We want your critter, hunting, and fishing photos! We’re looking to post them on our new Outdoors, Hunting and Fishing page on www.recordjournal.net. Found a enormous turtle? A funky bug? Want to show off that fish, deer, turkey, rabbit or squirrel? We want to show them off for you! Email us at scrjmedia@yahoo.com. It’s free, and not only will you be on the Outdoors page, you will also be in the paper.
Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day on February 3

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has designated February 3, 2018, as one of the 2017-18 hunting season’s Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days. On that day, youth under age 16 may hunt when accompanied by a licensed adult hunter. Regular waterfowl season shooting hours, bag limits, legal arms and ammunitions apply to the special days.

To participate in the hunt, individuals must be accompanied by an adult supervisor. The adult supervisor, who may not hunt, must remain within arm’s length of the youth at all times. The adult supervisor may accompany up to two youth participants during the hunt.

Youth is defined as an individual age 15 years and younger. Adult is defined as an individual age 21 years and older, or as the parent of the youth. The adult must have a state hunting license, state and federal waterfowl stamp, and a free harvest information program registration.

Only one firearm will be allowed per youth, and only the youth hunters will be permitted to utilize the firearm for hunting. The adult is expected to review the rules of firearm safety and hunter ethics with each youth and ensure they are followed.

For more information on the Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, contact WFF Waterfowl Coordinator Seth Maddox at Seth.Maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or 256-437-2788, or visit www.outdooralabama.com/waterfowl.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Sporting Chef Shares Tips for Tasty Venison

Photo and story by David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: Scott Leysath, The Sporting Chef, slices seared venison hind quarter to prepare a dish for those in attendance at the SEOPA conference last fall. A quick sear is all venison needs and don’t overcook it.

With Alabama in the peak of deer season, freezers are getting full, which means it’s time to prepare some tasty venison.

As a buddy and I were discussing on a trip home from a hunting excursion, venison got a bad rap back in the day because of several reasons. Most deer hunting in the mid-20th century was done in front of a pack of hounds on a hot deer trail. Plus, it was verboten to shoot a doe back then. Hence, bucks replete with rutting hormones or lactic acid from being chased by the hounds, or both, made some of the meat less than palatable.

There was also the practice of hauling a nice deer around in the back of the truck to show all your buddies that contributed to the venison stigma.

That last practice is what really irks Scott Leysath, aka The Sporting Chef, when he hears people complain about the taste of venison. Leysath, who has roots in Grand Bay, Ala., and once produced the “Hunt, Fish and Cook” show out of Huntsville, said the care of the deer carcass right after it is harvested is a crucial step to tasty venison.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Alabama,” Leysath said. “Despite this recent cold spell, it can be a little warm during deer season. When I see people driving around with deer in the back of their trucks before it has been field-dressed, it makes me cringe. As with any animal, you need to get deer cleaned and cooled as fast as possible. If you ride around with the deer in the back of the truck, it’s not going to encourage it to taste good when it’s cooked.”

The best-case scenario, according to Leysath, is to have access to a walk-in cooler where the skinned deer carcasses can be hung for at least a week. He hangs larger animals for up to two weeks. The failure to properly age the venison can lead to a chewy meal.

“I actually had a buddy of mine from Centre, Ala., call me and say he had done everything I told him to do to prepare the venison,” Leysath said. “He said, ‘I did not overcook the backstrap. It was 130 degrees in the center. I made that balsamic dressing to go with it. But it was really, really, really tough.’

“I asked him when he shot the deer. ‘Yesterday.’ He hadn’t given that meat a chance. It has to go through rigor for 24 hours, and then you have to let it hang or age. If that backstrap had been aged for a week, it would have been a whole different animal.”

Leysath said that venison that is frozen soon after harvest can still benefit from the aging process. If you don’t have access to a walk-in cooler but have room in a refrigerator, you can put the meat on a rack above a pan and let it age. Another option is to use a large ice chest, but don’t put the venison in the ice. Arrange some method to keep the venison elevated above the ice and ensure the temperature inside the ice chest doesn’t get above 40 degrees.

“You’re going to lose some crusty bits that aren’t going to look all that pleasant after a week or two, but the rest of it is going to be a lot more tender,” he said. “After a couple of weeks, the meat will lose about 20 to 25 percent of its weight, but what is left is good stuff. The dry-aging and hanging makes all the difference in the world.”

Leysath also has a pet peeve about trying to mask the flavor of wild game. He has a friend in Alabama who claims snow goose is by far the best-eating goose. His friend cuts the goose breasts into little strips and marinates them in teriyaki for 48 hours. Then cream cheese and jalapeno are added before being wrapped in bacon.

“That’s the universal recipe with wild game,” he said. “You marinate in who knows what, add jalapeno, some kind of cheese and bacon. Then it doesn’t taste like deer, duck or snow goose. What’s the point of that?”

Leysath said during his travels he has noticed that cooks in some parts of the country are predisposed to overcooking and are convinced wild game must be done all the way through.

“The biggest challenge I have with a lot of folks is to get them to quit cooking their deer quite so long,” he said.

Leysath gave a venison cooking demonstration at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference last fall, and the venison didn’t stay long in the frying pan before he was slicing it into bite-size pieces.

“I just sort of looked at it, didn’t I,” he said with a laugh. “Had I kept cooking it, it would have been less tender. And that was a muscle from the hind quarter. That wasn’t a backstrap. The key is, before serving, cut it across the grain. If you see long lines running through it, you’re cutting it the wrong way.

“And if the internal temperature is beyond 140 degrees, it starts to get tougher. Some folks can’t get past eating medium-rare venison. If I’m doing a seminar, I’ll cover it up with a dark sauce, and they talk about how tender it is.”

Obviously, Leysath does not apply the medium-rare rule to all venison.

“Sometimes, you want to go low and slow,” he said. “If you’ve got a venison shoulder, leave the bone in. Give it a good rub with olive oil and whatever seasoning you prefer. I’m going to brown it and then braise it in a roasting pan with a can of beer, celery, onion and carrots at a low temp. I’m going to let that moist heat do the work for me. After a few hours, the meat is falling off the bone. I wish deer had more than four legs, because those shanks are some of the best eating when you cook them low and slow.”

When Leysath wants to change skeptics’ minds about the taste of venison, he uses this trusty recipe.

Backstrap and Berries
½ venison backstrap
3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp berry preserves
3 tbsp chilled butter
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup whole berries

Trim all silverskin off the backstrap and either cut into thick medallions or in chunks that will fit in the frying pan. Sear all sides of the venison in the hot oil and set aside. Add red wine, balsamic vinegar, garlic and berry preserves to pan and reduce by one-third. Add chilled butter. Slice venison across the grain. Pour balsamic-berry sauce over venison and top with your choice of whole berries.

Leysath also suggested a very simple dish of four to five ingredients with an Asian flare.

Sesame Backstrap
½ venison backstrap
¼ cup yellow mustard
½ cup sesame seeds
3 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup chopped green onions
Optional: couple of shots of sriracha hot sauce

Take backstrap and cut into thick medallions or manageable chunks. Coat in mustard and then roll in sesame seeds (look in Asian section of the grocery store instead of spice aisle). Sear all sides of the venison in hot oil and set aside. Add soy sauce, vinegar and chopped green onions to pan. Reduce by one-third and then pour over sliced venison.

“The key is to not overcook it,” Leysath said. “If all of your venison goes into a slow cooker with a can of cream of mushroom soup, you’re really missing out on a whole lot of venison flavor.”

Of course, many hunters will grind most of their deer, save the backstraps and tenderloins. Leysath has a proven shepherd’s pie recipe that gives cooks an option other than burgers or venison chili.

