By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Far from what today’s crowd calls civilization, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship gained a new appreciation for America’s symbol of greatness.
Blankenship had the honor to release a rehabilitated bald eagle into the wild at the Uchee Creek Special Opportunity Area (SOA) in rural Russell County.
“Holding the eagle, I could tell she was ready to go and get back into the wild and enjoy life again,” Blankenship said after launching the immature eagle into the air. “Seeing the length of those talons and feeling the strength of her legs, it was really a little bit surprising how strong that eagle was.
“The nongame wildlife work we do, including raptors and birds like this, is very important to the Department of Conservation and the community. People are fascinated with hawks, kestrels and raptors of all kinds, eagles particularly. For us to be able to work with Auburn University and other rehabbers around the state and see those birds come back from injuries and be released back into the wild, that is extremely rewarding for us at the Department of Conservation.”
The released bald eagle was rehabilitated at the Southeastern Raptor Center, a part of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The immature eagle was found in Lee County with a broken wing. Once at the Southeastern Raptor Center, X-rays revealed the bird had been shot. Multiple small shot were evident in the X-ray, and one piece of bird shot had broken the metacarpus in the bird’s left wing.
Turkey-Callers Claim Prizes in First Alabama Black Belt Adventures Video Contest
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Turkey-callers in Alabama’s Black Belt strutted their stuff in the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association’s first Big Gobbler Facebook video contest with Cody Godwin and Jerry Lavender earning big prizes.
The Big Gobbler Contest wrapped up on Monday, a week after the end of turkey season in Alabama. Godwin won the People’s Choice award and a $200 cash prize from Southeastern Land Group while Lavender took the Pro’s Pick award and three of Eddie Salter’s “Turkey Man” game calls, valued at $150.
The turkey-calling videos racked up more than 7,200 page views in the contest, which ran during the spring turkey season in Alabama. Godwin is from Enterprise and Lavender is from Greensboro.
“We had a lot of fun with our Big Gobbler Contest this year,” said Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Director Pam Swanner. “Instead of asking hunters to share photos of their turkey harvests from the Black Belt, we called for videos of them working their calls to show their expertise in luring gobblers in range. Turkey hunting is quite a challenge and it was fun and informative to see the calling techniques hunters use to ensure success in the woods.”
Pro’s Pick judges were Dr. Bobby Dale, Mike Giles and Ron Jolly. All are avid turkey hunters, members of Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and are known as experts in the sport. Dale is currently the president of the board of directors for SEOPA and he is the author of three books on turkey hunting as well as one children’s book. He writes an outdoors medical column for Delta Wildlife. Giles is a Bass Pro Shops Pro Staff Member, SEOPA board secretary, award-winning wildlife photographer and columnist for the Meridian (Miss.) Star. Jolly recently retired after 15 years as executive producer at the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, in charge of all video production for the department.
The Pro’s Pick prize, donated by Salter, includes a limited-edition glass call featuring an encased turkey feather from one of the turkey-hunting legend’s own gobbler harvests. That call is certain to be a collector’s item. Lavender also wins a Salter classic box call and his favorite reed call. Salter, known as “Turkey Man” due to his world renown as a turkey-caller and hunter, is a native of the Black Belt from Evergreen, Ala., in Conecuh County. He has won seven Southeastern Open Turkey Calling Championships, six Alabama State Championships and two World Open Championships. He has almost four decades of turkey-hunting experience.
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.
By Howard K. Vincent
President and Chief Executive Officer
Pheasants Forever, Inc., & Quail Forever
I have been working with Pheasants Forever, Inc., & Quail Forever for more than three decades with one goal in mind: the conservation and restoration of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.
Our Minnesota-based organization was formed in 1982 and now has locally based volunteer chapters in 42 states, including our newest chapter formed during an eventful visit the last week of February to the Alabama Black Belt. The Black Belt chapter will be the sixth Quail Forever group in the state.
We were fortunate to be invited to visit the Black Belt for the first time by the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA), an organization that holds the same values as Quail Forever. The ALBBAA is dedicated to wildlife habitat conservation and economic development of the beautiful rural areas in the 23 counties that make up the Black Belt. The marketing organization, founded in 2009, relies on the plentiful opportunities for hunting, fishing, camping and many other outdoors attractions to spur tourism. Thanks to the major role Raycom Media plays in supporting this effort by providing advertising on its many television stations across the country, visitors are increasingly finding their outdoor adventures in the Black Belt – and quail hunting is a growing pursuit.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Hunter Goodman of Columbus, Miss., knew he had something special when he pulled the trigger that January morning in Boligee, Ala. The 17-point Greene County buck was special – exceptional enough to win the sixth annual Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest and the prize package valued at more than $3,000.
“I had a little bit of everything running through my head,” the 17-year-old junior at Victory Christian Academy in Columbus said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Goodman’s father, Dean, who hunts on a family friend’s land that borders the Tombigee River in Greene and Sumter counties, said the big buck’s uniqueness didn’t register with his son at first. “I told him he’d killed the deer of a lifetime. He didn’t know what he had. I’ve been hunting my whole life and I’ve never seen a deer like that.”
