• January 2013 - Volume 20, Number 1


    This Anson County preserve owner has ideas for establishing quail habitat and restoring bird populations.

    Anyone who loves quail hunting — or longs for the days when bobwhites were widespread in North Carolina — is restricted mostly to preserve hunting, if they want a chance to pursue these fast-flying game birds.

    A few state game lands contain quail, but they’re exceptions.

    Most preserve hunters aren’t interested in the glory days of quail hunting, nor the land management necessary to have property that produces huntable numbers of quail. Instead, they pay to walk behind well-trained bird dogs and a professional handler to see points, flush quail and experience the rush that comes from a covey rise.

    Fly-fishing tackle has many advantages on Georgetown’s winter spot-tails; learn how to put more fish in your boat with feathers and fur.

    Undoubtedly, the redfish is America’s true inshore heroine. Known to many South Carolina anglers as the spot-tailed bass, this fish shows up in more anglers’ sights than any other inshore species along the state’s coastline and locally in Georgetown’s pristine waters for good reason.

    Redfish are powerhouses, offering year-around duels under a variety of conditions and against almost any backdrop imaginable. And Georgetown’s pristine real estate offers anglers seemingly endless opportunities for entering into warfare with one of these prized fish.

    January’s winter conditions allow fly-fishing artisans a chance to test their skills and experience true angling ecstasy in these waters, but anglers must raise the bar to connect with one of these rivals on hand-tied implements.

    Don’t neglect the Pamlico Sound and its tributaries during the winter, when speckled trout will be concentrated in deeper, warmer water just waiting for your lure to crawl past.

    Even though the deep, dark depths of winter arrive this month, fishermen who target speckled trout can keep their rods ready for some fiery inshore action in North Carolina’s Pamlico Sound.

    Wintering populations of speckled trout snuggle in the remote hideaways of the Pamlico, staying warm and gobbling up any available forage. Anglers willing to brave January’s winter weather can locate these tasty opponents with little effort.

    Fed by two major river systems — the Neuse and Pamlico — the Pamlico Sound is the largest lagoon on the east coast, covering thousands of flooded acres. In fact, it was once mistaken for the Pacific Ocean by Giovanni de Verrazzano, a 16th-century Italian explorer.

    Winter is great time to fish for trophy blue catfish on Lake Norman. Take these tips and you’ll be ahead of the game.

    In the 1956 motion picture, Gregory Peck portrays the character of Capt. Ahab, who relentlessly pursues the great white whale of Herman Melville's classic, "Moby Dick." The movie is an icon in the film industry and a classic tale of one man's obsession with besting a giant beast.

    North Carolina anglers who'd like a similar experience without all the drama could do worse than spending a day on Lake Norman with Mac Byrum, a full-time guide who spends his days relentlessly pursuing giant blue catfish that, in the cold of winter, often take on a particularly white color tone.

    Certainly, the size of the fish that Byrum catches is comparable to that of Captain Ahab, and Byrum himself bears a striking resemblance to Gregory Peck's character.

    These two North Carolina waterfowl guides provide tips for taking ducks as the hunting season winds down.

    As deer season comes to a close on New Year’s Day, many hunters trade in their lead for steel-packed rounds to battle the wind, cold and the final visiting flocks of feathered opponents.

    The remaining days of North Carolina’s waterfowl season represent the best time of the year to gather a mixed bag of ducks from the late-season showdown. Duck hunters can expect a flurry of birds to occupy the state’s public waterways, with a cloud of new arrivals barging in when weather conditions permit.

    From the Roanoke River’s flooded bottomlands to the banks of the North River, late-season waterfowlers can find a mixed bag under a variety of conditions.

    Call them coon-tails or Eisenhowers, yellow perch are one of the tastiest and most overlooked fish in South Carolina — but around Lake Russell, they’re a favorite fishing target.

    Of the dozen or so major reservoirs in South Carolina, the baby and beauty of the group is Lake Richard B. Russell.

    Nestled on the Savannah River between Lake Hartwell and Clarks Hill, Russell reached full pool of 26,650 acres in December 1984. One of Russell’s selling points for sportsmen is that federal regulations prevent any private residential development along its shoreline; the result is a wilderness experience akin to fishing a remote Canadian lake in the heart of Dixie.

    Not only does the scenery suggest such a locale, if you hold your fishing rod in the right location and manner, you’re likely to catch fish that would seem more at home in the Yukon than on the border between Georgia and South Carolina, and that just makes fishing guide Wendell Wilson smile.

    Ducks and woodcocks are great late-season targets for South Carolina hunters wanting more from their bird seasons.