Venison Shepherd’s Pie
The Filling
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups ground venison
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp kosher or other coarse salt (or 2/3 tsp table salt)
Pinch or two black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken, beef or game broth
Dash Worcestershire sauce
The Topping
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add ground venison and cook, stirring often, until evenly browned. Sprinkle flour over and stir to mix evenly. Cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining filling ingredients, stirring to blend and cook for 2 minutes more.

Prepare topping. Place peeled and quartered potatoes in a pot. Cover with at least one inch of water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well, return to pot and whisk in butter and half and half until smooth.

Transfer filling to a lightly greased baking dish. Spread potatoes over the top and place in preheated oven until lightly browned on top and the filling is bubbly hot.

Black Bear Sightings Likely to Increase in Alabama

By Davide Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Interaction between humans and black bears saw an uptick last year, and that will likely be the trend for the near future, at least in one corner of the state, according to Dr. Todd Steury of Auburn University.

Funded by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s State Wildlife Grants Program, Professor Steury, along with graduate students John Draper and Chris Seals, recently completed a multiple-year study of the black bear population in Alabama.

The basic conclusions were that Alabama has two populations of black bears, one in northeast Alabama and one in southwest Alabama, and each population has a different legacy as well as likely future.

The population in northeast Alabama, with roots from the mountains of northeast Georgia, has the potential for significant expansion. Hence, the likelihood that black bear sightings will become more common in the future.

The population in southwest Alabama, which appears to be an encapsulated population, is relatively stagnant, but significantly more difficult to monitor.

“We think that most of Alabama, at one time, had black bears,” Steury said. “We believe two of the sub-species kind of met in Alabama, the American sub-species from the North and the Florida sub-species from the South. Of course, black bears were pretty much hunted to extinction in the state with one very small population remaining near Mobile.”

Steury said the Auburn study was prompted by the fact the black bears in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta hadn’t been studied since 1992 and by an increase in the number of bear sightings in the Little River area in northeast Alabama.

“In that study in the Delta in 1992, it was a very small population,” he said. “There was some concern about inbreeding because of how small it was. Part of our goal was to reexamine this population to see how they are doing. The other reason for the study was the increased sightings around Fort Payne, and we wanted to know if there is a viable population up there or just an occasional bear traveling through the area.”

Bear sightings in Heflin and Oxford made headlines last year and prompted residents in those areas to voice concerns about the animals being close to public recreation areas.

Steury said his team, which included Thomas Harms, WFF’s Large Carnivore Coordinator, used a variety of methods to gather bear data. The population density numbers were derived from a DNA study.

“We used two methods to gather the DNA information,” Steury said. “One was eco-dogs. These dogs are trained to find bear scat. We took them into areas where we knew there were populations of bears – Mobile, Saraland and the Celeste Road areas. The eco-dogs are expensive to run, but they can get us a lot of data. I think it was about 1,000 samples in two months of work.

“But the dogs are not cost-effective if you’re looking in areas where you’re not sure about the presence of bears. For that, we used hair snares. It’s basically a barbed-wire fence surrounding bait. The bear crosses the barbed wire to get to the bait and the barbs pull a little hair out. Then we get DNA from the hairs.”

Steury said the team erected hair snares in virtually every township in Mobile County, about half of Washington County and most of Baldwin County in the southern end of the state. In the north, hair snares were placed in almost all townships between Interstates 59 and 20. The National Park Service helped the team erect snares all over Little River National Preserve.

“We were sampling very widely,” Steury said. “We chose townships because that’s about the size of a male home range. Overall, we had about 300 hair snares in southwest Alabama and another 100-150 in northeast Alabama.”

After all the data was collected, the analysis started. The results gave researchers population numbers, genetic diversity, points of origin and connections to other bear populations.

Steury said the DNA data indicated that the population in northeast Alabama more than doubled, going from about 12 bears to 30.

“We know those bears came from north Georgia,” he said. “We originally thought they might be from central Georgia around Macon, but the DNA showed they came right down the mountain from Georgia.”

The results from southwest Alabama were not as conclusive because of the requirements to meet the DNA profiling.

“We only got a good estimate from 2015,” Steury said. “We estimated there were 85 bears, but the estimate said there could be as many as 165. So it’s still a fairly small population. Obviously, that is not a great estimate, but we’d be very surprised if there are 200 bears down there. They seem to be very localized between Wagarville and Chatom and the Celeste Road area northwest of Saraland.

“The interesting thing is Chris Seals, the graduate student working that area, said there are what he calls bear superhighways, these riparian areas, rivers and corridors where these bears move. So we can get a lot of DNA in those areas. So we’re very confident about the bears in those areas. But in those areas in between, it’s much harder for us to figure out how many bears are there.”

The story in northeast Alabama is that bears are finding suitable habitat to establish home ranges and expand the population.

“The bears are breeding,” Steury said of northeast Alabama. “We have seen numerous examples of sows with two or three cubs on our game cameras. We feel like the population there is going to grow, and there are still bears coming in from Georgia.

“We’re going to have more bears up there. There is lot of great habitat in Jackson County and Talladega National Forest. It’s just a matter of time for the population to expand.”

The prognosis for the southwest Alabama bear population is not so optimistic.

“The habitat in southwest Alabama is disappearing,” Steury said. “And, the population is not growing like it should. That is the next question we have to answer. We have some hypotheses. Those bears seem to be having good litters, but Chris is not seeing those cubs make it to adulthood. One of the aspects we’re exploring is den sites. When you think of bear dens in cold weather, what do you think about – caves or holes in the ground. In north Alabama, you’ve got bunches of caves or holes in the ground.

“In southwest Alabama, bears don’t have that. We will occasionally see denning in tree roots. What we see a lot of are nests. What we don’t know is how much protection from the elements and predators those really provide. Is the reason cubs are not making it to adulthood that they don’t have good dens?”

Another concern of the researchers is the lack of new genes in the southwest population.

“The genetic diversity in the southwest is really bad,” Steury said. “It’s worse than any bear population in the Southeast United States. Normally, to differentiate between brothers and sisters, you need eight chunks of DNA. We couldn’t tell the difference between brothers and sisters with our eight chunks of DNA. It took 14 to 15 chunks of DNA to tell the difference between brothers and sisters in that population. So they’ve got really low genetic diversity. We don’t really know how low that genetic diversity has to get to affect the population. We’ve captured a lot of bears, and we haven’t seen any deformities or other effects.”

The other conclusion derived from the DNA studies is the connection of the specific populations with other populations in the Southeast.

“The northeast population is still pretty well connected with the north Georgia population,” Steury said. “The southern population does not appear to be connected with bears from Florida or western Mississippi. The DNA suggests there is basically no movement of bears into the southwest population. Bears come from Florida. We know because we track them. But they seem to get to the rivers in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and turn around and go back.

“We do catch and collar bears. The largest bear we have caught weighed 308 pounds. Chris said he has seen one that he estimates at 400 pounds. But most of our bears average 150 pounds.”

When it comes to bear-human interactions, Steury said a mailer was sent out to judge the public perception of bears.

“What we found out is that people like bears,” he said. “They want to have bears in Alabama. Generally, they were not supportive of lethal management controls except in extreme situations, where there was clear danger to people.”

Steury said it is rare when large predators do anything other than flee when they come in contact with humans.

“They can’t risk being injured,” he said. “If they’re injured, they can’t hunt. They can’t feed themselves and they’re going to die. They have no idea how hard or easy we would be to kill. They have no idea how dangerous we are, which is what basically keeps us safe.”

Steury said the sightings that happened in Oxford and Heflin last year were young male bears that had been kicked out of the mom’s territory. Those 2-year-old males were roaming to find new home territories.

“They can cover thousands of miles,” he said. “That’s why we see bears where they’re not supposed to be. They are juvenile males that are exploring for a place to settle down. The thing is they never stay around. When I got the call from Heflin about what they should do, I told them to just leave it alone. In a day or two, it’ll be gone.

