Blog Entries from the WeHuntSC.com blogging crew
I’ve got a friend who lives in the Myrtle Beach area named Justin Brooks. Justin is part of the WeHuntSC.com crew and he’s been telling us he had some turkeys down there and we’ve been promising to go down and hunt with him for a while. Well this past weekend we finally made it happen.
Jason Love and I traveled to the coast last Friday evening. We made a road trip and told hunting stories the whole way. We were excited about the upcoming weekend hunts and we both looked forward to catching up with Justin.
After reconnecting Friday night we went to bed early so as to be able to go hard on Saturday. We left our around 4:45 because we had to drive a little while to get to the hunting lease. Justin had been scouting and seeing birds in several areas and we set up overlooking a wheat field for the first set of the day.
Unfortunately it was very foggy on Saturday morning and we didn’t have much action right as the sun was rising. We stayed in this area until around 9am at which point we decided to move to a different field. However, as we drove off we saw 2 hens and a small tom on the edge of an adjacent field. We knew the turkeys were starting to move.
Move to the Big Field
Justin’s lease is segmented off into quadrants of logging roads, rows of trees, and fields. This makes moving around more feasible than in the area where we typically hunt. So we drove around the edge of the property and walked through the woods to a large field. When we got there we saw the field was full of turkeys. It was a beautiful sight. The only problem was that the turkeys were out in the middle of this huge field and there were Toms, Jakes, and Hens there so not much responded to our calling.
While we sat on the edge of the pines overlooking the field we noticed a water snake in the creek right beside us. It was interesting to be just feet away from the snake.
pic.twitter.com/aIL845pHO4— Clint Patterson (@CBPSC) April 30, 2016
The Frustrated Tom & Frustrated Hunters
We watched these turkeys feed for a long time. They moved all around the field feeding. We had 4 turkeys (2 hens and 2 jakes) that kind of stayed near us… just to our right. We really wanted to shoot a nice tom since there were some nice ones out there. Though the Toms were running back and forth across the ditch trying to run some other jakes off. It was indeed frustrating to have them move closer to us then to have them turn right back around and run across the field.
At one point one of the nice toms started working his way down the field on our side. We thought this was going to be it, but after closing over 150 yards the tom crossed the ditch heading to our right. He was too far out to shoot (even though in the video he looks really close because I was zoomed in). So the toms were frustrated by the presence of the jakes and we were frustrated that we couldn’t get any closer to the toms.
Retreating to the Point
After we had sat there for a while watching these turkeys Justin said he thought we could move and be closer to where some of the turkeys were heading. So we went back to the truck and rode down the old logging road through the woods toward the area where at least one big tom was headed. When we got there we parked the truck and started walking the logging road.
Justin grabbed one of his decoys that he called “Tommy” and kept it in front of him the whole time. Jason and I had not experienced this style of hunting before and usually when we try to chase birds we don’t have much success. However, Justin has obviously hunted that area and in that style way more than we had. He told us about how he went down to Georgetown and used the same technique and was successful with it there too. Jason and I were up for anything and we followed Justin’s lead.
Once we got closer to the field Justin brought up his binoculars and said he saw a tom out in the field heading toward the tree line. So we made a hard right into the woods in order to center ourselves in the tree line on the edge of the field. We just had to go through the woods in order to get there without bumping the tom. So we made our way through the woods (and caught red bugs along the way, an occurrence we would later not be pleased with) and started working toward the edge of the field where the planted pines stopped.
When we got to the edge Justin crawled up and quietly put the Tommy decoy on the edge. Since we were stalk hunting this turkey I did not try to move into the optimal videoing location because that could have potentially ruined the hunt. So I had to video from behind the guys and we needed to leave a little brush in front of us to camouflage us.
Sure enough the tom in the field started working his way toward the decoy. I couldn’t get him really clear in the camera, but when we went full-screen later on you could barely see him moving between the leaves. Onces the turkey got within shooting distance Jason dropped the hammer on him. The decoy and the trees both moved forward and backward with the repercussion of the shot. The turkey flopped to the ground and Justin instantly popped up and started running out there. I’m not sure why he did that, but Jason followed suit and I picked up the camera and headed out too. When Justin got near the bird the turkey jumped up and started flying off. Both Justin and Jason then stopped and went into battle mode and unleased the fury on the turkey. It seemed almost like a pheasant hunt because they were trying to down the bird as he flew off. I think on shot #3 or #4 one of them finally connected with the turkey and got him on the ground. And I got it all on camera too!
