Outdoors

Renew our Rivers celebrates 20th year

In February, Renew Our Rivers will kick off its 20th year of lake and river cleanups. More than 30 cleanups are planned in 2019 across Alabama.
Renew Our Rivers began in the spring of 2000 with Gene Phifer’s vision to clean a stretch of the Coosa River near Alabama Power’s Plant Gadsden, where he worked. Since then, more than 117,000 volunteers have joined the effort and collected more than 15.5 million pounds of trash and debris from waterways across the Southeast.
“As we begin the 20th year of Renew Our Rivers, it’s time to celebrate this environmental
success story. And what better way than with more cleanups,” said Mike Clelland, an Alabama Power Environmental Affairs specialist who helps coordinate the cleanups.
Employees and volunteers assist Clelland and other community partners at every Renew Our Rivers cleanup. In 2018 alone, 4,000 volunteers removed more than 268,000 pounds of trash from Alabama lakes, rivers and shorelines.
“The commitment by Alabama Power employees to Renew Our Rivers continues to grow,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power’s vice president for Environmental Affairs. “But it is the Renew Our Rivers partnerships, which bring together our employees with homeowner and boat owner organizations, community volunteers, students and other groups, that have made this effort truly sustainable.”
Renew Our Rivers is one of many initiatives in which Alabama Power partners with others to promote conservation and environmental stewardship in communities across the state.
Please see below the 2019 schedule of Renew Our Rivers cleanups. For updates to the schedule, please visit https://apcshorelines.com/blog/.

Alabama WFF ramps up CWD sampling effort

(Billy Pope) Amy Silvano, WFF’s Assistant Chief of Wildlife and Jerremy Ferguson, WFF’s Technical Assistance Coordinator, take tissue samples from deer taken in northwest Alabama during a voluntary sampling event recently at Hackleburg in Marion County.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

With positive tests for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Tennessee and additional positives in Mississippi, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has ramped up testing in north Alabama.

WFF officials set up manned sampling stations in Hackleburg the first weekend of the new year and followed with sampling last weekend in Waterloo.

Self-service sampling stations were recently set up by WFF in north Alabama to accommodate drop-offs 24 hours a day.

WFF Director Chuck Sykes said testing for the always-fatal disease, which is caused by a rogue protein called a prion, has been ongoing since 2002, but the positive tests in neighboring states caused WFF to increase its sampling effort.

“The Mississippi positives made us test more in the areas that joined Mississippi,” Sykes said. “When the deer in Tennessee tested positive, it prompted an increased level of testing where it fell within the response zone. Those positives just prompted us to increase our surveillance in those areas.”

Sixteen deer were brought in for sampling at the Hackleburg station, but Sykes said the interaction with hunters who didn’t harvest deer may have been the most productive aspect of the manned sampling station.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but I consider it a success for a volunteer check station,” Sykes said. “More important than the 16 deer brought in, we had two times that many hunters stop by and ask questions.

“It was a really good way for our staff to get in front of the public, and the public to be able to ask questions one-on-one.”

Sykes and the WFF staff discovered that, although the Division has been immersed in the CWD Response Plan, it has yet to be widely discussed in the public.

“We (WFF) are up to our eyeballs in CWD,” Sykes said. “Even though we’ve offered seminars, done articles and put up billboards, a lot of people don’t pay attention until it hits close to home. A lot of the questions were just basic CWD knowledge that the average hunter in Alabama doesn’t understand. What is it? Why is it a problem? What makes it different from other diseases?

“These were very positive interactions. There was nothing negative about it.”

Sykes said the self-service sampling stations are part of the standard protocols of the CWD Response Plan (https://www.outdooralabama.com/deer-hunting-alabama/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know).

“With the positives in Mississippi and Tennessee within 50 miles of our border, that prompts us to do more testing in those areas,” he said. “It’s been shown time and time again that hunter-harvested deer and road-kills are the best ways to achieve samples and to get the most out of those samples.

“Just going in and randomly shooting deer is okay, but in areas that have had CWD for a long time, there is a higher predominance in road-kill deer and hunter-harvested deer because they lose their sense of wariness. The most effective way to sample is by hunter-harvested deer and working with ALDOT (Alabama Department of Transportation) to identify road-kills.”

Above all, Sykes said he wants hunters to continue to pursue deer just like they always have.

“Again, this is not something to cause people to quit hunting,” he said. “We need them to become educated on what CWD is. Don’t rely on what they’ve heard at hunting camp or what they saw on Facebook.

“Talk to us to try to understand the disease and what we’re doing to try to prevent it.”

Sykes reiterated how hunting, especially deer hunting, is a cornerstone in Alabama’s culture and economy. Hunting has an almost $2 billion impact annually on Alabama’s economy.

“This is not a hunter issue,” he said. “This is not even a deer hunting issue. This is a State of Alabama economic issue and a way of life issue. We need people to understand what’s going on, and we need their assistance to gather these samples in the most efficient way so we can stay on top of it.

“Heaven forbid, if it does get here, we will be prepared to mitigate the risks as much as possible.”

Previously, tissue samples had to be sent out of state to be tested for CWD. In 2018, WFF provided funds for the Alabama Department of Agriculture to purchase CWD testing equipment, which was set up at Auburn University. The equipment and technician have been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and can test up to 90 samples per day.

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the new CWD testing equipment speeds up the state’s response time considerably.

“We don’t have to wait on anybody,” Blankenship said. “We take our samples to the Department of Agriculture lab at Auburn University. We will get those test results quickly and be able to respond as soon as possible.”

The freezers for the self-service sample stations are located in Fayette, Lamar, Marion, Franklin, Lauderdale, and Colbert counties and are available to receive deer head samples 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At the self-service locations, hunters must first remove the deer’s head with 4-6 inches of neck attached. For bucks, antlers can be removed at the base of each antler or by removing the skull plate before bagging the head. Hunters will then place the head in the provided plastic bag and tie it closed. They will need to complete all sections of the Biological Sample Tag, and attach the tag to the bag with a zip tie. Hunters will take the bottom receipt portion of the Biological Sample Tag before placing the bagged head in the freezer. All materials needed to drop off a sample are provided at each freezer location.

Locations of the self-service CWD drop-off sampling sites are:

Fayette County, Fayette County Extension Office, 650 McConnell Loop, Fayette, Ala., 35555

Lamar County, Hunter’s Gold Processing, 11634 County Rd. 9, Millport, Ala., 35576

Marion County, Watson’s Grocery, 5658 State Highway 19, Detroit, Ala., 35552

Franklin County, Fancher’s Taxidermy, 715 Newell Rd., Red Bay, Ala., 35582

Lauderdale County, Florence Frozen Meats, 1050 South Court St., Florence, Ala., 35630

Colbert County, Yogi’s Texaco, 17750 US Highway 72, Tuscumbia, Ala., 35674

Hunters can also have deer sampled at any WFF District Office (www.outdooralabama.com/wildlife-section) or at the WFF office in Marengo County at 1105 Bailey Dr., Demopolis, Ala., 36732, phone number 334-289-8030. WFF offices are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Before dropping off the sample, hunters should call ahead to make sure a biologist is available.

Sykes said the test results will be emailed to the hunter within three to four weeks.

Currently, self-service freezers are located throughout northwest Alabama only because of the increased surveillance samples needed in the response zones of the CWD-positive locations in Mississippi and Tennessee.

Rebecca Boydstun with her first deer. You will enjoy seeing the picture of our little Rebecca with her deer. I know Lee was “The Proud Daddy!” He has been waiting for this moment I know. Congratulations to you my child. Submitted by Claire Smith, Livingston Lines

AU scientists gain insight on how fish navigate the Alabama River

For months now, an Auburn University research team has been keeping close tabs on roughly 250 tagged paddlefish and smallmouth buffalo in the Alabama River in an effort to learn more about how lock-and-dam systems on a waterway impact fish movement upstream and down.

In the study, led by School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences faculty Dennis DeVries and Russell Wright, they and a cadre of graduate students have tagged each fish with a tiny transmitter that “pings” the fish’s location every 3 seconds. If the fish is in range of an array of receivers the team has placed around three Alabama River lock-and-dam systems—Claiborne, Millers Ferry and Jones Bluff— the pings are registered, and the fish’s location is recorded. As the tagged fish swim around the dams, the system generates thousands of data points that show where and how the fish move.

“That allows us to get a two-dimensional position on a relatively fine scale of where that fish actually is,” Wright said. “We can determine, as they approach the dam moving upstream, whether they choose a path through slower-moving water or whether they just come racing up and try to go over the spillway, regardless of water velocity. What is it about any particular area that they use that allows that fish to make it past the dam or not?”

Dams affect river ecosystems by altering flow and creating reservoirs. Since some aquatic species require specific river conditions to grow and reproduce properly, dams can negatively impact those populations.

“In a normal, uninterrupted river fish move freely upstream and downstream,” DeVries said. “”But if you build a dam, that blocks the passageway.”

Many fish species migrate upriver each spring to spawn, but dams can interfere with the spawning runs, causing the fish to either turn around, spawn at the dam or not spawn at all, DeVries said.

“The idea is to see if there’s a way to get those fish past that dam and move upriver,” he said.

The researchers’ current investigation stemmed from a smaller study they were involved with a few years ago in which the Nature Conservancy attempted to move fish past dams the same way boats manage passage: through lock systems. A lock system allows a vessel to enter a chamber where the water level can be raised or lowered to bring the boat to the top or bottom of the dam. The Nature Conservancy conducted “conservation lockages” daily in an effort to mitigate the effects of the dams on fish.

The theory was that fish would enter the chamber downstream and exit it above the dam, thereby bypassing the obstacle. It was virtually impossible, however, to determine if that technique was effective. That’s where DeVries and Wright entered the picture.

With funding from an internal Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station grant, they tagged fish with transmitters and started tracking the movement to discover whether fish were actually using the lockages. Their findings? Among the three dams, fish moved up- and downstream at Claiborne Lock and Dam only, and most of that movement was not through the lock system, but by going over a crested spillway at the dam.

During high flooding, water levels are high enough that fish can sometimes make it over a crested spillway. The Millers Ferry and Jones Bluff dams, which registered no fish moving past them at all, are much higher and have only gated spillways, so that a navigational lock is the only way a fish could move upstream past these structures.

Their findings demonstrated the importance of tracking fishes’ actual movements instead of managing them based on assumptions, so DeVries and Wright expanded the project to investigate other questions related to fish movement and populations.

“We’re trying to see what they’re doing below the dam,” DeVries said. “There are areas that are shallower, deeper, higher flow, lower flow, and when we watch the movement of these fish, they’re not just going straight up the river.

“We want to figure out whether they are energetically optimizing their pathway up to the dam, and then, if they can’t make it up over the dam, conserving energy and testing the dam from time to time.”

Initial funding for the expanded study came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016, and the scientists have received additional funding each year since, for a total of close to $3 million.

The movement data from the tagged fish is giving the research team insight into how to potentially mitigate the dams’ negative impact. For example, the team has discovered that some fish are attracted to the still water in the lock chamber and are content to stay there, even when the water level rises above the dam.

“Are there things we can do to get them more efficiently into and out of the lock?” Wright said. “Possibly so.”

One option might be to install fish ladders to facilitate the natural migration of the fish over the spillway.

“If we can do things to the dam, the design of the dam, or the holding area that makes it easier for them to get past the dam, then at least at Claiborne, we can make a more efficient use of this crested spillway to move fish past the dam,” Wright said.

DeVries and Wright are focusing largely on paddlefish in the project because it is a highly migratory species, making it ideal for a dam passage study. Paddlefish also have economic value in that they produce large eggs that can replace the smaller sturgeon eggs used in caviar.

“One paddlefish can be worth thousands of dollars in terms of the value of the eggs,” Wright said, adding that the species also is a conservation concern.

Currently, six graduate students and a technician are involved in the project, performing electrofishing and gillnetting to collect fish, inserting the tags in fish, downloading data from the receivers, helping analyze that data and working in the lab with the fish and samples that have been collected.

“Our students are out there in a lot of really taxing, trying conditions,” said DeVries.

The team has tagged about 250 fish so far. Each tag costs $400 to $600. To perform the procedure, the students anesthetize a fish if necessary and make a small opening in the body cavity to insert the tag just inside.

“They then use sutures to close the opening, put veterinary-grade superglue on it, clean the incision, and then make sure the fish fully recovers and swims away,” DeVries said. “They’re to the point where they can do the procedure in under two minutes.”

The students also place the receivers, which cost a couple thousand dollars each, near the three dams. They have installed receivers in the lock chambers, above and below the dams and further downriver, using concrete parking bumpers to anchor them in place.

The receivers cycle through the different tag frequencies every 10-20 seconds, generating a data point every time they detect a tag ping. As a result, DeVries said the team has, “millions of data points,” to work with.

DeVries and Wright said their project should provide significant factual data on which management decisions could help protect Alabama’s fish populations.

“Our work will yield evidence on what impact dams are having on fish ecology right now: Are they contributing to declining populations of some species, causing genetic shifts or providing population barriers?” Wright said. “Documenting a problem is important. That way, if you make a judgement call about things, such as flood control versus fish passage, you at least know if there is a reason to even have this argument.”
Written by Olivia Wilkes, Auburn University

Chocolate lab on point in bobwhite quail fields

(David Rainer) Yano Serra’s chocolate Labrador retriever, Coco, locks up in a point during a quail hunt at Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve in south Mobile County. A bird flushes in front of Coco as Serra raises the 20-gauge to fire. Coco had to dig deep into the cogon grass to find a winged quail. Coco gently holds a quail as she gets ready to hand it over to her proud owner.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Without a doubt, the sometimes heated argument of who has the best hunting dog came up during the holidays and almost certainly continues today at hunting camps throughout Alabama.

To Yano Serra of Bayou La Batre, there is no argument. Serra says his chocolate Labrador retriever is a wonder dog that deserves special recognition for what he calls his “universal” hunting companion.

I’d seen numerous photos of Coco on social media with tons of ribbons she’d received during numerous field trials, but her versatility wasn’t evident until Serra called me one day.

“Ever seen a Labrador point a quail?” Serra asked.

“Not lately,” I responded, trying to remember if I had ever seen a Lab point a quail.

I’ve always appreciated a quality pointing dog. My late father was an avid “bird” hunter and always had at least a couple of quality English pointers and/or English setters for his numerous bobwhite excursions back during the days when wild quail were still abundant.

When Serra got Coco from Steve Layton of Brewton, he didn’t know he was getting a pointing dog. He wanted a Lab for his frequent trips to the marshes and brackish water of Mississippi Sound south of Bayou La Batre to hunt ducks, mainly bluebills (scaup), redheads, scoters and an occasional canvasback.

“I knew the mama dog, and I called Steve when I found out she was going to have a litter and told him I wanted the female runt,” said Serra, who guides hunting and fishing trips. “The reason I wanted the runt was I wanted a small dog. I do a lot of duck hunting. I’ve had big Labs in the past. My last one was over 90 pounds. He was a good dog. He’d jump through fire to get a duck, but when you had to get him back in the boat, it would almost take two people to get him in the boat. Then when you got him in the boat, you’d have to turn the bilge pump on.”

Coco weighs in at 52 pounds, which Serra considers the perfect size.

“She can pick up a goose,” he said. “She can pick up a duck, and she can pick up a dove.”

At four months old, Coco’s whistle training started. Serra said Coco went everywhere with him, and he used the whistle to make her stop and come. Retrieving everything from sticks to bedroom slippers followed before Serra got into obedience.

“I would spend from 30 minutes to an hour each day on ‘heel’ and ‘sit’ and ‘stay,’” he said. “Then we got into force fetch (making the dog reliable on bird/bumper handling and retrieve). That took about a month, and then we worked on force-to-pile (bumper). That’s when you teach them to go straight back. They’re not going to go right or left. They’re just going to go.

