Outdoors

MRD Considering Changes to Flounder, Trout Limits

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Alabama’s inshore anglers are aware that fishing for two of the most popular species – southern flounder and spotted seatrout – has not been up to normal Gulf Coast standards in the past few years.

The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) is seeking public input on how to mitigate this downturn in the abundance of the two species. MRD recently held public meetings with commercial and recreational anglers to discuss what management measures would be supported.

“I was very appreciative of the number of people who came to the discussions about the possible changes, and that’s important,” MRD Director Scott Bannon said. “It’s important to us, and it’s important to them.”

Anglers who came to the public meetings at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center last week heard Bannon and MRD Chief Biologist Kevin Anson present the current status of flounder and trout. MRD is considering options to help the fish stocks recover, including a reduction in bag limits, increased size limits and possible closed seasons.

“I’m kind of surprised by how many people are supportive of a reduced bag limit as a management tool,” Bannon said. “I’m very pleased with the feedback from people about what they see when they’re out fishing and what they think might help.

“Coupling that with what our science says, I think we’re going to be able to make some decisions that are going to be helpful for the resource but also still work with what our fishermen want in Alabama. Believe it not, one of the comments that I’ve received several times is that, even though people understand there is going to be some change, they appreciated the state’s effort to get the public’s opinion. As one person said, it shows we really do care.”

Of the two fish species, flounder is MRD’s biggest concern because of reduced harvest by both commercial and recreational anglers in recent years. The estimated harvest during the past 15 years shows a harvest of about 350,000 flounder in 2002 to about 150,000 in 2017. A significant spike in harvest occurred during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill because of a shift in angler effort from offshore waters to inshore waters.

“I think it’s going to take a multi-pronged approach both to recreational and commercial fishing to assure the stability of that fishery,” Bannon said. “These are hard decisions. On the commercial side, this affects income, but we want to sustain their income long-term.”

Bannon said about 30 commercial fishermen are targeting flounder with gillnets, while a small percentage are reporting harvests using gigs. Bannon is concerned that some giggers are skirting the reporting law.

“There is only a small number of people with commercial licenses who are reporting harvests using a gig,” he said. “All commercial harvests are required to be reported.

“But we think a number of people are recreationally fishing under a commercial license, and those fish aren’t getting reported. They purchase a commercial license to exceed the 10-fish bag limit.”

Bannon said the only management tool that would restrict this practice is a daily bag limit for those who hold a commercial license. Recreational anglers currently have a 10-flounder bag limit with a minimum size of 12 inches total length.

“Some people are truly commercially fishing,” he said. “They are using it to make a living. Others are just exceeding a bag limit. Gigging is a very effective fishery. The technology is helping them with better lights and better boats, like with most fisheries.

“We are going to work with the industry to see what’s a realistic bag limit, looking at the landing numbers. We could be looking at a combination of bag limits, size limits or a seasonal closure.”

MRD data shows that November is a month with a high commercial harvest number because flounder migrate to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn.

“Any time you have fish that have a specific spawning run, it’s beneficial to allow them to make that run, and with flounder, the females do come back inshore,” Bannon said.

Anson said Alabama is not alone in terms of a foundering flounder fishery.

“This isn’t just an Alabama problem,” Anson said. “Other states have seen reductions in flounder landings as well, both commercial and recreational. It just seems that we are ground zero as far as seeing the largest drop in landings.”

Fisheries managers use spawning potential ratio (SPR) to determine the health of a fish stock. For flounder, the target SPR to maintain the population is between 25 and 30 percent.

At the current harvest rate, if the minimum size for flounder remains at 12 inches, the population will not be able to sustain the target SPR. An increase in size also increases the number of eggs the females release during the spawn.

According to MRD data, an increase in the minimum size to 13 inches would allow 20 percent more fish to remain in the water. An increase to a minimum size of 14 inches would allow 38 percent more fish to remain in the water.

MRD’s Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores is also gearing up to spawn flounder in recently purchased tanks and equipment. Bannon said they hope to eventually release between 50,000 and 60,000 flounder fingerlings annually.

For spotted seatrout (speckled trout), a recent MRD assessment indicated recruitment of juvenile trout back into the fishery has been below traditional levels.

Bannon said a seismic shift in fishing effort has played a role in the fishing pressure on speckled trout. High fuel costs and restrictive bag limits on reef fish species caused many offshore anglers to start fishing inshore waters.

“We went from 50,000 inshore fishing trips annually in the early 90s to more than 500,000 in 2011,” he said. “That’s a ten-fold increase in fishing effort. That’s a concern. All of our habitat is accessible to fishermen. It’s a popular fish, so there’s a lot of effort focused on them, partly due to the short federal fisheries seasons.”

The annual harvest during that time increased 600 percent, and a downturn of landings in 2014 suggests the fishery is unstainable under that intense fishing pressure.

Bannon said anglers who target speckled trout, which has no commercial harvest because of its game-fish status, have indicated support for a reduction in the current 10-fish bag limit. Anglers have also indicated support for a slot limit and/or an increase in the current minimum size, which is 14 inches total length. The red drum (redfish) fishery has a slot limit of 16-26 inches with an allowance of one oversized fish.

“If we do go to a slot limit on trout, there will be an allowance for one oversized fish,” he said. “Most anglers who target these fish understand there are some concerns and agree that if we act responsibly now we will be in better shape. The goal is for anglers to catch larger fish more consistently.”

Anson said increases in size limits that MRD is considering include a bump in the minimum length to 15 inches, which would allow more than 227,000 trout to be returned to the water annually. An increase to a 16-inch minimum size would mean more than 400,000 could be returned to the water each year.

MRD will hold a meeting with the charter-for-hire operators on March 27. Bannon said, depending on feedback from the public, MRD may decide to hold another meeting before finalizing its management proposals.

Bannon said MRD welcomes comments on the proposed changes to the regulations on flounder and trout. Send comments to scott.bannon@dcnr.alabama.gov or kevin.anson@dcnr.alabama.gov by April 13 to ensure the input will be considered before the next Conservation Advisory Board meeting, scheduled May 4 at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel.

“After we complete the meetings and compile the public input, the staff will have discussions, followed by discussions with the Commissioner (Chris Blankenship),” Bannon said. “Then we will develop a proposal for the Conservation Advisory Board on May 4.”

Turkey Season Opens Saturday, March 16, in Most Alabama Counties
Delayed season dates on select WMAs

Photo by Gary Mitchell

Spring turkey season will open March 16, 2019, and close April 30 for most Alabama counties. In 2018, the Conservation Advisory Board passed a motion that set the start date for turkey season as the third Saturday in March each year.

The decision was made to allow as many hens as possible to breed before the males are harvested. Research suggests that slightly delaying the season could have a significant impact on increasing the turkey population. No changes were made to the bag limit, which is one gobbler per day with a total of five during the combined spring and fall seasons.

“The Advisory Board’s decision is related to growing concerns of an observed decline in wild turkey population growth in Alabama,” said Steve Barnett, Wild Turkey Project Leader for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Harvest data shows that many adult gobblers are harvested in the first two weeks of the season. That’s well before the peak of nest initiation.”

Additionally, spring turkey season will be delayed for research purposes on the following Wildlife Management Areas: Barbour, J.D. Martin-Skyline, Hollins, Oakmulgee, Lowndes, Choccolocco, and Perdido River. The delayed season will run March 23 to April 30, 2019. For more information about the delayed season, call 334-242-3469.

Hunters are reminded that all turkey harvests must be reported through Alabama’s Game Check system either online at www.outdooralabama.com or through the Outdoor Alabama mobile app. The Outdoor Alabama Mobile app is available at www.outdooralabama.com/contact-us/mobile-apps.

For more information about seasons and bag limits, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/seasons-and-bag-limits.

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.

Advisory Board Gets Crash Course in CWD

(deer, Wisconsin DNR; cobia, David Rainer) From a single case discovered in Colorado in 1967, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is now found in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. Infected deer become emaciated and eventually die.
The cobia minimum length limit was increased to 36 inches fork length.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board received a crash course in chronic wasting disease (CWD) at the Board’s first meeting of 2019 last weekend in Montgomery.

