert Olsen and the crew of Knot@Work Fishing Charters.

    But Olsen knew he needed to spend a little time near the Ben Sawyer Bridge on the Mount Pleasant side of the ICW to pick up some “insurance” before he made the run, which could be a long trek into blue water or just a short hop off the beach, to find king mackerel.

    “We troll a lot of menhaden during the late spring and summer, and there’s still plenty around to be used for bait,” he said, “but with the mullet run in full swing, it’s nice to have some of those too in case the kings decide to get picky.”

    For places to hunt the elusive ‘Carolina pigeon,’ try North Carolina’s game-lands fields.

    The best dove hunt floating on top of my memory happened when I was about 12 or 13 years old.

    My dad and about a dozen of his friends drove to an Alamance County farm. The group’s alpha male, Lennie, was a respected timber cruiser for a local sawmill who sharpened chain saws at his cigar smoke-filled repair shop at night.

    Dad and his friends often met at "Lennie’s place" every night after dinner — if they escaped their wives. From two to a half dozen trucks were parked outside while inside these guys spun yarns — some of them true — about their outdoors adventures, exploits of smarter-than-human bird dogs, wily old gobblers, big bucks, dumb relatives, crack shots they’d made and crack pots in Raleigh and Washington, D.C.

    Improve your shooting and retrieving skills to bag a limit of doves using only one box of shells.

    James Covington and Norman Ledford Jr. are residents of York County who regularly limit out on doves using only one box of shells. The list of dove hunters who can match that feat is a short one, indeed. But this skill doesn’t come without a lot of practice in the field, concentrating on each and every shot opportunity. What allows these two hunters to limit out when others only have a handful of doves to show for their efforts? Both concentrate on the “little things,” such as concealment. In addition to wearing camouflage, they break their outline by using a blind that is often just some limbs they have stuck in the ground or a group of corn stalks.

    Scout and get the lowdown on what deer are doing when the season opens, and you’ll go a long way toward filling your tag with a nice buck.

    “Early season deer hunting” means different times to hunters across South Carolina because season opening dates vary from game zone to game zone.

    But one constant is that early season tactics are different from those used the rest of the year. Successful hunters must have a well-defined game plan for this specific time of year. In the Lowcountry, bow and gun hunters share Aug. 15 as opening day. In many other areas, however, bowhunters get a jump on gun hunters.

    Fall Harkers Island flounder action is as good as it gets. Here are the details.

    Working through the braided cuts in the Shackleford Banks marsh would have been a daunting feat for many fishermen, but Capt. Noah Lynk of Harkers Island buzzed his Bay Rider skiff in and out of the channels with the skill and confidence of someone who travels them regularly. Finally, after a dozen or more turns and twists, he cut the throttle and slowed to idle speed. Turning one more corner, Lynk (who operates Noah’s Ark Fishing and Tour Charters) eased through a small cut barely wider than the boat that opened into an area where several creeks formed a fair-sized pocket. He silently glided to an area where water was being channeled through two funnels between oyster rocks and eased his anchor over.

    New Bern is jumping-off point for great fall fishing in the Neuse and Trent rivers.

    Now that fall has arrived, fishermen are swarming to saltwater. While some of the more expansive waters of the Neuse River downstream from New Bern receive all of the publicity during the summer when giant red drum and torpedoing tarpon are making the biggest splash, these bigger gamefish will be moving out of the river by September.

    So it’s increasingly the smaller fish that are stealing the show. Anglers who want to catch something the right size to keep for eating — or who just want to catch lots of fish using light tackle — will find no better place to launch a small boat packed full of what amounts to bass-fishing tackle.

    From Southport to Little River, boats can find plenty of action from powerful wahoo over the next few months.

    It would be hard to imagine what the bluewater fishery along the coast between Cape Fear and the Grand Strand would look like without the vicious striped cousin of the king mackerel.

    It has been years since the area has produced any notable catches of yellowfin tuna. Dolphin and billfish do visit each year, but typically only for a few months at a time.

    Thankfully, the wicked wahoo is there to pick up the slack — and they do that and more, especially in the fall.

    WMAs provide unique deer-hunting opportunities in all areas of South Carolina. It’s up to hunters to put in the effort for success, but here are some tips to help out.

    Although Ben Powell has not taken a deer off the Woodbury or Marsh wildlife management areas, he has spent many hours scouting the two public hunting areas along the Big and Little Pee Dee rivers in lower Marion County.

    Those two WMAs, along with the Pee Dee Station Site WMA next door in Florence County, combine to provide some of the most-unique and varied deer-hunting opportunities in the state — on public or private lands.

    Spotted bass, white perch now top targets on lower end of this sprawling reservoir.

    Craig Parks calls himself a “reformed striper fisherman,” and says it’s a matter of necessity.

    Parks, who runs Fish On Lake Norman Guide Service, said that, on Lake Norman, the alternative is to be a frustrated striper fisherman, or an unsuccessful striper fisherman, or a retired striper fisherman.

    “The striper population is really low now,” Parks said. “Starting about seven years ago, we’ve been having a fish kill about every other summer, and we had a big one in 2009. I’ve seen them floating this summer — not in big numbers, but I don’t doubt there’d be more if there were more in the lake.”

    The ‘middle child’ of the Savannah River reservoirs, Lake Russell touts a beauty and fishery like none other in South Carolina.

    Lake Russell.

    The name conjures up the image of a pristine area far off the beaten path. This middle impoundment of the Savannah River was created last in the chain, long after Lakes Hartwell and Clarks Hill were up and running. Because of the timing of its creation, federal regulations prevented private development of the lake’s shoreline.

    That and the lake’s rural location have resulted in a destination where anglers can truly feel like they have the lake all to themselves.

    Archery season in Eastern North Carolina is often overlooked, but a bow could be the ticket to filling your tags. Here are the keys.

    With North Carolina’s 2012-13 deer season set to begin when the statewide archery season opens Sept. 8, bowhunters from Manteo to Murphy will be in the woods.

    Hopefully, most of them will have practiced enough to be able to make accurate shots, but outside conditions and hunter success or failure will vary greatly, depending upon weather, food sources, stand locations and dozens of other variables.

    Shrimp, trout and spot-tail bass offer great targets for Lowcountry fishermen in the fall. Here’s how and where to catch them.

    September is a perfect on-the-water month in the Lowcountry. In fact, it is just about perfect everywhere in September.

    Fish are biting, shrimp are jumping, crabs are nipping, doves are darting and even the secretive marsh hens are sneaking around.

    “So many choices and so little time” accurately describes a sportsman’s quandary. A person could easily spend day and night chasing some sort of game or fish.

    Learn which WMAs should produce more deer so you can plan hunts for the coming season.