Press Releases

Big Gobbler Photo Contest

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – 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.

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.

2019 Big Buck Photo Contest Winner

February 19, 2019

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

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – 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.

Alabama WFF Closely Monitoring Mississippi CWD Cases

By DAVID 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.”

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).

“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.

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Alabama Duck Hunters Hope for Repeat of Last Season

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

By DAVID RAINER

TDuck Hunting in Alabamahe 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.

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Big Buck Photo Contest

Big Buck Photo Contest Opens to Celebrate Black Belt Deer Hunting 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. 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.

Big Buck Photo Contest“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.

Alabama Black Belt Adventures Celebrates Long, Successful Relationship with Raycom Media

For almost a decade, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA) has worked to share the good news about outdoor tourism – the most profitable and attractive industry in a historically economically challenged region of our state.

ALBBAA was formed in 2009 to promote outdoor recreation like hunting and fishing, as well as its rich history and many culinary experiences. The mission: to bring tourists in to the Black Belt from all over the country – and world – to visit, spend money and enjoy the many opportunities this region has to offer. A rising tide lifts all ships.

Our constant partner in this effort has been Raycom Media under the leadership of Dr. David Bronner. Raycom has provided more than $8 million in advertising through its network of television stations in 65 markets and more than 100 CNHI newspapers across the nation.

Thanks to television advertisements aired on stations in 20 states – plus display ads in many local newspapers – Alabama’s Black Belt businesses have received thousands of inquiries about hunting, fishing and other outdoor adventure services. That interest piqued by Raycom and CNHI has paid off in tourism dollars.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 report, outdoor recreation accounted for $14 billion in consumer spending in Alabama. Of that, at least $4.87 billion was spent in Black Belt counties. Our state reaped the benefits of outdoor recreation spending in the collection of $857 million in state and local tax revenue. Outdoor recreation generates 135,000 direct jobs in Alabama and $3.9 billion in wages and salaries.

Alabama’s Black Belt region, as defined by ALBBAA, is made up of 23 counties that span the south-central section of the state from Mississippi to Georgia. The region makes up parts of four of Alabama’s seven congressional districts. As of the 2010 census, just over 500,000 residents – of a total Alabama population of 4.78 million – live in the Black Belt.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association promotes these counties as part of the Black Belt: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

For decades, Alabama’s Black Belt has lagged economically because of many factors, including a small population base and often struggling public school systems. For the most part, Black Belt counties have not attracted many large industries or they have abandoned the region during times of national economic distress.

The partnership between ALBBAA and Raycom has been successful, in part, because the leaders of both organizations recognized the promise of outdoors tourism for boosting the economy of the Black Belt. Chilly winter mornings with bird dogs flushing quail and warm spring days on a riverbank in the Black Belt inspired Thomas A. Harris to start the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. With few traditional industries in the area, Harris decided promoting outdoor adventures in his home region could “be” an industry. Discussions with Dr. Bronner, whose expertise with recreational tourism was already well known because of the wildly successful Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail spanning the state, resulted in support from Raycom and CNHI.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association uses a multifaceted approach to draw tourists to the area. The organization’s website (alabamablackbeltadventures.org) offers a one-stop source for hunters, anglers and other outdoor adventure-seekers looking for places to fulfill their dreams of a weekend in a deer stand with big bucks on the prowl or a week working to draw a big gobbler into range. We also visit outdoors trade shows throughout the country promoting the region and making friends from Houston to the Carolinas and all points in between, including the recent Buckmasters Expo in Montgomery.

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Alabama Black Belt Best Fish

Youngster Wins Black Belt’s Best Fish Photo Contest, Fishing Gear from Alabama Black Belt Adventures

 MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Black Belt once again proved its reputation as a hotbed for great fishing this summer and the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association’s winner in its annual Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest is 9-year-old William Booker of Homewood, Ala.

Alabama Black Belt Big Fish Contest Winner

“William’s photo of a really nice bass that he caught at a family pond in Dallas County attracted the most votes in our contest this year,” said Pam Swanner, director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “We had a great cross section of photos, including largemouth bass, bream, catfish and crappie from the Black Belt. As always, we had some really nice photos of young people enjoying the outdoors while taking pride in their catch, whether big or small fish, and sporting huge smiles.”

William, a third-grader at Shades Cahaba Elementary, spends most summer weekends at his grandparents’ farm in Orrville in Dallas County. The family pond, built and stocked by his grandfather, is William’s favorite fishing hole, though he and his family also spend time fishing closer to home, too. The contest champ, who wins $100 worth of fishing gear from the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, most often fishes with his mom and dad, Deidre and George Robert Booker, and his grandparents, Jule and Terry Booker.

“I can’t believe I won!” William said. “I can’t wait to use my new fishing gear.”

Entries came in from almost half the counties in the Black Belt, with anglers sharing their photos of their catches from public and private waters. The winner was determined by the number of “likes” the photo received on the ALBBAA Facebook page (Facebook.com/AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures).

The rules were simple, asking only that the fish in the photo be one – or several – caught in the Black Belt in 2018.

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.

 

CWD Restrictions Expanded to all 50 states

By DAVID 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.”

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Annual Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest

Catch a Fish in the Black Belt, Alabama Black Belt Adventures Will Release a Prize

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Black Belt is a great place to spend time wetting a hook and hauling in a nice prize. Whether it’s a big bass or catfish or a feisty little bream, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association wants to showcase the outdoor fishing fun with its annual Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest, starting today.

ALBBAA will reward the top vote-getter in the Facebook contest with $100 worth of fishing gear. To be eligible, the fish must be caught in the Black Belt during 2018. The photo must be emailed to photocontest@albbaa.org and the entrant must like the Facebook.com/ AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures page. Photos uploaded to Facebook are not eligible and Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest winners from 2017 and 2016 are ineligible this year. Please include the name of the angler, the county where the fish was caught and a contact phone number with the email.

“The Black Belt has so many great fishing spots, both public and private, and we love seeing the smiling faces of the folks who enter our contest,” said ALBBAA Director Pam Swanner. “This contest is not about the biggest fish, it’s about recognizing the great times that can be enjoyed in our outdoors. Fishing together as a family creates fond memories that will last a lifetime and we want to share them on our Facebook page.”

Photos will be shared on Facebook.com/AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures and the winner will be selected based on the number of “likes” each photo gets.

“We encourage people from outside the Black Belt region to come visit for an adventure in discovering your favorite ‘honey hole,’” Swanner said. “Our website – AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org – offers information for both public fishing spots as well as outfitters and lodges in the area that can provide a great fishing experience.”

The contest will run through August 31 with the winner to be announced the first week of September 2018.

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.

WFF Releases Rehabilitated Bald Eagle

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.

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<p>Counties included are Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, Wilcox. Counties included are Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, Wilcox.

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