“If they get into somebody’s food or people start feeding them, that’s when they become problems.”

PHOTO: (Courtesy of Auburn University) Black bears in Alabama are being studied by using DNA collection devices, like barbed wire around a bait, as well as collaring adult bears. One question researchers hope to answer is whether bear nests in southwest Alabama provide enough protection for cubs.

Buteo Jamaicensis, or more commonly known as a Red Hawk is commonly seen in winter, spring and fall, but not so much in summer. This lovely specimen’s photo was taken by Kimberly Lester in Pelham.

Alabama “mudpuppy” to receive federal protection



The Black Warrior waterdog, a large aquatic salamander found only in the Black Warrior River Basin in Alabama, is now a federally protected species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed the salamander as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), meaning it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A rigorous review of the best available science has found low and declining population numbers due to loss and fragmentation of its habitat and poor water quality in the Black Warrior River Basin. The highly permeable skin and external gills of the waterdog make it particularly sensitive to declines in water quality and oxygen concentration.

The Service is also finalizing critical habitat for the Black Warrior waterdog. We are designating 420 river miles of critical habitat in four units, including 127 miles of habitat already designated for other federally protected fish, mussels and salamanders. The designation includes only areas currently occupied by the species and will protect more than 50 percent of the waterdog’s historical habitat. The designation is comprised of five tributaries within the Black Warrior River Basin; Sipsey Fork (Lawrence and Winston Counties); Locust Fork (Blount, Etowah, Jefferson, and Marshall Counties); Blackwater Creek (Walker and Winston Counties); and Yellow Creek (Tuscaloosa County).

The critical habitat designation should have minimal or no impact on the forestry and coal mining community. Since there are already critical habitat designations for other species in this area, very little additional regulatory action will be necessary for the waterdog. The designation will also have no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

Establishing critical habitat will raise awareness of the needs of the waterdog and other imperiled species and focus the efforts of our conservation partners. It also alerts federal agencies that they are required to make special conservation efforts when they work, fund or permit activities in those areas.

The Black Warrior waterdog, known by its nickname, the Alabama mudpuppy, is a large, night-loving salamander that maintains its larval characteristics, including retention of external gills, throughout its life. It is found in streams within the main channel of the Black Warrior River and parts of the North River, Locust Fork, Mulberry Fork and Sipsey Fork. Sources of pollution in the Black Warrior River Basin include runoff from industrial plants, landfills, sewage treatment plants, construction, and the historical impacts of surface mining.

The Black Warrior waterdog is recognized as a Priority 2/High Conservation Concern by Alabama, meaning the state has been actively engaged with local and federal partners in understanding and addressing the impacts to the waterdog and other imperiled wildlife that share its habitat. There are 26 federally protected animals found in the Black Warrior River Basin, 15 of which are aquatic, including the flattened musk turtle.
Consideration of the status of the waterdog was required under a court-approved litigation settlement agreement with two environmental groups.

The complete listing and critical habitat rule, which becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, can be obtained by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS–R4–ES–2016–0031. A copy can also be obtained by contacting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1208-B Main Street, Daphne, Alabama, 36526.

Denise Rowell, Public Affairs Specialist in Alabama
denise_rowell@fws.gov, (251) 441-6630

Sheriff’s Snow Hunt Bags Big One

Sumter County Sheriff Brian S. Harris killed this Sumter County 8 pointer in the snow. (weight unknown)

Sumter County’s Snow Day

Small children and adults alike were overjoyed by a surprise snow storm, the largest to hit Sumter County since the ice storm of 2014. Fluffy snow blanketed the county, perfect for playing in. Photos by Tajah Bell, Teresa Jane Seevers, LaToshia McGrew, Michele Haygood, Kim Lester, Kasey DeCastra, Rickitta Martin, Drucilla Jackson, Herman Ward, Jr.

Registration for Spring BOW Workshop Opens January 3

Registration for the next Alabama Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop opens on January 3 for first-time attendees and January 8 for both first-timers and those who have previously attended. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) sponsored event takes place at the 4-H Center near Columbiana, Ala., on March 2-4, 2018.

BOW is a three-day workshop designed for women ages 18 years or older who would like to learn new outdoor skills. The workshop offers hands-on instruction in a fun, outdoor learning environment. Participants choose from courses such as rifle, pistol, archery, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and many more. Two new courses will be offered this spring – wildlife identification and predator and prey.

BOW coordinator Hope Grier said the classes offer basic outdoor skills training. “There are many ladies who have not been exposed to these outdoor activities and are apprehensive about trying them,” she said. “BOW is ideal for those women because everything is taught at a beginner level.”

The registration fee of $275 covers meals, dormitory-style lodging, program materials and instruction. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register as soon as possible because enrollment is limited and classes fill up fast.

For more information on the BOW workshop including the class schedule, visit www.outdooralabama.com/becoming-outdoors-woman-bow or call Hope Grier at 334-242-3620.

To view photos of past BOW workshops, visit Outdoor Alabama’s Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/outdooralabama/albums/72157629421999224.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Fresh

State releases comprehensive assessment on Alabama’s surface waters

MONTGOMERY—  Barring any major catastrophic event, Alabama appears poised to sustain its water needs for the next 20 years, according to an assessment report released today by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Office of Water Resources.

The 2017 Alabama Surface Water Assessment Report indicates that even with population growth in the state’s larger metropolitan areas and projected increases in industrial and agricultural use of water resources, Alabama should have a plentiful supply of surface water – rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs – to meet those requirements through the year 2040. The surface water report is available online at www.water.alabama.gov.

Completed by ADECA’s OWR staff, the report is part of an ongoing study to determine the state’s water needs and water availability. This report – along with a groundwater assessment report currently being completed by the Geological Survey of Alabama – provides a significant baseline of data and information for a potential revised statewide water management plan.

“Aside from being the sustainer of life on this planet, water has and always will play a critical role in the well-being of Alabama, and we must do all that is possible to ensure its bountifulness in our state,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “This assessment is an important step in making sure that we have a plentiful supply of water for the myriad of ways it supports our state and our quality of life.”

Using the year 2010 as a benchmark, the report examines both surface and groundwater use and surface water availability from that year to help project future water needs and availability. The report examines streamflows at more than 200 locations throughout the state and summarizes water availability and water demands in every major sub-basin in the state.

“ADECA’s OWR staff has devoted numerous hours to compile what is Alabama’s most complete surface-water report ever produced and one that will help guide our state into the future,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “I am honored and appreciative that Governor Ivey recognized the talents, expertise and capabilities of OWR staff and charged us with completing this all-important task.”

The report was made possible by an appropriation from the Alabama Legislature. The University of Alabama, Auburn University, Troy University and the Geological Survey of Alabama also supplied information for the report. OWR plans to update the report every five years.

Based on the results of the surface water and groundwater assessment reports and information previously compiled by the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group, OWR plans to propose the development of a comprehensive water management plan that includes an overview of the state’s water resources, summaries of current and future water usage, existing water management policies and recommendations for additional policy needs.  The development of the state water management plan, if funded by the Legislature, would be completed within a three-year time frame.

Established by the Alabama Water Resources Act in 1993, OWR is charged with planning, coordinating, developing and managing Alabama’s water resources, both ground and surface water, in a manner that is in the best interest of the state. The act also established the Alabama Water Resources Commission which advises OWR, makes policy recommendations to the Governor and Legislature, and adopts rules and regulations for programs implemented by OWR.