After the shot we all continued walking out to the bird, got some post game pics and video quotes and then tagged him and headed out. We were a happy crew!
Check out the video of the hunt…
The Saturday morning hunt was one I won’t be soon forgetting… especially as long as these red bugs keep me itching! It was really neat to see all the turkeys out in the field just strutting and feeding. It was a beautiful sight and we enjoyed spending time with each other in God’s creation and observing nature. We also learned a thing or two about stalk hunting from Justin. We may have to give it a shot at some point and see what we can do. All in all it was a great day in the woods with a very interesting end to the hunt!
My friend Jason Love and I hunt together often and we’ve been chasing some turkeys in our area for about 3 weeks. Up until earlier today the turkeys had been winning. It has been somewhat frustrating trying to get everything to line up.
Thus far this season it has seemed that the turkeys are not nearly as vocal as they have been in the past seasons. My theory has been that they are silent because of the coyotes (as demonstrated in the “Tech-Turkey Brings in Coyotes” blog video. This season we’ve been turkey hunting twice and seen 6 coyotes, shot 2, and killed 1. I was hoping the trend wouldn’t continue. Fortunately today we had a much different and better experience.
We got there early and set up near a point that overlooks a field. Behind us was a fresh cutover. We were louder on the way in that we wanted to be, but we made it to our spot. We’d scouted birds and seen them in the area for the past few weekends. We were not hearing them, but rather were just seeing them. Though, this morning we had turkeys gobbling from all directions, which was a nice change of pace.
As the sun rose we listened to nature wake up. We heard several turkeys start gobbling. Jason started giving the turkeys the “pillow talk” and we had one that was going absolutely crazy, but he was far off. However, he was seemingly getting closer with each gobble. It was an awesome morning in the woods. It was cool enough that mosquitoes weren’t out and we weren’t covered in sweat by the time we got to our location. The turkeys were really hammering from the trees and it was good to finally hear them in the area again.
We anticipated the turkeys entering into the field, but as often happens when turkey hunting, the unanticipated occurred. We had 3 jakes come in really silent behind us from the direction of the cutover. When they got about 60 yards from us they gobbled and liked to scared us half to death. At that point Jason turned and got his body in position to shoot in that direction. He saw the birds and said “Hey they’re close sit still, don’t move”. So I knew that they were getting within shooting range. I didn’t move because I didn’t want to mess up the hunt.
As I sat there looking the wrong way it dawned on me that the camera’s screen was reversible. So I turned the camera around backwards and aimed it over my shoulder. Then I flipped the viewfinder screen so that I could see in the viewfinder. It was really difficult to video in reverse over my back, but I did the best I could. It took me a while to find the turkeys, but when they got really close I was able to video them. One thing I could easily see though was Jason’s facial expressions and reactions. He was very focused and as they got closer you could tell it from his body language because things got more intense.
When the turkeys got about 20 yards away from us I was able to find them in the viewfinder. They worked their way closer. The turkeys were feeding just about 15 yards from us when they went behind some stumps. They stayed there momentarily, though it seemed liked forever. Then they started moving across our face to our left. Jason whispered “You ready?” and I said “Yes” and the turkey stepped into the perfect window, but he didn’t shoot. He had a tree in his way. I said “Wait!” and zoomed out. Then a few seconds later I said “Yes” and Jason instantly pulled the trigger and the bird dropped to the ground. The other 2 took off running and the rest was history.
Now to help you visualize that story, check out the below video...
This year turkey season came in on a cool and windy Sunday morning. A cold front came in that brought some really strong wind with it and conditions were not the best for turkey hunting. On top of that we couldn’t hunt too long as we needed to head to the early church service too, Palm Sunday. Nevertheless we still wanted to give it a shot.
As most of you are aware I’ve been working on the Tech-Turkey this off-season and was ready to give it a test run. My friend Will List picked me up early and we headed to the woods. We’ve got some turkeys on the land we hunt that consistently come out in the field in the mornings.
When we parked the wind was really gusting and pollen was in the air. I didn’t know if we would be able to have any success with the wind blowing so hard. On the way into the field we found a nice shed rack which I always enjoy finding. I was hoping it would be a sign of good luck.