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Assistant Director Fred Harders explained the severity of the disease and why WFF has done everything possible to keep it out of Alabama.

“The first point I want to make is that Alabama does not have CWD, contrary to what you might have read, heard from a buddy or whatever,” Harders said. “We do not have chronic wasting disease.”

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Industries, started sampling deer in 2002. To date, more than 8,000 deer from around the state have been sampled and no CWD has been detected.

“Since Mississippi and Tennessee have found CWD, the Division is intensifying its sampling effort,” Harders said. “About 1,500 deer a year will be sampled with an emphasis around those areas near Mississippi and Tennessee.”

Harders said rumors about new theories that blame CWD on a bacterium are circulating on social media. These rumors also include that a CWD-detection kit will be available to the public and that a couple of years from now a vaccine will be available for all captive and wild deer and other members of the deer family, cervids.

Harders noted that while these theories may sound good, “The vast majority of scientists and researchers who have been working on this disease and continue to work on this disease don’t accept those theories.”

CWD is a fatal neurological disease, called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), that affects the deer family and causes lesions on the brain. As the disease progresses, the affected animal will develop holes in the brain and eventually die. Infected animals may not show symptoms for two years.

The first case of CWD was discovered in Colorado in 1967. Over the next 30 years, the disease spread very slowly, only taking in a 15- to 20-county region on the CO, NE, and WY borders.

Then, in the late 90s, CWD was detected in Saskatchewan. That incident was traced to live elk from South Dakota that were transported to Canada.

Human movement of live cervids or infected carcasses has contributed to the exponential spread of the disease over the past decade.

CWD continues to spread and now has been found in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. Harders said South Korea and Norway also have detected CWD. South Korea’s CWD-positive animals can be traced back to the live transport of deer from infected areas.

Harders said the disease is spread by bodily fluids – saliva, urine and feces. The infectious agent, called a prion, can survive outside the animal’s body. It can be in the soil and can be taken up by nearby plants through their root systems.

Harders explained that a prion, which cannot be destroyed by cooking, is a misfolded protein.

“Proteins are the molecular machines of our bodies,” he said. “They do just about everything.”

Although no case has been confirmed where CWD has been transmitted to humans from the consumption of venison from an infected animal, Harders pointed out, “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t recommend eating venison from infected deer. And to be careful when you’re gutting that deer or handling any parts.”

Alabama has long had regulations that banned the importation of live deer. The regulations were amended to prohibit the importation of deer carcasses. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/cwd for regulations about importing deer parts from out-of-state.

“That is why we’ve had officers monitoring the highways and giving tickets to people who were bringing field-dressed deer in from out-of-state,” Harders said. “The officers asked why the hunters brought those deer in, and they responded they didn’t think it was a big deal. Now you know why it’s such a big deal.

“That’s why we have the campaign ‘Don’t Bring it Home.’ We don’t have it. We don’t want it.”

Harders also cautioned hunters who travel out-of-state and harvest a member of the deer family only to find out later that the animal had CWD. That venison should not be thrown out by the individual, but rather a WFF official or enforcement officer who will ensure its proper disposal should be contacted,

Despite the CWD threat, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said we’re blessed to live in a great state that offers hunting for deer and turkey and great fishing in both freshwater and saltwater.

“We really have a sportsman’s paradise here,” Blankenship said. “We’ve done a lot of work the past year on CWD, trying to keep it out of our state and being able to mitigate it or contain it in the unfortunate circumstance that it does show up here.

“We’re not trying to scare anybody or to unduly concern people about consuming deer or hunting deer. We just felt it was important for us to provide that information as to why it is so important to keep CWD out of our state.”

Blankenship noted that problems surfaced with the Outdoor Alabama app during deer season. Blankenship said the Department has worked with the app developer to correct the glitches.

“They assure us this is fixed now,” he said. “For turkey season and for Snapper Check, it should work for reporting your harvest. We appreciate you reporting the deer, turkeys and snapper. It really gives us valuable information to use when we make management decisions, and it is required by rule.”

Blankenship also encouraged anyone interested in the outdoors to visit outdooralabama.com and sign up for the Department’s emails. Subscribers have the option to receive all communication from DCNR or they can check certain categories, like hunting, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing or wildlife.

Concerning saltwater fishing, the Board approved several changes to the regulations proposed by Marine Resources.

One change was new hook requirements for certain saltwater species to be consistent with federal regulations. Anglers fishing for, retaining, possessing or landing Gulf reef fish species must use non-stainless circle hooks when using natural bait. Anglers fishing for, retaining, possessing or landing sharks must use non-offset, non-stainless circle hooks when using natural bait.

The minimum size for cobia (ling) was raised from 33 to 36 inches fork length, measured from the fork (middle) of the tail to the tip of the snout, to match the size limit set by NOAA Fisheries in federal waters.

A minimum size limit for shortfin mako sharks was established. Males must be 71 inches fork length and females, 83 inches fork length. Visit https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/atlantic-highly-migratory-species-fishery-compliance-guides for information on shark identification and compliance.

A table listing regulated reef fish species was added to allow anglers to identify which species are included in management plans.

Shrimping regulations were updated to prevent the use of any form of trawling, not just for shrimp, in nursery or permanently closed areas.

Once the regulations become effective, the outdooralabama.com saltwater regulations page will be updated and the full text will be available at www.alabamaadministrativecode.state.al.us/docs/con_/220-3.pdf.

The next Conservation Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel, in Gulf Shores on May 4.

PHOTOS: (deer, Wisconsin DNR; cobia, David Rainer) From a single case discovered in Colorado in 1967, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is now found in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. Infected deer become emaciated and eventually die. The cobia minimum length limit was increased to 36 inches fork length.

Pesticide Applicator Training Scheduled For Agricultural Producers

Agricultural producers needing a private pesticide applicator license are invited to a pesticide training program on March 27, 2019, starting at 1:00 p.m., at the Sumter County Extension Office, located at 106 Hospital Drive in Livingston, AL. Registration is required. Please register by March 26 with the Extension office at (205) 652-9501. Space may be limited.
The meeting will include pesticide training on a number of topics including label comprehension and safety. Following the training, a test will be administered to producers applying for a private pesticide applicator license. A score of 70 or better is needed to pass the test. After passing the test, a producer can apply for a license with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. The producer will need to submit a license application and pay a license fee to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
A private pesticide applicator license is for producers who produce an agricultural commodity on owned, rented, or leased property or on an employer’s agricultural property. The license allows producers to purchase and apply restricted-use pesticides.
A private pesticide applicator license is valid for 3 years. The first four numbers of the license number indicate the month and year the license expires: a pesticide license number 041912345 expires in April 2019.
If you have any questions concerning the meeting, please contact the Sumter County Extension Office. Please register by March 26 with the Extension Office if you plan to attend. Our office number is (205) 652-9501.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce. We provide educational programs that serve all people regardless of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, marital status, family/parental status, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. Everyone is welcome.

Big Gobbler Photo Contest Opens Along with Alabama Turkey Season

Alabama hunters are heading into the woods this weekend to begin the spring turkey season with hopes of bagging a big gobbler. The hunters will be using all their skills in trying to attract the wily birds, particularly in the state’s 23-county Black Belt region – home to some great turkey habitat.

Kacy Noland – Pickens

For the seventh straight year, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association will conduct its Big Gobbler Photo Contest to showcase these hunters and the big birds they bag. This year’s contest conducted at AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/biggobblercontest will feature prizes valued at $175 for the winner. The contest runs the length of Alabama’s spring season, from March 16 through April 30.

“We know that some of the best turkey hunters in the state – and across the Southeast – come to the Black Belt to test their abilities and we’re always glad to see the big birds they harvest,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “The great turkey habitats from Aliceville to Eufaula produce some really fine birds and we’re happy to help hunters find great places to hunt in the Black Belt.”

