This past weekend, I couldn’t get over just how many turkeys I was seeing in the fields as I drove around. Although the sight of a large flock is quickly becoming commonplace around here, it was just a couple of years ago that such a spectacle was only heard of when hunters were discussing the old days.
According to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, things have improved in this regard statewide.
You see, years and years of drought had taken a real toll on the wild turkey population in the state of S.C., and it had gotten much worse than most hunters realized.
Small groups of birds inhabited areas which once had held plenty, and hunters had gotten used to the idea that, if they had a good turkey spot, they had better keep it quiet.
I’m glad to see those days ending, for both my love of the sport of turkey hunting and the betterment of our local economy.
Believe it or not, estimates indicate that around 50,000 hunters will take to the woods of the Palmetto state during the 2013 turkey season, which began in the bottom half of the state in mid-March and opens here April 1. And their hunting efforts will pour over $30 million into our state’s economy as they purchase everything from camo and game calls to the gas that gets them to and from their hunting destination.
But just how good can those thousands of camo covered sportsmen expect this season to be?
DNR has recently issued their annual view for what hunters should expect and it echoes everything that my own eyes have been telling me.
“The outlook for the 2013 spring season is good for most areas of the state, according to Charles Ruth, deer and turkey project supervisor for the DNR. Annually since the early 1980’s, DNR conducts a summer turkey survey to estimate reproduction and recruitment of turkeys in S.C.
The survey involves agency wildlife biologists, technicians and conservation officers, as well as many volunteers from other natural resource agencies and the general public. Indicators from the survey have been better the last couple of years compared to the previous six to eight years.”
Ruth added, “Harvest trends have followed the trends in reproduction in recent years and prior to 2012 we saw a cumulative 30 percent decline in turkey harvest since 2002. However, with better reproduction the last couple of years, the harvest responded in 2012 with a substantial increase for the first time in many years. As was the case last year, there should be a good carry-over of gobblers available during spring of 2013. However, statewide turkey numbers are still below record levels of ten years ago and it will take ongoing high levels of reproduction to get the population back where it once was.”
Get the youngsters involved
This Saturday is the annual youth day for turkey hunting in our part of the state. Those 17 and under are allowed to get a jump on the rest of us by chasing those longbeards before the start of the regular season as long as they’re accompanied by a properly licensed adult aged 21or over.
On this day, only the youth is allowed to take or attempt to take a turkey and all normal tagging requirements still apply.
Want to hunt at night?
It is now legal in S.C. to night hunt for hogs, coyotes and armadillos on private properties in S.C. from the last day of February to July 1m as long as you follow the rules.
Although I have yet to see an armadillo wander into our part of the world, we have plenty of “yotes” for you to try your luck on and the hogs are now showing up, too.
To do so, the state requires you to register the property where you’ll be hunting at least 48 hours beforehand. They’ll ask for the names, dates of birth and hunting license numbers of every hunter that will be taking part during the season along with the location of the property, including road names and numbers that border the land.
Any hunter using a centerfire rifle during the hunts must be in an elevated stand that’s at least ten feet above ground and those convicted of certain game offenses within the last five years are ineligible to participate.
Hunting world loses a great one
Tony Knight, the “father of modern muzzleloading” and founder of Knight Rifles, recently passed away in his home state of Iowa.
Originally a gunsmith in Missouri, Knight created a new and more efficient way to muzzleloader hunt when he introduced his MK-85 rifle back in 1985. Prior to his innovation, hunters were stuck with the centuries old and inefficient designs that were state-of-the-art way back in Daniel Boone’s day.
Just as was the case with the introduction of the compound bow, Knight’s inline design ushered in a new era for hunters. Gone were the days of frustration as loose powder and lead balls were replaced by pellet powder charges and bullets that fired through rifled barrels with the accuracy of most centerfire firearms.
Knight was much more than just a riflemaker, however. He tirelessly worked both front-and-center and behind the stage as he lobbied states nationwide to include a muzzleloader only season during their deer seasons in the same way that archery only seasons had been introduced some years before.
Although he had sold his company quite a while back, he had remained involved in the hunting and firearms industries and could always be found at any of the usual industry gatherings. I first met him back in January 2003, and found him to be a very down to earth man that was passionate about our sport and improving it.
Rest well, Tony.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his web site at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter- @BHarveyOutdoors