There is great news for quail hunting enthusiasts in South Carolina.
Through the efforts of Quail Forever (scquailforever.org), the SC Conservation Bank, the SC Department of Natural Resources, and individual quail enthusiasts including Allen Bell and Tim Askins, public haul hunting opportunities in the state are on the verge of doubling .
Quail Forever’s Build a Wildlife Area Program earlier this month announced the acquisition of a 774-acre property on the border of Lee and Sumter counties. The land has been farmed for many years by a quail hunting enthusiast who is well known across the state for other reasons.
Legendary high school football coach Mooney Player agreed to sell the property, now officially called the Bobwhite Hills Wildlife Management Area, to include in the state’s quail management program.
Tim Askins of Quail Forever, a Mount Pleasant resident, said a relative of Player contacted Michael Hook, director of the SC Department of Natural Resources’ Small Game Program, and said that Player was interested in selling the property. Hook contacted Askins, who met with the 90-year-old coaching legend, and after several months of negotiations, they were able to agree on a price and complete the sale.
“We will work with DNR to conduct public hunts and property management,” Askins said. “It’s huge for quail in South Carolina because once we put it online it will double the opportunity for the public quail hunt.
“We hope that this will be a building block. When other landowners see what a guy like Mooney Player has done and how his property has impacted South Carolina bird hunting, other people will step in and make their properties available.”
Hook said Bobwhite Hills will be a boon to the public quail hunt, adding a large amount of good quality habitat.
“Mr. Player has managed it for quail and the property is in good condition,” Hook said. “It’s already thinned out. It has good ground cover. It will be a good quail hunt right off the bat. It won’t take 5-6 years to get it into shape. It’s already there.”
The player will continue to have access to the property for the current season, which opens on Monday. But once the spring rolls begin around Quail Forever and SCDNR, they will begin managing the property, including controlled burns, and trying to establish a thriving wild population of quail, Askins said.
If you talk to quail hunting enthusiasts in the Palmetto State, and there are many, the conversation will inevitably turn to the decline in the bobwhite population compared to the “good ol’ days.”
But the “good ol’ days” may depend on your point of reference.
Long-term quail numbers have been declining for decades, Hook admits. But recent efforts to restore quail habitat in the Palmetto State are looking more promising.
“We’ve been doing pipe counts every year, and we’ve been doing it since 1979. The numbers appear to have bottomed out around 2015, and over the last few years we’ve been slowly moving up,” Hook said. “If you look at a 10-year chart, it doesn’t look nearly as bad as a 30-year or 40-year chart. At least we’re not losing ground. We rise a little every year.”
Hook said SCDNR is also doing fall Covey counts and early returns portend a good season ahead.
The reason for the decline in quail numbers is that with more efficient agriculture and timber management, there are fewer places left with good habitat for quail.
“We’ve been trying to get quail habitat back on the ground here in South Carolina,” Hook said. “In partnership with the National Bobwhite Grassland Initiative, we launched the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative in 2015.”
Hook said there are five priority areas across the state anchored by public lands where they do heavy bobwhite work.
“The idea is to get neighbors and adjacent public land and private landowners to create landscape changes for quail, and it’s starting to work,” he said.
Hook said there are a large number of SCDNR WMAs that offer quail hunting opportunities and as many as a dozen locations that are actively managed for quail. He said you can look these up in SCDNR’s rule book because they list limited days for quail hunting.
“Even so, I’m a public land hunter myself, and some of my most productive places are these little unnamed WMAs, which are generally logging company areas,” Hook said. He said he keeps a paper map and marks the properties as they are unique and makes a note to come back and check them out in a few years.
“I can go out and routinely find quail just because I’m willing to put in the time and effort,” Hook said. “With today’s technology, you can do a lot of that with Google Earth. You can look and say there’s a clear cut I need to review.”
America’s Boating Club
America’s Boating Club Charleston will host a boat safety course on December 3rd at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. Lessons start at 9 a.m. and end around 4 p.m
Successful participants earn the SC Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. The cost is $45 for adults and $15 for additional household members sharing the text. Scholarships are available for youth between the ages of 12 and 18. Call 843-312-2876 or email [email protected]
ECOMC turkey shoot
The East Cooper Outboard Motor Club is hosting its 59th Annual Turkey Shoot through November 23, Wednesday through Saturday, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Goldbug Island, 1560 Ben Sawyer, Mount Pleasant.
The shoot also takes place on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The Turkey Shoot raised $43,000 in 2021 and has donated $541,800 to Lowcountry charities since its inception.
Archery Hunt for Bulls Island
The 2022 Bulls Island Whitetail Deer Bow Hunt will be held December 5-10. The purpose of the hunt is to assist management in maintaining deer populations at an environmentally sustainable level and enables the use of a valuable renewable resource.
Hunters must be in possession of the required state hunting license. Each hunter checks in and registers before setting up camp and hunting. Hunters under the age of 16 must have successfully completed a state-approved hunter training course, present a hunter safety certificate and be under the direct supervision of an adult. On Sunday, December 4 at 4:00 p.m., the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge Manager meets with archers to discuss refuge hunting regulations.
The Campground on Bulls Island remains open from 9am on the Sunday before each hunt until noon on the Sunday after the hunt. Only registered hunters are allowed to camp. Overnight parking is permitted at Garris Landing during the Archery Hunt. The group campsite is the picnic area, which includes an enclosed shelter for extreme weather, sanitary facilities, and a water source.
Visit the Cape Romain website at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/cape-romain to obtain a copy of the hunting permit. For more information, please call the Refuge Office at (843) 928-3264. Permits are available at the Refuge Headquarters Office Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center, 5821 Hwy 17 North, Awendaw, SC 29429 , available .
2023 SC Wahoo Series
Tournament Director Marc Pincus has announced that the 2023 South Carolina Wahoo Series (scwahooseries.com) will be fished from February 17th to April 15th.
The Captains’ Meeting will be held at Skull Creek Dockside Restaurant on Hilton Head Island on February 4 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., with the awards ceremony scheduled for April 16. Competitors can fish three days during the tournament and each day weigh one fish with the aggregate weight of their two heaviest fish counting towards the championship.