Off the North Carolina coast lies a ribbon of islands called the Outer Banks. Here was founded (and later lost) America's first colony. Here pirates lured unsuspecting merchantmen onto the treacherous shoals of Cape Hatteras, and on these blue waters rendezvoused to divide vast spoils of bullion, gold plate and jewels. This is still rich treasure country, but today both the seekers and their quarry are of a different sort. As this remarkable photograph by Richard Meek shows, the decoys bobbing in Pamlico Sound are bringing in a great flight of Canada geese. Waiting for the geese, behind the camera, are some of the handful of sportsmen who have thus far discovered the joys of autumn hunting on the Outer Banks. Turn the page for Virginia Kraft's detailed report on this newly accessible treasure house of waterfowl and fish.
The Outer Banks is in reality almost 200 miles of exposed sand bar, broken by occasional channels, rarely three miles wide, sometimes a few hundred yards narrow. To the west is a series of bays, to the east is the Gulf Stream. In late summer hurricanes muster fury here for their travels north and west—but with the passing of autumn's equinox this lonely world of wind and water grows calm. Ducks and geese fly down from the north, channel bass roll in on the surf and marlin fin the Gulf Stream. The waters of the stream are 70°, their semitropical winds envelop the Banks, and orange and grapefruit trees bear all winter. Until a few years ago the Banks were almost inaccessible, but now new roads link this vast outdoor playground to the mainland and planes land regularly on its beaches. The time to go is November; the way and the rewards are described below.
The best place to begin a trip to North Carolina's OUTER BANKS is NORFOLK, Va., 75 miles from NAGS HEAD. There are no big stores on the Banks; and many people who fly into Norfolk do not want the overweight and inconvenience of carrying ammunition, gun-cleaning equipment or liquor—much of the Outer Banks is technically dry—from home. All these items, and many more, can be purchased in Norfolk.
The fastest way to reach the Outer Banks from Norfolk is by plane. PIEDMONT AVIATION, at the Norfolk airport, has Piper Tri-Pacers for charter. Rates begin at $25 (one way to MANTEO) and are somewhat higher to HATTERAS and OCRACOKE (see map) depending on weather and time of day. Once there, beach buggies can be rented (average cost $15 per day) in all three towns to handle local travel to fishing and hunting spots.
The more leisurely, and perhaps the more pleasant, way to visit the Outer Banks, however, is by car-either one's own or a Norfolk rental. A main highway runs from Norfolk to the North Carolina border; from here there are good blacktop roads all the way to the Banks.
On the drive south from Norfolk, Nags Head is the first main village on the Outer Banks and the center of some of the best hunting and fishing on the upper island. Traveling at comfortable speed, the trip from Norfolk can be made in under two hours. This wasn't always so. Until a few years ago, roads—where they existed at all—were poor and driving was difficult if not hazardous.
Today Route 158 spans three-mile-wide CURRITUCK SOUND at KITTY HAWK and continues south past Nags Head to Hatteras. A secondary road runs north to the little town of DUCK five miles above Kitty Hawk (see map). Beyond this point the northernmost area of the Outer Banks is still inaccessible by car. This is the private portion of the Banks, a hideaway for wealthy businessmen who retreat each year to the isolation of its roadless, sandy hills.
To the south, the highway sweeps past KILL DEVIL HILL and a granite monument to Wilbur and Orville Wright's conquest of the air. Along the road itself, dozens of boarded motels and ice cream stands, crowded and lively in summer, await next year's hot-weather visitors and vacationers.
But in November, when the waterfowl season opens, the scene is quiet. At night, no lights brighten the long, black strip of road stretching south between empty cottages and shuttered beach houses. Over all there is only the lonely sound of ocean crashing against shore.
At Nags Head the CAROLINIAN HOTEL ($10 and up per day, American plan) remains open all year, and this is the local headquarters for sportsmen. Inside, a fire is usually burning in the wood paneled ANCHOR CLUB where, at the end of the day, guests shelter against the evening's chill. At this time of year the talk is always of sport—deer hunting, surf fishing, fox chasing—but mainly it is of geese and ducks.