“Some of my buddies told me I needed to take her to some hunt tests. She blew right through the hunt tests right off the bat. When she was a year old, she already had her (Hunt Retriever Club) senior title.”

Next up for Coco was the AKC (American Kennel Club) Master Hunt test. Coco passed with flying colors again.

After Coco added an Upland title, Serra went in a new direction – finding deer antler sheds. He trained Coco to “find the bone.”

Coco’s quail hunting ability came about quite by accident. Serra’s friend, Keith Walker, owns and operates Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve in south Mobile County. Taylor Creek offers sporting clays, quail hunts and pheasant shoots on acreage not far from Bellingrath Gardens. Serra had been using Walker’s property to train Coco and a couple of other dogs because the ponds on the preserve were perfect for water training. He found out Coco would point a quail quite by accident.

“Keith told me if I wanted that I could come out and he would teach me about guiding quail hunts,” Serra said. “I came out with my pointer and left Coco in the truck. After we did a little training, Keith told me to let Coco out. He said, ‘You’ve already got her trained to sit. See if she’ll do it on a quail.’ She did, and then Keith wanted to see if she would flush. I let her flush the bird, and she chased it. When we came walking out, we looked over on this little hill and there was Coco locked up on full point with her right leg in the air, nose in the air and tail stuck out. There was a quail about 4 feet in front of her. After that, she just started pointing. From then on when she’d get birdy, I’d tell her ‘easy’ to calm her down because she gets so excited.”

Serra has trained Coco to hold birds as well as circle around birds to push them in certain directions to keep them from flushing into thick cover.

“And she loves to duck hunt,” he said. “When you’ve got her in the boat, you won’t even know she’s in the boat. She just lays there. Every duck she picks up is strictly a blind retrieve because I keep her in the boat. She doesn’t see them fall. She’ll go right on through the decoys to the bird, strictly on hand signals.

“She’s great in a dove field. She won’t go after other people’s birds. I take her fishing all the time. She’ll hold a rod and reel in her mouth. If a fish flops off in the boat, I’ll tell her to fetch it up.”

Serra admits the key to a good dog has breeding involved, but a lot of it is in the training. Repetition is the key.

“Some people think it’s hard to train a dog, but it’s really not,” he said. “It’s really fun to me. When you train a dog to really listen to you, you enjoy working with the dog. The first two months is the hardest. Then you start coming down the hill. When you get that force fetch, a lot of the obedience is already there. She’ll tree a squirrel or blood-trail a deer. If I put her on a trail, that’s where she’ll go. Everybody loves that dog. I take her everywhere I go.

“She’s just a universal dog. She just turned four, and she’s getting better and better.”

Go to https://taylorcreekshooting.com/ for more information about the full-day and half-day quail hunts and pheasant shoots at Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve.

Alabama Power ears EEI Emergency Recovery Award

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) today presented Alabama Power with the association’s “Emergency Recovery Award” for its outstanding power restoration efforts after severe weather and tornadoes in March 2018 and a derecho wind event in June 2018.
The Emergency Recovery Award is given to select EEI member companies to recognize their extraordinary efforts to restore power to customers after service disruptions caused by severe weather conditions or other natural events. The winners are chosen by a panel of judges following an international nomination process. Alabama Power received the award during EEI’s Winter Board and Chief Executives Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.
An EF-3 tornado struck Alabama on March 19, with a damage path of 34.29 miles, and resulted in 31,071 service outages in Alabama Power’s territory. Due to their tireless work, Alabama Power’s crews restored service within two and a half days of the storm, dedicating 70,600 man-hours to the recovery.
The June 28 derecho wind event featured complex thunderstorms that resulted in wind damage along a track nearly 400 miles long, resulting in 230,038 service outages in Alabama Power Company’s territory. Due to their tireless work, Alabama Power’s crews restored service to 100 percent of customers three days after the storm, dedicating 86,016 man-hours to the recovery.
“The dedication of Alabama Power’s crews to restore service throughout Alabama after severe weather, tornadoes, and a derecho wind event illustrates our industry’s commitment to customers,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “Alabama Power’s crews worked tirelessly in hazardous conditions to quickly and safely restore power. They are truly deserving of these awards.”
EEI is the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies.
Our members provide electricity for 220 million Americans and operate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a whole, the electric power industry supports more than 7 million jobs in communities across the United States. In addition to our U.S. members, EEI has more than 65 international electric companies as International Members, and hundreds of industry suppliers and related organizations as Associate Members.

Scholarship awarded by Alabama Power/B.A.S.S. to two Alabama students

Two Alabama students were each awarded a $5,000 scholarship from B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power, the companies announced today.
“We are proud to partner with Alabama Power to support students who want to further their education in a trade,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “And, we’re even more pleased to provide additional scholarship opportunities for students.”
Brenton Godwin of Stapleton and Grey Terry of Tuscaloosa are the recipients.
Godwin is currently a senior at Baldwin County High School (BCHS) in Bay Minette, and plans to attend Coastal Alabama Community College.
“I plan on starting my college career at Coastal Alabama Community College, then transferring to Auburn University to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree in Poultry Science Production,” said Godwin. “While in college, I aspire to fish at Auburn on the collegiate level.”
He has been an active member of the Baldwin County Fishing Team for the past three seasons, as well as several activities at school and in his community. He participates in Key Club, French Club, Technology Student Association, Future Farmers of America, National Honor Society and the BCHS Varsity baseball team.
“It means so much to me to have been chosen for this scholarship,” said Godwin. “I’ve always loved the sport of bass fishing, and the fact that I’m able to pay for college through this sport is something I never would have imagined 5 years ago.”
Terry, a senior at Northridge High School, has been a student in the welding program at Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy and Shelton State Community College’s Dual Enrollment Welding class.
“My goal is to complete an Associate’s Degree at Shelton State and pursue a career in welding,” Terry said. “Since I began taking these courses, I have learned so much about the importance of skilled trades.”
“Congratulations to Brenton and Grey for this acknowledgement of their environmental stewardship and hard work in the classroom,” said Zeke Smith, Alabama Power executive vice president of External Affairs.
“These scholarships continue to help students develop the high-demand skills needed for a career in the future workforce of Alabama, and we are proud to partner with BASS to make it happen.”
Applications were open to students currently attending, or planning to attend, a technical school in the state of Alabama.
The scholarship recipients are able to apply the award toward tuition, textbooks or living expenses. Applications for the 2019-2020 school year will open early this year. Visit Bassmaster.com for details.
About Alabama Power Company
Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), provides affordable, reliable electricity to more than 1.4 million customers across the state. Learn more atwww.alabamapower.com [bassmaster.us6.list-manage.com].
About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it.
Headquartered in Birmingham, the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2 and Pursuit Channel), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, BassPro.com Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Series presented by Magellan Outdoors, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series, Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Deer CWD Sampling Jan. 4-6 in Hackleburg, Jan. 12-13 in Waterloo

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is increasing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sampling surveillance efforts in northwest Alabama after deer in nearby Mississippi and Tennessee counties tested CWD-positive. CWD is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family. To date, no deer in Alabama have tested positive for CWD.

The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) will conduct a voluntary CWD-sampling station Jan. 4-6 in Hackleburg, Alabama, in Marion County, and Jan. 12-13 in Waterloo, Alabama, in Lauderdale County.

The sampling station in Marion County will be set up in the parking lot of Hackleburg Hardware, 125 Boyd Street, Hackleburg, AL 35564. This is located at the intersection of Boyd Street and Highway 172.

Deer may be brought to Hackleburg for sampling during the following dates and times:

Friday, January 4 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, January 5 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The sampling station in Lauderdale County will be set up in the parking lot of Waterloo Fire Station #1, 6390 County Road 14, Waterloo, AL 35677.

Deer may be brought to Waterloo for sampling during the following dates and times:

Saturday, January 12 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Deer harvested in Franklin, Marion, Lamar, Lauderdale and Colbert counties are being targeted, but biologists will sample deer from surrounding counties as well. Sampling involves removing the retropharyngeal lymph nodes from the head of a deer. Hunters may bring in a whole deer, field-dressed deer, or just the head from the harvested animal. Collecting a sample from a harvested deer takes only a few minutes.

Since 2002, WFF has relied on the assistance of hunters who have volunteered their harvested deer for CWD surveillance sampling. WFF is again seeking the assistance of hunters to help conserve Alabama’s natural resources by taking their harvested deer to the Hackleburg or Waterloo CWD-sampling stations. All hunters who volunteer their harvested deer for sampling will receive the CWD surveillance test result.

To learn more about CWD and to get information on future pubic sampling sites, visit www.outdooralabama.com/cwd.

Registration for BOW workshop begins Jan. 9

Registration for the next Alabama Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop opens on January 9 for first-time attendees and January 15 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 1-3, 2019.

New for 2019, purchase an Alabama resident hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage license and receive a $25 discount on your BOW registration. The discount is for online registration only. To receive the discount, enter your current license number when registering for spring BOW. You must purchase a license prior to BOW registration to receive the discount. Nonresidents can also receive the discount with the purchase of a Wildlife Management Area license or any nonresident license.

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.

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.

The purchase of a hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage license not only provides you with a discount on BOW registration, that money is federally matched nearly three-to-one through Pittman-Robertson Act and Sport Fish Restoration Act funding. Those funds are then used to support conservation efforts in Alabama such as the operation and maintenance of the state’s Wildlife Management Area system and State Public Fishing Lakes, providing technical assistance to landowners for the improvement of freshwater fish and wildlife habitats and populations, operation of the state’s Nongame Wildlife Program, providing conservation law enforcement, and much more.

For more information on the BOW workshop including the class schedule, visit www.outdooralabama.com/activities/becoming-outdoors-woman 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.

Alabama hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage licenses are available at various retailers throughout the state or online at https://www.alabamainteractive.org/dcnr.

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.

Basset named Officer of the Year by International Conservation Org.

WFF Law Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers presents Officer Jason Bassett with the SSCI Alabama Wildlife Officer of the Year Award. Photo by Billy Pope, ADCNR.

Jason Bassett has been named Alabama Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Shikar-Safari Club International (SSCI). Bassett currently serves as a Senior Conservation Enforcement Officer with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) in St. Clair County.

Each year SSCI honors one officer from each state with the award. Recently, Bassett was presented with the award at WFF headquarters in Montgomery, Ala.

“What truly sets Officer Bassett apart are his personal qualities,” said Lt. Jerry Fincher, WFF District Two Law Enforcement Supervisor. “He is loyal to a fault, honorable, level-headed and a true team player. You will never hear Jason boasting. Instead, he’ll stand in the shadows of his own accomplishments realizing he is blessed to be a link in the chain of conservation stewardship.”

Officer Bassett routinely makes a high number of quality arrests including some unusual cases involving electrofishing and cheating in bass tournaments. Recently, Officer Bassett played a vital role in stopping the overharvest of game fish in St. Clair County. The case involved the illegal taking of massive amounts of striped and hybrid bass from public waters to be sold in restaurants and fish markets across the Southeast. Bassett hid himself on dams and among rocks to observe and record the illegal activity, while his fellow officers stood by at off-site locations to intercept the violators. Thanks in part to his efforts, regulations are now in place to prevent this type wildlife violation in the future.

In the more than 15 years that Bassett has served the people of Alabama as a Conservation Enforcement Officer, he has not only prevented hundreds of wildlife violations, he has also saved the lives of some of his fellow officers.

“Every Alabamian may owe Officer Bassett a debt of gratitude, but I owe him much more,” said Lt. Fincher. “While eating at a local restaurant with Jason, I became choked. Unable to breathe I could feel myself losing consciousness. He immediately put his first aid training to work by pulling me from my seat and successfully performing the Heimlich maneuver. He saved my life.”

Additionally, while working alongside Bassett, Conservation Enforcement Officer Greg Gilliland became involved in a confrontation which resulted in his arm becoming trapped in a vehicle’s steering wheel as the driver attempted to back over him. Rushing to his aid, Officer Bassett pulled both men from the vehicle and made the arrest.

“Officer Bassett’s selfless service to his state and his fellow officers is an example for us all to follow,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “For these reasons and many more, Jason is very deserving of this award.”

In addition to his duties with WFF, Officer Bassett is a FBI-certified firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor, Glock and M16 armorer, and a Becoming an Outdoors-Woman instructor. He also serves as an adjunct instructor at the Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy where he teaches firearms and self-defense tactics to new recruits.

SSCI is an international conservation organization that funds and supports a variety of conservation projects and scholarships around the world. In addition to recognizing outstanding officers in wildlife conservation, SSCI also provides a $20,000 death benefit to the officer’s family in the event the officer is killed in the line of duty.

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.

Forever Wild meets Feb. 7

The Board of Trustees of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust will hold its first quarterly meeting on February 7, 2019, at the Richard Beard Building, Agriculture and Industries Auditorium, 1445 Federal Dr., in Montgomery, Ala. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m.

At this meeting, updates on Forever Wild program activities and tract assessments will be presented. This meeting will also provide an opportunity for any individual who would like to make comments concerning the program to address the board.

The public is invited to attend this meeting and is encouraged to submit nominations of tracts of land for possible Forever Wild program purchase. Written nominations may be submitted by email to Forever.Wild@dcnr.alabama.gov or by letter to the State Lands Division, Room 464, 64 N. Union St., Montgomery, Ala., 36130. Nominations can also be made online at www.alabamaforeverwild.com/contact/nominate_land_tracts.

Quarterly meetings of the Forever Wild Board are held to maximize public input into the program. Only through active public participation can the best places in Alabama be identified and conserved in order to remain forever wild.

If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact Jo Lewis at 334-242-3051 or Jo.Lewis@dcnr.alabama.gov. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled meeting.

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.

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Alabama duck hunters hope for repeat of last season

(Seth Maddox) These young hunters had a successful outing during Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt weekend. Alabama duck hunters will likely encounter a wide variety of duck species from mallards to pintails during the season. A couple of young hunters managed to bag a wood duck each during the youth season.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The snowstorm that skirted just north of the state recently should be good news for Alabama’s duck hunters.

The waterfowl seasons in Alabama are always weather-dependent. If it’s cold and snowy north of us, the birds will migrate in significant numbers into Alabama. Without the cold or precipitation to cover their food sources, the birds won’t make it this far south.

Seth Maddox, Migratory Gamebird Program Coordinator with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, said duck numbers should be increasing soon even though the numbers were down when the annual aerial survey took place the week before the season opened.

“We were down a little bit on our preseason counts,” Maddox said. “We had a few cold fronts and a lot of rain. That spread the birds out a lot. I think it pushed some of the early migrators further south.

“That left us with a decent amount of birds, but not a good number for opening weekend. On opening weekend, people killed birds but it wasn’t a great opener. When the season opened back up, it got better. Most of the birds are just a little north of us. I hope with another cold front or two, it will push birds into Alabama. We got a small push from that snowstorm, but I hope we get a larger push soon.

Maddox said the long-term weather forecast bodes well for waterfowl hunters in Alabama.

“It’s shaping up to be similar to last year,” he said. “They’re predicting several disturbances up in the Arctic region with some polar vortexes, which will give us some cold weather. Last year, we had some sub-freezing temperatures, below average temperatures, for a week or so throughout the season. I think that’s going to end up giving us a season similar to last season.”

That would be great news for waterfowlers, considering the harvest for the 2017-2018 season was up 85 percent over the similar period a year earlier.

“That’s a significant increase,” Maddox said. “We had about 14 days during the season where temperatures stayed below freezing. That cold weather and snow north of us really pushed birds into Alabama.”

Maddox said the wood duck harvest last season was especially high, which means a good many woodies came from the north.

