Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Banded Mourning Doves Provide Vital Information to Biologists

Since 2003, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Section and other partners have taken part in a long-term, multi-state banding project on mourning doves to improve information on dove life history.

Over thirty-five states across the nation are participating in this landmark project, and more than 350,000 doves have been banded since the project was initiated. Wildlife biologists use survival rates, harvest rates, recruitment rates and population trends to help guide harvest management decisions. Banding is one of the most important tools used to obtain this information.

DNR is recognized nationally as a leading agency in dove research and management efforts. Throughout much of the 1990s, DNR participated in research projects that examined age and cause-specific mortality in doves. Information gained from the current banding effort will be used in conjunction with previous information collected in South Carolina and elsewhere to improve biologists’ ability to manage doves at regional and national levels.

Doves are captured and banded at more than 35 sites across South Carolina each year. Captured birds are marked with a metal leg band containing a unique number and the 1-800-327-BAND telephone number, which hunters can use to report the band. Since 2003, personnel from DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies have banded more than 19,500 doves across the state.

“This overwhelming success is a credit to all of the personnel involved in banding each year,” said Billy Dukes, DNR Small Game Project supervisor. “It demonstrates a commitment on the part of all participants to improve our knowledge of dove populations and our ability to properly manage this important resource.”

Hunters are a critical link in assuring the success of the banding study. By reporting any banded doves harvested, hunters add valuable information that will assist in the management of this important migratory bird resource. Hunters who harvest a banded mourning dove should call 1-800-327-BAND (1-800-327-2263) to report the band number. Operators will be on duty 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday, during the hunting season. Outside of the hunting season, hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Banded birds may also be reported online. Hunters can keep the bands and will be provided a certificate identifying the age and sex of the bird, as well as the date and location the bird was banded.

“Large-scale banding efforts like this offer a unique opportunity to examine survival rates and harvest rates of doves across the continental range of the species,” said Dukes. “We expect our participation in this project to greatly increase our understanding of dove population dynamics at state, regional and national scales.”

Grouse chicks are precocial, which means that as soon as they have dried following hatching they are ready to leave the nest and start feeding themselves.


The toes of Ruffed Grouse grow projections off their sides in winter, making them look like combs. The projections are believed to act as snowshoes to help the grouse walk across snow.
The 2013-14 mourning dove seasons in South Carolina are Sept. 2-Oct. 5 (afternoons only Sept. 2-7), Nov. 23-30, and Dec. 19-Jan. 15. Shooting hours are noon to sunset from Sept. 2-7, and 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset for the remainder of the season. The bag limit for mourning doves is 15 doves per day. Dove hunters are reminded of the requirement to obtain a migratory bird permit before hunting. The migratory bird permit is required in addition to a hunting license and can be obtained free of charge from any hunting and fishing license vendor.

Mourning doves are among the most abundant birds in South Carolina and are second only to deer in hunting popularity in the state. Each year in South Carolina, about 45,000 dove hunters harvest around 900,000 doves. The estimated continental population of mourning doves is more than 375 million birds.

For more information on the dove banding project, call the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Small Game Project in Columbia at (803) 734-3609 or visit the Mourning Dove Research and Management page:

Grouse chicks are precocial, which means that as soon as they have dried following hatching they are ready to leave the nest and start feeding themselves.


The toes of Ruffed Grouse grow projections off their sides in winter, making them look like combs. The projections are believed to act as snowshoes to help the grouse walk across snow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Smoking Meat For Beginners

Oily fish, pork, beef, lamb, and game meats are some of the best options for smoking.
Many people associate barbecuing and grilling with cooking outdoors. But smoking food is another way to create succulent, fall-off-the-bone meat and poultry outdoors.

Smoking meats involves cooking the food over a low temperature in a smoky environment for several hours -- sometimes overnight. The low temperature, between 180 and 220 F, causes the wood and charcoal used to smoke and smolder rather than burn. This is what imparts a smoky flavor to whatever is being cooked.

Although there are specialized smokers available for sale, you can also smoke foods with a regular barbecue grill or even a homespun creation. There are two methods of smoking:dry and wet. Dry smoking uses indirect heat to cook the food, while wet smoking employs a water pan to produce moisture that keeps temperatures consistent and may help keep food tender.

For those who run out and purchase a new smoker, most smoking experts advise seasoning the smoker prior to first use. Much as you would season a new cast-iron pan or other cooking appliance, you can season a smoker to ensure there aren’t any chemicals or oil residues from manufacture left on the smoker. Otherwise, you may transfer a chemical taste to your meal. Set up the smoker according to the directions. Allow it to run for at least two hours to burn off any residue. Afterward, you should be able to smoke your first piece of meat.

