A work day in the Lowcountry

By DAN GEDDINGS
Posted 2/4/18

The streets of Sumter were deserted and eerily quiet. Street lights stood out like beacons in the predawn darkness, and very few cars were on the roads. It was early Saturday morning in late January, and I was headed out of town to the …

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A work day in the Lowcountry

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The streets of Sumter were deserted and eerily quiet. Street lights stood out like beacons in the predawn darkness, and very few cars were on the roads. It was early Saturday morning in late January, and I was headed out of town to the Lowcountry.

I've been hunting the Lowcountry for more than 20 years. I first joined a club near Walterboro with my friend Jim Gowan to take advantage of the early opening of the turkey season. Since then I've hunted Allendale and Orangeburg County land and joined a small club in Bamberg County.

The Bamberg County club offered the best turkey hunting that I have ever known, but the club eventually dissolved, and I had to move on.

I found a new place in Colleton County five years ago. The members hail from all over South Carolina, and three are from North Carolina. There is a big club house on the bank of the Edisto River and thousands of acres of land and water to hunt and fish.

The club is primarily a dog hunting club, but still hunting is also allowed. There is a good population of wild turkeys and not many turkey hunters.

Roughly half of the land is owned by individual property owners, and the other half is owned by a timber company. When I joined this hunting club it was all big timber, but the timber company ownership has changed twice, and they have cut almost all of their acreage. None of the private land timber has been cut.

The hurricane last year knocked down a good many hardwood trees, and we had trimmed back the ones that blocked the roads, but additional work was needed on those blowdown trees.

Members are required to attend at least five work days a year or pay a $50 fine for each day missed. Work days are scheduled throughout the off season. Our first work day of the year in January is usually focused on cutting firewood for the clubhouse.

Jim Hagan was standing in the clubhouse yard when I pulled in. He smiled and waved when I stepped out of the truck. I noticed a curl of smoke from the chimney. He, Doug Wilson and Larry Robinson had driven down from North Carolina the evening before. They had a nice fire going in the wood stove and a pot of coffee on the table.

Jim and I stood in the yard talking and greeting other members as they drove in. Soon we had a pretty good crowd gathered. We divided into two groups with chain saws and log splitters. Just as our group was pulling out of the clubhouse yard, I saw Mister Ruple pull in. I stopped, got out of my truck and went over to greet him. Marion Ruple is 95 years old, and here he was at our first work day of the year.

We talked about the fishing, the cold weather and our families. I could have lingered and talked more, but I needed to catch up with my work group. They had headed out to Ridge Road to cut up a big red oak that had uprooted and fell across the road.

Ridge Road is a gated timber company road shared by our club, Ridge club and Circle club. Our properties all join on this road. Someone had cut the limbs from the road, but the huge trunk of the tree was still there.

We cut the big tree into more manageable sections and ran those sections through the splitter. The wood was split into smaller pieces generally referred to as "stove wood." We loaded the split wood onto a trailer and a pickup truck. When the big oak was finally cleaned up we hauled the wood back to the clubhouse and unloaded it under the wood shed out back. The other crew pulled in with their wood just as we were finishing. We have enough stove wood now to last us through the year. We were done by midday.

We made plans for our next work day in February and said our goodbyes and headed out. I still had one more small task that I needed to do.

I took a game camera over to one of the areas where I like to hunt turkeys. I set the camera on a pine tree overlooking a field and woods road. Turkeys will walk the road into the field, and I want to see them. I'm getting in the turkey hunting mode. It's only a few weeks away.

I'll check my camera on the next work day. I can't wait.

Reach Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.