Just south of Topton (where I grew up) and Hayesville, North Carolina is Hiawassee, Georgia. Hiawassee is on the other side of Lake Chatuge which splits North Carolina and Georgia in the mountains. Having grown up in this part of the country I know all about ginseng hunting and ginseng season. In the new show Appalachian Outlaws on the History Channel we learn that both Greg Shook and EJ Henderson reside in Hiawassee, Georgia.
Hiawassee is very similar to the area in which I grew up in that it is very green with lush vegetation and difficult to navigate when trying to hike through the woods. There are thousands of rhododendron bushes and it can be nearly impossible to hike more than two or three miles without getting yourself all cut up. Watching the show brings back memories of my childhood when I would make trails through the back mountains.
Greg Shook and EJ Henderson Accent
When watching the History Channel TV Show Appalachian Outlaws you must understand that almost everyone in this part of the country has a thick accent. So much so that the History Channel has to have subtitles for their conversations. The Vine video below will help you learn more about their accents:
If you are ever in Murphy, NC or Blue Ridge, Georgia you will likely hear accents very similar to Greg Shook and EJ Henderson. Also, if you are in that area I strongly suggest you check out Herb’s Pit BBQ in Murphy. This is the only BBQ place on the NC BBQ Trail that is close to the area in which these two ginseng hunters live.
Greg and EJ Arrested?
Throughout the entire first show Greg and EJ are concerned they are going to get arrested for hunting ginseng on US Forest Service land. Trust me when I tell you that much of the land in that part of Georgia and North Carolina is Forest Service land. In fact, I grew up about two miles from the Forest Service “put in” area of the Nantahala River.
If Greg and EJ are arrested for hunting ginseng on US Forest Service land they will be fined $5000 and go to jail for six months. They would obviously miss all of ginseng season if they are in jail from September 1st through the rest of the year. In doing my research online I did not find any information on Greg Shook or EJ Henderson being arrested recently. This makes me think they made it through the entire taping of the show without being thrown in jail.
In the second show of the season Greg finds out that his red Ford pickup truck has been impounded because it was parked on the side of the mountain that is owned by Old Man Parsons. The towing company was The Terkins Towing. I don’t know if this was made up or real but I cannot find any listing online that this company actually exists. UPDATE: We have learned the name of the towing company is Turpins. I thought EJ was saying Terkins. Their website is here.
During the entire show both Greg and EJ are trying to figure out a way to break in to the impound and steal the truck back. They successfully do this so we know that both Greg and EJ will be searching the mountains for ginseng throughout the rest of the Appalachian Outlaws show.
When is Ginseng Season?
Ginseng season is generally September 1st through the rest of the calendar year. This is the information I found on the NC Department of Agriculture and Human Services website:
- Wild ginseng collection in the state is prohibited from January 1 through August 31. This allows the plants to set seed. During the harvest season September 1-December 31, collectors should replant any ginseng seeds from collected plants in the place where the roots are dug.
- To collect ginseng from another’s land the collector must have written permission from the landowner, dated and valid for no more than 180 days. The document must be on the collector’s person when digging ginseng on that land. This requirement applies to both public and private lands. In National Forests, district offices are responsible for such permits. State and national parks, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, do not allow ginseng collection.
- No state permit is needed to dig ginseng, only the landowner’s permission.
- Taking ginseng from another’s land with intent to steal is a felony.
As we know, many of these ginseng hunters will do anything they can to get their hands on the “green gold” so hunting on someone else’s land seems to be very common. Please note that landowners in this part of the country have no way to patrol all of their land. In fact, they may not even know where some of their land ends.
Social Media for Appalachian Outlaws
It should come as no surprise that there is very little, if any, social media engagement on the History Channel Appalachian Outlaws. This is drastically different from the shows on the Discovery Channel. Shows like Alaskan Bush People and Moonshiners have a huge following on Twitter and there is quite the chatter when the weekly show is on live. Heck, even Jim Tom Hedrick has his own Facebook page.
If this show starts to gain in popularity I would expect to see the History Channel exploring options to promote on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. With the show coming on right after Swamp People one would imagine the History Channel would be able to retain some of the audience. One way to increase the size of the audience is to tweet just before the show Swamp People is over. They do a good job with the commercials now it might be worth the investment to actually use a little bit of social media and Internet Marketing.
I was also unable to find many websites related to the TV Show Appalachian Outlaws and ginseng hunting. There are plenty of government regulation websites but there are not many websites on the particular individuals on this show. I am certain people are Googling the names of the characters on the show and the only thing they are going to find is this blog post!
Other Characters on Appalachian Outlaws
In time, I hope to build out resources such as this one for the other characters on the show but for now I will just add them here.
Mike Ross – A ginseng hunter that owns a large plot of land housing over 100 pounds of ginseng. He wears a snakeskin cowboy hat and has many problems with poachers coming on his land and digging up his ginseng. He drives a big dually navy blue Ford pickup truck. He resides in Wolfcreek, West Virginia.
Obie Bennett – He looks just like Kid Rock and is loyal to Tony Coffman and not Corby “The General” Patton. He has an altercation with Corby and states that he will never sell his ginseng to him. He was also chased by dogs during the first episode which he believes to be Corby Patton’s dogs. He resides and hunts Ginseng in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.
