Let's face it. The cold, harsh truth is that we will never again see the glory days of yesteryear when it comes to waterfowling. As Archibald Rutledge put it in the title of one of his delightful books, "Those Were the Days," it was a time when whistling wings at dawn were as predictable as the sunrise, when limits ran to 15 or 20 ducks, and when even as staunch a conservationist as Nash Buckingham could talk about "The Prodigal Years" when he thought nothing of shooting 50 mallards in a single morning.
Today, we look at dramatically reduced limits, with hunters being allowed only one or two of all sorts of species, all too many duckless days, "short stopping" as migratory birds never get this far south until the season is over, the wonderful breeding grounds which are prairie potholes being turned into farmland, and so many other problems just thinking about them is depressing.
Yet as the old Mother Maybelle Carter gospel classic suggests, it is best to "Keep on the Sunny Side." Thankfully, there is a sunny side, and in the Palmetto State that brightness comes in no small measure from the South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA). Founded on not much more than a wing, a prayer and a dream, the SCWA is a striking success story.
For most of its history, the SCWA has focused its energies and initiatives on wood ducks, rightly reasoning that these non-migratory waterfowl offered the best chance for local management which would ward local hunters. It has worked -- in spades -- and today wood ducks wing their way along backwater sloughs and small creeks in numbers which seemed unimaginable just two decades ago.
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In fact, so successful has the SCWA's wood duck restoration program been that in recent years it has turned appreciable attention to raising mallards through cooperative efforts with dedicated hunters and conservationists. That effort too is proving effective, as the successes enjoyed by local participants such as Spec Plowden and Bob Stuck show.
With that by way of background, local waterfowling enthusiasts need to mark Tuesday, Oct. 16, on their calendars. That is the date for the annual banquet of the local SCWA chapter. This year's event will be held at the Baxter Hood Center beginning at 6 p.m.
Advance tickets, which include a year's membership in the SCWA, are $40 for individuals and $50 per couple. For those procrastinators who never seem to get anything done until the last minute, tickets purchased at the door will be $50 per single and $65 per couple. Sponsor memberships are also available for $250, and that qualifies participants for a gift, SCWA cap, and entry in special sponsor drawings for guns, hunting trips, and fishing outings.
As is usually the case, there will be an interesting and attractive array of items to be auctioned in silent and live auctions, not to mention raffle opportunities. These include various art offerings, a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic, a week at Camp Woodie for some lucky youngster, special duck hunts, and more. The raffle will include the chance to have your name drawn for several guns.
The meal is being catered by Parkland Seafood, and based on my attendance at such events in the past, you can count on leaving with your belt loosened a notch or two. Go early and there's ample opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie and talk of the upcoming season which remind us that the hunting is only part of it.
For more details or to purchase tickets, call John Hill at (803) 372-7284 or Guy Hendrix at (803) 909-2343. You can also learn more about the SCWA by visiting their Web site at scwa.org.
With primitive weapons season coming to an end and modern gun season lying just around the corner, deer hunting promises to get into full swing. We've been cooling down a bit, which is a good thing, and maybe before long it will be possible to sit in a stand without needing a Thermacell between your legs. The temptation to pass any and all does early in the season is a great one, but if you are one of those folks who likes venison in the freezer, seize the moment rather than waiting for the day that may never come as deer become increasingly nocturnal.