We set up on an island of woods that overlooks a field. I went and put the decoy out about 35 yards away from us. Once set up I logged into WeHuntSC.com on my phone and tested connectivity and movement. The turkey was moving around just as it should. We were good to go and the sun was rising.
As it became lighter in the sky we were able to see the trees swaying back and forth in the wind. We hadn’t heard a gobble in the distance and really couldn’t hear much other than the wind. Usually by this time we would have heard some gobbles in the distance. We stayed and waited it out hoping for some gobblers to come around.
Will wanted to video the turkey from his phone and he asked me to make it move. So I made the turkey move and he videoed it. We were both looking down at our phones and I looked up to see 2 coyotes coming straight for the decoy. We didn’t hear a howl or have sign of coyotes coming, they came in silent and were focused in on the decoy. The wind that had been blowing so strongly was directionally blowing across our face so the coyotes couldn’t smell us. I couldn’t believe how close in they came.
Since Will was looking down at his phone I said “Will” and I turned the camera on. Will grabbed his gun and I was videoing. The coyotes came within 35 – 40 yards of us and like 10 yards from the decoy. Will debated letting them get even closer, but if he waited we may have been leaving with a mangled up decoy. In the video you can see the coyote pause for a second and that was the moment that Will pulled his gun up. Then seconds later he shot twice and hit the coyote both times. The coyote was flat getting out of there, but Will’s 20 gauge, 5-shot wasn’t enough to bring him down. It was definitely an interesting hunt. I think the coyotes will think twice before rolling up on a turkey again though!
So as you can imagine this wasn’t the hunt we had hoped for and it’s definitely not a good sign to have coyotes aiming for turkey decoys and our turkeys in general. Though, for the part of the Tech-Turkey decoy it is a good sign that the coyotes came to it because it was realistic to them. Usually coyotes are very keen on things and it’s a positive sign that they came in.
Hopefully next time we’ll be able to get some turkeys to come in.
The 2016 Predator Challenge was another successful event. We continue to grow as this year’s competition had 85 teams and 260 hunters registered on the website. It’s great to see the growth in the competition, but the awareness of the sport is what we’re really pleased to see. Ultimately we are outdoorsman who love to hunt and we host this competition to help raise awareness for what coyotes are doing to other game populations around the state (as the below video denotes). The more people we can get hunting coyotes, the better off our deer, turkey, ducks, and other game species are.
Coyote Only For The First Time
This year we implemented a request that hunters had voiced in post-competition-surveys for some time. The majority of our participants demanded a “Coyote Only” hunt and so this year that’s what we delivered. We knew that cutting out foxes and bobcats would lessen the number of people that could win, but our main purpose is to hunt coyotes as they are the true predators affecting deer, turkey, farm animals, and other wild game populations around the state. We didn’t know what to expect making this change, but in retrospect I think it was good and everyone still seemed to enjoy themselves.
It should go without saying that we cannot hold a competition without sponsorship. We are very fortunate to have some great sponsors. If you are predator hunters please check out our sponsor organizations and their products as they are the true ones who support you and us!
As everyone knows, the weather this weekend was not the best for hunting. It was particularly difficult for us upstate hunters and for NC teams. The snow, sleet, and ice made travel difficult and it made the coyote hunker down for a good portion of the weekend.
We received some criticism via email, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc. about the competition weekend. People were saying we should reschedule, pick a different weekend, or have some alternative. For those who were criticizing understand a few things… we plan the competition months in advance and aim for a full moon, we don’t control the weather any more than you do, and several hunters take Friday off work to hunt while others line up specific land to hunt for this weekend. If we were to reschedule at the last minute it would inconvenience a lot of other people as well. It’s just difficult to please everyone with rules, scheduling, the weather, and timelines we have to operate under in order to host the competition. It’s very similar to a bass tournament where they fish regardless of the weather. Also, keep in mind that this is a FREE competition and we’re doing the best we can to serve all the hunters in our state and beyond. We do not make any money from the weekend. We actually lose money to host it. So we acknowledge the weather and your complaints and we take them with a grain of salt :-)
Team Members: Tyler Logan, Erica Catoe, Jacob Gainey
Counties Hunted: Lee, Darlington, Sumter
Coyote Total: 8
2nd Place: Carolina Dawg Killers
Team Members: Cody Ahlstrom, Trent McWhorter, Simmty McWhorter, Cambel Cox
Counties Hunted: Chesterfield, Union (NC)
Coyote Total: 7
3rd Place: McKenzie Outdoors
Team Members: Eddie McKenzie, Barret Griggs, Scottie Hoffman, Patrick Griggs
Counties Hunted: Chesterfield
Coyote Total: 2
Big Dawg: Carolina Dawg Killers
Team Members: Cody Ahlstrom, Trent McWhorter, Simmty McWhorter, Cambel Cox
Counties Hunted: Chesterfield, Union (NC)
Big Dawg Weight: 43.9
Congratulations again to the winners and thanks again to everyone who hunted in this year’s Predator Challenge. If you participated in the event you will receive an email sometime in the near future asking for feedback, concerns, thoughts, and snide remarks!