    By January, the easy bird hunting is long past, unless a plantation-owning friend invites you for a quail hunt. Aside from plantation or shooting-preserve quail, however, other wild birds are legal game this month.

    Duck season is still in full swing, and woodcock season runs all month.

    It is an understatement to say that most South Carolina bird hunters do not focus on woodcock, but hunters with dogs — especially transplanted Yankees — love them. Woodcock are a favorite of bird dogs because they are easy. Put your dogs in good woodcock cover, and they will find the birds. Woodcock are easy to smell, easy to point and flush, and easy to carry on a retrieve.

    Looking for world-class catfish? There’s no better place to be than Kerr Lake during the winter if you’re hunting for the biggest of the big.

    When winter arrives in North Carolina, only a few freshwater species remain consistently active enough for fishermen to target.

    Largemouth bass basically shut down; the cold water temperatures having lowered their metabolisms. Stripers feed sporadically, but usually are scattered at large lakes. Crappie head to deepwater haunts and can be difficult to find.

    But catfish are different, especially voracious Arkansas blues and flatheads. They continue to cruise the state’s big impoundments, looking for meals.

    This world-reknowed striper fishery has recovered. Where will it go from here?

    Santee Cooper was once world famous as THE place to go for freshwater striped bass, but the historic highs of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie fell to unprecedented lows for years.

    Explanations of what happened are many, but the point is that the opportunity to catch striped bass consistently bottomed out.

    But through strict regulatory guidance and stocking by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the fishery has returned to a very robust status. Many fishermen and guides say it’s the best it’s been in a long time.

    Hunting wild hogs with a pack of dogs is a great way to spend a winter day.

    A low growl emanated from a cluster of wild hogs backed into a circle, butt-to-butt, facing six dogs that had found them napping on a cold January morning. The dogs cautiously stood their ground, trying to determine which hog was most vulnerable; the hogs calculated their best escape plan, ready to do battle if it came to that.

    A fog of hot breath filled the air as Borden's Todd Dillon raised a handgun skyward and quickly warned, "Our dogs are gun shy, so when I pull this trigger, there's going to be hogs and dogs going everywhere. If we're lucky, the dogs will pin one hog down in the process."

    With the report of the handgun, hogs and dogs did, indeed, go everywhere, along with mud, dried leaves and even full-grown shrubs. A few big boars of 350-plus pounds with long, sharp tusks were in the group. The dogs, most of which were 25- to 40-pound Catahoula curs, knew better than to attack any of those beasts individually, but as one of the smaller hogs slipped in the mud, two of the dogs shook off the shock of the gunshot and teamed up on the swine.

    Sumter National Forest in the Midlands and Upstate offers hunters a chance to extend their seasons into the winter by removing a nuisance predator — the coyote.

    The woods were silent, except for the crying sound of a wounded rabbit. Wailing and squealing. Pause, more squealing. Another pause led me to stare down an abandoned logging road that meandered through the Sumter National Forest in Newberry County. My shotgun rested on my shoulder as I surveyed the woods and the lane, looking for any motion that would give away a coyote coming my way. As quickly as it started it ended; the song dog appeared, saw the decoy and came in on a dead run. The Hevi-Shot stopped him at 30 yards just before he pounced on the decoy.

    Most hunters chase tundra swans in ag fields, but hunting over impoundments can be very effective — and is more traditional. And Gull Rock Game Land provides everything you need.

    The tundra swan is the largest waterfowl species hunted in North Carolina. In bygone years, traditional hunts included decoying them on the water or sneaking up on them in a boat, but modern agriculture changed all that.

    Now, swans are primarily hunted in fields of winter wheat or soybean stubble.

    Nathan Garrett, who guides swan hunters, has taken hunting the big birds to a different level, as well as to a different playing field. Now 18, he won the title of World Champion Swan Caller in the youth category in 2010 and became one of the youngest competitors to qualify and compete in the World Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart, Ark., in 2011.

    The Cape Fear River system’s striped bass fishery is slowly but surely being rebuilt with help from guides, fishermen and a group that wants to protect the river.

    Jot Owens put his bay boat on plane for a couple of minutes after leaving the Dram Tree Park Ramp in Wilmington. He crossed under the Thomas Rhodes Bridge, pulled the throttle back to just above idle and announced it was time to fish.

    “There was a good little pod of fish on a hump just up from here the other day,” Owens said as he reached for a rod already rigged with a medium-diving crankbait. “I’m slowing here and letting this falling tide slow us down as I get the lures out.

    “We’ll pull some diving lures across here and if they hit us good, we’ll come back and set up and cast.”

    Guide Don Drose hefts the kind of striped bass that Santee Cooper is once again producing.