This year’s Big Gobbler Photo Contest is sponsored by Josh Cumbee, owner of Jager Calls in Barbour County. The winner will receive a handcrafted one-of-a-kind Jager Call with striker, a Summit Predator Blind, a Thermacell Mosquito Repellent and a Jager Calls T-shirt.

Hunters may submit only one entry, but visitors to AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/ biggobblercontest may vote once per day per entry. Entrants need to fully complete the form at the website, making sure to identify the person (or persons) in the photo. Please share the general area where the gobbler was taken, too.

Only photos of turkeys taken in the Black Belt during the 2018-19 season (including those taken in Clarke and Monroe counties during the fall season) are eligible. Big Gobbler Contest winners from 2017-18 and 2016-17 are not eligible this year.

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 promotes and encourages ethical hunting and fishing practices. Our Big Gobbler Photo Contest was created to further educate the public on the abundance of natural resources found in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

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.

Dr. Anita Kelly joins the Ala. Fish Farming Center in Greensboro

Dr. Anita Kelly has joined the faculty of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, & Aquatic Sciences and will be stationed in Greensboro at the Alabama Fish Farming Center. Dr. Kelly will be continuing the fish health diagnostic program established by Bill Hemstreet and will develop an applied research program in aquatic animal health that will complement existing programs on campus. Prior to joining the faculty at Auburn, Dr. Kelly was Interim Director of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Fish Health Inspection Laboratory in Lonoke, Arkansas. In that role she served as an Extension Fish Health Specialist and Extension Unit Leader for UAPB’s Cooperative Extension Program in Aquaculture and Fisheries. Dr. Kelly joined UAPB in 2007 and served as Associate Director of the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center from 2012 – 2019. In Arkansas, Dr. Kelly’s research focus included laboratory and applied field work with baitfish, sportfish and catfish. Most recently, her research activities were directed at the practical use of kaolin clay to prevent Columnaris in sportfish/catfish hatcheries and evaluating the toxic effects of hydrogen sulfide on baitfish production.
Dr. Kelly received both a M.S. and Ph.D. in Zoology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Iowa. Previously, she has served on the faculty of both Mississippi State University and Southern Illinois University. In addition to jobs in academia, Dr. Kelly managed two commercial farming operations in the Midwest and served as an Instructor in the School of Field Studies on the Island of South Caicos in the British West Indies.

Students Encouraged to Enter State-Fish Art Contest

Each year, K-12 students from across the country can enter their artwork in the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest. The contest requires student artists to depict a state fish. Prizes are awarded at the state and national levels in four categories: K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12, with students in grades 4-12 writing a one-page essay about the fish, its natural habitat and the importance of that habitat in addition to the artwork. Complete contest rules and the entry form can be found on the Wildlife Forever website, www.wildlifeforever.org.

Artists can choose to depict either of Alabama’s state fish – ¬the largemouth bass or the fighting tarpon. Participants can also choose to draw state fish from other states, which are listed on the Wildlife Forever website. Entries must be postmarked by March 31, 2019, and mailed to Wildlife Forever, 5350 Highway 61 North, Suite 7, White Bear Lake, MN 55110.

For more than 20 years, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) has promoted this art contest for the students of Alabama.

“This contest uses art as a medium for teaching conservation education,” said Doug Darr, WFF Aquatic Education Coordinator. “Teachers can request information and a lesson plan specific to aquatic natural resources by visiting Wildlife Forever’s website.”

Wildlife Forever is a non-profit organization working to preserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and scientific management of fish and wildlife species. Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states. To learn more, visit www.wildlifeforever.org.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) 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.

Shelton State Community College’s Bass Fishing Sports Club inaugural year a success

Shelton State Community College’s Bass Fishing Sports Club is making the sport’s inaugural year at the College a success. The team is currently ranked 11th in the nation.

On February 8, club members participated in the YETI Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) College Fishing Southeastern Conference Bass Tournament in Bainbridge, Georgia. Club members Will Delaney and Hunter Porter finished in second place securing $1,000 for the organization and qualifying to represent the College in the 2020 YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship.

On March 2, members competed at an FLW event at Lake Guntersville with Cade Crocker and Grant Rogers also qualifying for the 2020 YETI FLW National Championship. An additional team finished in the top 32.

“In keeping with the athletic excellence of Shelton State, we are proud of what the Bass Fishing Club has accomplished within this first year,” said club sponsor Neal Parker. “We are proud of these young men who had faith in our program and made the decision to be part of this inaugural year.”

The mission of the Shelton State Bass Fishing Sports Club is to encourage camaraderie, sportsmanship, integrity, leadership, and conservation. Skills and knowledge are developed to create successful, competitive anglers.

For more information about the Shelton State Bass Fishing Sports Club, contact Neal Parker at 205.391.5886 or goparker@sheltonstate.edu.

A bass fisherman visits Lost Creek. Photo by Nelson Brooke.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper Sues EPA to Protect Imperiled Streams

Black Warrior Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in U.S. District Court to ensure two of the Black Warrior River watershed’s most vulnerable streams get the protection they deserve from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

While Alabama has some of the most beautiful rivers and streams in the nation and is #1 in the U.S. for freshwater biodiversity, it also has many polluted waterways. State and federal regulators have recently failed in their duty to provide the necessary protections for two imperiled creeks.

Every two years, the Clean Water Act requires ADEM to identify all of the rivers, streams, lakes and coastlines that are impaired by pollution and submit a list of those waterways to the EPA. Placement on that list, known as the Section 303(d) List, is important because it prioritizes improving those impaired waters. The list’s ultimate goal is restoring those waters so they can fully support their designated uses for fish & wildlife, recreation, and drinking water.

Lost Creek and Big Yellow Creek have been on Alabama’s Section 303(d) List since 1998, waiting for necessary action to reduce their pollution levels. However, ADEM dropped them from the 2018 Section 303(d) List because the agency stated, without merit, it had new evidence that these streams were no longer impaired. ADEM made these decisions without following their own procedures and without proper evidence that these streams are meeting minimum water quality standards.

Dropping these waters from the list means they are no longer scheduled for the establishment of pollutant limits, called Total Maximum Daily Loads, and will be similarly excluded from the implementation of important pollution control measures needed to improve water quality in these streams. The EPA is supposed to oversee this process, but failed in its duty of requiring Alabama to adequately support its decision to remove Lost Creek and Big Yellow Creek from Alabama’s 2018 Section 303(d) List.

Lost Creek, a major tributary to the Mulberry Fork in Walker County, is a scenic gem enjoyed by homeowners, boaters, and fishermen. Lost Creek is home to the endangered Black Warrior waterdog and the threatened flattened musk turtle, which are imperiled by habitat destruction, sedimentation, and water pollution from coal mines, logging operations, and sewage treatment plants.

Big Yellow Creek, a tributary which flows into the Black Warrior River just upstream of Bankhead Lock & Dam, is used for drinking water and swimming by homeowners and is frequented by boaters and fishermen. Big Yellow Creek is polluted by coal mining, logging operations, and widespread coalbed methane drilling.

“Lost Creek and Big Yellow Creek are important streams which deserve to be fully protected for fishing, swimming, drinking water, recreation, and wildlife habitat,” said Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s staff Riverkeeper. “It is a shame the state of Alabama ignores pollution problems just so a few polluters can make more money.”

Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s lawsuit asks the court to set aside EPA’s approval of the 2018 List and instruct EPA to reject Alabama’s 2018 List and replace it with its own, including the two omitted streams, within 60 days.

“EPA allowed Alabama to remove sensitive waterbodies in the Black Warrior basin from the 2018 List without basic supporting evidence that they are meeting applicable water quality standards,” said Eva Dillard, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s Staff Attorney. “We want to ensure that agencies like ADEM and EPA follow the Clean Water Act and implement all necessary measures to make these vulnerable streams healthy again.”