See you again next year!
On Our Way to Okeechobee
We woke up around 4:45am and headed west. We would be putting in on the southern end of the lake in a town called Clewiston. Since it was so early it was of course dark, but I as we approached the town of Clewiston I could smell the smell of smoke. I asked Matt what that smell was and he said “Oh that’s the Sugar Cane farms, they burn the sugar during some part of their harvesting process”. It was interesting to smell that smell for a good ways, but yet not be alarmed that something was on fire or wrong. Late on in the day we found out that the sugar cane farmers actually burn the fields before they even harvest the sugar. The sugar cane fields spanned for miles and miles and miles. It was a neat sight.
Roland Martin Marina & Marine Center
We were set to meet our guide, Mark King, at the Roland Martin Marina. Once we started getting near the landing you could see the Christmas light decorations that were in the shape of a bass hanging in the streets.
Of course as “foreigners” we didn’t know which was the Marine Center and which was the Marina, but we learned pretty quickly. We went inside and saw several boats, tons of fishing lures, hats/shirts, and just about anything you could think of. Roland Martin’s name was everywhere and the marina had about what you would expect as well. There were restaurants, boats, weekend rental apartments, tiki bars, and of course fish on the walls and they even had 2 swimming in a tank.
Mark King, Bass Fishing Guide
We met the guide Matt lined us up with, Mark King, at the Marina. Mark was a very nice guy who definitely knows how to bass fish and he knows that lake like the back of his hand. Mark’s been guiding for 18 years and has all the accompanying honors and accolades that anybody would want a guide to have. Learn more about Mark’s guiding service at http://markkingfishing.com
Mark didn’t waste any time and we all hopped into his boat, which he already had waiting on us in the water. We rode through the locks and around the edge of the lake as the sun was rising. It was a beautiful sight.
Grass Paths in The Lake
Mark then made a left turn ducking into the grassy reeds of the lake. One thing I noticed throughout the day of fishing was the grass or weeds that were in the water. Of course I’ve seen grass in a lake before, but the lake had a lot of these on the edges and the paths that the boats ride leave carved out tunnels of sorts that were like hidden paths to bass hotspots if you will. I’d never really thought much about it, but these weeds or reeds were something that stuck out to me about the lake and when I think of Lake Okeechobee I’ll envision the grass in my mind. Anyways, we rode through these carved channels and we were head to a specific destination. I had the feeling that Mark knew these paths just as good as I know my way to some of my deer stands.
The Fish Were Biting
We got to our first stop and it wasn’t long before we had fish biting. We were using live bait, minnows, for our bait and they worked really well. I’d say we’d been stopped for about 5 minutes before we had corks going under. Mark told us to wait until the cork went under, count down from 5, then set the hook. This was obviously to let the bass get the minnow in their mouths really good before we set the hook. Even though we definitely wanted to let the bass get ahold of the minnows really well before setting the hook, you could see your cork darting off back toward the depths of the grassy weeds. It worked on my nerves a little bit to have a bass on and let him run back into that stuff, but I trusted the guide!
We set up right on the edge of the grassy reeds and would throw right out beside them. In every spot we fished in it wasn’t long before a bass would come out of that stuff and hammer the bait. We probably caught 15 bass the entire day and we constantly had action. There may have been a few minutes of lulls in action, but just as soon as I would turn around to look at something Mark would say “You’re down” and boom we’d have a fish in the boat.
Every fish we caught was healthy and nicely sized. We didn’t catch any state records, but we caught a nice mess of fish. One thing Mark told me was that the entire lake was only about 5 feet deep. I figured it would be deeper, but it wasn’t. Because it’s not that deep a lot of the boats there have unique anchoring systems called the “Power Pole” http://www.power-pole.com. You may be familiar with that type of anchor, but I wasn’t. I’m used to just throwing out something heavy and waiting until it hits the bottom.
