Outdoors

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.

UA Building Innovative Radars to Help Flood, Drought Management

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.

Conservation Employees Honored for Contributions to State’s Natural Resources

Three Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) employees were honored at the recent Alabama Wildlife Federation Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards banquet.

Chuck Sykes, director of ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries division, was presented with the Wildlife Conservationist of the Year Award. Sykes is a lifelong hunter and enjoys introducing others to his favorite pastime. During his five years at ADCNR, he has been instrumental in implementing a mandatory statewide deer and turkey harvest reporting system, strengthening Alabama’s chronic wasting disease surveillance and response plan, developing special opportunity hunting areas, creating an adult mentored hunting program and many more conservation initiatives that are important to our state’s wildlife resources.

Sergeant Alan Roach of Valley Grande, Alabama, was presented the Fisheries Conservationist of the Year Award for his efforts in protecting Alabama’s diverse fisheries resource, particularly the paddlefish. During Alabama’s special paddlefish season, he spent countless hours surveying commercial fisherman and documenting violations. In one week he and his team documented 135 paddlefish fishery violations that resulted in over $16,000 in fines. Sergeant Roach’s leadership and aggressive coordination of law enforcement activities related to the Alabama River paddlefish fishery were instrumental in the successful prosecution of the violations.

Conservation Enforcement Officer Richard M. Tait III, who is stationed in Wilcox County, was presented the Conservation Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. Last year, Officer Tait made 105 arrests for violations of conservation laws and regulations. He has also investigated numerous illegal activities involving migratory birds, which resulted in convictions on 12 cases through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in federal court. Officer Tait also teaches hunter education classes and assists with youth recruitment events such as natural resource camps and fishing days.

Over the past 45 years, the Alabama Wildlife Federation has presented the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards to individuals and organizations that make notable contributions to the conservation of Alabama’s wildlife and related natural resources.

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the three honorees are very deserving of the recognition they received. “We have many employees in the department who diligently work to protect and manage our state’s resources, and it’s nice to see some of them acknowledged for their work. Director Sykes, Sergeant Roach and Officer Tait are fine examples of the quality employees we have working in the Department of Conservation,” he said.

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 Alligator Season Opens This Week

Those lucky enough to draw a tag for Alabama’s 2018 season will soon head out into the rivers, bays and bayous in search of an American alligator.

Chris Nix, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Alligator Program Coordinator, said the 2018 alligator season parameters are the same as last year with 260 total tags statewide – 150 in the Southwest Zone, 50 in the West Central Zone, 40 in the Southeast Zone and 20 in the Lake Eufaula Zone. Hunting is from sunset to sunrise except for the Lake Eufaula Zone, where hunting is allowed during daytime hours as well.

Season dates for the Southwest Zone and the West Central Zone are sunset on August 9 until sunrise on August 12 and sunset on August 16 until sunrise on August 19. The Southwest Zone 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. The West Central Zone includes private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox and Dallas counties.

The Southeast Zone season opens at sunset on August 11 and runs until sunrise on September 3. The Southeast Zone includes private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell counties (excluding public Alabama state waters in Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries).

The Lake Eufaula Zone includes public state waters only in the Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries south of Alabama Highway 208 at Omaha Bridge (excludes Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). The Eufaula season dates are from sunset on August 17 through sunrise on October 1.

An 8-foot restriction on harvest is in effect for the Lake Eufaula Zone. The other zones have no size restrictions.

Nix said between 60 and 70 percent of the tags are filled annually, but it’s not because of a lack of alligators, especially in the Southwest Zone. Nix said alligator tag holders could have a 100-percent success rate in the Southwest Zone, but some hunters pass up gators only to regret it later.

“The alligators are here,” he said. “You’ve just got to be at the right place at the right time.”

For those not familiar with the areas to be hunted, Nix says scouting can be helpful for one main reason.

“Pre-scouting is good, but pre-scouting for alligators is counter-productive,” he said. “It will be much more useful to scout the habitat and where you might find alligators than trying to look for a particular alligator, especially for people unfamiliar with the waters. And get familiar with the area during the daytime.

“In the Southwest Zone, we have shallow-water bays with tide fluctuations. The West Central Zone has stump flats and water level fluctuations from the reservoirs. If you have a tag from Eufaula, be familiar with the boundary between Alabama and Georgia as well as the boundaries of the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, which is off-limits to alligator hunting.”

Another helpful tip from Nix is how to determine the size of an alligator while it is still roaming free.

“You can estimate the size of an alligator by the measurement of inches from the bottom of the eye socket to top of the nostril,” he said. “When you change those inches into feet, it will be within one foot of the total length of the gator. If you’re targeting a certain size animal, it helps save time to not hunt an animal that won’t be big enough. We measure every alligator that comes in the Southwest and West Central zones. It’s a tried and true measurement.”

Nix said the one rule that needs to be stressed each season is when hunters can lawfully dispatch an alligator.

“You have to have the animal caught and secured prior to dispatching,” he said. “That means a noose around the head or an appendage that is attached to the boat.”

Visit https://outdooralabama.com/alligators/alligator-hunting-season-alabama for more information.

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.