Mentored Hunt Reporting

Dear Editor,
I’m writing to you to ask for help in counting hunters recruited this year, whether youth or adult. During this hunting season, if you took someone who is new to hunting and you are a current member of the NWTF, we can count them towards our goal of recruiting 1.5 million hunters for our Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative
This goes for all hunting seasons from here on out. It doesn’t matter if it is turkeys, deer, squirrels or pheasant. Any time a new hunter is taken afield we need to account for that experience.
Please spread this email and this idea to your chapter members and friends that are members of the NWTF!
There are TWO options for recording these hunters.
1 – Click the link below.
2 – You can email your name, chapter (if known), date of hunt, type of hunter (new hunter vs. lapsed hunter) and number of hunters to the email address below:
I hope that you will take the minute it takes to do this so we can work towards reaching our goals and preserving our hunting heritage for the generations to come.
Please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions, and thank you for your time!
Matt DiBona
NWTF District Biologist – New England

2018 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest Opens Dec. 11
Judging takes place Feb.17 at “Fins, Feathers and Flowers” event

Alabama artists are invited to enter the 2018 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest, which opens December 11, 2017. The winning artwork will be featured as the design of the 2019-20 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp. The Alabama stamp is required for all licensed hunters when hunting migratory waterfowl in the state. Revenue from the sale of the stamp is used to purchase, establish or improve migratory waterfowl habitat.

The competition is open to resident Alabama artists only. Only original horizontal artworks depicting a species of North American migratory duck or goose will be eligible. The American Wigeon, Canada Goose, and American Green-winged Teal — depicted in the winning artwork of the three previous years’ contests — are not eligible as the subject for the 2019-20 waterfowl stamp. Entries must be postmarked no later than February 9, 2018.

The 2018 contest will take place in conjunction with the annual “Fins, Feathers and Flowers” event at Lakepoint Resort State Park in Eufaula, Ala., which runs February 16-18. Similar to Eagle Awareness weekends at Lake Guntersville, Fins, Feathers and Flowers offers a variety of activities for wildlife watchers. The weekend is a cooperative effort of the Alabama State Parks Division and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

All eligible entries will be on display at Lakepoint State Park beginning Friday, February 16. Three judges from the fields of art, ornithology and wildlife conservation will select the winning waterfowl art the following day at 1 p.m. The media and public are invited to attend.

The judging criteria will emphasize uncluttered design suitable for printing as a stamp, anatomical accuracy of the illustrated species, and artistic rendering. Close attention must be given to tone and detail, since those aspects are prerequisites for printing artwork as a stamp. Wing and feather construction must be particularly well defined. Entries may be drawn or painted in any medium. Entries cannot exceed 9 by 12 inches (15 by 18 inches matted).

Contest entry forms are available online at www.outdooralabama.com/waterfowl-stamp-art-contest-rules. Artists may also receive an entry form by contacting Seth Maddox with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries at seth.maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov, or by calling 256-437-2788.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Watching our waters: Alabama Water Watch celebrates 25 years of citizen action

Alabama’s miles of rivers and streams would circle the earth five times, and for the past 25 years, a devoted group of citizen volunteers has worked to protect these bountiful water resources.

The group is Alabama Water Watch, and as it celebrates a quarter-century of service, its challenge has never been greater: monitoring more than 132,000 miles of rivers and streams as well as more than 300 species of freshwater fish, along with more abundant crayfish, snails, turtles and mussels than any other state.

The mission of Alabama Water Watch, which was established in 1992 supported in part by federal grant dollars awarded through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, is to improve both water quality and water policy through citizen monitoring and action.

Over the years, the innovative program, based at Auburn University, has become a national model for citizen involvement in watershed stewardship, largely because of its three interrelated components—citizen monitoring groups, a participating university and a nonprofit association.

“Many people didn’t think we would last a year because they thought Alabamians were not interested in their water or their environment,” said Bill Deutsch, Alabama Water Watch co-founder and research fellow emeritus in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

Silencing the skeptics

Deutsch directed Alabama Water Watch for its first 22 years and remains heavily involved in the association. He enjoys reminding those who were skeptical in the beginning about the longevity and effectiveness of Alabama Water Watch.

“Interest in the program exploded, and over the past 25 years, we’ve worked with more than 300 community groups throughout Alabama,” he said. “Water Watch has trained 7,400 citizen monitors who have monitored 2,300 sites on streams, rivers, lakes, bays and bayous throughout the state and submitted more than 86,000 water quality records to the Water Watch online database.”

Alabama Water Watch uses EPA-approved monitoring plans with a community-based approach to train citizens to monitor conditions and trends of their local waterbodies, Deutsch said. With a “data-to-action” focus, the group helps volunteers collect, analyze and understand their data to make positive impacts.

“It’s all voluntary, covering 800 bodies of water,” Deutsch said. “This ‘citizen science’ only grows in value over time because the baseline of information gets larger.”

Water Watch encourages citizens to ask if their waterbody is getting better or worse, and why, he said.

“This is a very simple but deep question,” he said. “What are the conditions of my water? Can it support healthy life? Is it safe for swimming? Can I drink it or fish in it?”

The data that has been and continues to be collected is used by various organizations, consulting firms and universities throughout the state and nation, Deutsch said.

Protecting the endangered

The program also has helped in the conservation of some of the rarest creatures on the planet, he said. The only known existence of the endangered watercress darter, for example, is in five springs near Birmingham, and those bodies of water are currently being monitored.

As Alabama Water Watch celebrates its 25th year, it is setting its sights on connecting with a new, younger audience through environmental education, Deutsch said.

“When I began Alabama Water Watch, we thought the primary volunteers would be the 20-somethings, but in fact, it was the opposite,” he said. “It was largely driven by retirement-age people living on our big reservoirs. The age of volunteers kept climbing, and it got to the point to where we were ‘graying’ and people were having to quit.”

Too many children today are staying indoors and playing on their computer screens, Deutsch said.

“The connection to the natural world is getting dangerously weak, and children are afraid of being outdoors,” he said.

This educational effort is needed now more than ever, especially considering budget cuts at both the state and federal levels, said Eric Reutebuch, who has served as Alabama Water Watch director since Deutsch’s retirement in 2014.

Building Awareness

“We’re reaching out to our youth, but we’re also trying to spread the message to everyone,” Reutebuch said. “Alabama has some of the most endangered species on the planet, and a lot of people don’t know that. We’re reaching out to the general public and trying to make them aware of this truly exceptional resource that we need to care for.”

In an effort to reach new audiences, Alabama Water Watch is partnering with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System through the 4-H Alabama Water Watch program.

“In a best-case scenario, many of the young people who are exposed at an early age will get out into the streams and creeks, actually seeing the critters there,” Reutebuch said. “Hopefully, they will become aware of the aquatic environment and will become monitors into their adulthoods.”

Just last year, 1,800 youth were educated and trained through the 4-H program, and nearly 90 adults were trained in Living Streams workshops. The 4-H program includes students in grades four through 12.

“We’ve always offered opportunities for educators to get involved, but we wanted to do even more,” said Mona Dominguez, coordinator of Water Watch’s 4-H program. “It made sense to partner with Alabama 4-H.”

Alabama Water Watch’s water testing is backed by EPA-approved protocols, Dominguez said.

“The 4-H curriculum is very flexible, so educators or teachers can tweak it however they need to make it work,” she said. “Participants must be at least 16 years old to do independent monitoring. But if they have a teacher or volunteer who has gone through training, they can still collect data, and it’ll be used.”

Thorough training

4-H Alabama Water Watch offers many training programs throughout the year. With a workshop registration of $25 and completion of the program, volunteers will receive a certification as an Alabama Water Watch water monitor, a copy of Exploring Our Living Streams curriculum, access to the online Citizen Science Data Stimulation Tool, food and lodging during the workshop and more.

Operating under the umbrella of the Auburn University Water Resources Center, Alabama Water Watch receives support from multiple sources, including Alabama Extension, the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, grants from various governmental and private agencies, and contributions from individuals and groups throughout the state.

More information is available at www.AlabamaWaterWatch.org. To become a certified Water Watch monitor, visit www.aces.edu/go/716.