For the goose or duck hunter, the Carolinian will arrange everything from guides ($10 a day) to blinds and a full-course breakfast at any hour of the morning. Carl Nunnemaker Sr., who has been duck hunting and guiding in the Nags Head area for over 30 years, has an excellent rig only a few minutes' drive from the Carolinian. His battered converted ambulance usually pulls into the hotel drive about 5 a.m., equipped with everything from E-Zee-Patch kits for leaking waders to plug-in heater for warming up between shooting sessions. A hunter need only collect himself and his box lunch (supplied by the Carolinian) and follow The Captain, as Nunnemaker likes to be called, into the pitch-dark of the predawn.
Nags Head waterfowl hunting is locally referred to as pond shooting, but the expression is misleading. Actually, the "ponds" are part of the great shallow waters of mile-wide ROANOKE SOUND (see map). From the road, about one half mile of overgrown marsh runs into the sound. The Captain leaves his ambulance hubcap deep in the marsh and sloshes cross-country to the water. There, looking like little floating islands, are a series of scattered grass fronds in which his blinds are hidden.
Captain Nunnemaker is a man who doesn't believe in any extra work. He sets out his decoys in a permanent rig at the beginning of the season and doesn't pick them up again until closing day. His system would be perfect except for the shock it often gives the hunter when, tiptoeing in wader-heavy feet through mud and water, he flushes a resting flock of Canada geese from among the decoys. Few waterfowlers, groping through the darkness with gun, shells, lunch, extra sweater, rain gear and patch kit, have come through such an experience with dry equipment. And if they do, they may still face the moment immediately after leaving the blind when a flock of geese drops from nowhere directly into the abandoned rig. Naturally, the gun is unloaded or buried under mountains of other equipment.
But these small difficulties are really only byproducts of the great waterfowl shooting in the Nags Head area. To make this shooting even better, The Captain and fellow guides are expert goose and duck callers. Crouched low among the salt grass, they can lure in even the most stubborn goose with their particular kind of musical hypnosis. Sometimes this hypnosis works both ways. There have been hunters at Nags Head who, on first sight of these huge, body-heavy birds gliding directly toward them, suffered a kind of "goose fever" which made shooting impossible. Most of them, however, seem to recover in time to take the limit of two geese a day.
The duck shooting is just as good. In November, huge concentrations of pintails, blacks, widgeons and mallards settle in protective coves to feed on wild celery and swamp grasses. This is that rare kind of shooting in which the hunter finds himself choosing exactly what bird he wants—and then waiting for it. In fact, the birds are so numerous and the duck callers so good that it is not uncommon for a hunter to have a widgeon or a black duck whiz right over his head. Consequently, the daily limit of four is often bagged within an hour—ending the day's shooting too soon for most hunters.
Even if a hunter has to quit shooting early, there is still plenty of sport to fill his day. Just 10 miles from the duck blinds is CROATAN SOUND, where the fishing rivals the shooting at Nags Head. A hunter who takes the limit of birds before lunch can hop in his car and drive 15 minutes from the Carolinian Hotel to CROATAN BRIDGE on the other side of Roanoke Island. Here schools of young striped bass skirt through the waters around its three miles of cement pilings. On any day, but particularly on Sunday (when shooting is prohibited), a fleet of charter boats ($50 a day, $35 a half day; reservations can be made through the hotel) trolls between the pilings, waiting for a school to hit.
When the fish begin to bite they bite by the hundreds. The boats converge and everywhere lines go tight. Cars stop on the bridge above, and spectators—mostly natives accustomed to the sight but forever fascinated by it—hang over the guard rail and shout encouragement. Every radio in every boat begins sending news of the run in a garble of static and stuttering. For five, maybe 10 or even 15 minutes, fish are hauled over the side. Congratulations are shouted back and forth among the boats, lines are crossed and hopelessly snagged, and everyone has a wonderful time.
When the run is over, the boats move apart. Damage to equipment is surveyed, repaired lines are freshly baited, fish are recaught in conversation and someone brings out a bottle of celebration. The captain, who may be Omie Tillett, Joe Berry, Ken Ward, Fred Basnight or any one of the many charter boatmen who hang their signs in the Nags Head area, relaxes on the wheel. He knows news of the good fishing will spread along the Outer Banks.
