• Volume 19 Number 12 - November 2012

    Features

    This trophy hunter turned guide prefers pinch points for big bucks at his Rockingham County hunting operation.

    Gary Barrett, a lifelong resident of Rockingham County, has undergone a metamorphosis over the past 40 years, going from trophy deer hunter to hunting tutor, a journey that has seen him kill several hundred deer, 30 of which most hunters would consider trophies.

    Nowadays, Barrett manages Oakhaven, a 1,300-acre hunting operation near Pelham that offers guided hunts for whitetail deer.

    With Rockingham County being one of North Carolina’s most-productive areas for trophy bucks in recent years, the things Barrett has to share about hunting tactics are worth writing down, and it’s useful to learn how three particular bucks shaped his hunting career and outlook.

    Public-land deer hunters have plenty of places to hunt, but getting away from the crowd is the first and foremost key to success.

    Most deer hunters in South Carolina are searching for a trophy buck on private land, but for $30.50, many can purchase the right to gain access to more than a million acres of productive deer habitat. For a hunter with a Wildlife Management Area permit in hand, public-hunting opportunities are literally overflowing.

    Virtually every county and established game zone in South Carolina has public land set aside for hunting. In fact, deer hunting is allowed on 89 individual WMAs, and eight wildlife refuges, and several other special-hunting opportunities are set aside for the public. Between the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, around 1.3 million acres — roughly seven percent of the state’s land cover — is available to the public.

    This bass fishery is overlooked, underfished and improving every year. Take a tour of its best fall spots.

    At 3,863 surface acres, Belews Lake isn’t large enough to be considered one of North Carolina’s major reservoirs, but it’s by no means just a little pond out in the country north of Winston-Salem near the “four corners” junction of Stokes, Forsyth, Guilford and Rockingham counties.

    Still, it doesn’t get a lot of attention from fishermen outside its local area; you rarely see bass clubs from, say, Raleigh or Hickory visiting for tournaments.

    It could be that fishermen haven’t really been talking much about the lake because it wasn’t too long ago that the Duke Energy reservoir, home of the largest coal-fired station on the power company’s grid, didn’t have any fish — at least no normal ones.

    Stripers, crappie, bass are biting on this South Carolina reservoir.

    For most of his 47 years, Tom Mundy of Laurens has been trying to figure out better ways to catch fish. As a kid, he would sneak into local farm ponds, and as he grew up, he expanded his territory to include nearby Lake Greenwood. As time went by, the creative bug hit Mundy, and he began designing lures that would give him the edge on Greenwood’s native fish populations.

    “I first started out by making topwater baits to catch stripers below the Greenwood dam,” Mundy said. “After that, I learned how to pour plastic baits, and largemouth bass were the target. Later it was bream and crappie.”

    Waterfowl hunting on public land in the Upstate is not for the feint of heart, but the benefits are outstanding.

    No question, there are easier things to do than hunt public land across the sprawling metropolis of South Carolina’s Upstate, which doesn’t boast of any rice fields or vast acres of marsh grass. Even water, the most primary of duck necessities, is often in short supply.

    Needless to say, Upstate duck hunters are a breed all their own. Under ideal conditions, duck hunting isn’t the easiest of outdoor pursuits. Add an addition degree of difficulty for the reduced amount of waterfowl habitat and another for the difficulty in locating and accesses areas with that habitat. Then, factor in the fact that there’s no shortage of other hunters who are just as crazy as you are.

    Fortunately, in the above equation, a lack of ducks is not a factor.

    Fall reds and specks make Little River area a great fishing destination.

    Sometimes the area on either side of the North Carolina-South Carolina border seems to be an outpost for weather that would be expected several hundred miles farther south. Shorts and a sweatshirt are the perfect attire for fishing on a lot of November days, and even into December.

    Mark Stacy of Ocean Isle Fishing Charters enjoys catching inshore fish year-round but specializes in speckled trout and red drum as Thanksgiving approaches. He knows the cooling weather is getting the fish fired up, and best of all, he knows what they like to eat and where to find them. It makes for fun and productive fishing.

    Fall reds and specks make Little River area a great fishing destination.