Here are a few pics of fish we caught:
We Had a Blast
Needless to say, my friend Matt and I had a great time. We enjoyed being out on the lake and Mark was definitely effective as a fishing guide. I hope to be able to get back down there and fish with him again at some point. If you’re ever down in that area, be sure to give Mark and shout and tell him that you read about him here. You won’t be disappointed!
The Long Walk In
I knew bucks would be in the area near the stand and I knew it was time to make the trip deep into the woods. Yesterday I sprayed down really well and carried a bag of corn down to the stand and poured it out in the shooting lane. I felt sure deer would be moving in the area and I just wanted the corn there to potentially get a deer to pause in case I needed to make a shot.
I was eager to get in the woods this morning and since I had to make a long trip in, I got up a little extra early. It was about 40 degrees and the wind was blowing 3 mph in the direction I needed it to be blowing for a chance. The only thing that wasn’t cooperating was the moon. It was very bright… it looked like a flash light in the sky. Since I had a long walk in I unzipped the zippers in my legs and my chest to let my body heat out as I walked. I hate walking a long distance with multiple layers on, getting to the stand and being all sweaty, only to have the sweat dry on me then be freezing. I walked half way in just by moonlight.
The Arrival & The Wait
As I hit the edge of the woods near the stand I sprayed some buck bomb on the sides of my boots. I arrived to the stand and got situated in the stand and left my zippers open until I cooled off. I could hear dogs barking off in the distance and slowly the sun started to rise. As time passed I wasn’t seeing or hearing anything. I felt like I should be seeing deer. I started hearing rifle shots off in the distance and then close by. I bet I heard 7 shots all around me before it was all over. I started getting a little down on things thinking I shouldn’t have hunted that stand. I felt as though the streak would be over. Then around 10 minutes after 7 I heard something. It wasn’t a stick pop or rustling of leaves, but just some sound that caught my attention and I looked to my left. This deep in the woods it’s really thick with oaks and pines so visibility wasn’t the best. I saw something brown moving behind some trees and tree limbs. It was a deer!
My heart instantly started pounding. At first glance I thought it was a doe, but yet it was alone. The deer was probably 40 yards away from me to my left and moving at a steady walking pace. Initially I thought any deer I saw would be heading toward a fresh pile of corn. This buck could have cared less about that corn. He was heading in the opposite direction. The deer went behind a large oak tree and I put my gun up. The deer came out on the other side of the tree and I found it in my scope. Antlers! I could tell it was a buck, but it was so thick I couldn’t get a clear view of the deer’s rack. The deer stopped and stared at me. I wasn’t moving at all and the wind was blowing towards me so the deer couldn’t be smelling me. Regardless, the deer knew something wasn’t quite right.
The buck stood behind some small trees and limbs and continuously moved its head up and down trying to check me out and wind me. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the deer bolted out of there. I’ve seen this scenario happen one too many times. I needed to know if this deer was big enough to shoot as on our club we have game management rules. The deer stood directly facing me and turned its head slightly to the left. This gave me a view of the tines and I could see the thickness in the tines. I knew it was a shooter. I pulled the trigger and the deer ran about 15 yards and dropped!
I tried to calm down and then I climbed down out of the stand. I walked over and found a nice 8 point awaiting me. Here is the picture of the deer as I found it laying
Just when I though the streak was over this buck came strolling through and helped me keep the streak alive.
3 Things I Learned From This Hunt
So now the pressure is really on for next Thanksgiving! If somehow I get 4 in a row I don’t know what I’ll do. I can say this though, Thanksgiving weekend in Chesterfield County sure is a good weekend to hunt from what I’ve seen.
In June of 2010 I wrote a blog titled “The Convergence of Technology & Hunting” that elaborated on the emergence of technology in the hunting industry and discussed how technology can give hunters advantages. A lot has happened in the technology world since I posted that blog and the evolution of technology continues to advance. Though, the one thing I didn’t anticipate is that I would be participating in the evolution in a way related to physical products.
The “Tech-Turkey” is a project I’ve been working on for a little while now. If you’ve noticed that it’s been kind of quiet around WeHuntSC.com lately, a large part of that is due to me investing so much time learning and building what you see in this blog post, an automated, internet controlled turkey decoy. The process has been both fun and challenging!
