Out and About in North Carolina's Woods and Waters

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Outdoor Notes

It’s Coyote Pupping Season

Coyotes are common in all 100 counties of North Carolina and although they are generally elusive and avoid people, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) reports that coyote sightings peak in May as they ramp up their activity searching day and night for food to support their newborn pups.

Coyotes prefer to build their dens away from human activity, but in North Carolina that can still mean contact with people. As coyotes wander in search of food, which can include wild fruit, small mammals, and this year’s increased number of nutritious cicadas, the animals some Native Americans called “singing dogs” can enter residential areas, especially if food is plentiful. Coyotes will take advantage of pet food left outdoors, food scraps and other tasty tidbits around homes. Smaller pets such as cats and small-breed dogs should always be closely supervised when outdoors, as they can easily be mistaken for natural prey.

Dog-proof fencing, at least 6 feet tall and built to prevent digging underneath, is the only guarantee of a no-coyote zone, but there are other ways to keep coyotes from hanging around. “You must remove anything that could attract coyotes and actively make the area uncomfortable for them,” says Falyn Owens, extension biologist for the Wildlife Commission. Owens offers these tips to deter coyotes:

  • Remove all outdoor pet food, fallen fruit, food waste and bird feeders.
  • Keep cats and small dogs on a leash or harness whenever they’re outside.
  • Haze coyotes away from homes and businesses.

Hazing can be as simple as waving your arms and shouting forcefully until a coyote leaves. Spraying them with a water hose or throwing small rocks in their direction can also alert coyotes they’re not welcome in the area. Coyotes rarely attack people, preferring to avoid us entirely or keep their distance. If you are walking a small dog and a coyote seems to take interest, pick up the dog and act threatening toward the coyote. They are opportunistic hunters and prefer an easy meal over one that puts them at risk.

Striped Bass Seasons on Roanoke River

The season for harvest of striped bass in the Roanoke River will remain open through April 30 in the upper river zone (upstream of the Hwy. 258 bridge at Scotland Neck to the base of Roanoke Rapids Dam). During the harvest period, the minimum length is 18 inches and no striped bass between 22 and 27 inches (the protective slot) may be possessed at any time. The daily creel limit is two fish, only one of which may be larger than 27 inches.

Cobia Fishing Regulations

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has announced that the open season for the recreational harvest of cobia will allowed in Coastal Fishing Waters from May 1 through December 31, 2021. Anglers may possess one cobia per day with each fish at least 36 inches fork length. Persons fishing on private (not for hire) vessels may retain 2 cobia per vessel per day (no more than 1 per person) from May 1 – June 30. From July 1 – Dec. 31, it is unlawful to possess more than one cobia per vessel per day. For-hire vessels may possess no more than four cobia per day (one per person) from May 1 – Dec. 31.

Division of Marine Fisheries Will Have A New Head

When Kathy Rawls becomes the new director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries on May 1, she will be the first woman to head the agency since the Fisheries Commission Board became the Division of Commercial Fisheries in the late 1920s. Rawls has been with the NCDMF for more than 25 years. She began her career at the Division of Marine Fisheries in 1990 as a river herring technician, a position she held for three years, before leaving to work on her family’s farm while also operating a private business. Rawls returned to the DMF in 1999 as a technician on a striped bass project, and worked her way up to Biologist Supervisor, a position she held for eight years until May 2011 when she was promoted to manager of the division’s Northern District, based in Elizabeth City. She became Fisheries Management Section Chief in April 2014.

Rawls, 53, was grew up in Windsor, N.C., graduated from Lawrence Academy in Merry Hill and earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1989. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends fishing, going to the beach, camping and riding 4-wheelers on the family farm.

Hunting Seasons

Wild Turkey: through May 8; Limit is one bearded bird per day, two for the season.

Coyotes & Feral Hogs: no closed season

Bear Hunting’s “Other “Challenges

A recent post on this site reflected on the dramatic comeback of black bears, our state’s largest game animals, and some of the factors that brought that about. The reestablishment of bruins in our geographical backyard is one of the great success stories in wildlife management. Today, bears inhabit our Coastal Plain as well as the Mountain Region in large numbers and offer unique sport for outdoorsmen in this part of the country as well as some who travel from far away.