Dees Graduates Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program Class V

Denzil Dees of Epes graduated from the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program (YCLP) Class V on Saturday, February 16 at the 76th annual Alabama Cattlemen’s Association (ACA) Convention and Trade Show Awards Banquet. He was part of a class of 22 students.

The YCLP is sponsored by the Alabama Beef Checkoff Program and in partnership with the Auburn Department of Animal Sciences, exposes young cattle producers and industry partners ages 20-40 to the many facets of Alabama’s beef cattle industry while exploring their leadership potential. Students of the program tour cattle farms across the state, participate in immersive leadership and team building exercises and explore the legislative process, all within a year’s time.

A Monroeville native, Denzil didn’t know much about life on the farm until age 15 when he began working alongside friend, Chris Joyner, on his family’s farm. It was from then on that he knew agriculture would be his life’s work. After graduating high school, Denzil went on to earn his welding certificate and traveled performing welding jobs for several years before deciding to come home and go back to school. It was then in 2010 that he started his journey at the College of Agriculture at Auburn University which culminated in 2015 with a degree in agricultural business and economics.

That wasn’t his biggest accomplishment at Auburn, however. His biggest accomplishment came by way of his wife, Alex, whose father hired Denzil to work full time Penala Farms in Epes. Now, Denzil works alongside his father-in-law Sid Nelson daily as they operate a 300-head cow/calf operation and 20 catfish ponds. He has even started his own heifer development program developing 70 F1 Brafords annually with the help of his wife. Now, the couple has the opportunity to raise the next generation on the farm as they recently welcomed a son who they named Kirk.

When he’s not on the farm- which is where you’ll find him most of the time- Denzil stays involved in the industry as he is on the Sumter County Farmers Federation board and is the chairman of the Young Farmers of Sumter County. 

He said he joined in on the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program because close friends and alumni of the program had “been trying to get [him] to do the program for three years now.” After convincing, he realized it was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the cattle industry.

“I thought this opportunity would help me meet new people in the industry, which I feel in very important in being successful,” he said. “You never know what someone could teach you or how you could help them.”

For more information or for those interested in learning more on the program, visit www.BamaBeef.org/YCLP.

Photos by Chuck Sykes, Billy Pope With turkey season less than a month away, several lucky individuals will get to experience hunts with an experienced turkey hunter at one of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Special Opportunity Areas as part of the Adult Mentored Hunting Program. WFF’s Drew Nix shows members of a mentored hunt what properly placed game cameras can reveal about a hunting area. WFF Wildlife Chief Keith Gauldin shows participants in a mentored hunt how to look for deer sign, like this rub on a cedar tree.

Mentored hunts renew enthusiasm for mentors

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

One of the mantras adopted by those who love the outdoors is “pass it on,” which means introducing somebody to hunting, fishing or other outdoors activities when you get the opportunity.

For the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, one facet of that effort comes in the form of the Adult Mentored Hunting Program, where seasoned hunters take new or inexperienced adult hunters to one of WFF’s Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) for a weekend in the woods hunting deer, turkeys or small game.

What WFF has realized is the mentors, who have many years of experience in the hunting field, are benefitting from their role as much or more than the folks who are being mentored.

One case in point is Bill Gray, Supervising Wildlife Biologist in WFF’s District IV. The longtime WFF biologist was admittedly reluctant to head out just before Christmas to fulfill a mentor’s role at the hunt at the Portland Landing SOA.

By the end of the weekend, Gray had a new outlook on the experience, and he had gained a new friend.

“When you’ve hunted for a long time, you take a lot of things for granted,” Gray said. “You kind of lose the magic like when you were young and first learning to hunt.

“Through the progression over the weekend, I got to watch him (James Hopper) learn and be excited and notice some things that were special to him.”

One example was how excited Hopper became when he viewed a deer for the first time through a riflescope.

“That was an eye-opener for me and how important this program can be and what a great opportunity we have to share our world as hunters,” Gray said. “Really for me, it was a way for me to bring back some of that wide-eyed wonder and true joy.

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy hunting anymore. I do. I love it, but you get kind of numb to some of the things that are old hat to you. To these guys, it’s not. And to see how excited they get has renewed my interest in hunting and being able to usher more people across that threshold who may be interested in becoming a hunter.”

On Hopper’s first hunt, the deer came in late and were too far for his comfort zone in terms of making a quality shot.

On the second day, a buck came through about 35-40 yards from the blind, but Gray had to make sure the deer met the minimum requirements for harvest. By the time Gray saw the deer, it was weaving through the trees and disappeared.

Gray said Hopper couldn’t hide his disappointment on Sunday morning when the rest of the hunt’s participants were busy cleaning deer and feral hogs.

“I said I’ve got to try to help this out,” Gray said. “We exchanged phone numbers. I got him down to my place the first week in January. He drove five hours south to my place in Barbour County.”

One of those aspects of hunting that experience often mitigates turned into the deciding factor on the Barbour County hunt.

“He came very close to taking a deer,” Gray said. “But he spooked the deer with the safety. He was using the safety like he was taught on the range. When he clicked that safety off, he said the deer trotted away and didn’t look back. I didn’t think to show him how to put some downward pressure on the safety and slide it forward real quietly. As much as he has to learn about being a good hunter, I have as much to learn about being a good mentor.

“But he was very excited and not dejected about not getting a buck for the second time. I sent him home with some deer meat, and they loved it.”

Since then, Hopper purchased a deer rifle similar to the one he used on the mentored hunt to get ready for a new season.

“Part of my experience was I felt like I made a new friend,” Gray said. “We weren’t able to get together before the season ended, but I’m as excited about being there with him when he gets his first deer as he is about getting his first deer.”

As unlucky as Gray’s hunter was, Drew Nix had the opposite experience on his mentored hunt at the Cedar Creek SOA.

Nix, the WFF Forester, has been mentoring hunters for many, many years and has recruited quite a few people into the realm of license-buying hunters. Nix said those people he introduced to hunting included youth, adult non-hunters and physically disabled individuals.

His hunter on the Cedar Creek SOA happened to be a person who was very familiar with firearms, a retired Army guy who now serves as a military contractor to teach marksmanship.

“He was from rural New York and was very well-versed in firearms, but he had never been hunting,” Nix said. “During his active duty, he never had the opportunity to pursue hunting.”

On the adult mentored hunts, the person who draws the spot is allowed to bring a hunting companion. However, sickness forced the hunter’s companion to drop out. The hunter was then given permission to bring his 11-year-old son.

On the first hunt, several deer came into one of the fields that had recently been constructed on the SOA, including one buck that met the criteria for permissible harvest.

“I told the gentleman it was a legal buck, but I would wait because we were sitting on an exceptional piece of property,” Nix said. “He held his composure. After about 10 minutes, no other deer came in. He said, ‘If you’re telling me that’s a legal deer, I would like to go ahead and harvest that deer.’”

Nix said when the hunter got the rifle up he noticed a significant anomaly.

“It cracked me up,” he said. “From the waist up, he was rock solid. From the waist down, it was like a small earthquake was going on. His legs were vibrating the whole blind.

“But he took a good shot and made a clean kill. The deer ran out of the food plot about 5 yards. He and his son were really charged up and wanted to put their hands on the deer, but I told them to wait and see if a doe came in. Sure enough, he took a doe later that afternoon with another clean, ethical shot. They were just ecstatic.”

The hunter even added another doe to his take before the weekend was over, which meant he went home with a cooler stuffed with venison.

“When we were butchering the deer, the guy I mentored let me get finished with half of the first deer and then he took over,” Nix said. “He pretty well cleaned and quartered the rest of the deer. Then he called his buddies and had a processor lined up in Pelham before he left Cedar Creek.”

Nix admitted to the group of hunters at dinner one night that he wasn’t too enthusiastic to miss rutting activity where he hunts, but that he had a “great” time as a mentor.

“The big takeaway from this is this used to be done by family members – dads, uncles or grandfathers,” he said. “In today’s world, we’ve kind of skipped a generation of folks who did not hunt and are not hunters.

“That seems so foreign to us. For someone who has been hunting for a long time, you may not see the value in doing this until you’ve done it.”