This article first appeared in the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s alumni magazine, The Season, http://agriculture.auburn.edu/theseason/.

Treestand Accidents Mar Early Deer Season

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Despite a concerted effort by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Hunter Safety Program, Alabama deer hunters are still falling out of treestands in disturbing numbers.

Plus, there has been one firearms fatality where the cardinal rule of unloading your firearm before exiting your deer stand was not followed.

Seven Alabama hunters had suffered treestand accidents as of December 1. Fortunately, there have been no fatalities in the falls, but several serious injuries were reported.

Out of the seven reported treestand accidents, only one was wearing a safety harness.

“The safety harness prevented serious injury,” said Marisa Futral, WFF’s Hunter Education Coordinator. “He was coming down the tree and his treestand went out from under him. He hit his face on the tree pretty hard and broke his nose. The harness kept him from getting hurt any worse.”

WFF Conservation Enforcement Officer Vance Wood shared an account that occurred at the Perdido Wildlife Management Area in Baldwin County.

Daniel Jares and Wood, who once served in a Coast Guard unit together, shared on Facebook about the incident, where the victim came perilously close to losing his life

Jares said he got a phone call at about 2 p.m. from a good friend. The phone service was sketchy at best but he determined his friend had fallen from a treestand, couldn’t move his body from the chest down and could barely breathe.

“There was little to no service, but I caught a few words as to where he was. I made out, ‘Close to river on an oak flat; you’re going to need a four-wheel drive,’” Jares said. “I searched the woods for hours and hours in my truck just to find his truck so I could find a starting point.”

Jares had earlier notified the WFF enforcement crew in Baldwin County and Baldwin County Search and Rescue. After two hours of searching, Jares found his friend’s truck parked under a big tree that caused it to be hidden from the search helicopter.

With more than 20 people searching, several searchers tore through thick underbrush along the river as the sun started to fade. After a parallel grid search, Jares came up on a little ridge. Jares was yelling his friend’s name and finally picked up a weak response. He ran to find his friend under the tree. The friend suffered a broken back. He subsequently had two surgeries and is facing a long road to recovery.

“It’s a miracle we found him before dark,” Jares said. “So, please wear your safety systems. You don’t want to have a broken neck or back or even run the risk of losing your life. The officer said if I hadn’t answered that call, he probably wouldn’t have made it.

“I wanted to thank the hunting community for all of the love and support and sharing this to bring awareness. I’m blown away. The post received over 1 million views in less than 36 hours and close to 3 million now. I know without a doubt in my mind this post saved lives. I had messages from all over the country of young and old saying thanks for the eye opener; we are praying. If I could help save one life, it’s worth it. Trust me, you don’t want to stumble up on your buddy miles deep in the woods in this condition.”

Futral said this many treestand accidents this early in the season is a concern.

“This is a lot of accidents for it only being through November,” she said. “Last year, we had 13 treestand accidents (two fatalities), and I think it was 12 the year before. With seven this early in the season, I hope hunters will hear about these incidents and take treestand safety more seriously. It takes only one misstep to cause serious injury or even death if you’re not wearing your safety harness and using the safety equipment.

“And we are stressing that hunters should make sure they are connected to the tree in some way when they are climbing and descending the tree. We have had several accidents where hunters have been wearing their safety harness but they fell going up or coming down the tree. There are products available now that keep hunters attached to the tree at all times. We want it to hit home that people need to be connected when their feet leave the ground until their feet hit the ground at the end of the hunt.”

Two Alabama-based companies make products that keep hunters attached while they are using ladder stands or hang-on treestands. Hunter Safety System makes the Lifeline, while Summit Treestands makes a 30-foot safety line.

Futral said she didn’t have the final report on the firearms fatality at this time.

“From what I’ve gathered from news reports, the mentor was handing the rifle down to the 15-year-old when it discharged, striking the youth in the chest,” she said. “That breaks the rules of unloading your firearm before you climb into or out of your stand, and never point your firearm at anything you don’t want to shoot.”

Two other firearms-related incidents occurred on a dove field where two hunters were peppered by shot from other hunters. No serious injuries were reported.

Futral reminds hunters of the 10 commandments of firearms safety:

Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
Control the muzzle of your firearm. Keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction; never point a firearm at anything that you do not wish to shoot, and insist that your shooting and hunting companions do the same.
Be sure of your target and beyond. Positively identify your target before you fire, and make sure there are no people, livestock, roads or buildings beyond the target.
Never shoot at water or a hard, flat surface. A ricocheting bullet cannot be controlled.
Don’t use a scope for target identification; use binoculars.
Never climb a tree, cross a fence or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
Store guns and ammunition separately. Store firearms under lock and key, and use a gun case to transport firearms.
Make sure your barrel and action are clear of all obstructions.
Unload firearms when not in use. Never take someone else’s word that a firearm is unloaded. Check yourself.
Avoid drugs and alcohol when hunting or shooting. Even some over-the-counter medicines can cause impairment.

NWTF Donates More Than $157,000 for Wildlife Management

The Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently allocated $157,555 in Hunting Heritage Super Funds and Tag Funds for wild turkey projects in Alabama. Of that total, $81,193 was donated to the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to fund projects including wildlife habitat management and the publication of the annual wild turkey report, Full Fans & Sharp Spurs.

Approximately $76,000 was approved for other projects statewide including funding to improve wild turkey habitat on public lands as well as to help launch outdoor education programs in schools. This funding supports the enhancement of turkey habitat, increases access opportunities, funds educational programs and is an excellent fit for the NWTF “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” initiative.

Most of the WFF dollars will be used on Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state to support habitat management and other wild turkey programs.

“About $63,000 of this generous donation offers us access to federal matching dollars, which makes the donation go even further,” said Chuck Sykes, WFF Director. “Since federal matching dollars play such a major role in how our division is funded, contributions like this are extremely important.”

WFF is primarily funded by money generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. That money is then matched nearly three to one by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WFF does not receive an appropriation from the state’s General Fund.

“I thank NWTF and the Alabama Chapter Board of Directors for helping to support our efforts in Alabama,” Sykes said.

Some of the grant money will also be used to purchase much-needed wildlife habitat management equipment. In addition to the monetary donation, the Alabama NWTF chapter provides financial support for prescribed burning projects that help restore longleaf pine habitat, the Archery in the Schools State Championship (an annual event for school students across the state), and the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, which introduces women to a wide variety of outdoor activities.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.


A Lady Spins Her Web in the She Shed

At first we thought this lovely lady was a female Trachelas Tranquillus, “Broad-faced Sac Spider,” a wandering hunter that may be is sometimes found indoors. They like to live where they are very well camouflaged. After noting that this one was spinning a web we decided we were wrong in classification and it’s a Neoscona Crucifera, “Spotted Orbweaver,” relatively variable in color and sometimes pattern, but is most commonly seen sporting a rusty-red or golden orange color. The orb-shaped web is very large and is often constructed on buildings and other man-made structures, especially near outdoor lights. This species is most conspicuous in late summer and early fall. Donna Dial found this lovely female in her “She Shed” Tuesday, November 7. Photo by Donna Dial. Want to learn more about spiders in Alabama? Visit http://www.spiders.us/species/filter/alabama/ and start classifying your own friendly neighborhood arachnids.

Youth Season Deer Hunt

12-year-old Tabriah Harris, the daughter of Sheriff Brian S. Harris and Tina Harris took her largest buck to date when she took down this 170 lb. 9 pt. at 80 yards with her 6.5 Grendel. Photo submitted by Brian S. Harris, S. C. Sheriff.

Auburn-developed vaccine could help prevent costly catfish disease

Auburn researchers will use an almost $321,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to field-test a novel vaccine that would effectively and economically control one of the most serious bacterial infections in the aquaculture industry today.