On a day like this—and there are many such days in November—no reasonable man could complain about the catch, but there may be a complaint or two about tackle. A charter captain faces the problem of new clients every day, many of them novices. His tackle must be heavy and tough enough to withstand the abused of constant use by inexperienced hands. As a result, for the experienced fisherman, all of the fight—and most of the sport—in taking these two-and three-pounders is lost. It doesn't have to be, however, if he brings his own light spinning tackle from home.
On the way back to Nags Head from Croatan Sound, Highway 64 crosses ROANOKE ISLAND and runs past the site of Sir Walter Raleigh's LOST COLONY. No longer lost, thanks to the energy of the local tourist people, the colony has everything from a reproduction of the colonists' fort, complete with log village, to an outdoor summer theater.
In November the theater is closed, but the colony's real attraction, its free museum, is still open, and worth a visit. The museum is particularly interesting to sportsmen because of its extensive collection of paintings of birds, animals, fish and life in the early colony. These were, made almost 400 years ago by John White, grandfather of Virginia Dare and first governor of the settlement.
The Nags Head area offers still another bonus to the sportsman. Just a few minutes' walk from the Carolinian, a dozen little fresh-water ponds lie hidden in the overgrown sand hills. Here, the Outer Banks widens to almost a mile. Holly trees, French mulberries, pines and dogwoods form a seven-mile-long miniature jungle. In the midst of this cool green forest is some of the best black bass fishing in North Carolina.
Julian Oneto, the Carolinian's owner, is a bass fisherman. He knows where the best ponds are located, when to fish them, and even under what overhangs the big ones are drowsing. Best of all, it seldom takes much persuasion to lure Oneto from behind his desk. Besides, that's where he keeps his spinning rod.
Flies or popping bugs, cast from the brushy shore, are almost certain to bring a three-or four-pounder thrashing to the surface. Eight-pound bigmouths are sometimes taken from these waters, and, the fisherman who carries along a shotgun has a better than even chance of jumping a duck or two along the way.
Just south of Nags Head is the beginning of America's first NATIONAL SEASHORE RECREATION AREA, a vast public playground rich in waterfowl, channel bass, speckled trout and diminutive deer. Its 30,000 acres of golden beaches and violent seas stretch 70 miles from WHALEBONE JUNCTION (see map) to Ocracoke. The entire area has been set aside by the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE'S MISSION 66 for the recreation of every American, preserved and protected in its wild, natural state from purchase or development by private individuals.
At the northern end of the park, the BODIE ISLAND LIGHT stands above OREGON INLET, a turbulent, unpredictable channel which separates HATTERAS ISLAND from the upper Banks. In summer, Oregon Inlet is the headquarters of hundreds of fishing boats. In early September, when hurricanes threaten the Atlantic Coast and rumble along the Outer Banks, most of the little boats move south to more hospitable waters.
But the automobile ferry remains, carrying its cargo of travelers back and forth across the swirling waters. The 20-minute run, which is free, operates every half hour during daylight. When there is a strong wind blowing and whitecaps splash over the deck, the crossing is an adventure in itself. Actually, the ferry is a sturdy craft, manned by an equally sturdy crew, and rarely does it miss a crossing because of bad weather. There have been times, however, when its passengers wished it had.
On the other side of the inlet, on a barren, wind-swept beach, is the PEA ISLAND WILDLIFE REFUGE. Years ago its field headquarters was one of 25 Coast Guard stations which manned the Outer Banks. Today most of the stations have been abandoned for radar and advanced electronic devices, and the Pea Island Refuge is a wintering ground for more than 50,000 waterfowl, including some 12,000 snow geese.
Natives of the area tell an interesting story about the snow geese. Each year, on the 11th of November, they come to Pea Island, flying in by the thousands in great white clouds. Here they remain, protected from hunters, predators, freezing temperatures and starvation until the 5th of January. Then, together as they arrived, they lift off the waters and return to the north. According to legend, they never vary the dates. Nobody has ever figured out why.
Most of the activity—and there is plenty of it—on Hatteras Island begins 40 miles south of Oregon Inlet at the cape. The drive from the ferry is long and lonely, and the road is often washed over by high tides. The main village along the way is RODANTHE, 12 miles south of the inlet. Here there is a hotel, a motel and a gas station.
