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Duck hunt at Bear Island yields federal leg band

Fifteen-year old duck hunter Will Carter of Walterboro has already had a memorable waterfowl season. He and his father won the lottery drawing to hunt at Bear Island on December 1, and then he harvested a drake mottled duck with a federal leg band. Another youth on the draw hunt picked up their ‘first duck’ and Sarah Adams of Columbia shot her limit of six ducks. SCDNR officials offer this youth waterfowl hunt each year, attracting the attention of young waterfowl enthusiasts to Bear Island WMA in Colleton County.

Will Carter has been duck hunting with his father Garrett Carter since he was nine years old. As a sophomore at Colleton Prep, Carter also duck hunts some with buddy Matthew Murdaugh. “Matthew and I hunted one time over Thanksgiving out of Wiltown boat landing, but I had been looking forward to the youth / adult hunt with my Dad,” said Carter.

“The weather on Dec. 1 was good for duck hunting, but the warmer temperatures meant that we had some mosquitoes with us in the blind,” said Carter. “When day began to break we could tell that the sun was at our backs, which is a big advantage since the ducks would have to be looking into the sun. We were on the Bear Island East unit and I saw the sign for Sampson Island near where we were hunting.”

No stranger to this SCDNR hunt, this was the third time that the father and son duo had teamed up. The December 1 date is a special youth only waterfowl day that is approved by the state of South Carolina. The SCDNR rules for Wildlife Management Areas stipulate that only 25 shotgun shells can be brought into the hunt. By the end of the youth hunt Carter had burned up his 25 shot shells and collected his six duck limit.

“I shoot a Remington 1187 12-gauge shotgun, and since there was little wind, the ducks were not decoying too well,” said Carter. Apparently his pass shooting is not rusty because he knocked down two blue-winged teal and a shoveler not long after the 6:39 a.m. shooting time. “It was the fourth duck of the day that kind of made the hunt for me, when my Dad picked up the mottled duck and shouted that it had a band on it!”

Any migratory waterfowl with a federal leg band on it, is a trophy unto itself because of how rare it is to encounter one. It turns out that mottled ducks are being banded right here in the Lowcountry for studies, and SCDNR’s Dean Harrigal was quick to point out that the band likely came from the Santee Delta near Georgetown or from Nemours Plantation on the Combahee River. Of course Bear Island lies between the Ashepoo and the Edisto rivers of the ACE Basin.

Traveling from Columbia to take part in the special youth / adult hunt was 13-year old Sarah Adams and her father Jason. With three teal, a shoveler and two gadwall this young lady proved to be an excellent wingshooter. “I have been hunting ducks with Dad since I was 10, and we started hunting for deer when I was 6,” said Adams. “I saw a lot more than ducks flying around during the hunt, and this was the best overall experience I have had on a duck hunt ever.”

Hunters can also be great observers while waiting for ducks to dive into the decoys, and Adams reported sightings of roseate spoonbills, snow geese, white pelicans, cormorants and more. “We had some early shooting about five minutes after legal time, and then it took another hour to finish getting my limit. When the SCDNR staffer came to pick us up at 9 a.m. we were good to go.”

Ross Catterton with SCDNR helps the draw hunters to and from their blinds during all the waterfowl draw hunts. “The youth hunt is probably our most gratifying hunt of the year,” said Catterton. Dean Harrigal is the chief waterfowl biologist with SCDNR. “These youths are genuinely excited about visiting Bear Island and we want to make sure that they have a good experience,” said Harrigal.

Often this hunt yields a ‘first duck’ for one lucky waterfowler, and the December 1 hunt was no exception. Congrats go to 11-year old Harrison ‘Mutt’ Miller of Orangeburg for collecting his first duck while hunting with father Rob. Mutt actually finished with two ducks, a blue-winged teal and a gadwall, and he told me that he is more than ready to go duck hunting again. Mutt’s sentiment is the goal of these special youth hunts, to get them hunting with mentors in preparation to go hunting for a lifetime.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com