• Volume 19 Number 12 - December 2012


    The rut is over, but North Carolina hunters still have several weeks of the season left to line up that big buck using these experts’ tips.

    The last month of the year brings brisk morning air to the hills and valleys of the Tarheel State, and while many deer hunters have put their boots and rifles into semi-retirement, December can be extremely productive in terms of encountering a trophy buck on any of the public-hunting areas distributed across North Carolina, between the Blue Ridge mountains and the coastal maritime forests.

    Tactics typically used on private land are often eliminated on public properties, forcing hunters to revert to the basics of ancestral strategies for tagging a big buck, and no doubt about it, this immense acreage has everything needed to grow and harbor bucks suitable for a trip to the taxidermist.

    The latest innovations and relaxed hunting regulations are putting more crossbows in the hands of eastern North Carolina deer hunters. Here’s why.

    Jerry Simmons of Castle Hayne made his rounds, checking out the ground blinds and elevated stands he and his son Jerry Simmons Jr. were planning to hunt later that afternoon. Instead of avoiding the areas, he was spilling corn from the tailgate of his pickup as it rolled through his Pender County hunting club, Shelter Creek Plantation and Hunting Preserve.

    “The deer are used to the traffic and the routine with which I feed my hunting areas,” he said. “We have roads going through the Carolina bays where we hunt, and the stands and blinds are on the roadsides. A deer only has to walk out of the road, and he is hidden in thick cover. He will watch you put down the corn, then come right back out to eat after you leave.”

    Scissors-rig hunting is exciting approach to Pamlico ducks. Learn the details here.

    Camouflage is a key element of successful hunting, especially for waterfowl.

    But the art of hiding from wild game has changed over time. Native Americans once concealed themselves inside animal skins or attached leaves and grasses to their clothing to hunt buffalo, deer and wild turkeys.

    During the modern era, manufactured camouflage items have ruled the shooting sports, and the camo industry has grown into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.

    Lakes with warm-water discharges from power plants keep fish feeding actively throughout the winter. Learn from these experts how to find and fish them.

    North Carolina usually doesn’t get its coldest winter weather until about the third week of January, but some years – 2010 and 2011 being fine examples — the freeze arrives in time for the Christmas holidays.

    While cold, cold weather might drive a lot of fishermen off lakes and to the comforts of cozy dens with roaring fires in the fireplaces, some just can’t put their tackle down — and might not all winter.

    In many cases, their salvation — especially on days when the mercury hovers around freezing — is a narrow sliver of water whose headwaters are the belly of a power plant. On a handful of North Carolina reservoirs managed by Duke Energy, those creeks or canals — some of them man-made — carry hot water that is returned to the main body of the lake as part of the plant’s power-production process.

    Great grouper fishing is available out of Morehead City this month, before the season closes. Learn the details here.

    Diehard grouper fishermen once headed for the ledges in spring before a January-to-April season closure changed their habits. Now, many fishermen are experiencing their best action in the final month they can these fish.

    Capt. Mike Webb of Morehead City’s Pelagic Sport Fishing and Jodie Gay, owner of Blue Water Candy Lures, did just that one day last December, taking advantage of one of the idiosyncrasies of North Carolina’s weather patterns. When winter arrives, there are always some warm, calm days that leave the ocean’s surface as slick as motor oil, and these are perfect days for bottom fishing.

    “We catch just about anything out on the ledges in December,” Webb said, “but with the season closed for sea bass and red snapper, it makes grouper your best option for bottom-fishing. You are going to have to sort through a lot of fish you can’t keep, but you are going to catch some nice grouper. There are plenty of big gags out here.”

    Winter striped bass fishing can be action packed at the Pamlico River and its feeder creeks. Read on to learn how to get in on the fishing madness.

    Most North Carolina anglers know about the striped bass migration in the Roanoke River. The “rockfish run” draws thousands of fishermen each March, April and May.

    These “linesiders” spawn each spring, moving out of the Pamlico Sound and Atlantic Ocean, traveling 130 miles up the river to the Weldon area. But most people don’t know winter also offers one of the best times to find stripers in the state’s inland coastal streams and other eastern rivers.

    Striped bass also live in the Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound. They spawn in the river’s upper reaches each spring, but after their mating season ends, many remain in the river and feeder streams the rest of the year.

    Onslow County’s river is top spot for spotted seatrout as fall gives way to winter. Learn the hows and whys here.

    While Ricky Kellum is an accomplished inshore fisherman for several species, he is considered “The Man” for specks in the New River and in the Intracoastal Waterway around Camp Lejeune and Sneads Ferry. A guide based in Jacksonville, Kellum spends the great deal of time on those waters and knows where the trout are, what they are eating and if they are feeding on a certain stage of the tide.

    Kellum, the “Speckled Specialist,” catches trout in the New River and its tributaries year-round, but the fishing is usually best in the fall and early winter when the water begins to cool. He said the cooling water triggers trout to feed and makes them easier to catch, and they’re usually larger in the fall.