Savannah River Site’s sprawling, restricted forests are the closest thing you’ll find to gobbler heaven, with big birds wandering everywhere.
Just last weekend, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual disabled sportsmens hunt was another success: 28 birds for 29 hunters – all in just two days.
It was a great hunt, but it wasn’t always so easy.
In the decades after World War II, the 310-square-mile site, like much of the South, lost its turkey population to development, overhunting and land use changes.
Wildlife biologist Mike Caudell remembers the first cautious steps to re-establish the species in the 1970s.
“There were virtually no turkeys there at first,” said Caudell, who joined the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in 1978. “There were approximately 48 turkeys taken from 1972 to 1974 from the western and central piedmont areas of South Carolina, and restocked in three locations on SRS.”
The birds brought in from those regions were the progeny of turkeys captured in Francis Marion National Forest. “It was a big, old swamp,” Caudell said. “It was one of the few refuges that retained turkeys back in the ’50s.”
Once distributed at the site, the expectation was that the birds would multiply. “The thought was that, given time, the population would expand and we could actually trap those turkeys and move them to even more locations.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The “bomb plant” turkeys multiplied nicely and by 1977, under the leadership of biologists such as Vernon Bevill, those birds were drafted to use as stocking fodder to further aid the bird’s recovery.
In the years that followed, approximately 900 turkeys were relocated from the site to new homes in new habitats.
“We sent a lot of turkeys to North Carolina, and we sent a lot off to Texas,” Caudell said. “We also sent a handful to Louisiana and we even sent a group of them all the way up to Maryland.”
Today, there are about 2,500 turkeys at the site, which is off limits to hunting – other than tha NWTF’s annual mobility impaired event – because of the site’s nuclear programs and security issues.
FISH PRIZES: To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the construction of Hartwell Dam and Lake, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have tagged 50 fish that could “reel in” prizes for some lucky anglers.
Corps’ Fisheries Biologist Jamie Sykes and Natural Resource Specialist Jess Fleming visited numerous coves around the lake and tagged multiple species of fish, including largemouth bass and crappie, as part of this event.
The fish were released in various undisclosed locations around Hartwell Lake. The specially-marked tags read “Hartwell Dam and Lake 50th Anniversary.”
Any angler who catches a tagged fish should call the Hartwell Lake Operations Manager’s Office at 888-893-0678 ext.335 to report their catch. Anglers who can verify their catch by providing the tag to the Hartwell Lake Office will receive a reward and prize package, courtesy of Grady’s Outdoors, located in Anderson, S.C.
PIG SEASON APPROVED: South Carolina’s House last week affirmed expanded opportunities to kill feral hogs, armadillos and coyotes, leaving only Senate approval to move the measure into the law.
The bill will allow night hunting from March through June and would legalize bait, electronic calls and night vision devices.