This decoy system gives you the ability to control your decoy from your cell phone, tablet, computer, or anything connected to the internet. This project is a work in progress and currently in prototype phase as I continue to enhance the solution. The roadmap for the project has some slick enhancements already lined up as well.
You may be reading this and wonder “Why would I want to control my decoy from a cell phone?” Well there are a few advantages to having your decoy be controlled through the internet ie: your smart phone:
To best communicate what the turkey can do, check out this video that we made of the decoy in action
I am excited about this project and am indeed looking for a few field testers for the upcoming spring. I want to get the technology out in the field on some live hunts and get feedback from actual hunting scenarios. I definitely won’t be able to give everyone a decoy to test with, but I would like to work with a few of you to get your thoughts and opinions of the decoy. It is definitely helpful if you can provide me with a YouTube link of some of your hunting videos as I will want to get some quality footage of the decoy in action in live hunting scenarios.
If you’re interested in field testing the Tech-Turkey just submit the form on the “Tech Turkey” page.
If you follow the site then you may remember the Thanksgiving 9-Point that I got last year on Thanksgiving Day. Well, it’s been a while, but I recently received the mount back from Carlyle Sutton at Sutton’s Taxidermy in Pageland, SC.
Carlyle always does a good job and is very detail oriented. I thought my deer was big until I saw some of the other deer he is currently working on! Man his shop is full of deer and he’s gotten so good that people are bringing him animals from all across the world. I would tell you the names of the animals he’s mounting, but they are so rare I don’t know what their names are! If you ever are in the area you should stop and visit as it’s neat to see what all Carlyle is doing.
With this buck in particular Carlyle worked some magic on the antlers. The buck had a specific tine that was broken off and I asked Carlyle to see if he could rebuild it somewhat. When I picked it up I could hardly tell which antler was the one that had been worked on. He’d done a great job with fixing it and making it look realistic.
If you’re ever in need of a quality mount, be sure to consider Sutton’s Taxidermy and tell them we sent ya!
Here are some pics of the mount:
Every year hunters highly anticipate The Predator Challenge, our annual competition focused on reducing the coyote population. This year we’ve been receiving emails about the competition, getting asked in-person, and we even had a team register to the competition before it was announced! So yes, there is a lot of excitement around the competition. Last year at the check-in one of the participants told me that his team looks forward to the competition every year because it’s a weekend they plan ahead for, enjoy spending time together, and going hard competing against Mother Nature and other hunters in the state. He said it was an annual tradition for them and that was great to hear.
Why a Coyote Hunting Competition
It’s important to keep in mind the ultimate reason why we host this competition. We spend time and energy hosting this competition to help raise awareness about the damage that coyotes are doing to our game populations and to farmer’s livestock across the state. SCDNR’s studies based on tracking fawn mortality rates related to coyotes have shown that coyotes are a “player” in the landscape of deer management. We all know they are getting after more than deer though. So, we host the competition to give everyone a weekend to focus on coyotes, to meet other coyote hunters, and to spread the word about the growing sport of coyote hunting.
Many of you reading this are familiar with the competition and simply want to know what’s new this year and the logistics of the competition. So here you have it:
If you want to read the complete list of rules then see the Coyote Competition page.
As we all are aware SCDNR is hosting public meetings around the state to discuss the deer management legislation (Senate Bill 454) that’s up for vote. If you haven’t attended a session I encourage you to do so to let your voice be heard. I support the bill and think it will be a good thing for the state given the condition of our deer population and tendencies of some of our state’s hunters.
Last night I attended the meeting held in Lancaster, SC. I really didn’t know what to expect as far as how many people would attend and what the discussions/comments would be like. I know that hunters feel differently about the legislation and for some it gets pretty personal and emotional. I was interested to attend and hear the data from DNR as well as the reactions from the crowd.
I met coyote slayer Gavin Jackson there and upon arrival it was obvious that DNR had a heavy presence at the meeting. I bet there were 25 to 30 DNR representatives and officers present. There were also some gentlemen wearing business coats who sat down at the front. I assume they were politicians, but am not sure as they didn’t say much, but seemingly were just there to observe.