Approaching the cape by car, a candy-striped tower may be seen rising above the seemingly endless sand dunes. This is HATTERAS LIGHT, the tallest brick lighthouse in America. For generations it has warned mariners of DIAMOND SHOALS, the "graveyard of the Atlantic," where so many metal wrecks lie buried in the quicksands that compasses are deflected by as much as 8°.
There are four main settlements surrounding Hatteras Light. Two of the villages, AVON and BUXTON, have a combined population of 1,000; FRISCO, to the south of the cape, has 100 inhabitants; on the very tip of the island, the largest village, HATTERAS, has a population of 700.
All of the towns have overnight accommodations; and motels, unknown to the lower Banks five years ago, are now scattered all around Hatteras Light. At Buxton, CAPE HATTERAS COURT has 20 two-bedroom, kitchen-equipped cottages right on the beach, which rent for as little as $50 a week for a group of four. This is a favorite gathering place for fishermen. Besides a new public dock, the Cape Hatteras Court marina rents charter boats (sound fishing, $20; inlet fishing, $35 a half day) and has both skiff-rental and guide service for inshore fishing.
Within a 15-minute drive of Hatteras Light there are three exceptional kinds of sport—surf fishing, waterfowl shooting and deep-sea angling. Of these, the one that draws the most people this time of year is surf fishing, which, at Hatteras, means channel bass.
When the runs are on, when great 40-and 50-pound red drum roll in with the surf, everybody fishes at Hatteras. Men, women and children stand knee-deep in swirling water, casting pieces of salt mullet into churning sloughs formed by sand bars offshore.
Sometimes they fish at THE POINT, south of Hatteras Light, where the ocean's currents rush in from two directions, exploding in a shower of spume and spray. They come in the early morning to stand in the turbulent tides—silent, because there is a quietness about this time of day. On the wet sands hundreds of small shore birds hobble on stiff legs after the retreating tides, plunging quick beaks into the edges of the froth, A flock of ducks moves overhead. Gulls and pelicans hover above the boiling surf, then one by one they dive headfirst into the water. Their action means the bait fish have arrived. Behind them will come the channel bass.
Suddenly a line will go tight. "He's fast," somebody shouts. Clumsy in waders, a fisherman strains against the curve of his 11-foot rod. Near him, others begin to reel in their lines. Another goes tight. Then another. Small groups form around the men who are fighting their fish. The battle may be 10 minutes, or 20, or an hour. It is always powerful and exhausting. And at the end there is a moment of triumph. Around the big fish, its sides brilliant in the morning light, the group will stand—respectful. For this is the champion of Hatteras.
It will be placed in a beach buggy and shown through the town. At Rany Jeanette's Esso Station in Buxton it will be officially weighed. Then it will be put alongside others in a huge freezing closet, later to be filleted and eaten. Oddly, a Hatteras channel bass tastes very little like fish and very much like roast pork.
All up and down the shore similar catches will be pulled in from the FIRST AND SECOND CUTOUTS (see map) at Avon, the OLD CLUBHOUSE north of Hatteras Light, the CONCRETE STRIP south of Frisco and the INLET at Hatteras. These are the names of the five sloughs which are part of every autumn conversation. The old experts like Captain Bernice Ballance of Buxton; his daughter Amelia, who took the women's world record last year, Ormond Fuller of Buxton and Gardner Marsh of Nantucket; Walt Weber and Dick Waller of Baltimore fish these sloughs each season. And where they are, the fish usually are.
The visitor can only toss a coin and hope he chooses the right slough on the right day. But if, when he arrives on the beach, he finds the pros already there, he'll be wise to waste no time in putting his line into the swirling water. When red drum decide to hit, they hit everywhere at once."
Wildfowl shooting on PAMLICO SOUND, off the southern tip of Hatteras Island, is, if anything, even more impressive than the fishing. But since the seasons coincide and the natives almost all prefer fishing, it is practically impossible to find a willing hunting guide. E. P. White is a rare exception. Although his daughter, Ormond Fuller, is one of Hatteras' most avid anglers, White's interests are strictly waterfowl.