Tony Coffman – Tony is the largest ginseng buyer in the area. He goes to New York city to broker a deal to sell 2000 pounds of ginseng which will net over $2 million. He is looking to expand his business and have a direct line to Hong Kong. His business name is Coffman’s Metals.
Rufus Keeney – Rufus makes a brief appearance when Mike Ross is looking for the out of towners that stole his ginseng. Rufus resides in Victor, West Virginia.
Raven Tipton and Kiowa Muncie – These two are working “under” Corby Patton in hopes of bringing in quite a bit of ginseng this year. While hunting for ginseng their Jeep Cherokee was broken in to.
Joe and Mitch Simpson – Joe brokers a deal with Tony Coffman for $1,000 a pound for a large sum of ginseng. Joe claims he can get 40 to 45 pounds deep in the mountains of West Virginia. While Joe and Mitch dig this much ginseng it is stolen from them when they have to scale the side of a rock face.
Selling Ginseng to Tony Coffman
During the February 16th, 2015 episode the main plot was Tony Coffman vs Corby “The General” Patton. This is going to continue as even at the end of the show there were previews of Tony and Corby basically getting into a fight. I have a sneaky suspicion one of these two is going to end up getting arrested or killed. There are way too many gun fights for ginseng in West Virginia and when big money gets involved you can guarantee there are going to be shots fired.
Greg Shook has decided he is going to sell exclusively to Tony Coffman when hunting ginseng in the mountains of West Virginia. Tony Coffman warns Greg that his hunters are getting robbed. The main way in which they are getting robbed is when they get back to their vehicles there is someone waiting for them and beats them up. There are a few that got robbed in the woods as well.
A classic southern line from Greg Shook was, “I ain’t scared of ’em!” That is something I heard throughout most of my youth in the mountains of North Carolina. There was also an interesting scene in which Greg Shook explains the difference in five leaf poison ivy and ginseng. If you are hunting ginseng for the first time you will want to make certain you are not trying to dig up poison ivy.
There were plenty of gun shots in this particular episode and Mike Ross even brought out his AK-47 with a scope on it. Moving forward in the season look for more of the cast of characters to bring out their arsenal in hopes of not losing their ginseng. Getting ginseng stolen has been one of the main plots on this TV series.
Greg Shook Goes Canoeing Down the Meadow River
During the Monday, February 23rd, 2015 episode there was a major focus on Greg Shook and his adventure down the Meadow River to find the “honey hole”. This episode was near and dear to my heart because I grew up on the Nantahala River and I know just how dangerous it can be trying to canoe down a river without a PFD or life jacket. In fact, there is no way I would ever consider doing it. For about five years of my life I was a whitewater rafting guide and we made certain everyone wore a life jacket.
Something else I noticed about Greg Shook’s trip down the Meadow River was his grip on the oar or paddle. At some points he was gripping the paddle incorrectly as you are supposed to cover the T grip with your hand. He could have easily hit the cameraman with the paddle it it happened to hit a rock. It was also interesting to see them trying to wade down the Meadow River. Like most whitewater rivers there is a moss that grows on the rocks that makes them very slippery. If he tried to wade a long distance I can assure you that he would have fallen down.
If you are into trout fishing or whitewater rafting or kayaking this was a fun show to watch. There was a scene where Greg Shook fell out of the canoe and had to go down a waterfall with nothing on by his clothes. This can be a very scary situation as you can easily get caught in a whirlpool and drown. Fortunately, Greg Shook made it through the waterfall. His major concern was the fact that everything he had was wet and he had to sit by the fire for hours to let it dry out.
The show concluded without us knowing if he reached the honey hole or not. I would imagine we will find out next week as he is trying to make a some money for Tony Coffman.
Greg Shook and Chris “Ewok” Carswell
During the March 2nd, 2015 episode there was a major section of the show devoted to Greg Shook and Ewok. Greg Shook got stranded without a canoe and Ewok showed up to rescue him. There were plenty of shots in which we got to see the true nature of the Appalachian mountains. There was a scene where a black snake was eating a rattlesnake and they had to climb over the top of a cliff with an amazing view.
Having frown up in the Great Smoky Mountains I can tell you there are plenty of these rock cliffs all over the place. You do not want to come anywhere near the edge though. Ewok actually falls down part of the cliff and has to give Greg his bag and ginseng. While Greg briefly walks off he ends up coming back and helping Ewok up the cliff.
When all is said and done they each have about 20 pounds of ginseng. Greg Shook ends up making about $3000 for his efforts. That is not a bad haul for a few days out in the woods digging up roots.
There has already been some controversy about Greg Shook cutting down the ginseng on the place of worship. Greg called it “devil worshipping” but it is obvious some type of religious ritual involving candles, fire and building of stars with sticks. Does anyone know what type of ritual this was/is?
One of the highlights of the show was seeing Obie Bennett make $25,000 on three days. He had to hike deep into the woods of West Virginia but it was obviously well worth it as he came out with several pounds of ginseng and a huge paycheck. The money allowed Tony Coffman to pay his “Lee” guy from China. It will be interesting to see what happens next on Appalachian Outlaws.