    Sometimes the area on either side of the North Carolina-South Carolina border seems to be an outpost for weather that would be expected several hundred miles farther south. Shorts and a sweatshirt are the perfect attire for fishing on a lot of November days, and even into December.

    Mark Stacy of Ocean Isle Fishing Charters enjoys catching inshore fish year-round but specializes in speckled trout and red drum as Thanksgiving approaches. He knows the cooling weather is getting the fish fired up, and best of all, he knows what they like to eat and where to find them. It makes for fun and productive fishing.

    The gateway to the Outer Banks is also a gateway to fine fall fishing for speckled trout.

    In the first gray light of the morning, guide Bryan DeHart of Manteo eased into the middle of a marsh, within casting distance of a bulkhead with a hulk of a house behind it. With the anchor set, he reached for a rod with a quarter-ounce jighead tied on and quickly threaded a Gulp! paddletail onto the hook.

    It took three casts to get a strike, and the little speckled trout fought valiantly, but Dehart had leverage and brought it to the boat easily. Once the hook was removed, it was slipped back over the side and sprinted away apparently none the worse for the early morning experience.

    No boat? No sweat! Surf fishing might just be the thing for you if you heed the advise of this beach-bound expert.

    Walter White drove across a bridge arching over the Intracoastal Waterway and turned south, zeroing in on the Topsail Beach Town Hall. After exchanging pleasantries with the clerk and paying for a beach-driving permit, he was rolling again, southward along Anderson Blvd. until he reached the town’s public beach access across the street from Drum Avenue. Turning his four-wheel-drive pickup onto the sand, he continued his southward migration until he finally hit a dead end at Topsail Inlet.

    “This has always been such a nice place to fish,” he said. “It’s a well-known hotspot for red drum, flounder and speckled trout.”

    White, who operates Whitewater Surf Fishing Charters, fills a niche that has little competition.

    Opportunities for taking nice bucks in urban and suburban settings are growing every year for South Carolina hunters.

    Wilderness hunting for whitetail deer is a great experience; being away from civilization and enjoying the peace and quiet has a great appeal to most of us. The reality is that deer are very adaptable creatures and often exist on the margins of densely populated areas. All they need is a little cover to mask their movements, a source of water and they will eat the ornamentals in your yard down to a nub.

    Sometimes, shifting our focus from rural areas to the urban scene can pay big dividends. This scenario can be a bonanza for bow hunters who can quietly hunt along the edges of subdivisions where deer have become a nuisance, their stands often close enough to civilization to see television sets through picture windows and smell hamburgers grilling on someone’s deck.

    In November, there are few places where artificials will fool more and better speckled trout than in Charleston’s ‘saltiest’ river.

    In the fall, South Carolina’s estuary system can compete with any other across the nation, and with almost endless opportunities available for the angler, Charleston’s inshore fishing venue is nearly unmatched when it comes to speckled trout.

    One of Charleston’s “Fabulous Four” rivers, the Wando, fishes particularly well in November as the water temperature tumbles, and fabricated temptations come to the forefront.

    Waterfowl hunters aiming for wood ducks find rivers, streams and swamps hard to beat, especially in eastern North Carolina.

    The most-colorful, handsomest duck North Carolina waterfowlers have a chance to hunt is the male wood duck.

    With its iridescent green, black and white crested head, black eyes centered inside fiery red circles, an orange-yellow bill dipped in black, mottled-in-white and rust-colored nest feathers, white underbelly, black back and wing feathers outlined in streaks of white, the male woodie has little competition from other species when it comes to making a fashion statement.

    Fortunately, North Carolina hunters have no problems finding wood ducks; they live in every county from Dare to Cherokee. In fact, woodies may outnumber any other species, a good reason they are often called the “Carolina” duck.

    Stokes County produces plenty of big bucks, but hunters can apply lessons learned there anywhere in North Carolina.

    Late October and early November present something of a challenge for deer hunters.

    With the peak of the rut approaching, bucks are on the move 24/7, searching for receptive does. A problem develops because, while bucks aren’t stationary, hunters for the most part are glued to one spot, sitting in tree stands or ground blinds.