There are a few tips to consider before embarking on your first smoking adventure. Always keep the water pan full if you are doing a wet smoke. The water will help to keep food tender. When smoking for the first time, start out with a small amount of wood or aromatics in the smoker to experiment with flavor. You can always add more the next time for an intense smoky flavor. Wood chips and any other additions to the smoker may last longer by wetting the chips and then bundling them in a foil packet. Punch holes into the packet and place it on the coals.

Certain foods work better with smoking than others. Oily fish, pork, beef, lamb, and game meats are some of the best options. Poultry can also be smoked, but be advised the skin on a turkey or chicken may not stand up well to intense smoking. It may need to be removed prior to eating.

Pairing food with the right woods can also create an enjoyable flavor. Alder wood produces a delicate flavor, as does apple and cherry. For more assertive smokiness, try hickory, oak or pecan. Mesquite is still full-bodied but lighter than the other woods and creates a sweeter flavor. Aromatics, such as herbs, fruit peels or cinnamon sticks, also can be added to produce even more flavor. Aromatics with a high oil content will produce a stronger flavor.

Putting a rub on food prior to smoking can also give it added flavor. Many chefs also like to brine foods, especially poultry, to help tenderize the meat before smoking.

While the meat is smoking, resist the urge to take off the cover and check it frequently. This will allow the heat and smoke to escape. You may end up extending the cooking time every time you remove the cover. Only open the smoker to refill the water tray if you are doing a wet smoke. Much in the way an indoor slow cooker needs to remain closed to cook efficiently, so does a smoker.

Many people prefer to do their smoking during daylight hours rather than leaving a smoker unattended during the night. In this case, you may need to wake up very early to put the meat on to ensure it is cooked at mealtime. Ribs can take 5 to 7 hours to smoke, while briskets and roasts may need an hour or more per pound. Always use a thermometer to check internal temperature before serving smoked meats. As you gain experience, you may be able to better judge the cooking times needed for certain foods. Start with meats that are at room temperature before placing them on the smoker.

Smoked foods can be flavorful and tender. They may take a little longer to achieve than other cooking methods, but most home chefs find the results are worth the added effort.
- Metro Creative Connection

See this article and many more in IWANNA's Hunting & Fishing Guide 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Birding Checklist Available for Sandy Mush Game Land

American kestrels readily took to nest boxes that Commission staff posted, which made Sandy Mush a popular destination for local birders.
Photos by  Melissa McGaw/NCWRC
While many sportsmen know Sandy Mush Game Land as an excellent place to hunt turkeys in the spring or mourning dove in the fall, bird watchers flock to the 2,600-acre game land year-round to observe birds not commonly seen in Western North Carolina. 

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission game land has become such a well-known birding site that Commission biologists developed a birding checklist with help from the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society (EMAS) to help bird watchers visiting the game land.

The list, which can be downloaded  at the EMAS website (, contains 153 bird species that have been documented by Commission staff, EMAS members, as well as other game land visitors, over the last seven years.

More than 300 bird species are found in western North Carolina, although that number varies depending on the season. Many birds live in the region throughout the year, while others pass through briefly during spring and fall migrations.

Data from the birding checklists should provide biologists with a better understanding of the number of birds, their distribution, and their habitat preferences during the different seasons.
Christine Kelly, a Mountain Region Wildlife Diversity biologist with the Commission, encourages game land visitors to print the online checklist for birding trips.

“We’ve kept the checklist simple so they can be printed at home and easily used in the field,”  Kelly said. “We hope that the checklist will encourage more folks to visit Sandy Mush, so eventually, we’ll have a more accurate and complete snapshot of all the birds found on the game land.”  
To keep biologists informed, birders can share observations on a central bird observation reporting site such as eBird (

SandyMush Game Land Offers Unique Habitat
Located in Buncombe and Madison counties, Sandy Mush Game Land is largely open habitat in an otherwise heavily forested part of the state. The game land was dairy farmland in the past, but today is a mix of native warm-season grass fields, shrub-scrub areas and wildlife food plots. Wildlife Commission staff manages these different habitats to provide cover, nesting and brooding sites, and supplemental food.

This mix of habitats gives birders opportunities to view a diverse bird community that is hard to find elsewhere in the central North Carolina mountains.  The game land is one of 105 sites on the N.C.Birding Trail, which is a driving trail that links great birding sites across the state.

“A birder can find orchard orioles, field sparrows and bobwhite quail in the early successional fields, then walk a short distance into the forested habitat and find ovenbird, wood thrush and Acadian flycatchers,” said Joe Tomcho, a conservation technician with the Commission, who worked with Kelly and EMAS member Doug Johnston to develop the birding checklist.

Commission staff manages the game land with prescribed fire to restore native plant communities and provide quality early successional habitat for bobwhite quail, white-eyed vireos, prairie warblers, common yellowthroats and other birds.