Columnaris disease can affect nearly all freshwater fish species and causes millions of dollars in annual losses in the catfish industry alone. The sole columnaris vaccine currently available is only moderately effective, but Auburn University researchers have been working on an improved immunization using bacteria derived from a highly virulent strain of the disease.

In lab tests, the experimental vaccine developed and patented by Cova Arias, professor in Auburn’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, has outperformed the vaccine now on the market.

“At this point in our research, we need data on a larger scale to successfully commercialize the vaccine,” Arias said. “We will use this most recent grant to fill our gap in information.”

Arias was awarded the competitive grant in November through the Aquaculture Research Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA. The research program funds projects that support the development of environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture in the U.S.

Columnaris, caused by the bacterium Flavobacterium columnare, affects a number of warmwater species, Arias said.

“If you’ve ever had a goldfish to die, it probably died from this disease,” she said. “It affects ornamental species, catfish, tilapia and trout, and it is distributed worldwide.”

For catfish farmers, fish diseases can be economically devastating, and columnaris bacteria is one of the three main disease-causing pathogens.

“In some years, columnaris is the No. 1 disease problem in catfish production, and in other years, it’s No. 2, depending on the individual farm and the season,” Arias said. “In hatcheries, disease can kill 90 to 100 percent of the fish. When fish are sick and fighting a pathogen, they won’t eat properly, so an effective vaccine can increase survival and growth performance.”

The Auburn vaccine has outperformed the commercial vaccine in all experiments conducted to date, reducing cumulative mortality two to four times better than the existing vaccine. In vaccine trials of Nile tilapia and catfish, the vaccine increased survival rates by 66 and 17 percent, respectively, over the currently available vaccine.

It’s a proven vaccine in the lab, but there are many more variables on a larger scale.

The first objective of the funded research is to identify the best methods for administering and storing the vaccine.

“Our formula now is administered by bath or immersion, and that’s easy to do when fish are small and are transferred from the hatchery to the farms,” Arias said. “But the best immunization method is to wait until the fish are mature and then boost them a couple of months before the disease shows up.

“We know columnaris peaks in mid- to late spring and then again in early fall, so ideally, you could give fish a boost a couple of months before temperatures rise,” she said. “The best way to do that is to add the vaccine to the feed.”

Storage of the vaccine is also a critical area.

“The commercial vaccine currently available is a modified live vaccine that has to be kept frozen,” Arias said. “We have developed some storage solutions, or buffers, that, based on the data, will allow us to store the vaccine at room temperature.”

This will help make the vaccine more cost effective and readily available to farmers, she said.

The next objective is to move the vaccine into the field and conduct controlled experiments in ponds.

“We’re taking fish from 10- to 20-gallon tanks in the lab to a tenth-of-an-acre pond,” Arias said. “It still will be relatively controlled conditions, but we’ll do side-by-side comparisons between our vaccine and the commercial vaccine.”

Lab experiments are continuing this year and will move into the field in 2019, she said.

“We completed the safety studies on the vaccine, and we know it is safe and stable,” Arias said. “We’ve checked all the USDA ‘boxes,’ but we still have to prove it works in field conditions. We’ll continue adjusting the formula and the delivery.”

The project’s third goal will be a collaboration with Auburn fisheries professor Terry Hanson. An aquacultural economist, Hanson will conduct an economic analysis and economic feasibility study of the vaccine in comparison with the commercial vaccine.

Arias said there has been an interest in the vaccine among aquatic health companies.

“Ideally, a commercial entity will take it from there,” she said. “Then, the company will either contract it out or make the vaccine itself.

“Or, if no companies are interested, we may be able to work directly with farmers and produce a vaccine for them. Realistically speaking, we’re probably looking at making it available to farmers in the next five years.”

Arias was not the only Auburn School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences faculty member to be awarded a grant in the NIFA Aquaculture Research Program’s latest round of funding. Alan Wilson, associate professor and aquatic ecologist, received a $261,613 grant to fund his research on biological manipulation of the aquatic food web to sustainably manage toxic and off-flavor-producing cyanobacteria in commercial catfish aquaculture.

In his research program at Auburn, Wilson conducts research on the abiotic and biotic mechanisms that mediate the promotion or control of harmful algal blooms and taste-and-odor events in aquaculture ponds, recreational reservoirs and drinking water reservoirs. Written by Paul Hollis




Sunset November 15, 2017 Tuscaloosa, Alabama by Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal and Moundville Times Community News Editor.
We’re looking for your outdoors stories and photos! Fall leaf views, beautiful sunset/sunrise, hiking photos, wildlife, hunting trophy, interesting vegetables and plants, big fish… You get the idea. Email it to scrjmedia@yahoo.com and not only will you get in the paper, but you’ll get spotlighted on the outdoors page too! Don’t send anything to Facebook.


Kalee’s Biggest Buck Award

Kalee Long’s 5th year at MWPF Super Hunt is one for the record books. Alex Taylor and Scott Parenteau where Kalee and her three friends went 8 for 8. Killing 7 bucks and 1 doe at Australia Island on Eagle Lake. The best food, hunting and fellowship around. Kalee saved her best hunt for the last when she shot a 10 point buck. Kalee was also awarded the biggest buck award for the super hunt. Email us your hunting trophy pictures to scrjmedia@yahoo.com. It’s free and a week after we run them in the paper, we’ll put them on the website. Photo submitted by Claire Smith










Tree Pumpkin?

This “Tree Pumpkin” is growing in a tree in Lucy Gallman’s yard in Livingston. The real pumpkin is about 20 feet up from the ground. The seedlings that grew the “Tree” pumpkin came from a friendly, family contest event the Gallmans have every year. Mrs. Gallman explained, “Every Thanksgiving my great nieces and nephews and grandchildren bring their Halloween pumpkins for our annual ‘punkin chunkin.’ They compete to see who can roll their pumpkin down the hill and smash it into the most pieces. This pumpkin is the result of the competition and the vine grew up the tree. I just noticed it today. I thought your readers might enjoy this photo.”

Sharks in Lake LU?

Sharks in Lake LU? That was the question the SCRJ photographer asked himself in disbelief as he traveled across the Lake LU dam Monday morning, Oct. 23 at about 9 a.m. on Country Club Rd. Upon a closer look, and after photographing and videoing the two “shark like fins” protruding above the water line, the fins seemed to be stationary for the ten to 15 minutes the reporter gazed upon the sight. The two “fins” were near the pier on the south side of the lake near the dam. A call to the University of West Alabama Campus Police revealed the fins were placed in the lake as a prank by some unknown individuals. See a video on www.recordjournal.net and on Facebook. Photo by Tommy McGraw






Giant Destroying Angel

Gloria Harrell of Daphne, sent in this photo of a “Destroying Angel” (Amanita virosa, A. verna, A. bisporigera) in her back yard “as big as a washtub and came up to my knees,” she stated. It was a foot and a half tall and eighteen inches wide. According to USDA’s Field Guide to Common Macrofungi in Eastern Forests and Their Ecosystem Functions by Michael E. Ostry, Neil A. Anderson and Joseph G. O’Brien. “Identification: Cap white, smooth; white gills free from stalk; bulbous base; white veil. Season of fruiting: Summer-Fall, Ecosystem function: Mycorrhizal with hardwoods and conifers Edibility: Highly poisonous and often fatal, Fungal note: These three mushrooms can only be distinguished from each other by their spore characteristics; collectively. They cause 95 percent of fatal mushroom poisonings. DO NOT eat any mushroom unless you are absolutely certain of its identity. Photo by Gloria Harrell, story by Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor

Thompson Makes Big Catch

Tony Thompson of Gainesville caught this 45 pound flathead catfish while fishing at the Gainesville Lock and Dam.

