My friend Melvin called the other day to talk about the opening of deer season at our river swamp hunting club in Aiken County.
Hunting in August, I've always thought, is a bit perverse. But being a native South Carolinian, I grew up with the notion -- and even participate from time to time.
Last week, it didn't fit into my schedule, or maybe I just didn't let it.
When I hunt, I hunt hard, and starting in the middle of summer can wear a guy out by the time those frosty mornings bring out the rutting bucks.
But I knew Melvin would be out there -- scouting, fixing stands and bush hogging weeds. And I knew he'd have some good stories to tell.
"How'd you do?" I asked.
"Saw eight and killed five," he replied.
"Moccasins," he said. "They were everywhere -- on the edge of the road, back in the woods, all over the swamp."
The deer were a little scarce, he admitted. But other wildlife wasn't.
"There was a gator by the culvert pipe, maybe five or six feet," he said. "And when I came around the corner on the four-wheeler, there was a big black boar hog in the road."
I asked him if he shot it.
"Nope," he replied. "I stared at him and he stared at me. Then we went our separate ways."
I haven't been to the woods yet, but I know it won't be long. I expect clouds of mosquitoes, swarms of biting yellow flies and deer stands cloaked with poison ivy and hornets' nests.
But deer season is deer season. And I love it.
MAYOR'S FISHING HOLE:
Augusta Mayor Bob Young, who rarely wets a line himself, wants to add more fish to the Mayor's Fishing Hole near Bush Field.
The pond off Lock and Dam Road was opened to the public last year by mayoral decree -- and dubbed the Mayor's Fishing Hole because patrons must drop by Hizzoner's downtown office to get a free fishing permit.
"It's turning out to be very popular with people," said Young, who does most of his fishing at Kroger but enjoys promoting recreational angling, especially among kids.
For now, the lake has modest numbers of largemouths and bluegill. But a recent Georgia Department of Natural Resources assessment turned up large numbers of less desirable gizzard shad and yellow perch as well.
"We're looking at some options for stocking the pond and we're thinking we might seed it with channel catfish," Young said. "People would catch a lot more fish and there would still be some bass and bream in there."
The city is considering adding 8,000 channel catfish between six and 10 inches long. The fish would be stocked in January and the pond would be closed to fishing until late spring or early summer.
"We could open it in spring or summer with a kids' fishing event," Young said. "But before we decide, we have to figure out what it will cost."
Keeping 8,000 channel catfish fat and happy requires fish food. "We're kind of new at this, so we're getting estimates for how much food 8,000 channel catfish would eat."
Channel catfish are fast-growing and feisty -- and easy to catch. They also can co-exist with bream and bass, and can become huge in ponds with lots of forage fish like shad. "We'd like to try it," Young said.
In the meantime, the pond remains open to anyone with a fishing license. The free permit can be acquired from the mayor's office, which is on the eighth floor of the Municipal Building. Boats and night fishing are not allowed.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222.
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