“The cold weather pushed lots of wood ducks down,” he said. “We get some migration of wood ducks from northern states every year. Sometimes our wood ducks will move further south, but most of the time they hang tight here in Alabama.

“What we do see, when we see a lot of wood duck migrants from the north, a lot of our males will pair up with northern females. The males will follow the females back to their breeding grounds in the spring because the females go back to the same breeding grounds every year.”

Maddox said the banding program that the WFF conducts annually on wood ducks gives him the data needed to come to those conclusions.

“A lot of our male wood ducks get killed north of us,” he said. “For example, I had one that I banded in Jackson County a couple of years ago that was killed in Ontario (Canada) earlier this year. We had one of our males killed in Minnesota as well.”

Back to the preseason survey, the survey team looks for dabblers (mallards, gadwall, teal) and divers (canvasbacks, redheads, scaup) during the flyovers.

Gadwalls led the count with 12,000 observed statewide, although the survey covers only a small portion of the state. The mallard count totaled 1,500, followed by 1,000 green-winged teal. The total dabbler count was 15,651.

The diver count turned out to be a pleasant surprise with 7,000 birds counted, which is higher than the five-year average.

“There were a bunch of canvasbacks here early,” Maddox said. “Ringnecks led the way, as they usually do. We also had scaup and redheads.

“The migrant geese don’t show up until the middle of December, so you might be able to get a Christmas goose here soon.”

Mike Carter, a renowned fishing guide on the Tennessee River lakes, switches to waterfowl hunting in north Alabama this time of year and keeps an eye on the duck population by regularly looking for ducks at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Carter is expecting a big increase in duck numbers any day now.

“We got some gadwalls and ringnecks, but we haven’t gotten a big push yet,” Carter said. “I’m expecting the ducks to show up really soon. We’ve got ice and snow north of us. I do my scouting by watching the Refuge, and I haven’t seen a big increase yet.”

Carter would be a happy duck hunter if the current season matches last year’s.

“It seems the ducks got here a little quicker last year,” he said. “Last year was great. I think we’re going to get that at some point. We’ve got flooded timber and buckbrush, so they’ve got plenty of places to feed and find cover. We’ve got a lot more water this year, so I think it’s going to be even better when the ducks finally make their move.”

The most likely duck spots in Alabama include the Tennessee River basin in north Alabama, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in south Alabama as well as the Lake Eufaula area and west central Alabama in the Demopolis area and other lakes on the Tombigbee River and Millers Ferry on the Alabama River near Camden.

The number of duck hunters in Alabama has apparently peaked with no downturn in the past several years.

“The number of licensed duck hunters seems to be holding steady around 30,000 for the last 3 to 4 years,” Maddox said. “That’s a good thing.”

Maddox said WFF has plans to expand enhancements for the waterfowl population in the coming years.

“We’ve got big plans ahead, partnering with Ducks Unlimited, to spend some substantial expenditures over the next several years on waterfowl habitat management,” he said.

WFF manages several public hunting locations in north Alabama, the Jackson County Waterfowl Areas. Waterfowl hunting is allowed on Mud Creek, Raccoon Creek and Crow Creek, although special seasons and restrictions apply. No waterfowl hunting in Mud Creek (Wannville) and Raccoon Creek dewatering units or Crow Creek WMA on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. All activity is prohibited in these locations on those days. The drawing for the limited quota hunt units on the Crow Creek Special Opportunity Area has already been held.

A limit of one 25-round box of shells in possession is in effect on all Jackson County WMAs while waterfowl hunting. No gasoline-powered motors are allowed in Mud Creek (Wannville) dewatering unit and Raccoon Creek dewatering unit (North of Hwy 117). Visit https://www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/Wildlife/wildlife-management-areas/2018-2019%20WMA%20Maps/2018-2019%20Jackson%20County%20Finalv2.pdf for more information.

“Most of the people we talked to are happy with these restrictions that allow the birds to rest for a few days,” Maddox said. “The 25-shell rule cuts down on the extra shooting, the sky busting. People perceive that as a good thing.”

For the Mobile-Tensaw Delta/W.L. Holland Waterfowl Management Zone in south Alabama, one new restriction is in place for the current season. The use of gasoline motor prohibition zone that was in effect for Big Bateau Bay last year has been expanded to include Bay Grass. A no-hunting refuge zone remains in effect in the area west of the Apalachee River, occupying the area between the Causeway (Battleship Parkway) and I-10 to its intersection.

Hunting in the Waterfowl Management Zone is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hunting is allowed from a half hour before sunrise until 1 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays during the season.

Go to www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/Hunting/Waterfowl/2018-Waterfowl-Leaflet.pdf for the 2018-2019 Alabama Waterfowl Hunting Guide.

NWTF donates more than $166 K for wildlife management

Chuck Sykes (WFF Director), Steve Barnett (Wild Turkey Project Leader), Craig Scruggs (Alabama NWTF State Chapter President), Keith Gauldin (Wildlife Section Chief), and Executive Committee members of the Alabama Chapter NWTF Board of Directors Craig Harris, Charlie Duckett, and Scott Brandon.

The Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently allocated $166,175 in Hunting Heritage Super Funds for wild turkey projects in Alabama. Of that total, $80,821 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.

More than $85,000 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.

“Close to $62,000 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.

Alabama Hunters take 144 alligators

One of the largest alligators taken during the 2018 season was a 12-foot, 537-pounder taken by (from left) Tyler Dees, Thomas Dees, Mike Odom and Crystal Dees.

Alabama hunters harvested 144 alligators during the 2018 seasons with the heaviest weighing in at 700 pounds. A total of 260 tags were issued in the four hunting zones.

John Herthum of Montgomery took the 700-pound gator that measured 11 feet, 10 inches in the Southeast Zone, which includes private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, and Russell counties. Herthum’s big gator was among 10 harvested in that zone, which issued 40 tags.

The Southwest Zone, which includes the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, checked in 96 alligators, including the heaviest at 603 pounds, caught by Josh Forbes of Mobile County. The longest gator was a 12-foot, 9-incher taken by Donald White of Stockton. It weighed 588 pounds. Of the gators harvested in the Southwest Zone, which had 150 tags, 73 were males and 23 females.

“There was nothing abnormal about this past season,” said Chris Nix, Alligator Program Coordinator with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “The alligators were a little smaller on average weight and length. There were more females harvested, which definitely had an effect on the average size.

“The weather was great this year. The number of tags filled just had to do with hunter selection. We still only had a few alligators harvested south of I-10. There are a lot of big alligators down there that are not being hunted.”

In the West Central Zone, where Mandy Stokes’ record alligator of 1,011.5 pounds and 15 feet long was taken in 2014, the 50 tag holders harvested 31 alligators. Of the 19 males and 12 females harvested, Donald Hogue of Alabaster harvested the largest at 12-feet, 3 inches and 538 pounds.

Seven alligators were taken in the Lake Eufaula Zone with the longest at 11-7, which was taken by Shannon Brasher of Odenville.

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.

WFF Enforcement increases deer carcass surveillance

Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers have increased surveillance for banned deer carcasses that have been harvested in other states. Officer Myron Murray checks outs a passing truck for signs of a deer carcass. Senior Officer Joe Lindsey makes a case for a buck taken in Kentucky. One vehicle was discovered with multiple deer carcasses that came from Kentucky. Photo by Billy Pope

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Hunters who travel out of state should be aware that the Enforcement Section of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has significantly increased its surveillance of roads along state borders, looking for persons illegally importing deer carcasses.

The regulation that banned the import of cervid body parts from states known to be CWD-positive was enacted three years ago to safeguard against disease transmission. When a Mississippi deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) earlier this year, DCNR was already in the process of expanding its prohibition of the importation of carcasses of white-tailed deer and other cervids (elk, mule deer, moose, etc.) to include all states.

“Those thoroughfares in close proximity to the state borders are where we have concentrated our efforts,” WFF Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers said. “This is important for the defense of the state – though it is a labor-intensive undertaking.”

Weathers said the surveillance puts extra pressure on the Enforcement Officers, who still must perform other duties.

“It is the middle of deer season, so we’ve got lots of other tasks and calls to conduct,” he said. “But keeping CWD out of Alabama is extremely important, so we’re conducting details on the state lines to attempt to ensure no deer are brought into Alabama from other states.

“We are concentrating our efforts to match those peak hunting seasons in the West and Midwest when people would be bringing deer carcasses into the state. To some extent it will go throughout the entirety of our deer season.”

Since 1907, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has been tasked with protecting Alabama’s natural resources on behalf of its citizens. The Alabama Legislature recognized that commercial exploitation was having a significant adverse impact on the state’s natural resources and founded the ADCNR. Although some exploitation of resources continues today, it has been minimized by the promulgation and enforcement of laws that protect those natural resources.

Although the ADCNR’s basic mission has changed very little over the last eleven decades, the types of threats facing Alabama’s natural resources have changed.

Today, the largest threat is CWD and the impact it could have on Alabama’s hunting industry and our hunting heritage.

“If you hunt deer in Alabama, enjoy watching deer in our state, or if you benefit from the nearly $2 billion industry that exists in Alabama surrounding these activities, you should be aware that your very way of life could change greatly in the coming years if we all do not work together to keep CWD out of Alabama,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship.

CWD is a 100-percent-fatal, communicable disease that is very similar to Mad Cow Disease in cattle. The prion that causes CWD can be found concentrated in the brain, spinal cord and bone tissue well after the infected animal dies.

“If those infected parts are brought into our state and thrown out where deer from our herd can come into contact with them, we could become a CWD-positive state overnight,” Blankenship said.

One of the disconcerting aspects of the new regulations is the attitude of hunters toward those restrictions. A case in point occurred when Alabama and Tennessee wildlife officials conducted a joint operation at Alabama’s northern border.

That effort resulted in six citations for hunters bringing back field-dressed deer into Alabama from other states.

Alabama’s Enforcement Section has made several other cases since, and there seems to be a disturbing thread.

“We’ve got guys bringing deer back to Alabama that originated many states away,” Weathers said. “Many, if not all, of the states they passed through have similar regulations. For the limited amount of time we’ve conducted this operation, it is a concerning number of violations. It speaks to the volume of the problem.

“We’ve had several folks we questioned who were as aware and fluent in the law as we were. They just thought that it didn’t matter. It’s troubling that not everybody takes this as the serious issue it is.”

WFF has long recognized the potential threat of CWD and started testing deer in our state in a preemptive manner in 2002. To date, WFF has tested more than 8,000 deer with no positive CWD samples found.

“This is NOT something that you can pour bleach or Lysol on and make it no longer a threat,” Weathers said. “It’s going to be there beyond any kind of chemical you pour on it. And time doesn’t seem to have any effect on it either.”

This past August, ADCNR unveiled an extensive advertising campaign to educate those hunters who travel to hunt out of state. Billboards and various other informational materials were placed along highway routes at state lines providing information about CWD and the regulations regarding the importation of deer parts returning from a hunting trip out of state. The regulations require that all deer meat be deboned and only cleaned skull plates with bare antlers without visible brain or spinal tissue can be imported. Raw capes with no visible brain or spinal tissue can be brought in as well as upper canine teeth with no root structure or soft tissue present. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides can be imported. Velvet-covered antlers are prohibited unless they are part of a finished taxidermy project.

“Despite our best efforts at education, unlawful import of those prohibited parts remains a problem,” Weathers said. “ADCNR has gone to great lengths to provide a sustainable white-tailed deer herd for the citizens of Alabama to enjoy. Today, however, simply providing this herd isn’t enough. We must protect it. We protect it not only for ourselves but for those who will come after us. I once heard someone say, ‘In the gravest of situations, doing your best isn’t enough; you must do what is required.’

“So, when you see your local Conservation Enforcement Officer patrolling near a state line, know that what you are actually seeing is the front line in the fight against CWD.”

WFF Director Chuck Sykes has been in Washington, D.C., meeting with Congressional staffs about the CWD threat, as well as other issues.

“Senator Doug Jones is co-sponsoring a bill to provide funding for more CWD research and more money for the states to manage it,” Sykes said. “CWD is a big deal. Once it’s here, it’s here forever, so our best strategy is to keep it out. One of the best ways to keep it out is to not bring carcasses back from any other state.”

Alabama’s CWD Response Plan (www.outdooralabama.com/deer-hunting-alabama/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know) has response protocols established to delineate those out-of-state cases using concentric circles around the positive test site in increments of 25 miles, 50 miles and more than 50 miles and to implement specific action plans accordingly.

When a case of CWD in a 1½-year-old buck was confirmed recently in Pontotoc County, Miss., portions of three counties in Alabama fell within the 50-mile-radius protocol – Franklin, Marion and Lamar counties.

Sykes said Mississippi is getting pretty good compliance at their drop-off stations and with hunter-harvested deer for sampling.

“But it’s a scary thing,” Sykes said. “I was with some of the legislators from Mississippi at a conference I just attended. It’s a concern for our way of life and a huge economic driver in our states.”

Sykes said the most disappointing aspect of the CWD threat is the nonchalant attitude of hunters who were caught bringing deer carcasses into the state illegally.

“Everybody we issued citations to knew they were breaking the law,” Sykes said. “Nobody pled ignorance. Their attitude was, ‘Ain’t no big deal.’ They knew what they were doing. You just don’t want to be that guy. Why would you take a chance in bringing something into Alabama and the CWD transmission being credited to you just because you didn’t take a few extra minutes to do things right?

“I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.”

Sumter Co. Farmers Federation wins 2018 Award of Excellence

The Sumter County Farmers Federation received the Award for Excellence Dec. 3. during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 97th Annual Meeting in Montgomery. To earn the distinction, counties must score at least 80 points out of 100 on the award application, which covers involvement in agricultural programs, governmental affairs, county Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers committees. Sumter County Farmers Federation President Pat Buck, right, accepted the award from Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell.

Written by Marlee Moore

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich told tales of politics, President Donald Trump and predictions for the next election cycle to over 1,200 farmers in Montgomery Dec. 3.

Gingrich’s keynote address concluded two days of business sessions and awards presentations during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 97th annual meeting.

“Tension is building because it is real. There are really radically different visions of America,” Gingrich said of the current political climate. “I wish I could reach into each of your hearts and convince you how important it is to protect this country…and how big of a difference you can make.”

Gov. Kay Ivey also addressed the crowd, thanking them for trust and support as she begins her first full term as governor.

“Please know that you have a friend in the governor’s chair,” Ivey said. “After all, we are only successful when we’re successful together.”

Federation President Jimmy Parnell emphasized the importance of political involvement by members of the state’s largest farm organization citing the conference theme: “I Farm. I Grow. I Lead. I Vote,” Parnell quoted. “That says it all. Your leadership is important in our communities, state and nation.”

On the heels of midterm elections, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Vice President Scott VanderWal joined fellow farmers in the Capital City, where he thanked them — and their rural communities — for political enthusiasm and high voter turnout. He also updated attendees on AFBF’s work benefiting farmers nationwide.

“New and young members of Congress have a steep learning curve,” said VanderWal, also the South Dakota Farm Bureau president. “It’s up to all of us to help them understand agriculture and fill that knowledge gap. Invite them to your farm; share your story.”

Earlier in the meeting, lifelong agribusinessman and Agriculture & Industries Commissioner John McMillan received the Service To Agriculture Award, the Federation’s highest honor. McMillan served eight years as commissioner and was elected state treasurer last month.

For their service to farmers and rural families, Jim Donald and Gene Simpson received the Federation’s Cultivator Award. They founded the National Poultry Technology Center in Auburn. Communications Awards were also presented to Adam Smith of the News Courier in Limestone County and WSFA-TV’s Desmond Wingard and Vince Hodges of Montgomery.

Elections for the Federation state board, Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers committees were held, and outstanding county boards, committees and individual leaders were also honored.