A “Luna” Legacy

Actias luna, the Luna Moth, can be found as far north as Canada and south as Florida. This lovely specimen was found above our door for a week. By Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor



Guard Spider

Dolomedes Tenebrosus, the dark fishing spider are another large, sprawling arachnids are most often found on vertical surfaces: tree trunks, fence posts, bridge pilings, or the exterior walls of buildings, usually at night although this friend hung out over our doorway which we were thankful for the keeping our pest population at bay. They are ambush predators who wait for large insects to come within striking distance. They do not spin webs.

Hogging the Side of the Road

Wild hogs were spotted south of Linden in Marengo County. Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Lady of the Garden

Argiope Aurantia, more commonly known as the black and yellow garden spider, is usually seen around the end of summer and start of fall. The mature females are enormous and up to 19 to 28 mm in body length. The males are much smaller at a third of the female’s size. You’ll see them pretty much anywhere: gardens, orchards, forest edges, old fields, under lights and farms. They spin a classic round orb web with a zigzag band of silk called a “stabilimentum.” By Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times & Sumter County Record Journal Community News Editor

Surprise! Lily

Lycoris radiata, or more commonly known in Alabama as the Red Surprise Lilly, Red Spider Lily or British Soldier, (Madoline Thurn once told me a relative liked to call them “Naked Ladies” after I asked what they were when I first came to Livingston in 2007) actually comes from Japan and came over as a garden flower in 1854. The flowers bloom after the first heavy rain in late September through mid October. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall. Many Buddhist will use it to celebrate the arrival of fall with a ceremony at the tomb of one of their ancestors. They plant them on graves as a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers. By Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal and Moundville Times Community News Editor

Hurricane Irma drains parts of Mobile Bay

A photo similar to this one posted on facebook by ABC 33/40 Meteorologist James Spann showing Mobile Bay appearing dry in places went viral over the weekend. This led some to believe that Hurricane Irma was somehow sucking water out of the bay and others to accuse Spann sharing a faked photo. This “real” photo was taken by a friend of the SCRJ, William “Billy” Harrall and shared for readers to see at Lake Forest Marina in Daphne. Spann went on to say that “this happens on shallow parts of bays and is not that unusual.” And that’s certainly true for Mobile Bay, which has expansive shallows in its northern reaches, near the Bayway and Causeway. A sustained north wind – be it from a hurricane or the regular winter pattern – will expose extensive flats in those areas, especially at low tide. Photo by William “Billy” Harrall

Trail Rider’s annual fishing derby

  Southwest Alabama and Southeast Mississippi Trail Rider’s Association held their 6th annual Fishing Derby on Aug. 19 at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives along with the Federation’s 50th anniversary. More than 50 people participated in the fishing derby. Trophies were awarded for the most fish, smallest fish, biggest fish, most excited, first time fishing and best sportsmanship. Winners for the most fish were Mike Jackson and Rodrick Epps (adult), Shemara Washington and Robert Smith (youth). Diann Ware (adult), Nicholas Jones and Jaylen Hale (youth) received awards for the smallest fish. Biggest fish winners were Jadarvion Green (youth) and Jimmy Newell (adult). AJ Hale (youth) brought home the trophy for most excited. Jeremiah Campbell and Zykirea Long received awards for first time fishing and Tommy Epps, Jr., received the best sportsmanship award. Submitted by Dorothy Burrell


Ben Guin Got One

Benjamin Guin with his first fish, with uncle Ryan . “I got one, I got one!” Submitted by Livingston Lines Columnist Claire Smith

Hog control is one of the top issues for Sumter County and West Alabama – ADCNR’s Matt Brock explains what to do

By Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor As Ward News columnists June and Jean Stephenson havebeen reporting for the last few weeks, wild hogs are a problem out here in Sumter County. Matt Brock Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources gave a presentation on wild Hog Control at the annual Area III Association of Conservation Districts meeting in Jasper at Beville State Community College July 19. They are not native to North America. Brought by the Spanish explorers as a mobile form of food back in the 1600’s, the fast repopulating, omnivors have wrecked havic ever since. They displace major game such as deer and turkey. And are known to destroy the habitat of our native amphibians and reptiles by rooting, wallowing and tree rubbing around swamps and water ways. They damage livestock, farming land, forests. Hogs can live up to 21 years, mature in 6-8 months, reproduce twice a year with 4-10 piglets. They are former domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar that are a range of colors. They can spread disease to both animals and people. If you have shot one hunting, protect yourself when butchering the meat with rubber gloves, gogles and try not to breath the gases of the animal. Be sure to cook the meat fully as well. The two most effective ways of dealing with the animals are hunting and trapping. You will need a permit to hunt wild hogs and should contact local Conservation Enforcement Officer or local Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries District office for more information regarding this permit according to http://www.outdooralabama.com/feral-hogs. To download a free .pdf on how to take care of hogs visit https://store.aces.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ReturnTo=0&ProductID=14291 Printed copies may also be ordered through Mississippi State University Extension Service and Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Mississippi State University Extension Service: Contact your county Extension office. Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Call (334) 844-1592 or e-mail publications@aces.edu

Not Fake Fish News

Sumter County Record Journal Publisher, Tommy McGraw went on secret assignment to the Black Warrior River near Akron recently to investigate whether the recent high water levels from the many rain storms effected the bass biting. The publisher/fisherman found some fresh water off the main channel and landed about 15 to 20 bass in the middle of a hot summer day, some in the two to three pound category like the one pictured. McGraw affirmed that this was “Real News” and not the “Fake Fish News” some fisherman occasionally spin. Photo by Tommy McGraw

Loitering Rhinobeetle

Easily recognizable by the horn on it’s head, which is used to keep other males from the females, these beetles are mostly active at night and mostly found in Eastern wooded areas of Alabama, although we found this one on the sidewalk outside of Moundville Times. They like to eat tree roots and are most active at night. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

AL Gopher Tortoise Conservation Project

If you see a gopher tortoise, we’d like you to report it online through iNatural. Sign up online or download the app today.https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/al-gopher-tortoise-conservation-project

Eastern Box Turtle turns up for a visit

Ben Noppenberger found a friend wandering through his yard Saturday between storms. The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is a subspecies within a group of hinge-shelled turtles, normally called box turtles. It’s native to the eastern part of the United States, found as far north as Maine and West as Texas. The box turtle is largely terrestrial (they like to walk from one pond or stream to another), but are slow crawlers, extremely long lived, slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year. Males have red irises and females have brown. Story by By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editorand Photo by Ben Noppenberger

Rose… Jelly?

Roses have more uses than just a ornamental flower in the garden. Rose hips can be made into jam, jelly, marmalade, and soup or are brewed for tea, or filtered for syrup. Rose hips are also used to produce rose hip seed oil, which is used in skin products and some makeup products and of course perfume. They have been used in medicine for stomach issues. (See http://pfaf.org/user/ Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rosa+c hinensis) By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Musical Moundville Times Visitor

We had a musical visitor hop on into our sister paper’s office, the Moundville Times office June 5th. Our lead editor, Travis Vaughn, gently helped him back outside to his home in our Tulip tree outside the office. Our best guess is he wanted to read some news on the fly. We looked him up and he is a Sedge Wren. Learn more at http://www.outdooralabama.com/sedge-wren By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Color of a Rose

Roses are native to North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa. There are over a hundred pecies and thousands of cultivars (assemblage of plants selected for desirable characteristics that are maintained during propagation. Roses have acquired cultural significance in many societies. You may have heard a red rose is for true love, a yellow for friendship, or a pink for sweetness. Check out https://www.abetterflorist.com/blog/colours-rainbow-colour-bouquet-say/ to learn more about rose color meanings. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Magnolia’s are very useful

Magnolia bark has been used to treat menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, abdominal bloating and gas, nausea, and indigestion. It is also an ingredient in formulas used for treating coughs and asthma. Learn more about Magnolia uses at http://www.herbwisdom.com/ herb-magnolia.html. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Carp to the rescue! Say what?!

