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September 4, 2009

Cane Creek dove field to open in Jocassee Gorges on Sept. 16

A new dove field will be open on Wednesday afternoons of the mourning dove season in the Jocassee Gorges in northern Pickens County beginning Sept. 16.

Visitors who travel this fall along Cane Creek Road in Jocassee Gorges in northern Pickens County will encounter some changes. The new highlight along the route is a 16-acre clearing that will provide some dove hunting in Jocassee Gorges. "It is the largest open area on the entire property," said Mark Hall, Jocassee Gorges project manager with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The decision to create the new dove field on Jocassee resulted from the fact that wildlife technicians could work on lands owned by the state. Resources and funds for managing non-DNR lands have dwindled in recent years due to budget and personnel reductions. Thus, managing a dove field on Jocassee made good logistical and economic sense.
           
Finding a level place within the rugged Jocassee Gorges landscape was a fairly tough thing to do, according to Hall. Fortunately, DNR uses some good tools for spatial analysis of the landscape. Digital topographic maps and a geographical information system (GIS) were key factors in the search for flat ground. The area along Cane Creek road that was identified is about the largest flat area within Jocassee. "Large" in this case means more than 10 acres, since most productive dove fields are more than 10 acres in size. The field has some small hills, but it is moderately flat in comparison to the balance of the land, where slopes of more than 30 percent are common.

DNR developed a careful plan to avoid archeological sites, as well as potential harm to any uncommon flora, fauna or water resources. The area was clear-cut in 2006, when planted pines were removed during the harvest. The white pine plantation that was removed was on a site that was not suitable for the tree species. The tree stumps were left to deteriorate for more than two years, and then the area was cleared by a contractor. DNR was able to hire Appalachian Grading of Sunset to stump, grub, disk, grade and lime the 16 acres for a little over $1,000 per acre. DNR staff finished the job with seeding of browntop millet. Recent rains have allowed the crop to establish a good root system, stabilize the soils and create an attractive sea of green amongst the solid forest.

The browntop millet will produce and shed seed in early September. Doves will be attracted, and dove hunting will be limited to Wednesday afternoons after Sept. 15, when the interior Jocassee Gorges roads will open to the public. In the future, the field will planted to ensure the soil is protected.

Permanent strips of switchgrass will be used along with annual plantings of wheat, dove proso and browntop millets. The large field is the only substantial opening on Jocassee, and it is sure to receive attention from many other wildlife species, such as songbirds and black bear.
           
DNR will monitor dove utilization and hunter success, and then make decisions as to how to best manage the field for both the resources and the public.

Waterfalls, green salamanders, black bear, uncommon plants such as Oconee bells and many long-range vistas are just a few of the natural wonders that may be found in the 33,000-acre Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges in Pickens and Oconee counties. More information on the Jocassee Gorges may be obtained by calling the Clemson DNR office at (864) 654-1671, extension 22.

South Carolina's natural resources are essential for economic development and contribute nearly $30 billion and 230,000 jobs to the state's economy. Find out why Life's Better Outdoors.


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