Quail Forever visits, new Gobbler Contest: March 2018 newsletter
Quail Forever Visits Black Belt
During the final week of February, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, the Alabama Wildlife Federation, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources brought together some of the top experts in quail habitat restoration to the region for a first of its kind discussion about the livelihood of the Northern Bobwhite Quail both regionally and nationally – and to discuss the importance of quail hunting as a viable economic development tool for the rural communities.
ALBBAA hosted the top leadership of Quail Forever, a national quail conservation organization, as well as their media team. Joining the group were other outdoor media from outlets such as Realtree, Land Leader TV and Covey Rise magazine. They experienced our quail hunting opportunities first-hand and enjoyed our Southern hospitality.
The multipurpose goal of the week included raising awareness of the available opportunities in the Black Belt and sharing strategies for improving quail habitat.
What follows is Pheasants Forever, Inc., and Quail Forever President and Chief Executive Officer Howard Vincent’s article on his experiences.
Quail Forever, Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association
come together with one conservation goal
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.
We came to the Black Belt with modest goals, hoping to capture some fresh photography, videography and content for our Quail Forever Journal, Quail Forever website and social media platforms. We also brought along friends from Realtree, Browning firearms and apparel, The Flush television program on Outdoor Channel, LandLeader TV on RFD, Covey Rise magazine and Shooting Sportsman magazine. These partners were also on the trip to learn about southern Alabama quail culture and to generate content for their own media entities. Our goals were certainly surpassed.
In Alabama, we learned that Southern hospitality is no cliché – it’s the absolute truth. We enjoyed a sunset dinner at Shenandoah Plantation in Union Springs hosted by Tom and Sue Ellen Lanier. We savored breakfast at Rex and Jacque Clark’s High Log Creek Farm and Hunting Preserve near Hurtsboro. At High Log Creek, we saddled up horses and wagons to explore the habitat in search of quail behind the preserve’s fine array of pointing dogs. Acclaimed chef and Food Network Iron Chef winner David Bancroft of Auburn’s Acre restaurant prepared a dinnertime offering of Alabama seafood and wild game at Rex Pritchett’s Great Southern Outdoors Plantation back in Union Springs. And speaking of quality Southern food, Chris Hastings of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club prepared a lunch featuring quail on Thursday at host Thomas Harris’ Gusto plantation in Lowndes County that showed why he is a nationally renowned chef. We also had the pleasure of enjoying a magnificent final quail hunt at Gusto that allowed participants to not only enjoy the work of gorgeous pointers that weaved through the loblolly and longleaf pines, but also to see the kind of habitat that should be the goal of all quail lovers. Internationally known trainer Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels of Oxford, Miss., wrapped up the day by sharing some of his expertise with four of his British Labradors working with unbelievable precision.
Other sponsors who helped make our incredible visit happen were the Alabama Power Company, Yeti, Jon Kohler & Associates, National Land Realty, Tutt Land & Company and John Hall and Company.
Perhaps the highlight of our Alabama adventure occurred at a gathering sponsored by Caliber at the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s NaturePlex in Millbrook where Dr. Bill Palmer of Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, Fla., addressed a crowd of 100, excited to hear his quail expertise. I was energized by the group’s enthusiasm for quail and quail habitat. It was at that event that the Black Belt Quail Forever chapter was announced.
Unique among conservation organizations, Quail Forever chapters retain 100 percent decision-making control over the funds they raise locally. The group represents 140,000 bird-hunting conservationists who have been responsible for 15 million acres of habitat accomplishments while also earning Charity Navigator’s top rating for six consecutive years. Lovers of quail in the entire state have already been partners with ALBBAA through the Alabama Quail Trail, which can only be enhanced by more Quail Forever chapters.
The newly created Quail Forever chapter will work with the local community and landowners to improve the area’s habitat for quail. Ultimately, these habitat efforts will benefit all wildlife in the Black Belt, water quality, and the area’s recreational-based economy. We were proud to witness the many ways ALBBAA is already promoting quail hunting adventures in the region and we’re happy to support quail-hunting related tourism through our Quail Forever media channels reaching the country’s largest collection of bird-hunting conservationists. This is an exciting new direction for Alabama, its Black Belt region and its people.
Big Gobbler Contest Struts in With a Twist
This year’s Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Gobbler Contest opened with the first day of spring turkey season in the Black Belt and will run through May 7, one week after the end of the season. This year, instead of asking for photos, we want to see your videos of calling turkeys in the Black Belt. The winner can produce a video of actually coaxing a big turkey into camera frame or show us your technique after you’ve bagged your gobbler or during your scouting session. Just upload a short – 30 seconds to 1 minute – video of your best yelp or cluck or fly-up cackle or gobble or any combination. Shoot your video in the woods of the Alabama Black Belt and upload it via Dropbox at http://bit.ly/2IrxQth.
“This year, instead of our usual photo contest on Facebook, we want to see and hear hunters showing off their turkey-calling skills,” said ALBBAA Director Pam Swanner. “Attracting a big gobbler isn’t easy, so we wanted to give hunters a chance to display their expertise. The Black Belt provides some great turkey hunting and we have great turkey hunters who live in the region or visit for a once-in-a-lifetime experience during the season.
