Thursday, 19 September 2019 22:41

COLUMN: Exploring the Sandhills Game Lands

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COLUMN: Exploring the Sandhills Game Lands J.A. Bolton

In the northern parts of Richmond and Scotland counties lies more than 60,000 acres of the Sandhills Game Land. This land was part of a bigger purchase of land by the federal government in the early part of the 20th century. Over a half million acres of sandy poor land in five counties were and still are used to  train our armed forces. Over time, the part known as Sandhills Game Management Land has been managed by state agencies like the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Fish Hatchery and Forest Service.


There are many roads leading into our local game lands and very few are gated. All roads are unpaved and a few are closed to vehicles. The Sandhills Game Lands consist of two major sections — one is regular game land while the other is called the Field Trial Area. Both areas are well-marked with different triangular signs nailed to trees that border the property. Hunting is allowed on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday although the Field Trial Area has a shorter hunting season. Fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing are encouraged on the properties. Field trial exhibitions for bird dogs are also held several times a year around the field trial barn and clubhouse located within the Field Trial Area.

As you enter the Sandhills Game Lands for the first time, you might say to yourself, “Can anything live in this sandy, secluded place? With only large stands of Longleaf pines, scrub oaks and wiregrass growing along the roads and savannas, how could anything survive?” Well, the answer is that wildlife, like people, learn to adapt to their environment. With a little help from the outside, they do really well.

Over the years, our state wildlife and forest management departments have put together programs to manage the forest while still conserving the wildlife. Scientists have learned from times past that longleaf pines grow better if fires are allowed to burn over the forest. This promotes the growth of pine trees, but, over time, prescribed burning allows new growth on the forest floor and thus the balance of nature is sustained. 

 In the spring and summer, many of the old fields that dot the landscape on the game lands are planted in all types of grains. This type of management helps support the many species of wildlife that live on the game lands including turkey, deer, rabbits, dove, quail, raccoons, opossums, hawks, fox squirrels and many types of songbirds.

As you ride through the game lands you will notice longleaf pines with two white circles painted on their lower trunk. These marks have been painted on the tree to let folks know that this tree is a nesting place for our rare red-cockaded woodpecker. The small protected birds use hollow holes high in the sometimes dead tree to raise their young. 

Natural foods that wildlife also eats on the game lands are scrub oak acorns, wild persimmons, pine cone seed, grasses and wild grapes. Sometimes the wildlife wander off the game lands and supplement their diet on local farmer’s crops and that just might get them into a bit of trouble.

The game lands are quiet and peaceful on most days — but not so on the first day of dove season, no sirre. Why, hunters come from all over the state to try their best to fill their limit of doves. You would think that with all these hunters converging that there would be a safety issue and confusion. But In most cases, the hunters are safety-minded and respectful to their fellow hunters.

Game wardens keep a close eye on the game lands. Although they are very helpful, they are there to enforce the laws governing the game lands and wildlife.

I have personally hunted and traveled through many areas of the Sandhills Game Lands. Also I have fond memories of past hunts and fellowship with friends. Recently, I’ve taken my grandchildren to the game land to help educate them and let them view some of our wonderful wildlife, plants and trees our state has to offer. 

So that’s my story on the Sandhills Game Lands. I hope you will take the time and tour this wide open land and resource we possess in our two local counties.  

 

J.A. Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time” and co-author of “Just Passing Time Together.” He is also a member of the Anson County Writers Club and the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies.