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Ramblings of a Lowcountry Game Warden

A Memoir

Ben McC. Moïse

Publication Year: 2012

Ben McC. Moïse served with distinction as a South Carolina game warden for nearly a quarter century, patrolling the coastal woods and waters of the Palmetto State. In this colorful career-spanning memoir, the cigar-chomping, ticket-writing scourge of lowcountry fish-and-game-law violators chronicles grueling stakeouts, complex trials, hair-raising adventures, and daily interactions with a host of outrageous personalities. With a lawman's eye for fine details, a conservationist's nose for the aroma of pluff mud, and a seasoned storyteller's ear for the rhythms of a good southern yarn, Moïse recounts his stout-hearted and steadfast efforts to protect the lowcountry landscape and bring to justice those who would run roughshod over fish and game laws on the Carolina coast. Along the way he paints a vivid portrait of evolving attitudes and changing regulations governing coastal conservation.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

The year was 1996, and my wife, Martha, and I were attending the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston. I serve on the board for this wonderful organization and never miss an event. One of the exhibitors we met that year was Danie Malan, a hunting outfitter from South Africa. After a...

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pp. xv-23

I am truly grateful to the watermen, hunters, and sports fishermen of the lowcountry for providing a career’s worth of stories. My appreciation extends to family, friends, and colleagues who sat with me in various circles around campfires, kitchen tables, and boardroom tables and told me I should write...

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pp. 1-3

This memoir describes my adventures and sometimes misadventures during almost twenty-five years of wildlife-enforcement work in the South Carolina lowcountry. In that quarter century I was eyewitness to many dramatic changes not only in the coastal marshscape but also in public attitudes and governmental policies...

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“Mudflat Moïse”

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pp. 4-15

I came on the job in June of 1978, three years after my initial application. After successfully passing a written state-merit-system exam and a physical-agility test, I sat for an interview with two district captains and the chief of the Law Enforcement and Boating Division at the Columbia headquarters...

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Murphy’s Law

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pp. 16-21

There were days when everything that could go wrong did. One outing brought Murphy’s Law into full fruition. I remember it all too well. It was the proverbial frosty morning late in the duck season. The Maybanks had invited me to stop by the old house on Jehossee Island on the Edisto River to have breakfast after my...

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Hen Hunting in the Salt Marsh

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pp. 22-32

The arrival of the winds of autumn brings forth the “marsh hen tides” and ushers in the hunting season for the elusive clapper rail, an inhabitant of the salt marsh commonly known as the marsh hen or mud hen. When coupled with the effects of a northeasterly wind, this tide provides the most ideal conditions for hunting hens,...

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Watermen and the Lowcountry Scene

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pp. 33-47

was quite pleased when my first patrol boat, the thirteen-foot Boston Whaler, was rigged out and ready to hit the water. Its small size and shallow draft allowed me to explore the myriad small creeks and shallow sounds in my appointed territory, which was then the Charleston Harbor estuary and the vast reaches of marsh and...

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Tales of the Net Patrol

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pp. 48-66

On patrols around the lowcountry waterways I regularly encountered five different kinds of nets: cast nets, recreational shrimp seines, stop nets, gill nets, and channel nets. A channel net is a large baglike contrivance that resembles the nets used on shrimp trawlers. The difference is in how they are used. Channel nets are stationary...

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pp. 67-88

Shrimp trawlers come in every shape and size from super trawlers sixty feet and over, to the more common thirty- and forty-something- foot models, on down to modified outboards twenty feet and under. Keeping track of them was an important component of my marine-enforcement responsibilities...

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Crab Pots and Poachers

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pp. 89-103

When I first started patrolling the rivers around Charleston, there was a large concentration of crabbers in the Wando River. I remember local names such as Manigault, Coakley, Gaskins, Aytes, White, Crane, and Smith as well as a good number of Hispanic and Asian names over the years....

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Cast Nets and Bait Balls

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pp. 104-109

Before 1988 the practice of casting for shrimp over bait was totally unregulated. Years before that method became popular, an old African American waterman, Lester Nelson, used to cast over bait for shrimp up the Ashley River behind the Citadel. He sold his catch from the back of his truck at various locations around Charleston....

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Dove Fields and Cracked Corn

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pp. 110-121

Dove-hunting clubs are common throughout the state. Some of the dove shoots occur on lands leased by dove clubs that pay a farmer to plant and maintain the fields. Others are invitational hunts, where the landowner invites friends over for a morning or an afternoon shoot....

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A Few Upland Adventures

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pp. 122-136

Sometimes you bite the bear, and sometimes the bear bites you,” is one of the colorful metaphors I often heard in describing some of the game wardenly exertions that didn’t go according to plan. One such incident occurred off Little Britton Road between Adams Run and Dahoo Landing, near Edisto Island. I had received several...

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The Duck Hunters

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pp. 137-179

Duck hunting is the annual reenactment of an ancient tradition, one with many devotees along the South Carolina coast and waterways. Although my early experiences with the sport were few, I grew to like duck hunting and duck hunters. Some of my colleagues wryly observed that I really preferred hunting duck hunters, especially...

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Passing the Torch, Spreading the Word

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pp. 180-188

It was always gratifying to see children enjoying the outdoor experience with their fathers, grandfathers, or uncles, whether they were hunting, fishing, shrimping, or camping. I was confidant that those shared moments out under the sky would foster a continuing tradition of stewardship and instill a genuine regard for the lands...

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Wildlife in the City

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pp. 189-197

The city landscape was a never-ending source of “wildlife moments.” Several wildlife cases happened right in the city limits of Charleston. One afternoon I was enjoying a convivial oyster roast at a friend’s house near the Ashley River up beyond the Citadel. A good number of people were standing around the oyster tables...

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Feathered Disasters

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pp. 198-203

One day I was patrolling in my boat along the docks on Shem Creek and spotted some activity on the deck of Captain Lewis Porcher’s green-painted trawler, the Miss Glena, which was tied to the dock on the west side of the creek. Captain Lewis and his crew were on the stern of his shrimp boat cleaning out the nets and tidying...

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Hook, Line, and Sinker

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pp. 204-212

I got a phone call late on one of my free Sunday afternoons from Jim Smiley, the public defender in the Ninth Circuit solicitor’s office in Charleston. He said that he and some friends were on the east end of Bull Island at the Jacks Creek dike and had seen a boat with four men in it hauling in spottail bass...

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Game Wardens

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pp. 213-221

For as long as I can remember, Locky did his patrols in an eighteen-foot Glassmaster with a 140-horsepower engine. He customized his boat in the interest of comfort by installing an automobile bucket seat behind the steering wheel. Assigned to the boating division, he worked long hours and wrote lots of tickets. His chief focus was enforcing...

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Marijuana, Homegrown and Imported

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pp. 222-226

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, marijuana smuggling was a common occurrence in the coastal waters of South Carolina. My first encounter with drug trafficking happened only a few years after I had joined the Charleston unit. I was in Mount Pleasant checking seafood dealers when I got a call on the radio for me to proceed immediately...

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Off and Running

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pp. 227-233

In a flurry of decision making, I resolved to retire and leave the field to the younger generation of game wardens. The department made my decision easier by offering a voluntary separation incentive, a new statewide policy designed to ease out to pasture some of us who had grown long in the tooth. It was part of the department’s...

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171181
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570038815

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012