outdoors

The clapper rail is one of four rail species commonly referred to as marsh hens in South Carolina. Photo provided/US Fish and Wildlife Service 

Fall is finally here (at least according to the calendar), and that means lots of October opportunities for Lowcountry outdoor enthusiasts:

• Now is the time to experience a Lowcountry "Cast and Blast." October is prime time for catching big redfish, the cast portion of your adventure. The blast part is the arrival of the first marsh hen season, which began Friday and continues through Oct. 10. The second season is Nov. 5-Jan. 7.

Extreme high tides that come when the new or full moon occurs at the same time the moon is closest to the earth in the fall are perfect for hunting marsh hens. If you've spent any time in the creeks and waterways of South Carolina, you've no doubt heard the call of a marsh hen but seldom do you see the birds until these extreme tides flush them from the more dense portions of their habitat.

The marsh hen term is a broad title that covers king, clapper, sora and Virginia rails. During what is commonly referred to as marsh hen season, hunters can harvest a total of 15 king and clapper rails; 15 common moorhens and purple gallinules; and 25 total Sora and Virginia rails.

Hunting is generally done from a small boat or canoe with a shooter sitting up front and his companion poling the boat across the marsh. It's illegal to hunt marsh hens while the boat is under power, and it's illegal to use a boat under power to herd birds into a group and then drift down on them.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Shotguns must be plugged so as to hold no more than three shells. And you must have a federal HIP (Harvest Information Program) permit.

• The cast part of your "Cast and Blast" adventure doesn't necessarily have to be trying to land a fish. You may want to try and "cooler out" during the remainder of the recreational shrimp baiting season that began on Sept. 7 and continues until noon on Nov. 6.

Licensed recreational shrimpers can take up to 48 quarts whole or 29 quarts headed shrimp per day (sunrise to sunrise) per set of poles. Licensed recreational shrimpers are allowed to use up to 10 poles to mark the location of their bait. Shrimp caught over bait cannot be sold.

For complete rules and regulations, visit dnr.sc.gov/regs/shrimp/shrimpregs.html.

• And what Lowcountry deer hunter doesn't look forward to the middle of October when the deer rut generally begins. Bucks, their necks swollen from testosterone, throw caution to the wind as they seek female companionship. And that offers hunters their best opportunity to harvest a trophy buck.