A silent auction raised $9,450 for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, which benefits agricultural scholarships and Ag in the Classroom. Additionally, the Federation honored leaders who passed away in 2018 during a tribute breakfast.

During the business session, a $5 dues increase was approved, effective July 2019.

For more photos, visit the Federation’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Big Buck Photo Contest opens to help celebrate Black Belt hunting season

There’s no season like deer season, and this year hunters in Alabama have the potential to bring home more than just their wild game. The annual Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest is under way with a Wildgame WiFi Action Camera and SD card awaiting the winner.

“We are incredibly honored to sponsor such a fun contest again this year,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “We love getting to see people who are encouraged by this contest to get outside and hunt – especially those who may not have hunted in the Black Belt before. We usually get a lot of entries from young people and it’s a wonderful thing to see our great hunting tradition being carried forward by the younger generation.”

The Wildgame WiFi Action Camera is valued at $169. The compact camera is designed for recording movies while in motion and will also take 5MP still images. The lens provides a 170-degree angle of view with an auto rotation feature that corrects the image if the camera is mounted upside down or on its side. The camera captures full HD 1080/30p video, is waterproof with a depth rating of 30 feet and is protected by an aluminum housing. It has built-in flash to help you take photos at night.

To enter the contest, upload a single photo of a deer taken in one of the 23 Black Belt counties in the state this season at alabamablackbeltadventures.org/bigbuckcontest. The winner will be determined by the number of votes received on the website at that page. You may vote once per day through the deadline, Valentine’s Day 2019.

ALBBAA promotes and encourages ethical hunting and fishing practices. These contests were created to further educate the public on the abundance of natural resources found in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

The Black Belt includes the following counties: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is committed to promoting and enhancing outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the Black Belt in a manner that provides economic and ecological benefits to the region and its citizens. For information, go to www.alabamablackbeltadventures.org.

Bow hunting is a great challenge that requires special skills to be proficient – and great opportunities to enjoy the Alabama outdoors. (ADCNR Photo/Billy Pope)

Creating a Alabama Hunter

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) works to protect, manage and enhance the state’s fish and wildlife resources. Alabama hunters and anglers are an essential part of these efforts: it takes resources to manage natural resources. Hunting and fishing license fees, along with matching federal dollars, pay the costs of managing Alabama’s white-tailed deer herd, its Eastern wild turkey population, its bountiful fisheries, and all other game and nongame wildlife species. The WFF receives no tax monies from Alabama’s General Fund. Deer hunters, bass fishermen, and birdwatchers all benefit from the activities of Alabama’s hunters, anglers, and other sportsmen.

To continue to preserve our wildlife heritage in this age of smart phones and video games, WFF also works to educate our citizens about how wildlife management works in our country. Hunting is an essential part of effective wildlife management, and a hunter’s activities are important not only to the wildlife populations on a certain property, but also to supporting the system as a whole. With fewer people growing up with a tradition of hunting, WFF is stepping forward to create new hunters and encourage active participation in its wildlife conservation endeavors. In addition to Youth Hunts and Trapping Seminars, WFF now has an Adult Mentored Hunting Program for newcomers, and Special Opportunity Areas that give a boost to hunters seeking a chance at success on public land.

The Adult Mentored Hunting Program is designed to provide the new hunter, or the hunter with limited experience, with a one-on-one hunt under the guidance of a veteran mentor. Adult Mentored Hunts are for those interested in learning how to hunt, whether they are looking to revive a family tradition, to learn more about consumptive outdoor recreation, or to put wild game on the dinner table. Applicants with a variety of backgrounds and motivations put their name in the hat for a random draw that selects participants for instruction on firearm safety, equipment needs, scouting, hunting, game cleaning, and cooking. Events are conducted in a safe and constructive environment that allows participants the opportunity to learn from skilled teachers. These experienced hunters share their knowledge and time afield, hoping to kindle a passion for the outdoors. All of this for just the cost of required licenses: gear is provided. Mentored hunts are available for deer, turkey, squirrel and rabbit.

“In the past, most recruitment programs focused on kids. Our research has found that many youth participants don’t have a support system through family members or friends that allows them to continue to hunt, and, therefore, we haven’t created a new hunter,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes. “We are not suspending our youth programs, but we are focusing all new efforts on the adult segment of the population. We are extremely optimistic that the AMH Program will provide us an exceptional return on our investment by creating new consumptive wildlife users and license buyers.”

While Alabama Wildlife Management Areas – land set aside and managed for public hunting – total more than 720,000 acres in the state, the WFF also manages Special Opportunity Areas. These properties are typically smaller than Wildlife Management Areas and offer a limited quota (via random draw permit) hunting format to reduce pressure and increase the quality of the hunt. In 2018, four SOAs offer a limited number of slots for a successful permit holder and guest(s) to hunt a dedicated 300-400 acre unit for a two or four day hunt. Special Opportunity Areas allow hunters low-stress access to first-rate hunting and can jumpstart a lapsed hunter’s interest in taking advantage of public lands.

Deer, squirrel, and adult waterfowl hunt registrations have already been accepted, but youth waterfowl hunts at Fred T. Stimpson SOA in Clarke County will be in December and Crow Creek SOA in Jackson County will be in January 2019. Small game and turkey hunts offered at Cedar Creek (Dallas County), Portland Landing (also Dallas County) and Uchee Creek (Russell) SOAs registration begins Dec. 3 and will close Jan. 3, 2019. To apply, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/special-opportunity-areas.

Portland Landing is our state’s newest Special Opportunity Area property. This amazingly diverse tract of about 5,000 acres (set to increase next year with an additional 4,000 acres) was purchased as a joint effort by WFF and Forever Wild. Portland Landing features creek bottoms to river frontage to upland hardwood stands, mixed pine and hardwoods to cedar glades. It’s a fine piece of Alabama’s Black Belt. As WFF Director Chuck Sykes said, “It’s some of the best land in the state, some of the best dirt, some of the best genetics. It’s just one of those special places.”

Sykes said that the Adult Mentored Hunting Program and Special Opportunity Areas are part of Alabama’s implementation of the R3 National Plan – Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation of hunters. “If we can’t figure out a way to move the needle in a positive direction by adding new license buyers to the hunting fold, the future of wildlife conservations efforts doesn’t look promising,” Sykes said. “So, we are looking into non-traditional markets for our new R3 efforts. Our Adult Mentored Hunting Program targets people from 19 to 60. By going after this audience, they have made up their minds they want to hunt. We’re going to a different market. We have to think outside the box.”

Recruiting new hunters through the AMH program and retaining and reactivating hunters at the SOAs are efforts to ensure the future of wildlife conservation in Alabama. From bald eagles to big bucks, all of Alabama’s wildlife is depending on the creation of new Alabama hunters. If you are already a sportsman, you can help by mentoring a friend or associate. You might be surprised at who’s been waiting for an invite. If you’re looking to get started, ask to accompany a sportsman you know, or contact us for more information at: www. outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-mentored-hunting-program.

Chris Blankenship is Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) joined Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in introducing legislation to increase wildlife managers’ ability to keep wildlife healthy.

The bill authorizes a special resource study to determine how chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreads and could be prevented in deer and elk. CWD can affect both wild and domestic herds of deer and elk in 25 states. However, state recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease vary. The bill would give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread.

Jones, Barrasso, and Bennett introduce bipartisian bill to tackle Chronic Wasting Diease

“As an avid outdoorsman and hunter, I am deeply troubled by the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Senator Jones. “This disease is threatening to impact the wildlife population in Alabama just as it has in a number of other states throughout the country. That’s why it is so vital for the Senate to pass legislation that will ultimately give state and local wildlife officials the tools they need to contain the spread of CWD.”

“Chronic wasting disease has negatively affected white-tailed and mule deer in Wyoming for decades,” said Senator Barrasso. “To protect our wildlife populations and our hunters, we need to know more about how this disease is spread and which areas are most at risk. Our bill gives wildlife managers the tools they need to research and identify exactly where chronic wasting disease is most prominent and how we can better prevent it. It’s a critical first step to addressing this debilitating disease and keeping our wildlife herds healthy.”

“The deer and elk herds affected by Chronic Wasting Disease are a critical part of Colorado’s wildlife heritage and economy,” said Senator Bennet. “We need to learn more about containing CWD, and this bipartisan legislation will provide the information state wildlife professionals need to align their work and prevent further spread.”

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Thune (R-SD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) cosponsored the legislation.

The “Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act” addresses the needs identified by state wildlife agencies. The bill requires the USDA secretary to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences to review current data and best management practices (BMPs) from the CWD Herd Certification Program and state agencies regarding:

  1. Pathways and mechanisms for CWD transmission
  2. Areas at risk and geographical patterns of CWD transmission
  3. Gaps in current scientific knowledge regarding transmission to prioritize research to address gaps

EPA announces availability of $1.5 million in Environmental Justice Small Grants


Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $1.5 million for Environmental Justice Small Grants (EJSG). These funds will be distributed to approximately 50 community-based organizations nationwide that will work to address environmental justice issues in local communities. Each recipient will receive up to $30,000 for one-year, community-driven projects that engage, educate, and empower communities to better understand local environmental and public health issues and to identify ways to address these issues at the local level.

“EPA is committed to assisting low-income and disadvantaged communities that are often disproportionally impacted by environmental risks or hazards,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These grants will help local communities across the country address critical environmental challenges, such as reducing air pollution, combatting lead exposure, and improving water quality.”

As part of their projects, grant recipients will also collaborate with other stakeholders from across business, industry, local government, academia, and/or other grassroots organizations in an effort to realize project goals and build project sustainability.

Given projected increases in extreme weather events and the vulnerability of underserved populations, this opportunity will emphasize projects that address emergency preparedness and increase resiliency, as well as projects that include the needs of US military veterans and homeless populations.

This year’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program will also include $300,000 in support from EPA’s Urban Waters program. EPA’s Environmental Justice and Urban Waters programs partnered on the 2018 Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement program, with Urban Waters funding two of the ten projects awarded. This latest support from Urban Waters will promote continued collaboration between the two EPA programs and further benefit communities disproportionately impacted by environmental and public health issues by reconnecting urban communities with their waterways while encouraging community stewardship.

The application period for the 2018 EJSG will remain open until February 15, 2019. All eligible organizations are encouraged to apply.

For more information about EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-small-grants-program

For a full description of the 2017 Environmental Justice Small Grant projects: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-small-grants-program-project-descriptions-2017

Connect with EPA Region 4 on Facebook: www.facebook.com/eparegion4

And on Twitter: @EPASoutheast

Alabama WFF closely monitoring Mississippi CWD cases

(Courtesy of Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism) This Kansas buck tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

By Davide Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

While Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) officials continue to do all they can to keep chronic wasting disease (CWD) out of Alabama, unfortunately the latest news from our neighbors in Mississippi is not good.

Another deer in the lower Mississippi Delta in Issaquena County, a 2½-year-old doe, tested positive for CWD last week. The initial CWD case in Mississippi last January was also in Issaquena County, confirmed in a 4½-year-old buck.

These are in addition to the Mississippi deer in a different county that tested positive for CWD about two weeks ago. A 1½-year-old buck tested positive in Pontotoc County in north central Mississippi, about 200 miles from the initial case.

WFF Director Chuck Sykes is watching and analyzing all of these developments very closely.

“These last two cases are concerning,” Sykes said. “Typically, you think of CWD as being found in older age-class males.”

Also gaining Sykes’ full and immediate attention, the Pontotoc County CWD-positive deer was within 50 miles of Alabama’s border.

“With the Pontotoc deer being within the 50-mile radius of Alabama, we’re doing exactly what we said we would do in our response plan,” Sykes said.

The section of the Alabama CWD Response Plan (www.outdooralabama.com/deer-hunting-alabama/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know) that deals with out-of-state cases uses concentric circles around the positive test site in increments of 25 miles, 50 miles and more than 50 miles. With the case confirmed in Pontotoc County, portions of three counties in Alabama fall within the 50-mile-radius protocol – Franklin, Marion and Lamar counties.

“We have met with DOT (Alabama Department of Transportation) engineers to help us in locating road-killed deer that will be tested,” Sykes said. “Our technical assistance staff will continue their efforts in working with hunting clubs, taxidermists and meat processors in those counties to collect samples.

“I don’t want people to panic, but they need to understand that we’re doing everything we can to keep it out of Alabama. The main thing I want to get across is that we are not targeting any one particular group. This is not a deer breeder versus a non-breeder. This is not a high fence versus a no fence. This isn’t a dog hunter versus a stalk hunter issue. Honestly, this isn’t even just a hunting issue. This is an Alabama issue concerning the protection of a public-trust natural resource. We really need people to focus on facts about CWD, not what they hear about or read on Facebook.”

Sykes said deer hunting is such a cherished thread that runs through Alabama’s heritage and way of life that any effect on that endeavor could have far-reaching consequences.

“Whether you hunt or not, the economic impacts of deer hunting generate more than $1 billion annually into Alabama,” he said. “In one way, form or fashion, most everybody in the state is positively impacted by deer hunting. So, we’re doing everything we can to keep it out of Alabama.

“In the chance CWD gets here, we have a plan in place to mitigate the risk. It’s all in black and white on outdooralabama.com. What I need the public to know about this is that we have had a CWD response plan in place since 2012. It updates constantly, based on the latest scientific research. I have a whole team that works on this. It’s not done by one person behind closed doors in Montgomery. It’s done on a national level. We look at what works, what doesn’t work, what states have tried and what states have failed–the good, the bad and the ugly. This is a methodical process. Our plan is based on the latest nationwide scientific research.”

Sykes said there is no way to know what will happen in Alabama if CWD is confirmed.

“It’s hard to say how Alabama will be impacted compared to other states,” he said. “Each state is different.”

At a recent Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) Law Enforcement Chiefs meeting, a conversation between WFF Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers and a member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission highlighted the vulnerability of Alabama in this situation.

“Northwest Arkansas has a high prevalence rate of CWD,” Sykes said. “Chief Weathers asked his Arkansas counterpart at SEAFWA how CWD was impacting their hunting licenses and budget. In Arkansas it isn’t a major concern because their agency gets one-eighth of 1 percent of sales tax. It does matter to us because we don’t get that. We can’t handle people not deer hunting, not eating deer meat and not buying hunting licenses. It will change the ability of our agency to manage and enhance wildlife and fisheries in Alabama forever.

“I don’t want people to think we are never going to deer-hunt again, that all the deer in the state are going to die. That hasn’t been shown to happen in the CWD-positive states. However, they never go back to the same. We will have to adjust to a new normal. But, we want to prevent it as long as we can. In the event it does come here, we are fully prepared to address it to minimize the risk.”

Alabama has tested more than 8,000 deer during the past 15 years, and no deer has tested positive for CWD.

“We don’t have our heads in the sand,” Sykes said. “We’re doing everything we can. That involves making rules and regulations that are, at times, unpopular. It’s been illegal to bring a live deer into Alabama since the early ’70s. However, we caught someone in 2016 bringing in deer from Indiana for breeding purposes. It’s been illegal to bring a carcass in from a CWD-positive state for three years. This year, we had to ban carcasses from every state. That’s an inconvenience on everybody, us included. A lot of us hunt out of state, so it’s impacting us as well. But it’s something we have to do to protect the natural resources of Alabama because not every state tests for CWD as judiciously as we do.

“We had a joint law enforcement detail with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along the Tennessee-Alabama state line on Sunday November 11th, checking for illegal carcasses being brought back into Alabama. We made six cases on hunters bringing back field-dressed deer into Alabama from Kansas and Kentucky. In all six arrests, the individuals knew it was illegal to bring the carcass through Alabama. In addition to violating Alabama law, they also violated Tennessee law. Several of the carcasses were destined for Florida, jeopardizing yet another state.”