“We are thrilled to offer two opportunities to win our Big Gobbler Contest this year, too. We will have our ‘People’s Choice’ winner based on the number of Facebook ‘likes’ for the videos and a ‘Pro’s Pick,’ judged by the ‘Turkey Man’ Eddie Salter of Evergreen and two other media professionals. Eddie is a well-known expert thanks to his seven Southeastern Open Turkey Calling Championships, six Alabama State Championships and two World Open Championships. He has almost four decades of turkey-hunting experience and is being gracious enough to provide one of our prizes, too.”
This year’s People’s Choice winner will receive a $200 cash prize donated by Southeast Land Group and the Pro’s Pick will get Turkey Man Game Calls – both a slate call and a mouth call.
All entries MUST be uploaded to http://bit.ly/2IrxQth, not to the Black Belt Facebook page. To vote for your favorite, please follow us at Facebook.com/AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures and click “like” on the video.
And, speaking of turkey season, remember that the bag limit for gobblers only is one a day, five per season.
Spring turkey season is delayed for research purposes on these Wildlife Management Areas in Alabama: Barbour, J.D. Martin-Skyline, Oakmulgee, Lowndes, Choccolocco and Perdido River. Those WMA seasons are March 24-April 30. More information is at outdooralabama.com/wildlife-management-areas.
As a reminder, 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.
Chronic Wasting Disease Alert
As you must know by now, a deer has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Mississippi. This is a frightening discovery, as this is a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species, including mule deer, moose and elk.
According to a news release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the disease is caused by a mutated protein called a prion. The infectious disease is always fatal for white-tailed deer. Infected deer serve as a reservoir for prions that will be shed into the environment through the animal’s saliva, urine, feces, blood or soft-antler material. There are no known management strategies to lessen the risk of indirect transmission, according to the ADCNR, once an environment has been contaminated. This makes eradication of CWD extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Because the most likely way of CWD being introduced into Alabama is through transportation, it has been illegal for decades for live deer to be imported into the state. The importation of whole carcasses and certain body parts of deer from any CWD-positive state was banned in 2016.
Wildlife Section Chief Keith Gauldin said in the ADCNR release that the state has had a CWD monitoring program in place for many years and that no Alabama “deer has tested positive for CWD.” To keep the herd CWD free, the state is asking Alabama hunters to report any illegal transport of live deer or elk on Alabama roads or highways by immediately calling 1-800-272-4263.
Deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease will behave abnormally, often showing little wariness or fear of humans. Other diseases may also cause deer to show similar symptoms, so if you see that please call the Operation Game Watch line at the above number.
Big Buck Contest Winner Is a 17-Pointer
Congratulations to 17-year-old Hunter Goodman of Columbus, Miss., for his win in our sixth annual Big Buck Photo Contest. Hunter bagged an awesome 17-point buck on some private land in Greene County on the Tombigbee River in early January. The photo of the buck, weighing 175 pounds with an 18.5-inch spread and scored an unofficial 157 5/8, attracted an amazing 2,433 “likes” in the Facebook contest.
This year’s contest drew 93 entries and a total of 14,464 votes. Bucks harvested in 22 of the 23 Black Belt counties were entered this season.
“We are delighted that so many people got involved in this year’s contest, our largest to date, and that we had entries from across the entire Black Belt,” said ALBBAA Director Pam Swanner. “It’s a testament to the great hunting opportunities that exist in the Black Belt that we had entries from every Black Belt county except Choctaw this year.
“We are also so thankful to our friends who contributed prizes this year and to Big Daddy Lawler and his ‘Gettin’ Outdoors’ radio program in Selma for helping us publicize our contest and in attracting some great business partners who supported us with donations.”
You can listen to Big Daddy every Saturday morning from 7 until 9 live on Facebook (facebook.com/gettinoutdoors), on radio at WALX-FM 100.9 Orrville/Selma, ESPN 104.9-FM York/Demopolis and WJDB-FM 95.5 in Thomasville.
Thanks to some great Alabama Black Belt vendors – and some from outside the region – who provided the prizes. The prizes were an Alabama Hog Control Thermal Hog Hunt for three, a Winchester XPR 270-caliber rifle from Central Alabama Farmers Cooperative in Selma, a $300 cash donation from The Management Advantage in Helena, an American Hunter 200-pound Tri-Pod Feeder and a $50 gift card from Rountree Outdoors in Selma, a $250 cash donation from the Southeastern Land Group and a Lifetime Alabama Wildlife Heritage License.
QDMA Turkey Hunt Is Scheduled
The Alabama Quality Deer Management Association’s annual Charity Turkey Hunt is set for March 29-31 at Great Southern Outdoors in Union Springs. This unique event offers hunters a chance to win prizes and to aid the QDMA in funding research and education of deer hunting.
Entry fee is $1,250. All guides and hunters will receive goody bags with all sorts of outdoors merchandise. QDMA says 20 hunters will be taken to various spots with a single shotgun shell to harvest an Alabama gobbler and the hunter with the best bird wins a cash prize. Call Steve Long at 334-235-6393 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.