They have erected nest boxes for barn owls and American kestrels — two priority species identified in the N.C.Wildlife Action Plan  — and girdled trees to create more cavities for cavity-nesting birds, such as woodpeckers, bluebirds and great-crested flycatchers.

“Barn owls and American kestrels readily took to nest boxes that we posted, which made Sandy Mush a popular destination for local birders who needed to check American kestrel off their birding list,” Kelly said. “And Sandy Mush is one of just a few places in the North Carolina mountains where birders can find brown-headed nuthatches.”

Kelly credited the public for turning the birding checklist from a spring nesting season-only checklist to ayear-round checklist that could become a useful tool for biologists when planning future bird management activities on the game land.

“It was the local birders who routinely visited Sandy Mush, and then posted their sightings on bird-related websites,” Kelly said. “Their website postings made it easier for biologists to track sightings and evaluate relative seasonal abundance of each species.

Johnston rallied local birders for a Sandy Mush bird “blitz” in spring 2012 that attracted almost two dozen birders and added several species to the growing checklist.  He also introduced the Haywood County-based Carolina Field Birders club to the game land.

“We really couldn’t have developed such a thorough checklist without the help of volunteers in the birding community,” Kelly said.

Working with EMAS members and other volunteers to develop the Sandy Mush Game Land birding checklist was a smooth process that Kelly hopes to emulate for gathering data on other western North Carolina game lands.

“We currently have excellent baseline data on the breeding-seasonbirds at Green River Game Land in Polk County,” Kelly said. “We could conceivably develop a breeding season checklist for Green River as our next project and encourage birders to bird the game land year round so we can eventually develop a four-season checklist for that game land.”

Funding for the Wildlife Resource Commission’s work with songbirds comes from multiple sources including State Wildlife Grants, Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, and the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund, which supports wildlife research, conservation and management for animals and the habitats that support them. Donations to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund provide matching funds to projects benefiting nongame animals and their habitats.

North Carolinians can support this effort, as well as other nongame species research and management projects in North Carolina, by:

• Donating to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund on line 31 of their state income tax form;

• Registering a vehicle or trailerwith a N.C. Wildlife Conservation license plate; and,

• Donating online at

- Courtesy of

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Davidson River Clearly Among Top 100 Trout Streams in U.S.


Photo courtesy of
Vivacious-flowing, pristine-watered Davidson River offers fly fishermen many moments of clarity, after being recently rated as among the nation’s top 100 streams for “clarity.”

Clarity involves being clean and flowing well enough so fishermen can better see the fish they are after. The coldwater conservation group Trout Unlimited (TU) included Davidson and Nantahala rivers as the only two in North Carolina on its list of top 100 clear streams nationwide.

“The Davidson is justly famed as one of North Carolina’s premier trout fisheries,” John Ross wrote in TU’s America’s 100 Best Trout Streams. Its water remains crystal clear even after hard rains, retaining visibility for anglers.

Davidson is hailed as among the nation’s best streams for fly fishing, and for abundance of wild brown and rainbow trout. These fish reportedly average a foot to foot and a half long, with some two feet long and weighing six pounds. The largest fish are near the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery, which pumps leftover trout food, chronimid worms into the river.
The river is classified as catch-and-release, restricted to fishing with artificial flies, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. It is within a half-hour or hour of many Asheville-area anglers, just over an hour drive for Upstate South Carolinians.

The Davidson, a tributary of the French Broad River, flows through Pisgah National Forest along U.S. 276 to Looking Glass Creek and much of scenic, hilly northern Transylvania County. Forest Service Road 475 by the hatchery is a good path to the river. The half-mile stretch below the hatchery accounts for an estimated 90 percent of fishing on Davidson River.

The hatchery stocks area streams, including the Lower Davidson. Yet many wild trout populate the Upper Davidson, above the hatchery leading upriver to headwaters by Avery Creek.

Ed Dahling of Mills River, in Henderson County, loves the Davidson River for catching trout. He describes the river’s scenery as “exquisite” and therapeutically relaxing, with many rocks and being nestled in the woods of Pisgah National Forest.

Area rivers vary in the velocity of their flow, he noted. The Davidson below the hatchery has a fairly strong, steady flow normally and moreso in what was a very rainy summer. Flow is crucial to fly fishing, Dahling noted. The faster the flow, “the less time the fish has to react to the lure.” That favors the fishermanbecause the fish is more apt to think the lure is real, and to bite.

River flow is less and water shallower by the hatchery, with much water diverted through the facility. Many consider the slower Upper Davidson River ideal for spotting many trout in many large pools of water, also long runs with pockets and eddies.

