Immersed in the outdoors

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Friday afternoon after work I rode down to my place in Clarendon County. I needed to check on the duck ponds and look at the ditch that drains the greentree impoundment. The ponds were full, so I decided that I didn't need to run the pump yet. I try to keep these ponds full during the late winter, spring and summer when wood ducks are nesting.

I've pulled the boards from the flash board riser that holds the water in the woods. The water drains down an old ditch to the headwaters of Cuckolds Branch.

During the winter, with the boards in the riser, we can flood about 20 acres of hardwoods. These hardwoods are "green," or alive. They are dormant during the winter, and the floodwater doesn't harm them. When I pull the boards, the water level falls but doesn't completely drain the woods. The ditch isn't deep enough to get all the water out. The center of the woods is an old pocosin that has a stand of cypress trees and can hold water through the summer months.

The ditch will get clogged with small limbs and leaves, so I check on it every few days. A little bit of shovel work will get the water flowing again, and soon enough I was on the road toward home.

Saturday morning I was up and out at daylight. I wanted to ride through our lease near Pinewood and go look for turkeys at Oak Lea Wildlife Management Area. The dirt road through our land was pocked with deer tracks, but no turkeys or turkey tracks were spotted. I turned onto Panola Road and headed toward Oak Lea.

Just past the Clarendon County line something caught my eye, and I glanced to the right. Turkeys! About a dozen hens and two big longbeards were out in a cut bean field just off the highway. I had traffic behind me, so I just kept going. At Calvary Church, I turned onto a dirt road that runs through Oak Lea. I've hunted this public land since the state acquired the property and have had some success through the years.

Oak Lea is an even mix of farm land and timber and has maintained a good turkey population. The turkeys start showing up in the fields there this time of year, and I was hopeful to just see some. I drove all the way through to the west side, then turned around and came back to another road that runs the length of the property. No turkeys.

A connecting road took me back to Panola Road, and turning right I would be passing the field where I had seen the flock of turkeys earlier. They were there and much closer to the highway. When I slowed down the hens ran, and the two longbeards gobbled. Heads up Earl!

I eventually headed home and spent the rest of the day working on my "Honey Do" list.

The next morning Ginger and I headed to Charleston and the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. At the Gaillard Center, we visited with Billy Geddings from Manning and marveled at his wooden bowls. I love old books and bought a copy of The Education of a Turkey Hunter from TroutMoor Sporting Literature. At Marion Square, we visited the exibit from The Center for Birds of Prey. There were hawks, owls, eagles and vultures.

At Charleston Place, we walked the halls and ballrooms full of beautiful wildlife art. The works of featured artist Ezra Tucker were a wonder to behold.

I had Presidents Day off and stayed home until I got Ginger off to work. She gave me some strict instructions about having supper ready when she got home. Of course, I assured her that I could handle the task. After she left, I hit the road to check on a Sumter County eagle's nest. The eagles have nested in a remote area along Boggy Branch for several years. The first nest was in a dead gum tree. It only lasted one year and fell in a storm after the nesting season. The second nest was in a dead pine. It lasted several years but eventually fell. The third nest was also in a dead pine and only stood for one year. These trees were very tall and stood above the average treeline. These trees and the nests could be seen from public roads in the area. This new nest is in a living pine and is right at the surrounding treeline. It is not as visible and can only be seen clearly from local farm roads. From a distance with binoculars, I could see an eagle on the nest.

I had other outdoorsy things to do that day, but you can bet I had supper on the table when Ginger got home that evening.

Dan Geddings is a weekly columnist for The Sumter Item. Email Dan at cdgeddings@gmail.com.