An old friend, Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland of Mossy Oak camouflage fame, has been directly impacted by the positive CWD test in Pontotoc County, Miss. Strickland has a farm in Lee County, Miss.

“This is a black cloud, no doubt,” said Strickland, who sits on the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) Board. “My farm borders Pontotoc County. We’re just outside the containment zone, but I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time.

“You think that it’s something that’s going on somewhere else, like Colorado, where it started. Or Wisconsin or Wyoming. Then, bam, it’s in the Delta, and now Pontotoc County. It’s happened so fast, it’s kind of scary.”

Strickland said it’s difficult for the average hunter to determine how CWD is going to impact hunting in the South because of the wide range of reactions.

“On one end of the scale, you have people saying the sky is falling,” he said. “On the other end of the scale, depending on who you talk to, they say, ‘Aww, it’s been around for a thousand years.’ I’m assuming it’s somewhere in the middle as to where the truth lies.

“I don’t know if people are taking this as seriously as I have. We’re kind of in the hunting business at Mossy Oak.”

Strickland has been taking his grandson, who has been affectionately nicknamed Cranky, on a variety of hunting adventures in recent years. Strickland doesn’t have any inclination to alter their behavior.

“We’re going to continue to hunt,” Strickland said. “I’m going to assume the people that really attack this and know what they’re doing are going to lead us down the right road.”

Strickland is concerned the CWD threat will have a detrimental effect on the recreational opportunities that have so positively impacted his way of life.

“Hunting license sales are already down,” he said. “This is just another hurdle. We’re battling more than just CWD. We’re battling time, more than anything. The new people, the 30- to 40-year-olds with kids and everything, are having trouble finding time to go hunting. There’s a lot chipping away at our lifestyle.

“Hunting is what we lived for when I was growing up. I used to could sleep like baby the night before Christmas. But the night before hunting season opened, I literally would lie down with my hunting clothes on to make sure I wouldn’t be late.”

Nov. 17 Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has designated Saturday, November 17, 2018, as one of the 2018-19 hunting season’s Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days. On that day, youth under age 16 may hunt for waterfowl statewide when accompanied by a licensed adult hunter. Regular waterfowl season shooting hours, bag limits, legal arms and ammunitions apply to the special days. Hunting area rules and regulations also apply.

The second of the two Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days for the 2018-19 season is scheduled for February 2, 2019.

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 Migratory Gamebird Coordinator Seth Maddox at Seth.Maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or 334-353-2057, 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.

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, White-tailed Deer

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has received confirmation from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) that a white-tailed deer from Pontotoc County, Mississippi, tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). According to MDWFP, a 1.5-year-old, free-ranging male white-tailed deer, that appeared to be emaciated and was behaving abnormally, was euthanized on October 8, 2018. The sample was confirmed CWD-positive by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, on October 30, 2018. This is the second case of CWD documented in Mississippi.

WFF has tested nearly 8,000 deer since 2002 and has not detected CWD within Alabama. As part of WFF’s CWD Strategic Surveillance and Response Plan, WFF will increase its CWD surveillance sampling efforts beyond typical surveillance rates in those counties within the 50-mile radius of the Pontotoc County CWD-positive white-tailed deer. These counties include Franklin, Lamar, and Marion counties. Standard CWD surveillance methods will be used to collect additional samples for these counties including, but not limited to, voluntary samples from hunter-harvested deer as well as focused efforts on road kills and abnormally behaving deer.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It is infectious and always fatal. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue that leads to neurological symptoms, emaciation and death of the animal.

Deer infected with CWD can spread the disease to other deer even before symptoms develop. It can take one to two years for infected animals to become symptomatic. When symptoms appear, they can include emaciation, lethargy, abnormal behavior, and loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, and drooping head/ears.

More information on CWD can be found at http://www.outdooralabama.com/cwd.

Trapping workshops share historical, biological aspects of furbearer management

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is offering a series of youth and adult trapping workshops throughout the state this winter. The workshops are free to attend, but registration is required. To register, visit www.outdooralabama.com/trapping-workshops.

These educational workshops provide instruction on the historical aspects of trapping, biological information about furbearers and furbearer management, and the proper techniques of using trapping as a sound wildlife management tool.

All workshops are limited to 25 participants. The youth workshops are recommended for ages 7 and up. Youth ages 7-15 must be accompanied by an adult. Youth over 16 are not required to have an adult present, but it is recommended.

Youth Trapping Workshops

December 8-9, 2018, in Citronelle, Ala.
December 15-16, 2018, in Red Bay, Ala.
December 29-30, 2018, in Greensboro, Ala.
January 12-13, 2019, in Atmore, Ala.
February 9-10, 2019, in Scottsboro, Ala.
February 16-17, 2019, in Spanish Fort, Ala.
Adult Trapping Workshops

November 3-4, 2018, in Hamilton, Ala.
February 23-24, 2019, at Portland Landing in Dallas County, Ala.
For more information, contact Mike Sievering with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division at Mike.Sievering@dcnr.alabama.gov or call 205-339-5716.

The workshops are a cooperative project between ADCNR, the Alabama Trappers and Predator Control Association, USDA Wildlife Services and Safari Club International. To learn more about trapping as a wildlife management tool, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/trapping-alabama.

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.

Farden Exchange Workshop at CCA

Garden Exchange Workshop Sat., Oct. 27, at 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Coleman Center for the Arts, 630 Avenue A St., York. 10 a.m. : Garden Exchange, 11 a.m.: Fall Planting Demonstration, 11:45a.m.: Cooking Demonstration. Join us for a morning of seasonal sharing and learning! Bring plants, seeds, a favorite fall recipe, or a treasured food memory to exchange with friends and neighbors.
Want to plant fall veggies but don’t know where to start? Want to share crops, cooking, or garden tips? Bring what you can or just bring yourself.
Community Garden Manager Catherine Shelton will lead the exchange! Join us for a demonstration on growing fall crops in and out of containers. Shelton will also demonstrate how to make one of her favorite fall dishes prepared with Coleman Center produce!
The Coleman Center for the Arts’ Community Garden is an evolution of the 2009 visiting artist project One Mile Garden. The goal of that project was to connect community, food, and farming. Over the years the conversation has grown to include environmental justice, small-scale food production, food access, and sustainable self-care for individuals and communities.
Shelton and Coleman Center staff ask area residents to help us continue the exchange. Let’s create a hub for community connection and food knowledge. Please bring your experience, energy, and questions to our table!
This workshop is offered in partnership with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System/Sumter County. The Garden Exchange Workshop is part of the Coleman Center’s Community Arts Workshops series focusing on creative learning experiences designed for multiple generations. This event is free!

Doug Deaten honored by UWA

Doug Deaton was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of West Alabama (UWA) for his career in conservation and land management. Deaton currently serves as the State Lands Manager with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), State Lands Division.

“We appreciate the work Doug does every day to promote conservation in Alabama, and we are so glad he has received this recognition from UWA,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner.

Before joining the State Lands Division, Deaton worked for the Alabama Marine Resources Division and in the Environmental Technical Section of the Alabama Department of Transportation. With more than 13 years of experience in conservation, Deaton is passionate about his role and responsibilities as a land manager and public servant.

“It was an honor to receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from my alma mater,” Deaton said. “I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by many great people who have invested in me to be successful throughout my career.”

In his current job, Deaton is instrumental in the administration of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust Program, which acquires and manages property for public recreational use and habitat protection. He is also responsible for overseeing the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area in Hale County, the Wehle Land Conservation Center in Bullock County, the Alabama State Lands Natural Heritage Section, and the Forever Wild Land Trust Recreational Program.

While at UWA, Deaton was an active member of the Sigma Pi fraternity, president of both Omicron Delta Kappa and the Blue Key Honor Society, co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, and was selected as Mr. University of West Alabama before graduating in December of 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences. He also serves as a member of the diaconate at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Montgomery.

A native of Semmes, Ala., Deaton currently resides in Montgomery with his wife Jenna and their two children. Their third child is expected in November of 2018. He enjoys spending time with his family, hunting, fishing and serving others.

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.

New degree at Auburn combines wildlife, business and hospitality

(Auburn Deer Lab, David Rainer) The Auburn University Deer Lab will be one study location for students who are working on the new Wildlife Enterprise Management degree. Graduates with the new degree can pursue employment with a variety of outdoors-related industries, including the numerous hunting lodges in Alabama.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Pay attention, high schoolers and parents. Students who love the outdoors and plan to continue their education after graduation will have a new option for a college degree rooted in the outdoors at Auburn University in 2019.

The undergraduate degree will be in Wildlife Enterprise Management with training in wildlife sciences, business and hospitality. Auburn professors Steve Ditchkoff and Mark Smith collaborated on developing the major in an effort to fill a need in the outdoors community that doesn’t require a wildlife biologist degree.

Heather Crozier, Director of Development at the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences unveiled the program to outdoor writers recently at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association Conference in Florence, S.C.

Outdoor recreation generates about a $14 billion impact on the Alabama economy and about $887 billion nationwide. Outdoors-related businesses and companies support 135,000 jobs in Alabama.

“Our faculty did some surveys, and they found that in a 250-mile radius of Auburn that there are 1,000 businesses that are wildlife enterprise-related,” Crozier said. “This major will give us a unique skillset for that industry. The students will also get a minor in business so they will understand basic business principals.”

Crozier said the new degree program will utilize the facilities connected to Auburn. The Deer Lab is a 400-plus-acre facility near Auburn at Camp Hill where researchers study the genetics and physiology of white-tailed deer. The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center near Andalusia gives students hands-on instruction in forestry, wildlife and natural resources management. The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center on the outskirts of Auburn provides an outdoors venue for a variety of nature programs.

Crozier said only one other college, Kansas State, offers a similar degree with about 100 students in that program annually.

“When our students graduate with a Wildlife Enterprise Management degree, we hope they will apply the principles of wildlife enterprise, understand and apply the ecological principles in conservation biology and eco-tourism and be a well-rounded student in hospitality and understand customer service in food and beverage production and lodging,” Crozier said. “They will have the skillset to be able to run a business as well as be able to effectively market and advertise the wildlife- and outdoor-based enterprise.”

This curriculum will have a wildlife core with about 60 percent of the courses in wildlife sciences and about 40 percent in business and hospitality.

“Most of our students who go to work for fish and wildlife departments are wildlife sciences majors and end up being wildlife biologists,” Crozier said. “The students in the new program will not be wildlife biologists.”

Crozier said the graduates in the new degree can pursue jobs at hunting lodges, shooting facilities, fishing resorts as well as guide services and outdoor sport/adventure promotions.

“Dr. Ditchkoff and Dr. Smith were talking with people in the industry, and they kept hearing, ‘We need students who understand business, who understand customer expectations and who know about wildlife,’” she said. “What they learned was several of the outfitters they talked to were going to colleges and universities and recruiting wildlife students and teaching them about hospitality and business. Or, they were recruiting hospitality and business students and teaching them about wildlife. The industry said it would really be nice if you could develop this specific product. We feel like there is a market for it. They started exploring and realized how many outdoor-enterprise businesses there were in that 250-mile radius of Auburn. They realized, hey, there really is a niche for this type of degree.

“With Kansas State being the only other place that offered a similar program, we just felt like we could fill that need.”

Pam Swanner of Alabama Black Belt Adventures agrees wholeheartedly.

“The Black Belt region has a rich history in the traditions of hunting and fishing,” Swanner said. “It’s a natural fit that Auburn would create a unique degree program to provide a skilled workforce trained in land management, business and hospitality. At Auburn’s back door are more than 50 outfitters that can provide opportunities for student internships.

“Alabama Black Belt Adventures is partnering with AU’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to assist in organizing internship placement in the Black Belt region. We’re also introducing the faculty to the industry’s many product companies and other organizations that have an interest in supporting such a worthwhile program with scholarship funds to ensure a prosperous future for our industry.”

Crozier said if you venture outside that 250-mile radius, the possibilities become considerably greater. She said 40 students currently enrolled at Auburn are waiting to pursue the new degree, and she expects the program will eventually graduate between 100 and 150 annually.

“Just think about international,” she said. “It’s amazing how many opportunities are out there. We expect these students to not only go to work for hunting lodges, fishing lodges and shooting facilities, but also do safaris in Africa, outdoor adventures anywhere in the world or become representatives for outdoors companies. This is an extremely broad major that does not limit our students to a specific area.

“We’re expecting the demand for this major to blossom and really increase.”

Crozier said an internship is not a part of the curriculum, but it is highly suggested so that the students who go into this major will get some industry experience.

“Dr. Ditchkoff and Dr. Smith are putting together a list of industry contacts who are looking for interns,” she said. “It will be up to the student to go find their internship. If we have a company or business that wants to interview students, we will provide a place to do that and line the students up to interview.

Crozier said the faculty plans to reach out to the outdoors industry to identify what might be a current need or emerging need that could become an area of focus or to adjust the curriculum.

“Being a brand new program, we do have some needs. We need to be able to create partnerships with industry so that our students have places and opportunities to intern,” she said. “We’re looking for corporate sponsorships. Academic scholarships attract your best and brightest students. We need mentors, speakers for classes, places to take students for field tours, travel stipends for our students and faculty.”

Prospective students and parents can visit sfws.auburn.edu for more information or call recruiter Wendy Franklin in the Student Services office at 334-844-1001.

Black Warrior Electric Sends Crews to North Carolina To Help Restore Power in Wake of Hurricane Florence

Black Warrior Electric Membership Corp. is sending manpower and equipment to North Carolina to help utilities there restore electricity in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses.

Black Warrior crews left early Friday morning for Rockingham, N.C., just as the storm came ashore at Wilmington and began its slow move across the state, dumping record levels of rain and causing catastrophic flooding. The crews consisted of 10 linesmen and five trucks, including three bucket trucks. They will be assisting Pee Dee Electric in the south central part of the state.

“This storm obviously is devastating for residents of North Carolina, and it places a tremendous burden on all public services, especially utilities,” said Daryl Jones, manager of Black Warrior Electric. “In times like these, electric co-ops and utility companies in Alabama and other states are quick to respond because we know how critical restoring power is to helping an area. We certainly want to help in any way we can.”

Michael Barnes, who works out of Black Warrior’s Demopolis division, is foreman of the crews, which also include linesmen from Eutaw, Butler, Linden and Greensboro.

“We have two big buckets, a derrick truck, a small bucket, a pickup and a trailer full of equipment,” Barnes said. “We are going to do our best to help them out.”

After working with Pee Dee Electric, Barnes said he expects his crews to move closer to the shore to help other utilities.

Crews from 17 of Alabama’s 22 rural electric cooperatives are expected to deploy to the Carolinas, according to Alabama Rural Electric Association. The cooperatives pledged to send a total of 152 crew members. Crews from Central Alabama Electric Cooperative and Southern Pine Electric Cooperative left Thursday for North Carolina, with the other crews will leaving Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Alabama electric co-ops often send crews to other service areas and other states to help with the recovery after storms. In return, co-ops from other states come to Alabama to assist in the aftermath of storms here.

“We assist them, they assist us,” Jones. “The most important thing is to help people in need. The next time it could be us.”

In recent years, Black Warrior and other Alabama co-ops have sent crews to Florida and Georgia. Jones said he doesn’t know how long his crews could be in North Carolina, but past deployments have lasted three to four weeks.

Black Warrior Electric is a member-owned cooperative that serves about 26,000 residents and businesses in 12 counties in west central Alabama.

Opening-Day Dove Hunt Focuses on Youth

Wes and Charlie (right) Smith help dad, Jason, keep up with his downed doves.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Sweat trickled into my eyes as a mourning dove turned and came straight at me. Hidden in the sunflower stalks, I was undetected until it was too late. A shot at the approaching dove dropped it between rows.

A short time later, another dove flew even closer. Two shots later and the dove continued flying unscathed. I’ll blame it on the sweat.