“Desperation Pool” behind the hatchery is so nicknamed for big, evasive trout frustrating anglers. These fish are savvy, not so easily fooled by the many flies cast their way and especially on busy weekends. Evasion tactics include hiding beneath sunken tree trunks.

Anglers can counter with a fully drag-free draft, using a unique fly such as size 8 or larger instead of the more common sizes 20 to 30.

Fly fishing tactics should be adjusted for conditions. When the river runs higher after much rain, it helps to use a 5X tippet to catch big trout. Some suggest a light 6-8X tippet 9 to 12 feet long, treating the Davidson like a spring creek. Other ideas include a large point fly, and small midge or mayfly nymph. Yarn strike indicators also help, anglers further suggest.

Seasonal changes factor in. Trout spawning starts soon in late fall and lasts to early spring on the Davidson. In January and February, water is colder and insect snacks fewer at the surface which makes an alluring fly stand out more. Yet fish tend to cluster down deep by rocks in larger pools looking for food, at heads of fast current, veteran angles note. A pool is a sunken stream bed that slows current. Its head has trout food, dislodged from rapid water upstream. Anglers suggest wading close to such chutes, for more accurate closer casting across all slots with less drag.

The Hunting & Fishing guide is included in this week's IWANNA.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How To Increase Storage In Tight Spaces

Cozy, quaint homes attract many home buyers and renters. Be it a cottage-style house or a studio apartment, smaller living spaces often involve getting creative with storage.

People live in a smaller homes for a variety of reasons. Some choose to live in a smaller home so they can be right in the thicks of things in a city or urban center. Others scale back on living space in an effort to save money. But storage space in small quarters is often at a premium, and thinking creatively is a necessity to keep the home tidy and items out of view.

Rainy or chilly days are the perfect times to tackle indoor organization projects. When the outdoors isn’t beckoning, you can devote all of your attention to addressing storage issues in your home. To begin, take inventory of what you have, going through your possessions and determining what can stay and what can go. Part with anything you haven’t used in quite some time.
When you think creatively, you can maximize storage space even in a small  home.

The next step is to sort items and get organized. Then you can find a place for everything. For example, if you have a dozen bath towels but only one sauce pot, you will need to find more room for linens than kitchen cookware. You may need to borrow space from one area of the home to give to another area. The following are some additional tips to increase space in an otherwise cramped home.

Add shelves. Increase cabinet and closet space by adding shelves into them. This may double or even triple the amount of usable space, especially if you customize the shelving to fit storage containers you use to store everything from shoes to craft items.

Opt for dual-purpose furniture. Benches with lids that lift up and sofas that convert into guest beds are just a few of the many ways you can keep a small home neat and increase storage space. An ottoman is a great place to store extra blankets and linens, while a trunk or crate with a sturdy top can be used in lieu of a traditional coffee table to keep books or board games.

Think vertically.
When floor space is at a premium, you may need to look up for storage. Frequently used pots and pans can be hung from a decorative rack in your kitchen. Use magnets on jars to store a spice rack on the wall near the stove. Racks above cabinets or on doors can be used to store everything from shoes to jewelry to toiletries. Shelving in children’s rooms can store lesser used toys away from the floor. Empty walls are valuable real estate in a small home, and tall bookshelves can house a number of different things.

Take advantage of oddly shaped crevices. If you have space under a staircase or a spot by a dormer or in an attic eave, use the space to store items. You may need to get creative, such as adding a door and small closet into the staircase, but such spaces make practical storage areas and add character to a home.

Use see-through storage containers.
Many people find that plastic storage bins are neater and more stackable than boxes. See-through bins enable you to quickly find items so that you are not searching around the house for lost items and creating a bigger mess along the way. Clear storage containers work in the refrigerator, too. You can more easily spot leftovers, and uniform stacking containers free up more room for bulkier items.

Make use of space beneath your bed. There likely is ample room to store more things than just dust bunnies beneath your bed. A bed frame with built-in drawers is the perfect place to keep bed linens and out-of-season clothes. Beds can be raised on blocks to create more space underneath for storing rolling plastic containerzs and even seldom-used suitcases.

Opt for an armoire.
Armoires are not exclusive to bedrooms. Armoires can be used in dining spaces or in dens to store items out of sight. An armoire can be used when retrofitted with a pull-out shelf as a laptop desk, storing all office items behind closed doors when not needed.

Improve storage in the bathroom.
Try to choose a vanity that has under-the-sink storage so you will have a place to store some toiletries. Home improvement centers sell cabinets and etageres that can be placed above the toilet tank as a storage space for bathroom items. In the shower, hang a second tension-loaded shower curtain rod on the inside of the shower enclosure that can be used to hold bags of kids bath toys and other toiletries, keeping them off the tub ledges.

From Upstate IWANNA's Fall Home Improvement Guide 2013