Justin Gilchrist is the wildlife biologist in charge of the Dallas County SOAs, Portland Landing and Cedar Creek, and he is grateful to see a lot of hard work reach fruition during the mentored hunts.

“For me, these hunts have been very rewarding,” Gilchrist said. “We put in a lot of time managing the resources and getting things ready for the hunts. Getting to mentor these people who have never been in the woods in their life is very special to me. We get to take people out and teach them about firearms and hunting. We show them deer sign and what to look for when scouting, like a hard mast (acorns, etc.) crop.

“Nothing compares to watching their reaction when a deer walks out. Then you watch them be successful and get excited about their first deer. To see them take a deer on land where we’ve done a lot of work is very rewarding. It pumps me up.”

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-mentored-hunting-program for more information.

Luke, Barbara Dial’s grandson Luke with his deer and his friend Baylor Gazzier.

Notasulga 9-year-old wins Alabama Black Belt Adventures Big Buck Photo Contest

The seventh annual Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest drew more than 8,800 votes this year, with Brolen Hornsby of Notasulga emerging as the winner.

The 9-year-old third-grader at Reeltown Elementary attracted 2,238 votes in the contest that ran throughout the 2018-19 deer season on the ALBBAA website. His buck was taken on Camp Creek Hunting Club property in Lowndes County.

“Once again, we’re happy that our contest was able to spotlight some of the great hunting opportunities we have in the Black Belt,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “Brolen and the many other young people whose photos were entered in our contest show that there’s a bright future for hunting in the region. It’s a great family activity that builds lifelong memories.”

The 169-pound, 5-point buck was Brolen’s first. He bagged a doe last season, said his father, Brandon Hornsby. “He is beyond excited to win,” Hornsby said. “He told me he couldn’t believe how many people had voted for him.” The Hornsbys shared Brolen’s entry on their social media channels and heard from people from Wyoming, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Kansas and Colorado who said they had voted for him.

Brolen, who hunts with his father about twice a month during deer season, was joined on his successful deer hunt by his father; his brother, Jake; his stepmother, Tiffany Hornsby; his stepsister, Jackie Dorn; and family friend Chris Arthur.

The contest winner is the son of Brandon and Tiffany Hornsby and Ryan and Heather Fulford. Brolen will receive a Wildgame WiFi Action Camera from Wildgame Innovations, valued at $169.

This year’s contest drew 82 entries from 22 of the 23 Black Belt counties in Alabama. To be eligible for the contest, the deer must have been taken in the Black Belt during the 2018-2019 season and uploaded to the website. To see all the entries, visit AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/bigbuckcontest.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association promotes and encourages ethical hunting and fishing practices. Our Big Buck Photo Contest was 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.

Louis Wedgworth and his first buck. Submitted by Claire Smith, Livingston Lines

Alabama 2019 Private Angler Red Snapper Fishing Season

For the second year, Alabama is operating under an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) from NOAA Fisheries to allow state fisheries management agencies more flexibility to set private angler red snapper fishing seasons. In accordance with the EFP requirements, the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announces the following red snapper season information:

The 2019 red snapper fishing season for anglers fishing from a private vessel or state-licensed guide boat will be three-day weekends (Friday-Sunday) from June 1 through July 28, 2019, including Thursday, July 4. Except for the opening weekend, which begins on a Saturday, weekends are defined as 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. This season only applies to private anglers and state-licensed Alabama commercial party boats that do not hold federal for-hire fishing permits.
The 2019 red snapper fishing season for anglers fishing from a federally permitted charter boat or headboat will be announced by NOAA Fisheries in the coming weeks. Federally-permitted for-hire vessels must adhere to the federal season.
One representative from any recreational vessel landing red snapper in Alabama, including private vessels, state-licensed guide boats and federally permitted charter vessels, is required to report red snapper landings before fish are landed in Alabama.
2019 is the second year of a two-year NOAA Fisheries study to examine the viability of limited state management for Gulf of Mexico red snapper in federal waters.
The 2019 private angling season is based on the fishing effort and average size of fish collected during 2018. Under the EFP, Alabama is provided a percentage of the Gulf-wide recreational quota for red snapper. Alabama’s 2019 private vessel quota is 1,079,573 pounds. Under the terms of the EFP, Alabama will use Snapper Check to monitor the landings during the season and may adjust the season length to provide maximum access for fishermen while adhering to the quota.

“In 2018, the first year of the EFP, Alabama’s quota was 984,291 pounds and we estimated a 47-day season,” said Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon. “What we did not anticipate were the ideal weather conditions and the tremendous effort by Alabama anglers, which caused us to close the season after 28 days. We were required to adhere to the quota and, for the most part, we did, as we exceeded the quota by only 0.2 percent. Although the season was shortened, a tremendous number of people took advantage of the amazing red snapper fishery off Alabama’s coast, and we have shown that Alabama can manage the season effectively and make adjustments necessary to maintain this valuable fishery.”

Anglers are reminded to report their red snapper through the mandatory Snapper Check reporting program. Reports can be submitted via the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Outdoor Alabama app, available for both iOS and Android users, or paper reports available at select public boat ramps. Only one report is required for each vessel landing red snapper in Alabama. The fish must be reported prior to the fish being landed, which is defined as when fish are removed from the boat or the boat containing the fish is removed from the water.

“I am looking forward to another great summer of fishing for red snapper with my family and friends,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “I also want to thank Gov. Kay Ivey, Rep. Bradley Byrne and Sen. Richard Shelby for their continued support toward state management of this important species for Alabama’s coastal economy.”

Other Gulf states will be announcing their 2019 seasons in the coming weeks, and Alabama anglers may fish in those waters as long as they meet the requirements of that state and land red snapper in a state that is open to landing of red snapper. When Alabama’s recreational season is closed, anglers are not permitted to be in possession of red snapper on Alabama’s waters or land red snapper in Alabama, no matter where they were caught.

More information is available at OutdoorAlabama.com or by contacting Marine Resources Division offices at Dauphin Island, 251-861-2882; or Gulf Shores, 251-968-7576.

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 http://www.outdooralabama.com.

Landowners help needed to help count gopher tortoises

(Billy Pope, Ericha Shelton-Nix) A single gopher tortoise can dig three to five burrows, which are used by a variety of animals other than the tortoise.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division and Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) are on an enlistment drive to help count one of the iconic species in Alabama’s longleaf pine forests, the beloved gopher tortoise.

Considered a keystone species of the longleaf ecosystem, the gopher tortoise is crucial for the survival and health of a variety of animal species, including the federally threatened Eastern indigo snake. In fact, more than 360 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates are known to spend all or a portion of their lives in either active or abandoned gopher tortoise burrows.

The reason the agencies must ask for help to estimate the population is that the vast majority of gopher tortoises live on private land in Alabama as well as throughout most of its range in the Southeast U.S.

The gopher tortoise is already listed as federally threatened in three Alabama counties – Washington, Mobile and Choctaw – and a decision on a possible listing as threatened in other parts of Alabama is expected in 2022. WFF, AFC and other partners are working together to determine if the population is large enough to preclude the gopher tortoise’s listing as federal threatened.

WFF and the AFC teamed with other concerned partners to conduct a series of presentations in south Alabama to encourage landowners to participate in the survey program. These workshops were funded by the American Forest Foundation.

Ericha Shelton-Nix, WFF’s Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator, said the presentations focused on several issues, including whether gopher tortoises can be protected without further regulation.

“We have surveyed most of the public lands in Alabama managed by the ADCNR,” Shelton-Nix said. “More than 95 percent of gopher tortoise habitat is in private ownership. So, there’s pretty much nothing more we can do as a state agency to catalogue the population of gopher tortoises without private landowners stepping up. We have to know where gopher tortoise populations are and assess the populations to see what the status of the species is. We need to assess the populations on private lands. We discussed conservation efforts taking place across the range. We went over all the conservation efforts taking place in Alabama.

