EDGEFIELD, S.C. - Hunting or football? What a choice!
Dave Butz has juggled his primary loves for as long as he can remember.
"But there's nothing like a good dove shoot," the All-Pro defensive tackle said. "Especially on those gusty days - they come in like missiles."
Butz, who was the captain of two Washington Redskins Super Bowl teams during his 14-year NFL career, was in the area this weekend for the Quail Unlimited/Realtree Celebrity Dove Shoot.
Nearly 150 gunners - toting everything from Merkels to Mossbergs - fanned out among chopped rows of sorghum and sunflowers to celebrate America's favorite game bird: the fast-flying mourning dove.
The celebrity shoot - in its second year - was organized by Edgefield, S.C.-based Quail Unlimited to draw attention to its Dove Sportsman's Society.
"It's for a good cause," said Bill Stanfill, a College Football Hall of Famer and former Miami Dolphins lineman. "I got my first shotgun when I was 10 years old and grew up hunting and fishing."
Other guests included NFL quarterbacks Heath Shuler and Bobby Hebert; actors Steve Kanaly (All My Children, Police Story, Apocalypse Now ); John DiSanti (NYPD Blue, E.R.); and Lame Smith (The Practice).
The Dove Sportsman's Society's mission is to develop chapters in every state to raise funds and preserve dove hunting as a Southern legacy.
In addition to the celebrities and guests who joined the QU events this weekend, countless thousands of others across Georgia and South Carolina were lined up along hedgerows and treelines, too.
"This is one of the most anticipated times of the year because it signifies the beginning of the fall hunting seasons," said Todd Holbrook, Georgia's chief of game management.
MYSTERY FISH: Everyone loves a good fish story, and tales are circulating about a strange fish hoisted from a Columbia County pond last weekend that might or might not be what people think it is.
The story unfolded last Saturday morning, when an angler wandered into Tracker Jack's hunting and fishing store on Fury's Ferry Road with what he thought might have been a record-sized bream.
"It weighed 3 1/2 -pounds," said Tracker Jack Woods Jr., the owner. "I thought it was a giant redbelly at first. It was as big around as a dinner plate."
Upon closer inspection, however, those gathered at the store agreed there was something unusual about the fat fish: it had teeth. Some thought it might even have been a piranha.
The proud fisherman didn't leave his name but inquired about taxidermists who might want to mount the fish, Woods said. "Then he left; that's about all I know."
Piranha, of course, aren't supposed to be swimming around local ponds, and probably aren't, according to Ed Bettross, a state fisheries biologist.
It could have been a similar looking fish called a red-bellied pacu, a Brazilian fish often kept by aquarium buffs. Someone could have released a fish that outgrew its tank, he said.
Releasing any sort of fish is illegal - and unwise for the environment, because introducing exotic species can harm or eradicate native wildlife.
HYDRILLA INFECTS RUSSELL: It was bound to happen sometime - and it did.
Biologists have confirmed the presence of hydrilla in Lake Russell - the 26,000-acre reservoir upstream from Thurmond Lake, where the African weed commonly used in aquariums was detected in 1995.
Biologists believe the weed found its way into Russell the same way it likely ended up in Thurmond: as a strand wrapped around the prop of a boat that had been in hydrilla-laden waters elsewhere.
Despite $270,000 in weed control programs at Thurmond, the initial patch of hydrilla found near Cherokee boat ramp has spread to more than 50 locations - and covers 3,000 acres.
The discovery of the weed in Russell comes as no surprise, but Corps officials believe Lake Russell's relatively steep banks and deep water will help prevent the fast-growing weed from causing many problems.
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Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119 or email@example.com.