Once the Goodmans entered the contest, they worked their extensive social media network to draw a huge number of visitors to the ALBBAA Facebook page (Facebook.com/AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures) to vote by “liking” the photo. The winning entry was one of 93 photos submitted to the contest. Photos of deer harvested in 22 of the 23 Black Belt counties were entered. The winner was determined by the number of “likes” each photo received. Goodman received 2,433 “likes.” A total of 14,464 votes were cast in the contest that ran throughout the 2017-18 deer season.
December 4, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Big Buck Photo Contest Prize Package Boosted to More Than $3,000
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Deer hunters, head to Alabama’s Black Belt region to find a trophy buck – and you may also land a big payoff from the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest. Several Alabama businesses have donated new prizes to boost the total value for the winner to more than $3,000.
“The generosity of so many has provided the greatest Big Buck Photo Contest prize package we’ve ever had throughout its six-year history. We are thankful for their support of our efforts to brand the region an outdoor destination,” said Pam Swanner, ALBBAA Project Director. “It’s this type of partnership, from those who work every day to boost the Black Belt’s economy, that will help draw attention to the great opportunities for hunters in the Black Belt.”
The new prize package for the contest, which started with the opening of bow season in October and runs until February 14, 2018, a week after this season’s close:
- An Alabama Hog Control Thermal Hog Hunt for three, valued at $1,800. alabamahogcontrol.com
- A Winchester XPR 270-caliber rifle from Central Alabama Farmers Cooperative in Selma, valued at $550. Facebook.com/centralfarmerscoop
- A $300 cash donation from The Management Advantage in Helena. themanagementadvantage.com
- An American Hunter 200-pound Tri-Pod Feeder, valued at $129, plus a $50 gift card from Rountree Outdoors in Selma. rountreeoutdoors.com
- A $250 cash donation from the Southeastern Land Group. selandgroup.com
December 1, 2017
Contact: WFF Wildlife Section, 334-242-3469
NWTF Donates More Than $157,000 for Wildlife Management
The Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently allocated $157,555 in Hunting Heritage Super Funds and Tag Funds for wild turkey projects in Alabama. Of that total, $81,193 was donated to the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to fund projects including wildlife habitat management and the publication of the annual wild turkey report, Full Fans & Sharp Spurs.
Approximately $76,000 was approved for other projects statewide including funding to improve wild turkey habitat on public lands as well as to help launch outdoor education programs in schools. This funding supports the enhancement of turkey habitat, increases access opportunities, funds educational programs and is an excellent fit for the NWTF “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” initiative.
Most of the WFF dollars will be used on Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state to support habitat management and other wild turkey programs.
“About $63,000 of this generous donation offers us access to federal matching dollars, which makes the donation go even further,” said Chuck Sykes, WFF Director. “Since federal matching dollars play such a major role in how our division is funded, contributions like this are extremely important.”
WFF is primarily funded by money generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. That money is then matched nearly three to one by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WFF does not receive an appropriation from the state’s General Fund.
“I thank NWTF and the Alabama Chapter Board of Directors for helping to support our efforts in Alabama,” Sykes said. Continue reading
Alabama Black Belt Adventures Offers 12 Great Christmas Gift Ideas
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Twelve Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and end on January 5, but instead of being traditional, let’s use a dozen days to find a dozen ways to make any outdoors person happy with a gift from Alabama’s Black Belt.
The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association offers these 12 suggestions for your Christmas list.
“Shopping in the Black Belt is a great way to get unique gifts for hunters, anglers and everyone who enjoys time outdoors,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “There are also so many places in the Black Belt that offer wonderful edible treats that make perfect gifts. These suggestions are just a few from local businesses that help keep the Black Belt economy going.”
1. The holidays are about sharing and what’s better than to share than some tasty popcorn and candy? The Auburn Popcorn Co. (106 N. College Street, Auburn, 334-329-7700) opened in the spring, but the newcomer to town is a perfect spot to grab a snack and to purchase a great stocking-stuffer. www.facebook.com/theauburnpopcorncompany Continue reading
The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association
Big Buck Photo Contest Opens
Along with Alabama Deer Season
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – 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 with the Big Buck Photo Contest.
The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is hosting its sixth Big Buck Photo Contest for deer hunters in Alabama’s Black Belt region. “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 seeing people who are encouraged to venture outdoors for hunting – especially those who may not have hunted in the Black Belt before. We usually get a lot of entries from young people on our Facebook page and it’s exciting to see our great hunting tradition being carried forward and passed down from generation to generation.”
13-year-old Hauled in Massive Bass in Wilcox County
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — This summer Will McGraw, a 13-year-old from Camden, hooked a big bass — twice. The photo his father took of the beast when the eighth-grader at Wilcox Academy finally landed it has won the 2017 Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest. Continue reading
Fans of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Facebook page will select the winner of this summer’s Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest. The angler with the photo that receives the most “likes” will win a free night at Lakepoint State Park in Eufaula. Continue reading