“The big take-home message is that we as state and federal agencies, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), have done all we can do without private landowner help.”

Different agencies are offering cost-share for habitat management – incentives for habitat management like prescribed burning. WFF, AFC and other partners have secured grants to provide gopher tortoise surveys on private land free of charge. Several agencies and organizations offer technical assistance on improving habitat.

The verified gopher tortoise populations in Alabama are in the Conecuh National Forest and Fort Rucker near Enterprise, Ala. A follow-up survey is ongoing on Fort Rucker.

“Conecuh has one viable population and Fort Rucker has one,” Shelton-Nix said. “Those are our largest, most contiguous blocks of land with high-priority gopher tortoise soils. It is likely there are others that have yet to be identified in Alabama, but we are working on it.”

Gopher tortoises are mostly limited to deep, sandy soils that make construction of their burrows easier.

The preferred gopher tortoise habitat is open-canopy pine forests with no mid-story growth that allows light to reach the forest floor to promote an abundance of herbaceous ground cover for tortoise forage.

“A species that becomes reproductively mature that late in life, combined with high nesting and hatchling predation rates, creates a long lag time for a tortoise to contribute to a population,” Shelton-Nix said. “In poor habitat, we see small isolated islands, like wildlife openings and roadsides, with only a handful of tortoises. Remember this is a long-lived species. As habitat quality decreases, tortoises will move to areas with food availability. They will survive, but they are not reproducing, therefore, not a viable population. That’s why the social structure is so important.”

The USFWS will consider the three Rs – representation, redundancy and resiliency – during deliberation on the gopher tortoise listing status. Representation covers where it is important to have tortoises on the landscape factored with population level. Redundancy refers to multiple populations that are needed per unit to protect against unit-wide extirpation (local extinction). Resiliency refers to populations large enough to protect against extirpation by catastrophic events.

Shelton-Nix said owners who agree to participate should expect a site visit from biologists to determine suitable habitat.

“We have a limited amount of survey dollars,” Shelton-Nix said. “We need to determine the percentage of suitable soils. We are looking for landowners with 50 or more burrows, so we can be efficient and get the most bang for our bucks.”

If the property is deemed suitable for a survey, the WFF grant will cover the cost of a consultant to conduct a survey, using the Line Transect Distance Sampling method. Each burrow that is found is scoped with video equipment to check for the presence of animals, which helps determine density rate.

Shelton-Nix said the number of burrows doesn’t translate to the number of tortoises.

“Each gopher tortoise can make three to five burrows,” she said. “If someone has 10 burrows on their property, most likely they have two to three tortoises.”

Shelton-Nix said 140 folks attended the four workshops with 30 landowners who were interested in being surveyed.

“We received great feedback,” she said. “But we’re still finding people who didn’t know they are being considered as a threatened species. The gopher tortoise is a very charismatic species, and people who have them love their tortoises.”

The exception are cattle and horse owners who are worried about the burrows.

“There are easy fixes around that,” Shelton-Nix said. “If people call me, we want to help people find solutions to their problems. It is illegal to move them. Another thing unique about gopher tortoises is they have a homing instinct. If you move them, they’re just going to try to go back home and may end up squished on the highway.”

Ray Metzler, who is the AFC’s threatened and endangered species coordinator, said the effort must overcome the concern from citizens when they hear, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

“We do have ways to provide the information to the USFWS without actually sharing names and addresses,” Metzler said. “We can just tell them that Landowner A has 175 tortoises in Escambia County with a density of whatever. That’s not intrusive and doesn’t share any private information.”

Metzler said the impact of the USFWS decision on the gopher tortoise can’t be determined right now.

“We don’t know if they (USFWS) would limit activities related to the tortoise,” Metzler said. “There might not be any impacts. We really don’t know. The USFWS won’t say until they review the information provided by the states to make the decision. Our goal is to keep it from being listed.

“We are trying to get more private landowners engaged in the process and hopefully allow us to come to their property and do a survey.”

Metzler hopes to acquire more grant money for more outreach to the affected landowners later this year.

“Our first four meetings led to more landowners finding out about the need for this program,” he said. “We’ve actually been on a few pieces of property that we didn’t know existed, that have good habitat and have some tortoises. If we have a few more meetings, it might lead to a few more properties like that.”

Although current research sets a viable population at 250 animals at a certain density, Metzler thinks support populations could have considerably lower numbers.

“You might have a support population at 50 tortoises,” he said. “There’s probably a lot more properties that have 50 tortoises as opposed to 250 at the appropriate density. And we need to find those properties.”

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/nongame-wildlife-species-projects/gopher-tortoise-project for a variety of information, including on the Alabama Tortoise Alliance, which will meet February 28 in Andalusia.

At the Lauderdale County 4H and FFA Junior Livestock Show and Sale on Thursday, January 17, Kalee Guin received Class Winner and Reserved Grand Champion for her market hog. Kalee, granddaughter of Wayne and Claire Smith, attends Clarkdale High School and is a member of the Clarkdale FFA. Submitted by Claire Smith, Livingston Lines
In the first picture, the shadow of the Earth begins creeping across the face of the Moon on Jan. 20 during Sunday night’s lunar eclipse. In the second, the Moon is shown during maximum eclipse. The reddish color is due to sunlight being scattered by the earth’s atmosphere. Sunday night’s eclipse was called the “Super Blood Wolf Moon” in many reports. It was a super Moon because it occurred when the Moon comes closest to the Earth in its elliptic orbit—resulting in a slightly larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as viewed from Earth. The “blood” part of the description refers to the red color, while January’s full Moon is traditionally named the “Wolf Moon.” Photos by Isaac Vaughn

Early Bird: America’s beloved bird Purple Martins return to Alabama

In a sure sign that spring is not far behind, the first Purple Martins of the year have touched down in the southeastern Alabama city of Enterprise.

The birds were spotted on Jan. 21 by a Purple Martin enthusiast–one of many throughout the eastern and central United States who track and report on the birds’ annual migration on behalf of the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

“Alabama is always one of the early states to welcome back Purple Martins, and the birds were right on schedule again this year,” said Joe Siegrist, President of the Purple Martin Conservation Association. “Tracking the migration is not only fun, it also provides us with valuable information that helps inform our research and strengthen our efforts to make sure we’re doing everything possible to sustain the population of these amazing birds.”

North America’s largest species of swallow, Purple Martins winter in the rainforests of Brazil before making up to a 7000-mile migration north into the eastern United States and Canada. The birds first made landfall in the U.S. this year near Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 29 and since then have been making their way northward.

The annual migration is a testament the martins’ resilience as well as the unwavering dedication of thousands of ‘martin landlords’ who maintain multi-compartment nest ‘condos’ that are essential for the birds’ survival. Once widespread in rural America, this species, that eats billions of flying insects annually, has been disappearing at an alarming rate, experiencing a loss of one-third of its population over the last 50 years.

“The decline seems to be the combination of a few factors: nesting habitat loss, competing invasive species, decreasing prey availability, and climate change,” said Siegrist. “Over the majority of the Purple Martins’ range, they are unable to nest naturally any longer. Human-provided nest boxes are the only thing keeping the species alive east of the Rocky Mountains.”

Siegrist says the very survival of the species is due in large part to scores of dedicated conservationists who invest their time, money and hearts into maintaining housing for the martins.

“The landlords provide critical shelter for the martins,” Siegrist said. “In return, they are rewarded with a family-like bond with the birds who return to the same colony year after year like clockwork.”

So even as winter tightens its grip on the north, the first sign of spring has started heading that way, bringing hope for the new year.

To follow along with the Purple Martins’ migration and learn more about how you can help conserve this treasured bird, visit www.purplemartin.org. In addition, people interested in learning more about how to attract and care for Purple Martins can receive a free booklet by contacting the Purple Martin Conservation Association by emailing info@purplemartin.org or calling 814-833-7656.