In a channel behind his home at Buxton, White moors a motor scow laden with more than a hundred decoys. For $40 a day for two hunters he makes available his boat, decoys and one of the most ideal shooting blinds to be found anywhere on the Outer Banks. The blind—it is the only one in a stretch of 30 miles of bird-blanketed water—has a four-foot-square concrete foundation which is permanently anchored in the sands of Pamlico Sound five miles offshore. An adjustable wood and canvas frame attached to the concrete enables the hunter to keep the top of the blind exactly level with the rising and falling tides.
White is a man who doesn't believe in getting up early. As a result, the waterfowler new to Pamlico will be surprised to learn that departure time is generally scheduled for about 7:30 a.m., an hour most duck hunters are finishing up a morning's shoot. White is also a man who believes in comfort, another violation of the code of waterfowlers. Every good duck shooter knows that a hunt is not successful unless ice forms on his gun, his waders leak freezing water, his feet go numb, his matches get wet, his fingers lose mobility and his shells fall into the water and swell beyond use. These things never happen to E. P. White.
What his scow lacks in grace and beauty it more than makes up for in comfort. Its cabin is equipped with a pot-bellied stove, a complete store of groceries, a small bar and all the gadgets of fancier craft. If the hunter chooses, he can wait in the boat, as White does, while his assistant, Harlon Willis, adjusts the blind, empties it of water and sets out 65 geese, 35 brant and 40 duck decoys.
Once the hunters are settled, White and his boat move off to a small bungalow which perches on stilts in the sound a mile away. This, too, is designed for comfort, complete with lavatory, living room with roll-away beds for afternoon napping and another well-stocked kitchen. From here White watches his clients through glasses.
Amazingly enough, this country-gentleman approach to hunting succeeds very well. Often birds begin winging into the rig before the boat is out of sight. All in the span of a half hour, a flock of geese may come in low along the water, black ducks will skim over the top of the blind, and a dozen brant will glide directly into the rig. In the beginning the uninitiated hunter can only watch, fascinated by his duck's-eye view through the bobbing decoys (see cover). But swiftly this fascination will be replaced by action.
White makes only one concession to traditional discomfort. When the shooting is over, the hunter must climb over the blind wall and wade to the fallen waterfowl, for on Pamlico Sound every man is his own retriever.
At noon, White's boat chugs back to the blind to pick up the hunters for lunch. In the little bungalow on stilts, hot coffee and a steaming caldron of mulligan stew bubble in the kitchen. Willis generally stays in the blind to do a little shooting of his own while the hunters dine. When they return, he'll have his limit.
THE GULF STREAM
South of Buxton, at HATTERAS VILLAGE, is the BLUE MARLIN DOCK, only an hour away by cruiser from the warm GULF STREAM. By mid-October the threat of hurricanes in the area is over. This is the time of year when big fish—virtually undisturbed by fishermen—swim along the current's edge and marlin fin in the autumn sun.
It is interesting that so few deep-sea anglers come to Hatteras. Even in summer their numbers are small. Local fishermen, like Edgar Styron, who runs the Blue Marlin and has fished the nearby waters professionally for more than 20 years, are surprised that their rich fishing grounds remain so unexplored; but, in their independent way, they are also rather pleased that they have the place to themselves.
Only eight charter boats docked at Hatteras Inlet this past season, and except for Styron's two cruisers, The Twins and The Twins II, most will have abandoned big-game angling by early October. In spite of the few fishermen trolling the Stream, 53 blue marlin and 22 white marlin have been taken off Hatteras Inlet this year. This compares with 26 blues and 111 whites taken off heavily fished Oregon Inlet in the same period.
During the month of November, Styron figures that there are at least 15 good days in which seas are calm enough to make the hour's run to the fishing grounds. And because the Stream is so close to Hatteras, there is that much more time for angling. But Styron's $75 daily charter does not guarantee catching marlin in November, any more than it does in summer. It does guarantee catching game fish, because fish are here, and plentiful, at all times of year.
If a marlin doesn't take the bait, there is always the chance that a kingfish, alba-core, bonito, amberjack, yellowfin or 30-pound school tuna will. These fish are taken regularly throughout the fall months. More than once, Styron has even hooked a dolphin and an occasional sail. Besides game fish, it is an unusual day when a shark doesn't fin across the wake of a skipping mullet. For many fishermen, the battle which can follow is every bit as exciting as any with a marlin.