As usual, the opening day of dove season in the North Zone was an exercise in trying to find shade as the onset of fall temperatures is likely still a few weeks away. But that didn’t deter the participants at the annual dove hunt at Gulf Farms near Orrville in Dallas County.

Hosts Mike Eubanks and Lamar Harrison make a point to emphasize that dove hunting is an ideal method to introduce youngsters and inexperienced hunters to the outdoors.

During the pre-hunt safety briefing and discussion, Eubanks celebrated a record turnout of young people at the hunt.

“We had 38 hunters age 15 and under,” Eubanks said. “That’s fantastic. That’s the most we’ve ever had. What we’re trying to do is get these younger people involved in the outdoors. And we appreciate these dads and moms who bring their kids with them to hunt.

“Mr. Harrison (his father-in-law) and I want to give these kids a chance to hunt doves in a safe environment. We stress safety before we head to the dove fields.”

Gulf Farms goes to a great deal of effort to provide top-quality fields for the hunters, planting a combination of corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, sunflowers and wheat.

“We can’t control how many doves we have,” Eubanks said. “But we do everything by the guidelines to provide everything we think a dove might need from food to water to places to roost.

“We had a decent number of doves this year. It was better than last year, but it wasn’t the best hunt we’ve had at Gulf Farms. But those kids got to shoot a lot, and their enjoyment of being outdoors is what we like to see.”

Eric Guarino and his 14-year-old son, Jack, have been fixtures at the Gulf Farms hunt during the last decade. Last weekend’s hunt made the seventh hunt for the father-son team in the last eight years.

“I think Jack was probably six when we started coming,” Eric said. “My daughter even came one year. I just wanted to get them outside and get them involved in something that I always enjoyed doing.”

Eric’s outdoors adventures started out with a fishing rod in his hands. It was a few years before it was replaced with a firearm.

“When my dad opened his own business, my mom was working there,” he said. “Five days a week when we weren’t in school, my mom would put me out at Fisherman’s Wharf on Dog River. She would come pick me up at five o’clock when she got off work. I fished all day, every day. I caught more redfish and flounder out of Dog River than anybody else.”

Guarino was in high school when he went deer hunting for the first time with friends. Then one of his friends was dating a girl whose dad was a member of a dove club in Baldwin County, which led to his introduction to dove hunting.

“Then I really got into duck hunting,” he said “I was fanatical about it for a very long time. I still am, but it is suppressed by kids, career and other obligations. I don’t have time to go scout for ducks anymore.”

Despite the other outdoors endeavors, the Guarinos try to make it to Gulf Farms for the September opening-day hunt.

“Mike and Mr. Harrison invite me every year,” Eric said. “Actually, they invite Jack, and I get to drive him. In a couple of years, he’ll be driving, and I may not get to come.”

Eric said the atmosphere at the Gulf Farms hunt makes them come back year after year.

“This is a good bunch of folks, good fellowship, good eats in a safe, clean environment,” he said. “It’s just a good time being around a lot of good folks.

“Jack is really into camping and hiking and backpacking, so, we do that together. We don’t do a whole lot of hunting, but when this dove hunt came up, he said, ‘We have got to go to that.’ He wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

Jack said he remembers his first Gulf Farms hunt like it was yesterday.

“When I was six, I was happy to be here,” Jack said. “I had my little BB gun. My dad would shoot one, and I’d go over with my BB gun and say, ‘I got it.’

“It’s been fun. I’ve been coming half of my life. I get to shoot guns all day, which is a fun thing to do. A couple of my friends go deer hunting but not many dove hunt. I love dove hunting. It’s special because we come here every year. It’s just a good time.”

Jack and his dad had an especially fruitful afternoon in the dove field, retrieving almost a two-man limit (15 per person) of birds. Like most hunters, Jack relishes the preparation and consumption of the wild game.

“I get to eat what I kill,” Jack said. “It’s a special connection that I took this game for myself, and now I get to enjoy it.”

Eric said he doesn’t have an elaborate recipe to prepare doves for his family, but it doesn’t matter.

“I just wrap them in bacon and put them in the oven and cook them until the bacon is done,” Eric said. “Then I don’t get to eat any of them because my wife and daughter will eat them all. I’ve got to kill quite a few to be able to have enough for me to get some.”

Kent Yrabedra joined the Gulf Farms fun last weekend, and he also sticks to the basics when it comes to preparing his dove breasts for the table.

“I like them the old-fashioned way,” Yrabedra said. “Fried doves are hard to beat. I soak them in buttermilk, roll them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and fry them golden brown. Just don’t over-fry them or they’ll get tough.”

The Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Wild Game Cook-Off series has yielded several delicious ways to prepare doves, including this one from the Choctaw Bluff cooking team.

Dove Boats

Ingredients:

20 dove breasts

Teriyaki, Worcestershire and yellow mustard for marinade

10 jalapeños

8 ounces cream cheese

1 can water chestnuts

Bacon

Preparation: The Choctaw Bluff team starts by pounding the dove breasts to tenderize. Combine marinade ingredients to taste and dip dove breasts. Slice jalapeños lengthwise and seed. Take jalapeno half, fill with cream cheese, top with water chestnut and dove breast. Wrap in bacon. Cook on hot grill until bacon is done.

The Mobile County Wildlife Association prepared another AWF Cook-Off winner.

Uncle Tom’s Banded Dove Bombs

Ingredients:

20 dove breasts

Half gallon buttermilk

2 pounds Jimmy Dean Hot sausage

3 cans Pillsbury Crescent rolls

Large (2-pound) block Velveeta cheese

Peanut oil

Preparation: Soak doves in buttermilk overnight. Cut dove breasts into strips and mix with sausage. Brown mixture until cooked. Put in refrigerator to cool. Take single crescent roll, add scoop of Velveeta cheese and scoop of dove-sausage mixture. Wrap carefully to form something akin to a Hot Pocket. Return to refrigerator until ready to fry. Drop in 400-degree peanut oil for about 4 minutes and enjoy.

By the way, those preparing to hunt the opening day of the South Zone, which is September 15, or hunt for the first time in the North Zone need to be aware that a HIP (Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program) license is needed to hunt migratory birds like doves, ducks, woodcocks and geese.

It was obvious from a few people I talked to at the Gulf Farms hunt that the requirement is not well understood. The HIP license, which is free at www.outdooralabama.com/mourning-dove-hunting-alabama/what-hip, is required of Alabama residents ages 16-64 and non-residents 16 and older who hunt migratory birds. Hunters who are exempt from hunting license requirements are also exempt from the HIP requirement.

Alabama Extension offering farming basics online course

More people than ever are interested in giving farming a try. In the past, people turned to farming family members for help. Today, most people are generations removed from farming.

To help budding farmers get started, Alabama Extension now offers a free online course, Farming Basics. Launched Sept. 10, the course addresses critical topics in agriculture.

Alabama Extension Director Gary Lemme calls the course a groundbreaking digital effort.

“Anyone who is considering farming but has little to no experience will reap rewards by completing the course,” Lemme said. He adds that Farming Basics is a valuable tool for experienced farm owners as well.

“Established producers can use the course as a refresher in best practices,” Lemme said. “Additionally, they can use it to train new employees.”

Jewell and Russell Bean of S & B Farm in Barbour County agree the course is exactly what beginning farmers need.

“Farming Basics is filled with good information,” Russell Bean said. “We recommend it as a resource not only for beginning farmers but seasoned producers as well.”

Farming Basics’ five chapters feature video presentations and additional resources that enhance the course’s content depth. A short quiz at the end of each chapter offers participants the opportunity to review and reinforce content concepts. The course takes about two hours to complete. Upon completion, participants receive a certificate.

Extension Specialist Ayanava Majumdar, Farming Basics project leader, says more than 200 people have already preregistered for the course.

“Farming is challenging for experienced farmers, and it can be overwhelming to people new to it,” said Majumdar. “Our goal with Farming Basics is to help new producers develop knowledge and critical skills, enabling them to reduce mistakes and achieve profitability more rapidly.”

The course covers farm management and marketing, pesticide safety, food safety, basic crop production and pest management. Find the course at https://aces.catalog.auburn.edu/.

Farming Basics follows the proven model of Beef Basics, Alabama Extension’s first online agriculture course.

Lemme says these courses serve as the foundation of the organization’s growing commitment to online learning.

“Because of programs like this, we are becoming a nationally recognized leader in digital learning.”

This course is part of Alabama Extension’s overarching Beginning Farmer program, a collaborative effort of a wide range of institutions, producer organizations and nonprofit agencies. The Alabama Beginning Farmer Program is funded by a grant from the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.

Currently, the Beginning Farmer program provides intense on-farm guidance to more than 60 beginning farmers, including military veterans, women and socially disabled individuals. The advisory service has an 85 percent adoption rate and has increased yields by improving crop quality and reducing insecticide use with pest prevention.

Alabama Extension operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn universities.

(Written by Maggie Lawrence.)

Physically Disabled Hunt Dates Announced for Field Trial Area

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area (FWFTA) in Hale County will host a series of deer hunts for hunters with physical disabilities from late November 2018 through January 2019. Registration for the hunts will open September 17 and run through October 19, 2018.

“Access to outdoor activities such as hunting should be available to everyone who has an interest,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “We are honored to provide hunting opportunities for all Alabamians including those with physical disabilities.”

Hunt availability is limited and will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. Hunters are limited to registering for only one hunt for the season and must bring an assistant to help with the hunt. Hunters will need a Conservation ID number prior to registering. To register for a hunt, call 334-289-8030 during the registration period listed above.

FWFTA physically disabled hunt dates:
• November 21, 28
• December 1, 26, 29
• January 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 30

Hunters with physical disabilities are required to fill out a Disabled Hunter Permit Application prior to the hunt dates. The permit can be downloaded from the “Physically Disabled Hunting Areas” section of www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/where-hunt-alabama.

Hunters must obtain their license before the hunt since they will not be available on-site. Licenses are available for purchase at various retailers throughout the state or online at www.outdooralabama.com.

All deer harvested during the FWFTA physically disabled hunts must be reported via Alabama’s Game Check system. Hunters will have 48 hours to Game Check their harvest through the Outdoor AL mobile app or online at www.outdooralabama.com.

In addition to being required when registering for the FWFTA physically disabled hunts, a Conservation ID number is the fastest and easiest way to report a deer or turkey harvest. This number is unique to each hunter and can also be used to purchase future licenses, obtain Harvest Information Program permits, register for Special Opportunity Area hunts and more. For information about how to obtain a Conservation ID number, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

If you have questions about the FWFTA physically disabled hunts, please call or email Justin Gilchrist with the ADCNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division at 334-289-8030 or Justin.Gilchrist@dcnr.alabama.gov.

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area consists of 4,300 acres in Hale County and is managed as a nature preserve and recreation area. In addition to developing a sporting dog Field Trial/Hunt Test grounds and a youth hunting program, the ADCNR State Lands Division is currently restoring the tract’s native prairie grasslands and managing its numerous ponds for future public fishing.

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.

Jug Fishing Producing Plenty of Alabama River Catfish

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The ripples emanating from the sides of the 2-foot-long piece of pool noodle was just what Joe Dunn hoped to see.

It meant there was something attached to the line that dropped some 15 feet into the murky waters of the Alabama River near Camden.

During the dog days of summer, this fishing tactic is what Dunn prefers because the heat makes it unbearable to crappie fish in hopes of catching seven or eight keepers. The same goes for bass fishing.

So, Dunn turns to the plentiful catfish that inhabit Alabama’s many rivers, and lets the jugs, or noodles in this case, do the fishing while he enjoys a restful night of sleep. If he’s ambitious, he’ll run the 20 or so jugs during the night. If not, he’ll head out at dawn to find out what’s been biting.

Catching bait might be the only real work involved in “jug” fishing.

“The predominant bait on Millers Ferry is going to be shad that you catch with your cast net,” Dunn said. “But skipjacks (members of the herring family) are another excellent bait. It’s a little harder, sometimes, to catch skipjacks. Most people use Sabiki rigs and go behind the power house to catch the skipjacks. But sometimes there’s another way to catch them. If you’re on the river, sometimes you will see skipjacks chasing little river minnows or small shad. You ease over into that area, and when they come up to feed, you throw your cast net and load it up with skipjacks. We did that just the other day with the cast net.

“The key is good, fresh bait.”

Dunn said if you’re planning to do a little tightlining for catfish before you head back to camp to get out of the heat, the skipjacks will stay alive for a little while in the livewell. If you see a couple floating in the livewell, it’s best to get them all out, put them in a plastic bag and get them on ice before they degrade.

Dunn says the best way to deal with leftover skipjacks is to freeze them as soon as possible.

“Freezing skipjacks in water doesn’t work well,” he said. “When you thaw them out, they’re all mushy and just don’t work well. I found out if you put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them individually before putting them in freezer bags, they work a lot better. That’s a big plus.”

When Dunn is targeting flathead catfish, he tries to catch small bream to bait the jugs. Flathead, also known as yellow cats, prefer the bait to be live and swimming.

“Most of the time, flatheads are going to hit something live, whether it’s a 3-inch bream (taken by hook and line) or a skipjack you’ve just caught in the cast net,” he said. “If you have a good live skipjack, you just hook him in the middle of the back so he can swim and stay alive.

“If you’re looking for a mess of small fish for a fish fry, just use those small shad and thread them on the hook. If you’re keying on bigger fish, you’re better off with a live bait, even your bigger blue cats like live bait.”

Most people tend to shun keeping a larger blue cat because the flesh is not as suitable for consumption as any size flathead. However, Dunn said large blue cats can be delicious if they’re prepared correctly.

“The key is learning how to clean them to where they taste good,” he said. “It’s best to bleed them. I cut the tail off and throw them in the splash well. When I clean them, I get all the red meat off, and then I soak the meat in an ice-water slush. You soak it and get all the blood out, changing the water when needed to get that meat snowball white.

“Then you fry it, and it’s good. I’ve had people tell me it was the best blue cat they’ve ever eaten.”

Now Dunn is not saying he can make big blue cats taste like a flathead, which doesn’t seem to lose any appeal to the palate the larger the fish gets.

“I fried some flathead for my brother, Bubba, and he kept asking me, ‘What did you do to this fish? What did you do to this fish?’” Dunn said. “I didn’t do anything to it. It was just the fish. The flathead is just the primo catfish catch out of the river.”

Dunn said a couple of techniques seem to work when he’s specifically targeting flatheads. He focuses on the inside bends in the river and rock walls. At the start of the bend, most will have a small sandbar. He said the flathead like to hang out at the drop-off behind the sandbar.

“They’re sitting below that bar where the current is running over the top of them, waiting on that bait to come to them,” he said. “I also like to fish where a cut is coming into the main river where the depth goes from 12 to 14 feet down to 30. They like to hang underneath that drop-off. But big blue cats like those spots too.”

Even though Millers Ferry has a reputation as a fantastic crappie fishery, Dunn thinks catfish are overlooked at times.

“This is a super good catfish fishery.”

Dunn said the hot weather pattern for catfish starts around the middle of June and usually runs through October, depending on when we get enough of a cold front to lower the water temperature.

“The hotter it gets, the more you stay in the main river channel,” he said. “I use the noodles because you use a lot longer lines, 15 to 20 feet, and it’s easier to wrap the lines around the noodles when I take them up.”

When he’s targeting the larger fish, Dunn uses a tarred nylon twine for the main lines with a 1½-ounce lead, swivel, monofilament leader and a 5/0 circle hook.

Dunn said the largest flathead catfish he’s hauled in at the Ferry weighed 65 pounds, and the largest blue cat he’s seen weighed 55 pounds.

For “fry ’em whole” small fish, he uses double-hook rigs with smaller hooks and smaller shad for bait.