Based in Erie, Pa. the Purple Martin Conservation Association is an international tax exempt, nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Purple Martin through scientific research, state of the art wildlife management techniques and public education. The PMCA serves as a centralized data-gathering and information source on the species, serving both the scientist and Purple Martin enthusiast. The PMCA’s mission is educating martin enthusiasts in the proper techniques for managing this human-dependent species.

Most public fishing lakes reopen in February

February 1 marks the beginning of fishing season for 21 of Alabama’s 23 State-owned Public Fishing Lakes. Located throughout the state, these lakes are noted for their quality fishing for bream, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and crappie (in most lakes). Because these smaller lakes warm more quickly than larger bodies of water, early spring fishing can be excellent.

In addition to the 21 lakes opening in February, Fayette County Public Fishing Lake will reopen to fishing this spring and anglers can expect excellent numbers of quality-size Florida largemouth bass. More information about the reopening of Fayette County lake will be announced soon.

Washington County Public Fishing Lake remains closed while restocking efforts are underway.

Fishing is an affordable and easily accessible recreational opportunity for all Alabamians. Each State Public Fishing Lake offers boats for rent ($5) and launching of private fishing boats ($3). A daily permit and state fishing license are required to fish in the lakes. Anglers may fish from the pier, bank, rental boat or personal boat.

“Alabama’s public fishing lakes are a great family fishing destination,” said Matthew Marshall, State Lakes Supervisor for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “Not only do the lakes offer great fishing, they have concession buildings with snacks, drinks, restrooms, and personnel who can provide fishing advice.”

The WFF Fisheries Section carefully stocks and manages the lakes for optimum fishing. The lakes are also fertilized to maximize fish production and fishing piers allow anglers easy access to deeper water.

No General Fund money is used to operate Alabama’s State Public Fishing Lakes. Anglers pay for the management of the lakes through license fees, excise taxes on certain outdoors equipment, and daily fishing permits.

Anglers can call their district fisheries office for specific information about the types of fish and average sizes caught at each lake. Contact information: District 1 in Tanner, Ala., 256-353-2634; District 2 in Eastaboga, Ala., 256-831-6860; District 3 in Northport, Ala., 205-339-5716; District 4 in Enterprise, Ala. 334-347-9467; District 5 in Spanish Fort, Ala., 251-626-5153.

Before traveling to a State Public Fishing Lake, anglers should call ahead to determine the operational schedule. A complete list of state lakes and contact information can be found in the fishing section of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, www.outdooralabama.com.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) 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.

Special Youth Water Fowl Hunting Day Feb. 2

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has designated Saturday, February 2, 2019, as the second 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.

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 Game Bird Coordinator Seth Maddox at Seth.Maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or 334-242-3469, 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

AFC elects new officers

New officers were elected at the January 17 meeting of the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) at state forestry headquarters in Montgomery. The board selected Katrenia Pruitt Kier of Huntsville as new Chair, and Robert N. Turner of Sulligent as Vice-Chair. Both Kier and Turner have served on the Commission since February 2016.

“We look forward to working with Mrs. Kier and Mr. Turner as our leaders in this coming year,” commented State Forester Rick Oates. “Her combined professional leadership abilities and corporate experience, along with his knowledge as an Alabama landowner should be of great benefit to the AFC.”

With over 30 years of professional experience in business management, corporate training, and customer service, Katrenia Kier is the owner of Kier Realestate, LLC, a real estate brokerage firm in Huntsville. Her prior corporate experience includes human resource and information management positions in the defense industry at McDonnell Douglas and Boeing Corporation. Currently an officer with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, she also serves as minister and youth committee coordinator for the Greater Huntsville Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and received a Business Management Certificate from the University of Alabama at Huntsville as well.

Kier previously served six years on the State Forester’s Outreach Advisory Council for underserved and minority landowners. In addition to completing master forester classes and training on

best management practices for forestry, she has also attended forest industry conferences and coordinated workshops for North Alabama landowners, introducing them to services offered by the Forestry Commission.

After a 45-year career in the field of education, Robert Turner now stays busy with cattle and farming in Lamar County. Upon completion of a Bachelor of Art degree in Social Studies at Mississippi Industrial College, he attended Rust College, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi, and Mississippi State University, receiving a master’s degree in Administration in 1984. Over the years, he served as teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal at Caledonia High School in Shugualak, Mississippi. He then worked as Director of Transportation & Maintenance for the Lowndes County (Mississippi) School District and later in Natchez, Mississippi, before returning to Alabama where he spent several years in the same position in Lamar County prior to his retirement in 2011.

Turner’s organizational memberships have included the State Forester’s Outreach Advisory Council for underserved and minority landowners, Executive Committee of the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association, and chairman of LRLEAN (Limited Resource Landowner Education & Assistance Network) an association of African American landowners organized to promote increased sustainable forestry management/certification in the Black Belt region of Alabama by working with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Tree Farm program. This organization has also connected many Black landowners to USDA financial assistance programs.

Other members of the AFC Board of Commissioners include immediate past Chairman Jane T. Russell of Lapine; Jerry M. Dwyer of Auburn; Stephen W. May, III of Sawyerville; Dr. Bill Sudduth of Tuscaloosa; and Joseph H. Twardy of Auburn. This seven-member board, appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate, is responsible for setting policy for the Alabama Forestry Commission, the state agency charged with protecting and sustaining Alabama’s forest resources. To learn more about the AFC, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.

Ala. Waterfowl Stamp Contest Open

Photo: 2018 Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest Winner – Wood Ducks by Eric Greene.

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) is now accepting entries for the 2019 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest. The winning artwork will be featured as the design of the 2020-21 stamp. The Alabama stamp is currently required for all licensed hunters when hunting migratory waterfowl in the state. Revenue from the sale of the stamp is used to purchase, establish or improve migratory waterfowl habitat.

The competition is open to resident Alabama artists only. Only original horizontal artworks depicting a species of North American migratory duck or goose will be eligible. The Canada Goose, American Green-winged Teal, and Wood Duck — depicted in the winning artwork of the three previous years’ contests — are not eligible as the subject for the 2020-21 waterfowl stamp. Entries must be postmarked no later than March 1, 2019.

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

The contest winner will be announced in March 2019.

Revenue generated from the sale of the 2019 waterfowl stamp will continue to work towards benefitting waterfowl and their associated habitats. However, following this year’s contest, the State will be transitioning from the physical stamp to a license privilege and the contest will be discontinued.

“With the implementation of the lifetime waterfowl stamp and the added waterfowl stamp privilege section on the regular hunting license, the number of individuals wanting the physical stamp has continued to decline,” said Seth Maddox, WFF Migratory Game Bird Coordinator. “Declining demand for the actual stamp combined with a decreased participation in the art contest has made it cost prohibitive to continue creating a physical stamp or conduct the contest. Funds generated by the license privilege will provide the same benefits to Alabama’s waterfowl as the funds generated by the sale of the actual stamp.”

Complete contest rules and entry forms for the 2019 contest are available online at www.outdooralabama.com/programs/waterfowl-stamp-art-contest-ruless. Artists may also receive an entry form by emailing Seth Maddox at seth.maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov, or by calling 334-242-3469.

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.

Life hunt participants bags bucks of a lifetime

(Ryan Noffsinger, David Rainer) Aaron Causey and Buckmasters CEO Jackie Bushman celebrate a successful hunt during the Buckmasters Life Hunt Classic at Sedgefields Plantation in Dallas County. McKenzie Clark is all smiles after she took her first deer during the Life Hunt as mom, Shauna, and dad, Shannon, try to maintain their composure. Brandi McCormack and guide Robert Almon show off the results of a successful hunt during the Buckmasters event recently.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Aaron Causey of Riverside, Ala., has been all over the world to hunt, but he considers none of his hunts more special than the Buckmasters Life Hunt Classic last week at Sedgefields Plantation.

Causey’s world changed in 2011 when an improvised explosive device (IED) left him clinging to life in Afghanistan. A member of the military bomb squad, Causey had to undergo more than 40 surgeries. He lost both legs above the knees. He has recovered to the point that he has resumed his favorite pastime and joined in the Buckmasters hunt, which hosts wounded veterans and others with disabling injuries or illnesses.