Few sharks, however, are brought to gaff because a hooked shark has a habit of doubling back and cutting the line, much to the satisfaction of the mate who may be heard muttering to himself: "Too bad, but them big ones sure can mess up a boat."
Down the road from the Blue Marlin Dock, the HATTERAS INLET FERRY pulls out four times a day for the quaint little island of OCRACOKE. Until a year ago, there was no road along the 16-mile strip of sand, and bsach-buggy jeeps were the chief means of reaching OCRACOKE VILLAGE at the southern tip of the island. Today the drive from Hatteras Inlet to the village can be made in under a half hour, and the visitor may even encounter another car along the way.
The northern half of Ocracoke is a flat, unprotected desert where, in stormy weather, the ocean sweeps across the island and into the sound. Farther south, where sand dunes form a wall against the ocean, vegetation covers the shore and thickens into a small jungle at the tip of the island. Eleven different kinds of pines grow among water oaks, wax myrtles, yaupons, oleanders, fig trees, ivy and philodendron. The most northerly palm tree on the Atlantic Coast grows here, standing alone before the Ocracoke Village home of Floyd Styron. Nobody really knows its origin, but any native will be happy to give the visitor his theory. It will more than likely involve pirates and plunder because pirates are an integral part of the history of Ocracoke.
Such notorious figures as Ann Bonney, Mary Read, Calico Jack Rackam, Charles Vane, Joe Lawson and Big Jim Braham are all reported to have plied the harbors and coves of Ocracoke at one time or another. But Ocracoke's favorite pirate is Blackbeard, who, according to local legend, gave the island its name during; his disastrous last encounter with the British navy. Trapped by darkness and treacherous tides, he is reported to have paced the deck invoking a speedy coming of dawn—and escape—with shouts of "Oh crow, cock! Oh crow, cock!" When the cock did crow, his cheerful call proved a death knell for Blackbeard.
That the island more likely was called Ocracoke after the Woccos Indians years before Blackbeard was born doesn't bother the natives very much. They like their legend better.
Nor do they pay much attention to outside civilization in general. The inhabitants of Ocracoke Village are an independent people, content to live peacefully with the sea. In their little island world there are no policemen, jails, hospitals, doctors, dentists, lawyers, drugstores, banks, funeral homes, brick buildings or bookstores. George Guthrie Jackson sometimes cuts hair if he's not doing anything else. Kermit Robinson knows how to fix cars and marine motors.
When somebody dies in Ocracoke, expenses are paid from a community fund and the deceased is usually buried the same day (there are no undertakers) in his own yard. Almost every home has a tiny cemetery within its picket fence, and all the homes are fenced. This is not to keep people out, because there is no crime in Ocracoke, but to protect property from wild horses which roam freely about the island.
The horses have been there for as long as anyone remembers. Legend claims that they are descended from Arabian steeds which made their way ashore after the vessel carrying them was sunk—by pirates, of course. Every Fourth of July Ocracokers take part in a great village celebration during which the horses are rounded up from all the far reaches of the island and corralled briefly so yearlings may be branded. But at any time of year it is not uncommon for a visitor fishing a lonely stretch of beach to come upon a wandering horse foraging on the shore.
Along Ocracoke, there is excellent channel bass fishing in a number of sloughs. Charlie Williams, C. F. Boyette of the WAHAB VILLAGE INN. and Jake Alli-good, who rents jeeps with drivers at $3 an hour, all cater to sportsmen and are happy to show visitors the best spots for the big ones. They are not an optimistic crew, however, and the visitor should be prepared for dire predictions about the unsuitability of the day for fishing.
On Ocracoke, there are four reasons why the fishing will not be good, and guides always volunteer at least one of them: 1) the wind isn't right; 2) the tide isn't right; 3) the water is too hot or too cold; or 4) the weather is too hot or too cold. On the rare occasions when not even one of these conditions applies, a fifth, and equally dire prospect is certain to be presented: porpoises—either they are there or they are not.