Dunn takes a break from catfishing during the winter to head to the deer woods. The water gets high during the winter, but he’s back on the river fairly early in the new year.

“We usually start on February 17,” he said. “We’ve always started on that date because that’s my oldest son’s birthday. We would come up to the river and get our jugs ready. But that time of year, you go up in the shallow flats. The catfish will move into the shallow flats before anything else.”

In February, Dunn changes his “jugs” to 20-ounce drink bottles and 1½- to 2-foot lines with a ½-ounce to 1-ounce weight, swivel and foot of 20-pound-test monofilament leader tied to a 3/0 circle hook.

“That’s when I go in places like Gee’s Bend, Buzzard’s Roost, River Bluff, Alligator,” he said. “You just get in the backs of the creeks and throw your jugs out. You can wear them out in the springtime doing that.”

Alabama’s creel limit on catfish is determined by size. For catfish under 34 inches there is no limit. Anglers can keep one catfish 34 inches or longer in most areas of the state. Several river basins – Perdido, Conecuh, Blackwater, Yellow, Choctawhatchee, Chipola and Chattahoochee – are exempt from the size limit. Also, it is unlawful to transport live catfish 34 inches or longer beyond the boundaries of Alabama.

Coast Guard urges boating safety during holiday weekend

The Coast Guard urges boaters to use extra caution while out on the water this Labor Day weekend.

Coast Guard crews, along with local and state law enforcement agencies, will be patrolling, conducting safety checks, and watching for people boating while intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.

Never boat under the influence: It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail time. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

Take a boating safety course: Statistics show that more than 80 percent of those involved in boating fatalities have never taken a boating safety course or had any other type of formal boating education. The public can find courses at uscgboating.org or by contacting their state wildlife or natural resources departments, the Power Squadron or the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

File a float plan: Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who is staying back. The sooner a party can be reported overdue, the more likely a positive outcome will result. Facts need to be quickly conveyed in an emergency. Your float plan should include information that rescue personnel need to find you. For examples of a float plan, visit http://floatplancentral.cgaux.org/

Wear a life jacket: Life jackets save lives. In 2017, 76 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, approximately 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious, or exhausted in the water.

Get a free vessel safety check: Boats that are properly equipped, in good operating condition and safe from hazards are less likely to be involved in accidents and fatalities. Contact representatives of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron to request a free vessel safety check by visiting www.safetyseal.net and clicking on “I want a VSC.” 

Take a VHF-FM marine radio: Cell phones may lose signal off shore or run out of battery power. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies. VHF channel 16 is the marine emergency channel. It should only be used for emergencies.

Monitor weather broadcasts: Watch for current storm advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. Forecasts can be heard by tuning in to Channels 1 to 5 on a VHF marine radio or by checking the NWS website at www.weather.gov

Bring a Signaling Device: Have a portable device to communicate an emergency on the water. In addition to a marine-band radio, boaters should have signal flares or an emergency position-indicating radio beacon to alert first responders.

Download the USCG app: The U.S. Coast Guard mobile app features information most commonly requested by boaters to include: weather, electronic float plans, safety equipment requirements, etc. it also includes and emergency assistance button to call the nearest Coast Guard command center an it’s available on the App Store and Google Play.

Mentored Hunt starts Welch’s outdoors journey

Welch said shooting a rifle under Jeremy Doss’ supervision at an Adult Mentored Hunt made her want to pursue more outdoors opportunities. Welch wasn’t the only female hunter to bag an alligator recently.
Leslie Welch managed to tag this 10½-foot alligator on the second weekend of the Southwest Zone season.
Andrea Mills took this 11-foot, 5-inch gator near McIntosh.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As far as Leslie Welch is concerned, she was hooked at “Boom.” That report from the deer rifle happened a couple of years ago when she was among the lucky people who were selected to go on an Adult Mentored Hunt in Mobile County.

That experience set in motion Welch’s latest episode in her outdoors journey – alligator hunting. On her third try, Welch was drawn for one of the 150 tags in the Southwest Alabama Zone that includes private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84.

Welch, who grew up in a household that seldom ventured outdoors, had never even fired a gun before the mentored hunt, which made it even more interesting that she would pursue an alligator tag. However, Welch said that first outdoors experience opened a whole new world of adventure. Duck hunting is next on her to-do list.

“I grew up with a daddy who was a professor of religious studies at Alabama and a mom who did IT (Information Technology) before she became an industrial engineer in computer science,” Welch said. “We didn’t have these opportunities because my parents never presented it. I dated a boy in high school who hunted. He asked me to go hunting, but I never went.”

Welch, a former teacher, once worked with Amy Doss, wife of Jeremy Doss, a State Lands Division Enforcement Officer with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Amy would always have good stories for me about the outdoors,” Welch said. “And Amy was telling me about this hunt for first-timers.”

Jeremy Doss and Daniel Musselwhite, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ South Regional Hunter Education Coordinator, were involved in starting the Adult Mentored Hunt (AMH) program in Mobile County. Welch fit the AMH target profile of a non-hunter and was chosen to go on her first deer hunt. She didn’t even see a deer, but several of the other hunters bagged their first deer that day.

“It was fun to watch and fun to be a part of,” Welch said. “Everybody was so welcoming, and nobody made you feel like an idiot for not knowing things, which is important, especially to a first-time person. Everything was explained to me.

“When I got to shoot the gun, oooh, I loved it. It scared the bejesus out of me, but I was really good at it. Then I bought a gun after that.”

She still hasn’t been able to squeeze the trigger on a deer, but that hasn’t quelled her enthusiasm.

Then Amy shared another outdoors story about gator hunting after a friend of the Dosses got a tag. Welch started applying for alligator tags until she was finally drawn this year.

“I was shocked I got a tag,” Welch said. “I texted Jeremy and Amy that they had to take me.”

The Dosses agreed, and Welch entered an environment she had never imagined in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“I had never been on a boat at night except for a cruise ship,” Welch said. “It was fabulous. It was gorgeous. It was peaceful. It’s a totally different world at night. I got to go under the bridge on the Causeway. There were all kinds of things I got to experience that I’d never done before. And we saw lots and lots of gators, but they were spooked that first night.

“We didn’t get a gator, but I was ready to go again.”

With the Causeway gators somewhat leery because of all the boat traffic, Welch and the Dosses moved to the upper Delta for the second round. With a little help from Matt Horton of the Upper Delta Gobblers NWTF chapter, their luck changed quickly after launching the boat near Stockton.

“This gator popped up right after we launched the boat,” Welch said. “I named him ‘George’ by the way.”

Welch quickly hooked the gator, but she didn’t realize it at the time.

“I thought I was hooked on the bottom,” she said. “Then I told Jeremy the line was moving. He said, ‘The gator is walking on the bottom.’ I said, ‘What?’ I didn’t know they walked on the bottom.”

Doss said, “He was pulling the boat. It’s dark, so you don’t realize he’s pulling the boat because you have no frame of reference. He was just easing us down the river.”

Welch was soon up for another surprise when the alligator finally decided to come to the surface.

“When everybody put their spotlights on him, I literally backed up behind Jeremy,” she said. “I said, ‘Oh, heck, that thing is real.’”

Doss said the fifth time Welch was able to reel the animal to the surface they were able to get a harpoon in the gator.

“He was in 36 feet of water,” Doss said. “The problem was when he came up, he wouldn’t come straight up, he came up away from the boat. We finally got him up close enough to get a harpoon in him.”

Minutes later, the 10½-foot gator was dispatched and the celebration began.

“I’m sure there was a lot of squealing going on,” Welch said. “I tried not to because I was with a bunch of guys, but I’m afraid to say there was some squealing.

“Then I was just staring at the gator. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is real.’ Then I got to touch the gator. I had never touched an alligator before. I had never even been to Alligator Alley and touched one of the baby alligators.”

Doss added, “I don’t believe we would have gotten the gator so quickly without Matt’s help. Matt also helps with the mentored hunts, and he helped put us on the gator.”

In this world of social media, it’s no surprise that Welch shared her gator hunt on Facebook.

“I did brag,” she said. “Since then, I’ve had people asking me when I’m going again. I told them it doesn’t work that way, but let me tell you how to apply for a tag. So, there are at least seven people more who are going to put in for tags next year.”

Musselwhite said Welch’s story and her outreach to friends about her outdoors experiences are exactly what the AMH program is designed to do.

“It’s important that we did make her a hunter, but she has that ripple effect to go out and recruit new hunters,” Musselwhite said. “By creating one hunter, we may be able to recruit several more hunters.”

Last year, Brian Nettles was highlighted as a newly recruited hunter through the AMH program, and Musselwhite has followed Nettles’ outdoors journey.

“Since last year, Brian has killed his first buck,” Musselwhite said. “Two of his kids have killed bucks. He came to me pretty raw and had no idea what to do. Now, he’s got two kids that maybe wouldn’t be hunters if not for the program.

“And Leslie shows that it’s not about killing a deer. There’s so much more to hunting than killing deer. It’s enjoying the little things you see in the woods. That’s the demographic we’re going after.”

Welch said it’s hard to describe the sensory input she has experienced during her outdoors adventures.

“How do you explain to someone the sound of the wind coming through the trees while you’re sitting out there in the blind?” Welch said. “I didn’t know what that sound was. I’d never been still in nature long enough to know what it was. It’s the prettiest sound I’ve ever heard. It was so calming.

“It’s one of the reasons I want to experience more of the outdoors. I want to try these things I was not offered as a teenager growing up in Tuscaloosa. I want to go duck hunting, and I’m going deer hunting again.”

And, rest assured, her name will also be on an application for an alligator tag again next year.

The gator application process will come next year. However, applications are being accepted now for AMH events throughout the state. You must be at least 19 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be new to hunting (or have limited hunting experience) to apply for an AMH hunt. You can apply for up to three AMH events with a single application. Depending on the number of applicants, you may be limited to a single event. The AMH application must be completed online at www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-application.

All AMH program correspondence is through email, so a valid email address must be included on the application. You will be notified by email if you are selected for a mentored hunt event. Email Justin.Grider@dcnr.alabama.gov with questions about the application or selection process.

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-hunting-program for more information about the AMH program including hunt dates/locations and complete instructions on how to apply.

UA Building Innovative Radars to Help Flood, Drought Management

Researchers at The University of Alabama will lead a project to develop and deploy radars that obtain information about snow and soil moisture to help manage the nation’s water resources.

The project is funded through $6 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, in partnership with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, or UCAR.

It includes $5 million for the University and $1 million to UCAR to establish new capabilities enabling the National Water Model, the nation’s first-ever continental-scale hydrologic prediction system operated by the NOAA’s National Water Center, located on the UA campus.

“This is excellent news for The University of Alabama, our state and the nation,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. “The research made possible by this $6 million grant will drive scientific advances to help improve the nation’s water prediction capabilities and forecasts. I am proud to have helped secure this funding that will better protect the lives and property of all Americans.”

UA President Stuart R. Bell said, “This award further demonstrates the University’s commitment to cultivating a research culture that will have a far-reaching impact. We are very pleased to see our research efforts making a significant difference for water resources and for the nation at large.”

Faculty, students and staff with the UA Remote Sensing Center, part of the Alabama Water Institute, will lead the development of radars capable of high-resolution measurements from radar fixed to airplanes flying at medium and high altitudes

“This award leverages existing partnerships, boosting opportunities for our researchers to be successful in addressing challenges facing society,” said Dr. John C. Higginbotham, UA interim vice president for research and economic development. “Our expertise in remote sensing is an asset in our nation’s efforts to prepare and manage hydrological events.”

Dr. Prasad Gogineni, the Cudworth Professor of Engineering at UA and an internationally recognized expert in the field of remote sensing, directs the center established by UA trustees in 2017.

“We are developing a world-class remote sensing center on campus to contribute to the efforts of the National Water Center to improve flood and drought forecasts and manage operations during floods,” Gogineni said.

Precise measurements of snow depth and water in the soil can help those who manage water resources, such as reservoirs, and officials who prepare and manage for flood or drought events, Gogineni said. Researchers with UCAR and NOAA will model and analyze the data.

“Water managers, public safety officials and business leaders are seeking this kind of intelligence to protect lives and property and safeguard our economy,” said Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, the president of UCAR. “This project is further evidence of the productive and maturing relationship that exists among UCAR, UA and NOAA to grow the nation’s water prediction capabilities. It is a perfect example of an academic-government partnership that we need more of to move cutting edge research into operational forecasting.”

The support of Shelby and others in Congress has been instrumental in advancing the nation’s water prediction capabilities, Busalacchi added.

As part of its mission, the National Water Center models and forecasts flood and droughts, and data from the radar imaging developed by UA will improve those forecasts, Gogineni said.

“If you want to manage water resources effectively, you need better information,” he said. “The information that exists is not sufficient.”

Dr. Ying-Hwa “Bill” Kuo, director of UCAR Community Programs, said the data will serve a vital role.

“This research will fill a critical gap needed to continue to improve the performance of the National Water Model,” he said. “UCAR is very pleased to partner with UA and the National Water Center on this important effort.”

UA researchers, with an assist from colleagues at the University of Kansas, will develop ultra-wideband, or UWB, radars for aircraft to begin field testing in the spring of 2019.

UWB radar operates over a large bandwidth to penetrate deep into snow and soil, as opposed to commercial radios or satellites that use microwave frequencies with large antennas to transmit over longer distances.

The proposed radar will image not just below the aircraft, but on the sides as well, allowing it to view a larger swath of earth.

“This is going to be a state-of-the-art system with multiple receivers and multiple transmitters to be able to look straight down as well as to the sides,” Gogineni said.

Over the longer term, the UWB radars will be made smaller and integrated with sensors operating on other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to provide high-resolution, fine-scale imaging over large areas. The system should be able to image snow as thin as 3 centimeters to as thick as 2 meters from high altitudes.

Funding will support new technical and administrative support staff for the Remote Sensing Center along with providing leading-edge technological research to a post-doctoral researcher, 15 graduate students and 15 undergraduate students.

“Education and training is integrated in all aspects of the research,” Gogineni said.

CWD Restrictions Expanded to All States, Canada

Chronic Wasting Disease leaves deer emaciated and the disease is always fatal.
(buck photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism/Michael Hopper, CWD Alliance)

By Davide Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) catapulted into the world of deer hunters all over the South when an afflicted white-tailed deer was discovered in the Mississippi Delta this past January.

It was the first case so close to Alabama, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division immediately responded by adding Mississippi to the list of states where special precautions were in effect to minimize the chance of spreading the disease.

At the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board meeting in May, WFF asked that the rules regarding the importation of carcasses from members of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose, caribou, etc.) be extended to all states and Canada.

Those rules state that hunters should completely debone the animal and remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides before returning to Alabama. Those skull plates must be free of any brain or spinal cord material. Velvet-covered antlers are also included in the prohibited materials. Root structures and other soft tissue should also be removed from all teeth. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.

Starting with the 2019-2020 seasons, Alabama will implement a ban on the use of natural deer urine products as well. Synthetic deer urine products are not affected.

CWD is a disease similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. CWD is a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that starts to debilitate the affected animal and always results in death.

At last weekend’s Buckmasters Expo in Montgomery, game biologists and law enforcement officers at the WFF booth tried to spread the word about the threat of CWD and how it could change hunting, which is a $1.8 billion industry in Alabama.

The WFF outreach on CWD education will ramp up significantly right away with seminars, billboards and media promotions.

“We are doing our seminar series that will focus on CWD,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes, who travels the state to conduct the seminars. “We are purchasing billboard advertisement up and down our major road systems. We’re also doing some outreach at gas pumps and ice machines at convenience stores in strategic places around the state.”

Sykes said there is so much misinformation in the public square, whether online or around the campfire, that WFF is doing everything it can to ensure people are getting the correct information.