“This is an amazing hunt,” Causey said. “It’s not just about the deer. It’s about the people you’re here with. It’s talking to people and getting to know everybody, especially watching these kids come out here and bring home a deer. Oh, that’s amazing. And I’m an avid hunter. I’ve hunted Africa, Montana and Wyoming.”

Causey also managed to bag one of the largest bucks, an eight-point, taken during the Buckmasters event.

Causey’s buck played hide-and-seek for a while before he committed to coming into the field where the blind was erected.

“We watched four does probably for about three hours,” Causey said. “At about 3 o’clock, this massive buck came into the field, looked around and disappeared. He came back, stared straight at us and disappeared again. He was about 250 yards at the first sighting and about 225 yards the second sighting. The first sighting, it was too tight of a shot between the trees, and I wasn’t going to take a chance.”

A couple of hours later, does were still in the field when several bucks started to file into the area. A pair of six-points came in first, followed by an eight-point. Causey and his guide were about ready to take the eight-point when they had a change of mind.

“My guide said, ‘Wait a minute. Let me scan the field with my binoculars,’” Causey said. “Then he said, ‘Look to the right.’ I looked out and there was that big boy coming back in.”

Causey and his crew had to wait for the big buck to get a little closer and get in a position where he was comfortable with the shot.

“He kept walking toward us and wouldn’t give me a broadside,” Causey said. “He finally kept coming and gave me a broadside. He was 120 (yards) when I shot him. He went about 35 yards into the woods. The guide immediately went out in the field to check for blood. It was pretty wet back there, so we went and got the (blood-trailing) dog. The dog went up the field and he was already on the deer before anybody had a clue. He went straight to my deer.”

One of the first deer taken at Sedgefields last week was by McKenzie Clark, who is dealing with giant axonal neuropathy. It also happened to be her first deer ever, which left her dad, Shannon, a little teary eyed.

Clark, who is from Woodville, Ala., and crew had been sitting on a green field for about 2½ hours before any deer showed up.

“We saw about six does,” she said. “The buck I shot came in about 5 o’clock. My guide, Jay (Hatcher), said since it’s your first one you can shoot or you can wait. I said, ‘I’m gonna shoot it. I’m not gonna wait.’

“I had the gun up, looking for the deer. But I was shaking. I told them they were going to have to give me just a minute. I found the deer in the scope and squeezed the trigger real slow.”

Her dad will now have to look for ways for McKenzie to continue to hunt.

“She’s already confiscated my deer rifle,” Shannon said. “But that’s okay.”

During the photo session back at the camp, Shannon had to wipe away a few tears.

“That one is more special than any I’ve ever killed, and I’ve been hunting since I was 14,” he said. “My first buck was a spike, so she really outdid me on that. I think I’ve got a hunting partner for life. I was just happy. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

This wasn’t the first Buckmasters Life Hunt Classic for Brandi McCormack of Northport. She had bagged a nice buck several years ago but requested a return trip.

McCormack, a paraplegic who was injured in a fall from a balcony, got treated to some deer-camp shenanigans on her hunt. She had previously worked for her guide, Robert Almon, and he knew she was a good sport.

“There were so many deer in the field, you couldn’t even count them,” McCormack said. “Halfway across the field you’d lose count. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was unreal. And seven or eight were bucks. We had one deer right in front of us chewing on a vine, looking straight at me.”

Almon recounted the episode, saying, “We’re in a ground blind, and a group of does fed up to within 10 feet from us. There was one right in front chewing on some leaves. She looked up straight into the blind, and Brandi said, ‘I think she’s looking straight into my soul.’ The buck we want to kill is 75 yards away standing broadside, and we can’t take a shot. We can’t move an inch. Finally, a little nub buck came in and ran the does out from in front of the blind, so we could get the gun up.”

When the does finally moved, McCormack said she remained calm and practiced her breathing before she put the crosshairs on the buck.

When she squeezed the trigger, the buck bolted. That’s when Almon and the camera man got a little mischievous.

“I was afraid I missed, but Robert said he was sure I hit it,” McCormack said. “They went out and started looking for blood. I couldn’t hear their conversation. They got further and further away. Then they started hanging their heads low, shaking their heads. I was sick to my stomach. They came back to the blind and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to be quiet and see if anything else comes out.’ I said ‘Huh-uh.’ Then they told me they found the deer. They got me. They got me good.”

A couple of baseball celebrities made return visits to the Classic. Relief pitcher David Robertson from Tuscaloosa, who just signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, and Craig Kimbrel of Huntsville, who was a relief pitcher with the World Champion Boston Red Sox last season, showed up to help the Classic participants celebrate being in the great outdoors.

This year’s event was particularly poignant for Kimbrel, who missed last year’s Classic because of his daughter, Lydia Joy, who was born with heart defects.

Lydia Joy has had a couple of surgeries already and another is planned soon.

“Going through some difficult times with my daughter and spending a lot of time in the hospital gives me a new perspective,” said Kimbrel, who is exploring the free-agent market after completing his Red Sox contract. “I’ve been coming for quite a few years, and I get to hear these families’ stories about the struggles they go through. And then I go through something similar last year. It was tough. You learn from it. You grow from it. We got a beautiful daughter out of everything we went through. Now she’s doing great. She acts like surgery is no big deal.

“But it is special to come out and help these hunters do something different. I’m sure it’s fresh air to be able to do something they don’t always get to do and be able to do it in the outdoors.”

APT to highlight AU’s forestry, wildlife and environmental research and Alabama’s natural resource industries

As part of Alabama Public Television’s ongoing “Spotlight on Agriculture” documentary series, the network is producing three episodes focused on Auburn University’s forestry, wildlife and natural resources research and the industry’s importance to the state.

The episodes will air in the first three quarters of 2019, with the first episode on “Forestry” scheduled to air Monday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. CST. To celebrate the launch of the three-part segment of the series, Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will host a public screening and reception for the premiere of the “Forestry” episode.

The campus-wide screening will be held at the school, located at 602 Duncan Drive, in the Conference Hall, room 1101, at 3:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The screening is free and open to the public.

The episode trilogy will highlight the importance of forests, wildlife and natural resources to the state’s economy and quality of life.

“These programs will help Alabamians to better understand the value of our state’s abundant natural resources and the innovative research being done at Auburn to assure we manage those resources for the wellbeing and enjoyment of future generations,” said Roy Clem, executive director of Alabama Public Television.

Through interviews with landowners, business, government and industry representatives, the documentary series will showcase how Auburn University’s research and Extension programs serve to convey science-based information to sustainably manage those resources for the future.

During the “Forestry” episode, viewers will learn how Auburn’s research is improving timber harvesting and forestry operations, developing sustainable products from forest biomass and discovering solutions to many of today’s most critical challenges facing wildlife and natural landscapes such as drought, habitat loss, pests and invasive species.

The “Wildlife” episode, to air in the second quarter of the year, will examine Auburn’s wildlife research and partnerships with landowners, agencies and other stakeholders to aid the development of policies that will assure healthy and sustainable game and non-game wildlife populations and their habitats.

The episode will also discuss the complex relationships between land use, climate change and population growth that alter the health-related interactions among people, animals and the environment that contribute to the presence of diseases such as rabies, Lyme disease and the West Nile and Zika viruses.

Finally, the episode on “Environment and Society,” to air in the third quarter of 2019, will discuss Auburn’s research to examine the relationships between humans and the environment as they relate to economics, policies and other organizational aspects of society.

“We are grateful to Alabama Public Television and the many organizations who participated in the series to showcase the collaborative research partnership between academia, industry and government,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

“This collaborative work and sharing of knowledge and resources is vital to the preservation of Alabama’s quality of life and the sustainable future of our society.”

For more information about the Alabama Public Television broadcast, visit http://aptv.org/episodes/1816735/Spotlight-On-Agriculture/Forestry-Management/. Written by Jamie Anderson, Auburn University

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.