Unlike most other hunters, however, those who pursue black bears must be cognizant of the fact that their quarry can in the right – or wrong – situation, turn the tables on them and inflict serious injury. East of the Mississippi River, wild boar hogs are the only other game animals that present such a challenge. In addition, bears are generally found in some of the densest, most forbidding cover around. They are masters at using eastern North Carolina’s pocosins or the rugged ridges of our mountain counties to their advantage. The typical bear hunt is often like a 10K foot race run through cat briars, merkle bushes, titi, green briars and other nearly impenetrable vegetation, as well as mud and water that might be waist-deep or more. If it goes the way it’s supposed to, it ends with the hunter standing nose-to-snout with an ill tempered critter that can easily top a quarter of a ton in weight.

It stands to reason, then, that the men who hunt bears tend to be hard-going, no-nonsense types. Some people might be surprised, though, to find out that the greatest threat to bear hunters is not one of the big bruins attacking, but rather the bizarre and unexpected things that often occur as part of the sport. Those occurrences are not always life threatening, but certainly get the hunters’ attention.

Ray Ball, a lanky bear hunter from Sevierville, Tenn. told me once about the time he was hunting with a group in the western part of our state and his Plott hounds treed a big boar bear on the side of a steep hill. Ball failed to notice that the sycamore the animal was in was leaning in the hunter’s direction. The way he described it was, “That was a big ‘ol bear, ’bout 400 pounds or so, and looked like he was in a bad mood so when he decided he was comin’ out’n that tree, I figured I better do sump’in.” What Ball did was pull his .44 magnum pistol out and shoot the bear. That’s when things sped up.

“That bear come out’n that tree and, before I could move, fell ‘whump,’ right on my feet. He rolled up against my legs, knocked me down and rolled right on top a’ me. Then here come the dogs – jumped right in on top of the whole business, barking and fight’n and carry’n on and the bear fight’n ’em. It was like one of ’em pile-ups you see on a football field except ever’body had teeth and claws.”

When asked how he managed to survive the melee, Ball explained, “The only thing that saved me was that we was on the side of a hill and the bear kept right on rollin’ – rolled right off me and took the dogs with him – left me lying there flat o’ my back looking up at the sky, thinkin’ ‘Good Gawd A’mighty!”

That wasn’t the only time Ray Ball had a problem with things falling out of trees while bear hunting. On another outing, one of his inexperienced dogs treed an opossum. Another hunter announced that he wanted the ‘possum and was going to shoot it out of the tree. Ball didn’t want his pup getting the idea that he was anything other than a bear dog and asked the man to wait until he could leash the young hound. Before he could get his hands on the animal, though, a shot rang out. Instinctively, Ball looked up and there was the ‘possum – about a foot from his face.

“You ain’t ever lived til you been smacked in the face by a ‘possum that just fell 20 feet out of a tree,” Ball observed. “Late that evenin’ I was still spitten’ out ‘possum hair.”

Ray Ball’s sidekick, Coy Parton, another Tennessean who happens to be Dolly Parton’s first cousin, had a bear hunting mishap that came about, not because of anything his quarry did but because of a tactical error by the hunter. His dogs were trailing a bear and finally brought it to bay on the opposite side of a small river from Parton. Never hesitating, the lanky man waded right in – boots, overalls, and all. Holding his single-shot shotgun over his head with one hand, he dog paddled with the other and finally came out on the far side. He reached the spot where the hounds had a large bear cornered and, waiting for an opening in the brawl, jumped in and shot. The buckshot failed to finish the bear off so Parton shoved another shell into the gun’s chamber and pulled the trigger again but all he heard was “click.” His extra shells had gotten wet crossing the river! He frantically pulled back the hammer and clicked the trigger until, finally, on the third try, the gun fired.

A year or so later, Parton found himself in the same area and, once again, his dogs treed across the stream. Having learned from his previous experience, he pulled two 12 gauge shells from his pocket and crammed them in his mouth, one on each side. His shells weren’t going to get soaked this time.

Parton waded into the river but didn’t realize until he was about halfway across that the water was deep and faster than he remembered. He started to struggle and “take on water.” Unable to get a good breath, he clawed with his free hand at the shotgun shells in his cheeks. They finally popped out – and brought his false teeth with them!