But in spite of the seeming hopelessness of even starting out to fish on Ocracoke, the fishing is surprisingly good throughout the fall. Hunting guides are less pessimistic about their sport. They can afford to be, since the shooting in Pamlico Sound off Ocracoke is as good as it is off Hatteras. Like all Ocracokers, however, the guides more often than not temper their enthusiasms with silence.
In this part of the sound stake blinds are used exclusively because of rough waters and high tides. Charlie Garrish Jr., who has four blinds six miles north of the village, is a handsome, red-headed ex-sailor who, for $25 a day, provides blinds, decoys and transportation. From his setup there is great shooting for black brant, geese, pintails, redheads, widgeons and blacks.
Since there are still very few visitors to Ocracoke, finding a free blind is rarely a problem. Charlie Garrish estimates that he is booked less than one-third of the 60-day waterfowl season, and other guides on the island are similarly available. With the new road, however, they expect more hunters to discover Ocracoke's wonderful hunting in the next few years. But this season the November visitor can be certain that he'll find not only uncountable numbers of birds but virtually no hunting pressure at all.
He'll also find excellent accommodations at the SILVERLAKE HOTEL overlooking Ocracoke harbor. Around the water's horseshoe shore, tiny white-painted docks handle the dozens of commercial fishing boats which come in each day laden with fatbacks and local oysters. At 4 each afternoon the mail boat arrives from the city of ATLANTIC on the mainland. Until the road was built this was the only contact Ocracoke had with the outside world, and the boat's arrival each day became part of the tradition of the island. Today it is still an important, and eagerly anticipated, event.
Sometimes visitors arrive on the mail boat, and they are closely scrutinized by everyone. Ocracokers are singularly unimpressed by clothes, position or wealth. According to one islander, if President Eisenhower were to arrive on the mail boat some afternoon, the first man to recognize him would walk calmly to the rail, extend his hand and say, in the island brogue that persists from the days of the first Colonial settlers: "Hellow, Oike, noice you could come."
This quality of simplicity is a part not only of Ocracoke but of all the Outer Banks. Airplanes and automobiles may some day change it, as they have the mainland across the bay, but this year, and particularly this autumn, the Outer Banks belongs to the sportsman.
KILL DEVIL HILL
TO LAKE MATTAMUSKEET
THE POINT CAPE HATTERAS
Sportsman's map of the Outer Banks shows major centers of outdoor activity, including the locations of the outstanding channel bass fishing sloughs in the Cape Hatteras area. There are good blacktop roads on the islands, and free ferries operate across Oregon and Hatteras inlets. Bridges connect the Banks with the mainland at Kitty Hawk and with Roanoke Island, site of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony. A third bridge links Roanoke with the Dare Mainland, a swampy boot of land crowded with deer and bear. A favorite pastime of the few inhabitants of the area is running deer with large packs of hounds. Most hunts start at Wilbur Cahoon's store at East Lake, where visitors are always welcome. To the south is Lake Mattamuskeet, a federally owned waterfowl project and one of the primary wintering grounds in the U.S. There is excellent shooting from 30 public blinds on the lake (by permit only) as well as in the surrounding farmlands and fields.
WHAT TO TAKE TO THE OUTER BANKS
For shooting, a shotgun is the only firearm necessary. Doubles weather sand and salt better than pumps or automatics. Shells in other than 12-gauge are hard to buy, so stock up in Norfolk, and don't forget gun-cleaning equipment, a waterproof shell case and artificial calls.
For fishing, all kinds of gear can be purchased on the Banks. Spoons, popping bugs and bucktails on spinning or fly rods are popular for black and striped bass. For channel bass, local experts favor an 11-foot surf-casting rod, 18- to 24-inch leader, 36-pound line and a fish-finder rig baited with salt mullet.
For comfort, bring along casual clothes as well as hip boots or waders, foul-weather gear, insulated underwear, a couple of extra sweaters and insect repellent to ward off the bugs.
For travel, be sure cars are in good condition because garages are few and far between. Hose undersides regularly with fresh water to prevent salt-corrosion damage to mufflers, brake linings and master cylinders. A light coat of oil on chrome finishes helps impede rust. For sand travel, beach buggies can be rented for $3.50 an hour, $15 a day, $75 a week.