EDISTO BEACH, S.C. - Hunting for shark teeth on a quiet beach is one of life's simple pleasures. And it doesn't cost a dime.
"It's one of the big things for people who come down here," said Brian Hiers, a program specialist at Edisto Beach State Park, which has a display of local fossils. "People enjoy looking for them and they usually have good luck."
The vast shell piles that have accumulated for centuries along Edisto Island's seaward side are popular places to search for remnants of earth's prehistoric past.
During fall, when summer crowds are gone and the trout and redfish are feeding in the creeks, there is less competition - and more opportunities to pluck tiny treasures from the pounding surf.
"Some folks have more luck than others," Hiers said. "We've had people who worked with us all summer and couldn't even find one, and then we've had others come in here and in one day they can find a lot of them."
Finding them is a lot like searching a newly plowed cornfield for arrowheads after a spring rain. You watch for shapes that are different than anything else.
Some sharks, such as the giant Megalodon, whose four-inch teeth are found elsewhere in South Carolina, date back 70 million years or more. The smaller teeth found along Edisto Beach are much newer.
"They usually date from 50,000 to 10,000 years ago," Hiers said. "That's what you find on Edisto."
In addition to shark teeth, the beaches also yield fossils from other creatures that roamed the East Coast before the last ice age.
"A lot of people don't realize this was the home continent for camels," Hiers said. "We've found camel fossils, bison bones, occasionally bison teeth."
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Edisto's fossils is their abundance.
Despite a century of beachcombing, there are always more to be found, especially for visitors patient enough to stare into the broken shells as they are sifted by breaking waves.
BIG BUCK CONTEST: A consortium of local businesses wants to help one of Augusta's most worthy charities - and promote hunting and the outdoors at the same time.
"We'd like to raise at least $10,000 for the Ronald McDonald House through a Big Buck & Doe Contest," said Chip Hicks, an organizer of a monthly competition that began this week.
The idea, he said, is to sell registration tickets - $20 for the buck contest and $10 for the doe contests - and award three $150 prizes each month during deer season with remaining proceeds going to charity.
The tickets entitle the hunter to enter the contest, and monthly payouts will be made for the largest rack; heaviest buck weight; and heaviest doe weight. Weigh-ins will be held at Southland Taxidermy. At the end of the season, an additional $200 grand prize will be awarded in each category.
Hicks said the contest will aid the Ronald McDonald House, which is a "home-away-from-home" for families of seriously and critically ill or injured children receiving medical treatment at nearby hospitals.
Tickets are available at the Ronald McDonald House on Greene Street, Riverfront Collision Center in Augusta and Evans, Tomberlin Outdoor Products on Washington Road, American Sportsman on Washington Road, Sportsmans Link on Bobby Jones Expressway, TSA on Commerce Court, Mulherin Lumber on Industrial Park Drive, Mot's Barbecue on Columbia Road, Maner Building Supply on Washington Road, Indigo Joe's on Wheeler Road, Howard Lumber in Evans, Southland Taxidermy and Reliable Equipment Rental in Evans.
For more details, call (706) 228-1872 or (706) 737-6700.
WOMEN FISHING: Last week's announcement that ESPN and Bassmaster will hold two national events at Thurmond Lake next year instead of one comes as a welcome surprise for Columbia County.
Wildwood Park, which will host both events, was designed and built to lure large fishing tournaments - and tourism dollars - said Beda Johnson, director of the county's Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The additional event is the ESPN's Women's Bassmaster Tour, which will hold its final qualifying event at Wildwood on Sept. 18-20, bringing 100 pros and 100 co-anglers. It will follow the fourth consecutive Bassmaster Elite Series "Pride of Georgia" tournament May 1-4.
Now that the tournament schedule is filling, all we need is rain.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.