Ray Ball said that he and the other hunters could tell something wasn’t just right when Parton came walking into camp a little while later, dripping wet and carrying his shotgun by the barrel.

“Coy, what in the world happened to you?” Ball asked. Parton responded with something the others couldn’t understand.

“Coy, where in the world are your teeth?” Ball asked.

“Ina bod’um o de rivu,”Parton mumbled.

Sometimes bears are the least of their troubles for bear hunters.

Black bears are formidable adversaries for hunters. But, sometimes, other things happen that are also exciting.

“When the Bobber Jiggles”

Book Cover - 1

Cane poles and coffee cans full of red worms; early morning in a hunting camp with gentle rain drumming on the tin roof; a bird dog, floating ghost-like through a stand of long leaf pines; tales and saddle sores, missteps and milestones you love to recall. Those and other topics comprise “When the Bobber Jiggles,” a new collection of tales and reflections of life in the outdoors by award-winning author, Ed Wall.

Reading “When the Bobber Jiggles” is akin to sitting by a campfire with an old friend recollecting how things used to be and ought to be. And, on occasion, stretching the veracity of a story to the breaking point. “Hunting With Henry,” “Bear Hunting’s ‘Other’ Challenges,” “Old Fishermen May Be an Endangered Species” – these are a few of the chapters that make up the 142-page, soft-bound book. They will take the reader back to places close to his heart in some instances and tickle his funny bone in others. Whether he is a hunter, fisherman, boater, camper, or just someone who enjoys messing around in the back forty or on a secluded waterway, there are situations to which he can relate.

Published by River City Publishers, “When the Bobber Jiggles” is written in a format that allows the reader to enjoy a chapter or two, put it aside, then pick it back up and not miss a beat. He will undoubtedly want to go back and revisit some short stories and reflections. Copies (personalized if requested) are available for $12.95 (plus $3 shipping and handling if mailed) from the author at 3045 Red Fox Rd., New Bern, NCĀ  28562. Ed Wall can be contacted for more information or special orders at 252-671-3207 or by email at edwall@embarqmail.com.



Out n’ About

Ed Wall has a Master of Arts degree from East Carolina University with a specialty in Recreational Geography. His Master’s thesis was a study of licensed, commercial shooting preserves in eastern North Carolina. That topic was selected because it would satisfy the university’s requirements and also allow the author to spend a lot of time messing around with bird dogs and quail hunters, two groups for which he has great affection.

For thirty years, Ed taught Science while coaching football, track and cross country at the high school level. During that same time, he was writing for various outdoor publications, beginning as a gun dog columnist with the Carolina Adventure magazine. Ed is a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) and produced the weekly outdoor page for Freedom Press, Halifax Media, Gatehouse and Gannett Media newspapers in eastern North Carolina for 23 years. Other periodical credits include Wildlife in North Carolina, Southern Sporting Journal, Fur-Fish-Game, Field Trial Magazine, Fly Fisherman, North Carolina Sportsman, American Field and Ducks Unlimited Quarterly. He is the author of “Getting Started: A Workbook for Started Retrievers,” published by Atlantic Publishing Co. in 1998 and “When the Bobber Jiggles – Tales and Reflections of Life in the Outdoors.” Recognitions include SEOPA Excellence in Craft awards in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Married with two children (one a Wildlife Commission technician, the other a dolphin/sea lion trainer), Ed is a native of Johnston County, NC and a long-time resident of New Bern, NC. He is a product of eastern North Carolina’s tobacco fields, back roads, black water streams and pork barbecue. When not writing or playing golf (very poorly), he can generally be found hunting, fishing, boating or romping with his dogs. Visitors to this site are invited to come along as Ed explores the backwoods and byways of the southeast and occasionally other areas. The express purpose of many trips will be to bag a whitetail deer, trick a tom turkey, catch a mess of bluegills or do battle with a bragging-size red drum. In some cases, though, it will simply be to consider the merits of a really neat sunset, remember an old friend who shared his love of the outdoors, or maybe spin a tale or two. Come on aboard. Stow your gear, grab something refreshing out of the cooler and let’s head downstream.

Ed Wall - 2014

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