“There are rumors that it is already here in Alabama, which is not true,” Sykes said. “There are rumors that it’s made up; there’s no such thing as CWD. The best one I’ve heard is it’s just a way for the state to make money. I wish they would show me how we’re going to make money when we’re having to move resources and money to help test animals and educate the public. It’s typical anti-government rhetoric that doesn’t have any basis in reality. So, we’re trying our best to get the facts out.”

Sykes said the decision to ban natural deer urine products after the upcoming seasons was done to err on the side of caution.

“We knew that people already had orders,” he said. “We knew stores had the product on the shelf, and manufacturers already had purchase orders. The Board expressed a desire to ban urine products, so we made our recommendation to start the ban in 2019. So, hunters can buy and use those natural deer urine products through the upcoming season, but starting in the fall of 2019, they won’t be able to use them.

“It’s just a precaution. We know the prion (rogue protein) that causes CWD can be found in urine, saliva and feces. That’s just one hole that we can plug. A lot of the facilities that bottle urine are in states with CWD. We just don’t want to take that risk. Granted, it’s not as big of a risk as bringing in a live deer or a deer carcass, but it’s a risk we don’t want to take.”

Most CWD-positive states have experienced a slow but gradual spread of additional cases once the disease is established. However, there have been a few exceptions. Mississippi has tested about 650 deer since that one incident and hasn’t found any other infected deer at this point. Sykes said only one state other than Mississippi, New York, had a confirmed case of CWD in 2005 and no other deer have tested positive since.

“The best thing we can do is to keep CWD out of our state,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “We’ve passed the regulations regarding bringing carcasses into Alabama. The best offense is to play good defense to keep it out of Alabama.

“I think a lot of people are getting the message, but we still have a lot of work we need to do. Some people think CWD is so far away that it doesn’t affect us. When it showed up in Mississippi, it put a lot of people on notice that it is a lot closer to us than it had been and that we need to be very vigilant to keep it out of our state by being mindful of what we do.”

Buckmasters founder and CEO Jackie Bushman hunts all over the U.S. and Canada, and he is fully aware of the threat CWD poses.

“I’ve been in Canada where they’ve had CWD and in Montana, and I hope we don’t get it,” Bushman said as crowds filled the Montgomery Convention Center for the annual Expo. “I’m sure the game and fish guys are on top of it. Chuck (Sykes) and his staff are doing a good job of being prepared if it ever does come here. I think people really have to pay attention, especially if you’re going on a hunt out of state, you’ve got to be careful about what you’re bringing back.

“This is something serious for the deer hunters, but also the whole financial part of the hunting industry. It would be devastating to people who sell or lease hunting land, the deer processors and sporting goods stores. It would be across the board in Alabama. But the way I look at it is we’ve got some smart folks that are working on it. Just pay attention to what they say. This is serious, but if we do the right things, we can keep it out of Alabama.”

Speaking of the people who sell hunting land, National Land Realty was one of several companies with booths at the Expo. Former Deputy Conservation Commissioner Curtis Jones now works with National Land Realty and understands the impact CWD could have.

“Right now, hunting land sales have picked up with the improving economy,” Jones said. “If CWD shows up anywhere in the state, the whole state would be affected. The value of property throughout the state would decline.

“So, I don’t have any problems with anything the Conservation Department can do to prevent the spread of that disease. I just hope our hunters and wildlife enthusiasts will read more about it and understand how devastating CWD would be if it got here.”

Andy Whitaker of Wildlife Trends has also tried to increase CWD awareness through their magazine, and he realizes the impact it would have on businesses like the tree nursery he promotes.

“Look what happened up North,” Whitaker said. “They closed whole seasons in places up there. I think it would be devastating for Alabama.

“The thing is people don’t seem to think it can happen here. But, if you remember, people said the same thing about feral hogs. And now, some places are overrun with hogs.”

Other entities are also working to understand CWD and ways to curtail the spread of the disease. The Boone and Crockett Club recently voted to fund more research into the disease. The CWD Alliance (cwd-info.org) provides the latest updates on research and the implementation of rules and regulations related to CWD.

After the deer in Mississippi tested positive for the disease, WFF staff thoroughly reviewed their current CWD Response Plan and revised it to address more recent concerns with the latest available science. The plan will be continually reviewed and updated as new research and scientific information is produced. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/cwd to read the 35-page plan.

(buck photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism/Michael Hopper, CWD Alliance)

Kalee’s Gator

17 year old Kalee Guin of Meridian, Miss. killed this 7 and 1/2 foot Alligator while hunting at Lake Seminole near Sneads, Florida in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 13th. Kalee was hunting with gator hunters/trappers Ross Yowell and Jason Everett. After snagging the gator on a treble hook and reeling in to the boat, Kalee killed the gator with a boom stick. This was Kalee’s First Alligator hunt. Submitted by Claire Smith of Livingston

UWA to host symposium on the Management of Invasive Species Oct. 3-5
Cooperation PAIS to support landowners in controlling feral pigs, cogongrass, and other invasive species

The University of West Alabama will host its first West Alabama Symposium on the Management of Invasive Species October 3-5.

The second program sponsored by Cooperation PAIS (Partners Against Invasive Species), the symposium is open to the public, and land owners and property managers are strongly encouraged to attend. There is a $25 registration fee per attendee.

Cooperation PAIS is a joint effort between UWA, certified Non-Land Grant College of Agriculture, and the Sumter County Soil and Water Conservation District, a unit of the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee. The collaboration will support area land owners in controlling invasive species of plants and animals, and is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (USDA, NIFA).

“This project is targeted at providing education on invasive species and outreach activities to farmers, ranchers and foresters in the west Alabama region,” explained Dr. John McCall, dean of UWA’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The symposium will kick-off on Wednesday, October 3 at the ALFA Environmental Center at 5 p.m. with an informal reception. Two concurrent breakout sessions will last throughout the day on Thursday, October 4 in Bibb Graves Hall, followed by a keynote address from Dr. Tony Frazier, the State Veterinarian at the Alabama Department of Agriculture, and a dinner social. Attendees will be taken on demonstrative field trips on Friday, October 5.

Dr. Lee Stanton, associate professor of biological and environmental sciences will lead one breakout session highlighting the invasive flora, or plants, of the area. McCall will lead the session focusing on the invasive fauna, or animals.

Feral pigs and cogongrass were chosen as the two invasive species to be targeted for year one of the program, but other invasive plants and insects will also will be discussed at the symposium.

Feral pigs have had tremendous economic impact on crops and rangeland and also do significant ecological damage by carrying a growing number diseases that affect both livestock and humans.

Cogongrass is an invasive grass known to severely impact crops, rangelands, and pine forests. The grass burns ultra-hot and poses a significant threat in the spread of brush fires.

Management of invasive species like feral pigs and cogongrass will be a joint effort between researchers at both UWA and the Sumter County Conservation District. They will provide assistance to regional land owners through outreach, shared resources, such as the use of traps, and trained student interns who will collaborate with land owners.

The ultimate goal for the project is to develop a regional center of expertise dedicated to research and management of invasive flora and fauna, particularly with regard to its impact on farms, ranches and forests of west Alabama and east Mississippi.

“We also expect that Cooperation PAIS will help grow student enrollment in agricultural sciences at UWA,” added McCall, as it will provide more hands-on opportunities for students to learn in their field.

For more information on the West Alabama Symposium on the Management of Invasive Species or Cooperation PAIS, contact UWA’s Dr. John McCall at 205-652-3414 or jmccall@uwa.edu.

Learn How to Hunt Through Alabama’s Adult Mentored Hunting Program

Are you new to hunting and interested in learning how to hunt, or has it been a while since you’ve been hunting? If so, Alabama’s Adult Mentored Hunting (AMH) program was designed with you in mind. Applications for AMH program events are now being accepted. The first AMH events for 2018 will take place on October 27.

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) created the AMH program to provide new hunters with a one-on-one hunt under the guidance of a veteran mentor. AMH events are for individuals interested in learning how to hunt, be it to revive a family tradition, learn more about consumptive outdoor recreation, or simply put wild game on the dinner table.

To apply for an AMH event, you must be at least 19 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be new to hunting (or have limited hunting experience). You can apply for up to three AMH events with a single application. However, depending on the number of applicants, you might only be selected for a single event. The AMH application must be completed online at www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-application.

All AMH program correspondence is through email, so please be sure to include a valid email address on your application. You will be notified by email if you are selected for a mentored hunt event. If you have questions about the application or selection process, email Justin.Grider@dcnr.alabama.gov.

The mentored hunts will be conducted in a safe, constructive environment and provide participants with the opportunity to learn from skilled hunting mentors. Participants will be exposed to many facets of hunting including:

• Firearms safety and familiarization
• Equipment overview and needs
• Scouting techniques
• On-site hunts
• Game cleaning and preparation
• Wild game cooking techniques

For most of the mentored hunts, the equipment needed will be provided or offered at no cost to the participant. Mentored hunts are currently available for deer, turkey, squirrel and rabbit.

More information about the AMH program including hunt dates/locations and complete instructions on how to apply can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-hunting-program.

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.

Alabama Youth Dove Hunt Schedule Announced

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) announces that the state’s 18th Annual Youth Dove Hunts have been scheduled for 2018. For most of the state, the hunts begin on September 8.

Although the hunts are free, registration is required. Online registration is scheduled to open August 27, 2018, at 8 a.m. For more information including a complete hunt schedule, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-hunting/youth-dove-hunts.

Hunters submitting a registration for participation in a youth dove hunt must be a parent or an adult at least 21 years old and have a Conservation ID number. Once you receive a registration confirmation email and accept the hunt you wish to attend, you cannot register for a second hunt until the date of your registered hunt has passed. For information about how to obtain a Conservation ID number, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

Alabama’s Youth Dove Hunt events are held in open fields and staffed by WFF personnel, which encourages a safe, secure environment for both parents and participants. The program also makes use of private lands and fields opened for use by community members, which fosters good relationships between hunters and private landowners.

To participate in the hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent) who holds a valid state hunting license and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) stamp. Hunters should obtain their license and HIP stamp before the hunt since they will not be available on-site.

Before each hunt, a short welcome session with reminders on hunting safety will be conducted. All hunters are encouraged to wear eye protection and earplugs.

Doves are migratory and covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has special rules and regulations that apply to dove hunting which all hunters must follow. To review the Alabama Cooperative Extension System recommendations for plantings related to dove management, visit www.outdooralabama.com/what-hunt/mourning-dove-hunting-alabama.

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 Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Alabama River Commercial Paddlefish Seasons Suspended Indefinitely

Steve Rider and Travis Powell with the WFF Fisheries Section display a paddlefish. This long-lived species is slow to mature and reproduce making it vulnerable to overharvest.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has indefinitely suspended future commercial paddlefish fishing seasons on the Alabama River. Paddlefish mature slowly and have low reproductive rates making them highly susceptible to overfishing. This coupled with the lack of reliable fishery-dependent data from recent commercial paddlefish seasons has led to this protective measure.

In 1988, ADCNR implemented a statewide prohibition on the commercial and recreational harvest of paddlefish in response to the rapid depletion of the species in Alabama waters that occurred during the early to mid-1980s. The biology and life history of paddlefish combined with a relatively low population size and the high value of its eggs for use as caviar makes it particularly vulnerable to overharvest and localized extinction.

Sampling by ADCNR fisheries biologists earlier this decade indicated that the paddlefish population in the Alabama River had recovered to a level that was considered robust enough to support a regulated commercial fishery. In 2013, ADCNR initiated a limited annual commercial season for paddlefish within designated management areas of the Alabama River with the understanding that these monitored commercial fishing efforts would provide the data necessary to develop a management plan for the species.

During the initial paddlefish season in 2013, and with the subsequent seasons running through 2016, the information being obtained from harvest reports submitted by paddlefish harvesters and buyers was useful in evaluating the response of the paddlefish population to commercial fishing pressure.

However, beginning with the 2017 season and continuing in the 2018 season, the quality and accuracy of the fishery-dependent information being obtained by ADCNR from season participants diminished. An analysis of these reports indicated that some of the paddlefish harvesters were likely falsifying records in an effort to obscure an overharvest of the fishery.

During the 2018 season, reports of illegal fishing methods used by some permitted paddlefish harvesters lead to ADCNR law enforcement officers initiating an intensive investigation. This investigation resulted in 135 convictions for paddlefish fishing violations.

A review by ADCNR of the biological information and outcomes of the 2017 and 2018 commercial paddlefish seasons indicated that any future commercial paddlefish harvest seasons could lead to overfishing and jeopardize the long-term sustainability of paddlefish in the Alabama River.

For more information about paddlefish in Alabama, visit www.outdooralabama.com/non-game-fish/paddlefish.

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.

Turkey Tail

Trametes versicolor (Coriolus versicolor, Polyporus versicolor)
A inedible, thin capped, leathery bracket-like; surface velvet-like with concentric bands of brown-red-yellow-gray-blue colors. Its pores are white- yellow fungi that grows on rotting wood of hardwood trees and logs. Learn to identify mushrooms online at https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/gtr/gtr_nrs79.pdf. Also shown here is poison oak. It’s always a good idea for hikers to wear socks and good hiking shoes to avoid coming into contack with this plant, as well as other things. Photo by Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal & Moundville Times Community News Editor. Taken in Bowers Park, Tuscaloosa. Think I got it wrong? Let us know at times@mound.net. We’d love to know and please send in your outdoors photos.

Youth Hunt Dates Announced for Forever Wild Field Trial Area

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), State Lands Division announces the youth deer and duck hunt schedules for the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area (FWFTA) in Hale County. The hunts will take place late November 2018 through January 2019. Registration will open August 13 through October 14, 2018. Hunters will be selected via a computerized, random drawing after registration closes.

“I am thrilled that we will have an opportunity again this year to introduce youth to the great deer and duck hunting on this Forever Wild property,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner.

Registration for the FWFTA youth hunts is only available to parents or adults who are at least 21 years old and have a Conservation ID number. A hunting license is not required at the time of registration. However, if selected during the random draw, you must have a valid hunting license to accept the hunt permit. If selected for a hunt, you will receive an email requesting you validate/accept the permit. Once the permit is accepted, you will receive an email with the hunt details.

To register for a hunt, visit https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/Public/AvailableHunts/12 during the registration period listed above.

Youth deer hunt dates:
• November 21, 28
• December 1, 26, 29
• January 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 30

Youth duck hunt dates:
• December 1, 26, 29
• January 9, 12, 16, 19, 23

If you have questions about the hunt details or registration process, call Evan Lawrence with the ADCNR State Lands Division at 334-242-3484, or email Evan.Lawrence@dcnr.alabama.gov.

To participate in the youth hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent). Adults must have a valid state hunting license and applicable duck stamp, if duck hunting. Hunters must obtain their license and duck stamp (if duck hunting) before the hunt since they will not be available on-site. Licenses are available for purchase at various retailers throughout the state or online at www.outdooralabama.com.

All deer harvested during the FWFTA youth hunts must be reported via Alabama’s Game Check system. Hunters will have 48 hours to Game Check their harvest through the Outdoor AL mobile app or online at www.outdooralabama.com.

In addition to being required when registering for the FWFTA youth hunts, a Conservation ID number is the fastest and easiest way to report a deer or turkey harvest. This number is unique to each hunter and can also be used to purchase future licenses, obtain Harvest Information Program permits, register for Special Opportunity Area hunts and more. For information about how to obtain a Conservation ID number, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area consists of 4,300 acres in Hale County and is managed as a nature preserve and recreation area. In addition to developing a sporting dog Field Trial/Hunt Test grounds and a youth hunting program, the ADCNR State Lands Division is currently restoring the tract’s native prairie grasslands and managing its numerous ponds for future public fishing.

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.