These grass crap are going to help rehabilitate the UWA duck pond. A small number of these fish have been stocked on campus to eat away at the invasive and overwhelming filamentous algae, Alligator weed and pond weed instead of using chemicals harmful to the creatures who make it their home. Learn more about the Black Belt Museum at https://www.facebook.com/blackbeltmuseum/

Eighteenth Annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day

On May 11, 2017, the Eighteenth Annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day was held at Lake LU on the University of West Alabama campus for all third graders in the county from public schools and private schools. Students rotated thorough eight, twenty-minute stations throughout the day. A large group demonstration was held at the end of the day with a power-take-off (PTO) demonstration instructed by Sid Nelson. Stations were set up to teach about all different types of safety. Instructors from different parts of the West Alabama area came to help teach on safety. The following stations and the instructor for each station is listed below: 1) Disability Awareness, David Perry, Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems; 2) Fire Safety, Livingston Fire Department; 3) Be Safe Bullying, Leigh Akins, Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems; 4) Zane Thrash, ATV Safety; 5) Firearm Safety, Jeff Shaw, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; 6) Healthy Lifestyles, Erin Reznicek, Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems; 7) Underground Utilities, McKay Levers, Alabama One Call; and 8) Tractor Safety, Donny Sanders, H&R Agri-Power. We would like to thank these people for taking time out of their busy schedules to help make this event a success. We would also like to thank the University of West Alabama, Sumter County Farmers Federation, State Farm Insurance, First South Farm Credit, and Alabama Ag Credit for their contributions to the safety day. A very special thanks to the volunteers who helped on this day. Without them, the safety day would not have been possible. For more information on this program, please call Mandee Carrier at (205) 652-5105. Photos by SCRJ Reporter Thomas Ausborn

Magnolia, our sweet smelling southern staple

Magnolia’s were one of the very first trees to evolve a flower. The petals still resemble the tree’s leaves. It’s theprized this was to encourage bees to pollintate the trees. According to “Convergent evolution and adaptive radiation of beetle-pollinated angiosperms” by Bernhardt, P. “Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae date to 95 million years ago.” It’s the state flower of Mississippi and Lousiana. Alabama’s state flowers are the camelia and oak-leaf hydrangea (state wild flower). They come in both evergreen version and deciduous with a wide range of colors: white, pink, red, purple, or yellow. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

When and where you least expect it…

Tiffany Vaughn escaped a snake bite Sunday afternoon in her front yard on Market Street in Moundville and dispatched the juvenile copperhead. She wrote, “It attacked me when I almost stepped on him. Thank God it was a small one and not full grown. Thank God I had long pants on because he struck my pant leg. Y’all be careful in your yards. We get complacent and forget that they are here with us.†Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Cobbler Incoming!

Wild black berries are in season now. Blackberries are one of the two state fruits for Alabama. The other is the peach. (By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor)

String Beaning Us Along

Wondering what kind of tree this is? It’s a Catalpa. A deciduous tree that produces long string pods in late summer (also a sap that will eat the paint off your car if you park it under it.) It’s nick names are “String Bean Tree,” the “Indian Been Tree,” and “Cigar Tree.” This one lives beside at our sister paper the Moundville Times in Moundville in Hale County and is in full bloom. (By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor)

Big Boss Gobbler taken in “Hale”

 Sumter County Record Journal Publisher Tommy McGraw had to go through “Hale” to get this boss gobbler Saturday, April 8 deep in the Hale County woods. The 22 pound bird sported an 11.5 inch paint brush of a beard and had one inch long spurs. The bird and a companion marched within gun range at 6:50 a.m. The two birds came in after McGraw stirred the two gobblers with his irresistible cackling and yelps. The 35 yard shot was made with a “Quick Draw McGraw†move as the birds circled behind the hunter as they came in to greet their invisible mate. Photo by Jane McGraw

A useful southern plant, Kudzu

By Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal & Moundville Times Editor Hale and Tuscaloosa Counties are extremely beautiful during the summer. One thing we see creeping over our fences and covering entire fields as most of the south is, is kudzu. Kudzu first came over to the United States in the 1800’s. It was originally a garden plant used for decoration. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu through

the Civilian Conservation Corps. Farmers were paid as much as eight dollars an acre as incentive to plant fields of the vines in the 1940s. The problem is that it grows too well! The climate of the south is perfect for kudzu. The vines grow as much as a foot per day during summer months. Under ideal conditions kudzu vines can grow sixty feet each year. While they help prevent erosion, the vines can also destroy valuable forests by preventing trees from getting sunlight. The USDA finally declared kudzu to be a weed in 1972.

The vines pull down telephone poles, choke crops and cover rural railroad tracks causing problems for trains. However animals, including humans, can eat kudzu! It can be used like spinach, fried like potato chips and made into tea. Make sure that the kudzu you gathered is not sprayed with chemical control agents that may be harmful to humans. Pick tender kudzu leaves in spring and early summer. Young leaves at the end of the vines may be collected at any time. Make sure it is kudzu that you have picked. It has a three leaf arrangement, but so does poison ivy and poison oak. Kudzu Fried Chicken Dredge chicken breast strips in kudzu powder; dip in lightly beaten egg, and dredge in dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs. Deep-fry in hot oil (350) for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Kudzu root powder, also called kuzu, and capsules are available at most health food stores. Kudzu Quiche (4-6 servings) 1 cup heavy cream 3 eggs, beaten 1 cup chopped, young, tender kudzu leaves and stems 1/2 teaspoon salt ground pepper to taste 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese 1 nine-inch unbaked pie shell Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cream, eggs, kudzu, salt, pepper, and cheese. Place in pie shell. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

Kudzu is great for basket making and I have even seen it made into bird houses by local artists. The vine can be made into soap and candles. It has been used for clothing and rope. It is a good feed for animals and can be made into pulp for cardboard and particle board. Also it’s a great cover plant for unsightly parts of the yard. What ever you chose to use it for one thing you can be sure of, we are not lacking in kudzu.

Thompson Makes Big Catch Tony Thompson of Gainesville caught this big 45 lbs flathead catfish while fishing at the Gainesville Lock and Dam.


A “Luna” Legacy

Actias luna, the Luna Moth, can be found as far north as Canada and south as Florida. This lovely specimen was found above our door for a week. By Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor


Guard Spider

Dolomedes Tenebrosus, the dark fishing spider are another large, sprawling arachnids are most often found on vertical surfaces: tree trunks, fence posts, bridge pilings, or the exterior walls of buildings, usually at night although this friend hung out over our doorway which we were thankful for the keeping our pest population at bay. They are ambush predators who wait for large insects to come within striking distance. They do not spin webs.


Hogging the Side of the Road

Wild hogs were spotted south of Linden in Marengo County. Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Lady of the Garden

Argiope Aurantia, more commonly known as the black and yellow garden spider, is usually seen around the end of summer and start of fall. The mature females are enormous and up to 19 to 28 mm in body length. The males are much smaller at a third of the female’s size. You’ll see them pretty much anywhere: gardens, orchards, forest edges, old fields, under lights and farms. They spin a classic round orb web with a zigzag band of silk called a “stabilimentum.” By Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times & Sumter County Record Journal Community News Editor

Surprise! Lily

Lycoris radiata, or more commonly known in Alabama as the Red Surprise Lilly, Red Spider Lily or British Soldier, (Madoline Thurn once told me a relative liked to call them “Naked Ladies” after I asked what they were when I first came to Livingston in 2007) actually comes from Japan and came over as a garden flower in 1854. The flowers bloom after the first heavy rain in late September through mid October. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall. Many Buddhist will use it to celebrate the arrival of fall with a ceremony at the tomb of one of their ancestors. They plant them on graves as a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers. By Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal and Moundville Times Community News Editor