Discover Richmond County’s Hidden Gems in the Sandhills Gamelands

February 1, 2012

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Richmond County is fortunate enough to have two public game lands within their borders, the Sandhills and the Pee Dee River. At over 61,000 acres, the Sandhills is by far the larger of the two and though many people are unaware of this fact, the entire area is one of the finest and most intact examples of a long-leaf pine habitat on the planet. The long-leaf pine habitat is characterized by widely spaced pines and deciduous shrubs and grasses. It is also home to an extremely diverse blend of plants and animals—many native to this habitat alone. The continual rejuvenation of the long-leaf pine habitat is maintained by carefully controlled prescribed wildfire burns, which actually assist all of the species living therein. 

Prescribed burning, which one can often see when exploring the Sandhills Gamelands, is not a cause for alarm. Quite the contrary, the burns allow the release of nutrients from plants and clear out areas for bird and animal nesting grounds. Perhaps its greatest benefit of the prescribed burns is the reduction of a natural build up of dry vegetative fuels, which would prove catastrophic if left unchecked to the potential of a true forest fire. 

The management of this and other processes in the Sandhills Gamelands is under the authority of the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. In January of 2012, the Sandhills Game Land Management Team received an award of excellence for their contributions in the area of fire management as a natural resource tool. During an average year, 15,000 acres are treated by the prescribed burns in a safe and effective manner. 

As previously mentioned, these prescribed burns rejuvenate the ecosystem for the full benefit of many species native to the Sandhills region. Many are extremely endangered and the Sandhills Gameland environment is their final stand. Below is a list of a few of these species which, while rare or endangered, thrive in this environment. 

BIRDS 

Red Cockaded Woodpecker – It is estimated that less than 1% of the total red cockaded woodpecker population survives today. Identifiable by a small streak of red behind their eyes, this species prefers to burrow into tall pine trees to nest and raise their young. Trees with nesting stands are clearly marked with ribbons in the Sandhills Gamelands, so as not to disturb them in their natural habitat. 

Bachman’s Sparrow – This rare species of bird builds its dome-like nest structures on the ground April through August of each year. This bird was named in honor of Rev. John Bachman, who collaborated often with noted ornithologist John James Audubon, founder of the Audubon Society. 

AMPHIBIANS 

Gopher Frog – A rather large frog found near ponds and endemic to the eastern United States, this species burrow underground for nesting purposes, though their hunting areas can often extend up to a mile away. 

Tiger Salamander – Another large amphibian, this creature can reach lengths of up to 14 inches. Identified by their green, black and grey striping patterns, these salamanders live in deep burrows up to two feet underground. Some have been noted to have a lifespan approaching 25 years. 

REPTILES 

Chicken Turtle – named for the taste of its meat, the Chicken Turtle deviates from others in the same species with their rare fall nesting habits. They are extremely social with one another, but not humans. If handled, they will bite without hesitation. 

Hognose Snake – One of the most unique creatures in the Sandhills Gamelands, the Hognose Snake is readily identifiable by its upturned snout, which it uses to dig into the sandy soil looking for its favorite prey–frogs. When threatened, they can mimic a Cobra defense by rising and feigning a strike. If that fails to work, they are one of the worlds’ best at playing dead. The Hognose Snake will actually roll over, flatten itself out and extend its tongue from its open mouth until the threat has passed. 

FLORA AND FAUNA 

Michaux Sumac – This dense and hairy shrub grows up to one to three feet high, flowering in the summer and producing red fruit in the fall. Extremely endangered, there are only 36 known populations of this shrub remaining, 31 of which are located in the Sandhills Gamelands. 

Sandhills Lily – Though noted decades ago, this flower received its own distinction as a unique species in 2003. Its scientific name translates to “Fire Loving Lily”, as it too thrives in areas where prescribed burns are commonplace.

Contact Information: The 61,225-acre Sandhills Game Lands are operated by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Division of Wildlife Management, 1722 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1722. Phone: (919) 733-7291. www.ncwildlife.com.

Access: To reach the Scotland Lane section from the Richmond County town of Hoffman, NC at the intersection of US 1/SR 1475, drive south for two miles on US 1. Turn left on Old Lauren Hill Road (SR 1346), cross the railroad tracks, and drive approximately 1.5 miles. At the first main graded intersection, turn left on the unmarked dirt road and drive approximately .5 mile and park. Scotland Lane is on the right side of the road.

Map: View a map of the area.

  • Tim Walker

    Sandhill Gameland sucks for deer hunting especially if you don’t run dogs. They do not plant enough food plots, dove hunters spoke the deer off the fields (that are planted) a whole week before bow hunting starts, they don’t provide a quality spot set aside for archery only, and they continually cut the scrub oaks leaving little for the deer and turkeys in the way of acorns. The dog hunters make the deer, during gun season, nocturnal and when that happens you can’t hardly find a doe let alone a buck. The lakes are not well stocked either. If you like looking at pine trees and sand then it is a good place, nothing else.

    • Richmond County Tourism Development Authority

      Tim,

      We appreciate you taking the time to comment on our blog entry about the Sandhills Gamelands. While you bring up some valid points about the state of deer hunting here, the focus of this article was to draw attention to many other assets of this protected area. The Sandhills Gamelands are managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Commission and some of your observations might make useful suggestions as to their methods of direct care and custody of operations in the specific hunting ground sections.

      Keep in mind that the Sandhills Gamelands offer visitors a serene setting to enjoy nature at its finest. The fragile ecosystem that exists here is home to several endangered species of both plants and animals and all of the 61,000-acres are open to the public to explore and learn about preserving this beautiful and natural resource.

  • TMACCALLUM

    This is really a nice feature. The Sandhills Game Land is a real treasure.

    Tom MacCallum 


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