Charles Ruth was the presenter for DNR. Charles is a Wildlife Biologist at SCDNR and he is over the turkey and deer programs. He went through several PowerPoint slides pretty fast to start the presentation. He gave some background on the current state of deer hunting and regulations within the state. One thing he pointed out early on was that buck limits are not a function of SCDNR, but rather it's voted on at a higher level in government. DNR simply enforces the laws that are adopted by government. Even though he stated that fact, some obviously didn’t understand it, but more on that shortly.
In the “Background” section Mr. Ruth highlighted a lot of information. He noted that the declining deer population in our state was due to several factors. The factors he noted were:
Regarding the lack of a reasonable bag limit Mr. Ruth pointed out how much of an outlier SC is. He noted that just about every state has some type of tag program and the states that don’t have tag programs have “antler restrictions”. South Carolina and Hawaii (which Hawaii doesn’t have native deer) are the only ones with really no type of regulations, tag programs, or antler restrictions. From that perspective it’s easy to see that SC is an outlier.
Mr. Ruth also noted that while we have fewer deer now and deer harvest numbers are down… we still lead the southeast in terms of harvest per square mile. Since he went through his slides quickly I wasn’t able to jot down all the data points, but I did capture a few that I thought were interesting:
Mr. Ruth also noted that DNR conducts surveys and polls + they have worked with independent agencies to conduct surveys over the last few years. From the polls and surveys they have been able understand both quantitative and qualitative data as it relates to deer hunting across the state. Some of the sentiment and data they gleaned was:
Current Status of Bill 454
Senate Bill 454 was filed on DNR's behalf in January and has passed the senate. It’s up for vote in house shortly in the upcoming session. Mr. Ruth noted that the proposal may not please everyone, but DNR had to come up with 1 proposal that attempts to please everyone. If the bill is passed in the next session it will still take a year to implement. If it doesn’t pass then the process will have to start over.
The legislation would provide the following:
Open Forum Q/A Session
After Mr. Ruth’s presentation he wanted to get to the questions from the audience and he also wanted to conduct surveys both via raise of hands and via paper. During this session I was reminded that I was in Lancaster as several of the audience members were interrupting each other, complaining that DNR was trying to “Help the rich man and hold the poor people down”, and just not being courteous to one another in general.
Some audience members asked about reviving the check-in locations, rolling big-game license cost & tags into same fee, call-in harvest reporting, and wanting punishment for people caught with illegal deer. Mr. Ruth answered the questions as best he could. As the session went on the environment became more animated.
I was glad that I attended the meeting and got the info and am up-to-date on the current state of Senate Bill 454. I was also disappointed in some of our fellow outdoorsmen that were present and I think we collectively owe Mr. Ruth an apology. Several audience members were disrespectful to Mr. Ruth during his presentation. They made snide comments, interrupted him, asked him questions and then didn’t let him answer before interrupting him again. Even worse some crowd members were essentially holding Mr. Ruth solely responsible for the way the government works, the way the legislation is written, and how laws are interpreted. It was as if they didn’t understand how our government currently works and what DNR is trying to do. Mr. Ruth and DNR are trying to help the deer population and hunters across the state, but the way some interacted with him you could tell they didn’t understand.
It was also obvious, at least to me, that everyone came and voiced their own unique perspective, but yet didn’t consider the scope of the greater task at hand for DNR. Whether it was a bow hunter that was mad about when the season starts in various game zones, or a processor worried about tagging deer in his cooler, a person who wants to blame coyotes for everything, or just a redneck in general who changed positions on a question half way through his response… all attendees had an individual perspective and concern that was voiced. There seemed to be a disconnect in that DNR has to collectively consider all of the unique perspectives, but yet the audience didn’t care about other hunters perspectives, rather they only considered their own. I did not envy Mr. Ruth’s position on stage last night, but I do respect him for delivering the info and taking the misdirected heat. It was impossible to please a room full of 60+ hunters from one area of the state so I can’t imagine trying to please all hunters across the entire state in 1 bill. Though, even though the crowd was animated during the survey session the majority of the crowd was in support of adopting the new legislation, which was a positive.
I thought Mr. Ruth handled the increasingly animated crowd very well and was very professionally even when some members hurled insults at him and his organization. Kudos to the DNR team for hosting the event, remaining professional, and working to get this bill passed. I think the future of deer hunting in our state will benefit from it for years to come. I for one appreciate your efforts and recognize that the challenge before you with this legislation is not an easy one to get across the line. Thank you!