I was a high-school kid when the movie Deliverance hit the big screen; I accompanied a bunch of my buddies from the football team for a Friday night viewing. Even though it scared the snot out of me, I actually found myself in a canoe three years later, putting in on the upper reaches of a river not terribly far from the Chattooga, where Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty fought off those strange-looking guys with a fondness for, shall we say, swine.
That was almost four decades years ago, and maybe owning a recurve bow that looked an awful lot like the ones Burt and Jon carried kept me from throwing up every time I saw a canoe paddle or anybody wearing beat-up bib overalls. I know the second and third times I saw the movie, not too many years later, I found myself paying careful attention to whether the broadheads Burt and Jon were shooting had come from the Herter's catalog.
The subject of paddling came to mind the other day when we were going through the steps involved in getting a new column ready for our readers. It just so happened that the column is about paddling. It debuts in this edition of the magazine, authored by Phillip Gentry of Taylors, who is big enough - say, about 6-foot-7 - to have scared off those mountain boys with nothing more than a withering stare.
Phillip loves to hunt and fish as much as any of the writers whose work you regularly read in South Carolina Sportsman. I can't think of a species that swims in either fresh water or salt water that he hasn't tried to catch. He has written a book on freshwater stripers, caught crappie in most states in the Southeast and has been bitten by the catfish bug.
Sticking to the basics just isn't his thing. Several years ago, he figured out that there was hunting and fishing to be done that he hadn't tried yet - from a kayak or canoe - and he was almost immediately hooked. Since then, he's caught redfish, bream, bass and flounder from watercraft whose sole form of propulsion was a paddle. He's killed ducks floating down streams of various sizes and has already invited me to join him this month on a turkey hunt; he's figured out a way to access thousands of acres of public land in a canoe, land that road-bound hunters can only dream about. I'm liable to take him up on it, especially if I have any turkey tags left.
His column, Paddling Palmetto, aims to bring to readers a basic knowledge of canoes and kayaks and the opportunities that abound in South Carolina for a hunter or fisherman who owns or has access to one. Most of his columns will attempt to help you discover places where great fishing abounds and only small watercraft can reach - like this month's column on catching bream and shellcrackers in Santee Cooper's wild, untamed Sparkleberry Swamp. On occasion, he'll delve into some of the equipment available to paddling sportsmen that might help add a few fish or ducks to their creel or gamebag. We hope that good photography, maps and occasional graphics will make this monthly feature one that will provide information not only to the experienced paddler/sportsman, but also for the novice who's only thinking about finding something he can carry on top of his car or stow in his truck bed that will put him in range of some excellent fishing and hunting.
Now, if I can learn to paddle with a shotgun on my lap, wearing a turkey vest and facemask, while working a box call....