January 19, 2013
 
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
Chuck Sykes celebrated his 42nd birthday in a most unusual way: The Choctaw County native spent the day plunging into his new role as the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director.

Sykes’ career change will bring a new perspective for him on the outdoors he loves and has spent his life advancing.

“That was the first day I had ever sat behind a desk,” said Sykes. “I’ve been a private, on-the-ground, hands-dirty, Carhartt, snake-boots kind of guy. So right now, I’m learning.”

By DAVID RAINER

For the first time in memory, Alabama qualified more anglers than any state for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic that was recently held in New Orleans. Alabama sent 10 fishermen to the Classic, which was won by arguably the most dominant angler in professional bass fishing history – Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.

February 20, 2014

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

 Seconds after Robert Collins opened the doors of the dog boxes on the back of his truck, the beagles had their collective noses to the ground.

Within a minute or so, the first beagle barked and sniffed for more evidence that a rabbit was nearby. Although the trail never got hot, Collins said, “He may not be here right now, but he’s been here this morning. See, here’s his tracks. And they’re fresh.”

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

April 26, 2012
 
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
If there had been a class similar to the one taught recently in Greene County, I’m almost certain I would have been near the head of the class. Of course, this class is on a subject that continues to intrigue me so many years after I finished my secondary education – fishing.
 
That’s right, fishing. Why didn’t our educators come up with a curriculum like that when I was 14 years old?

December 19, 2013

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As we gather around the campfire and fireplace during this holiday season, J.R. Dunsmore has a cautionary tale to share about white-tailed deer as pets.

“Just don’t do it,” said the 69-year-old Dunsmore, who lives just outside Guntersville. “They are dangerous. I didn’t know how dangerous. Now, when I wake up I see half the world, because this (right) half is gone. It can’t be fixed.”

Wearing a patch over his right eye, Dunsmore relived the moment when the buck (named Zeke) that he considered a pet reverted to the normal behavior of a wild animal and almost killed the Marshall County resident.

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama’s hunting community welcomed a new member recently in Macon County, and the new hunter pulled off a feat that often takes hunters years to accomplish – bag an eight-point buck.

Gary Baller of Fayetteville, N.C., joined fellow Marine Corps veterans in the “Wounded Veterans Hunt” and scored quickly.

March 7, 2013

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
Saving your money until you have enough for a worthwhile purchase is a wise economic policy that I wish I adhered to more often.

The first time I actually remember pulling that off was when I was 13. I mowed lawns in our small town all summer and when dove season was on the horizon, I had managed to save enough money to purchase my first shotgun, a Remington Model 1100.

January 24, 2013

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Meredith Boutwell’s run of good luck ended when Mother Nature decided to provide the absolutely worst kind of day for deer hunting during the recent Becoming an Outdoors-Woman hunt at the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area near Greensboro.

Boutwell’s good luck started when she was picked as a replacement hunter for one of the dozen ladies who were chosen through a draw to be able to hunt the former State Cattle Ranch land.

Last year, I served as guide for Jane Ellis in what turned out to be a memorable hunt on a perfect day for hunting deer.

May 2, 2013

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
Anyone who has been a serious fisherman since the advent of marine electronics in the early 1970s will likely know the brand name Humminbird, which is still manufactured in sweet home Alabama in the historic city of Eufaula.

And anyone familiar with Techsonic Industries’ Humminbird knows the person most people associate with the line of depthfinders, sonars, GPS units and other marine electronics – Larry Colombo.

Colombo headed up Humminbird’s marketing department for more years than he wishes to admit, retiring several years ago to hunt turkeys and deer and search for arrowheads.

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The sonar bottom machine read 120 feet as the inert bottom about 29 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico suddenly came alive. The graph lit up with multi-colored blips hovering with 20 feet of the artificial reef on the sea floor.

Capt. Bobby Kelly put the Fairwater II in idle and said, “Come on up.” As he bumped the transmission into reverse, those blips quickly ascended from the reef that was once a World War II Hellcat fighter plane. Within seconds, the graph marked fish from the bottom all the way to about 25 feet under the boat.

February 20, 2014

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Now that the 2013-2014 white-tailed deer season is a wrap, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Director Chuck Sykes has some impressions of the season, which featured a few changes and plenty of cold weather.

Regarding the three main changes, Sykes figures it was much ado about nothing.

June 14, 2012
 
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
Many people along the Gulf Coast are not likely familiar with the RESTORE Act, a part of the transportation bill that is currently being debated in Congress. Yet, there is a group of people who consider RESTORE legislation the best vehicle to overcome the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 by directing the majority of the penalties assessed to BP and other affected parties to the Gulf area.
 
A recent conference call among conservation and outdoors groups illustrated the importance of the RESTORE Act to the outdoors community along the Gulf Coast.
January 26, 2012
 
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
Charles Herron wasn’t looking for any special recognition a few years ago when he started sharing his love for the outdoors with young hunters in central Alabama.

Herron, who started out with a pulpwood truck and chainsaw 35 years ago, has done particularly well in the timber business in Alabama and through the years has assembled a spread teeming with deer and turkey in Elmore County. Every other weekend during gun deer season, Herron turns that property into a youth-hunting paradise.

 By DAVID RAINER

During my ramblings outdoors as a kid and even now, when I was lucky enough to find an arrowhead I marveled at the craftsmanship involved and always wondered how Native Americans were able to achieve such meticulous detail with only primitive tools.

After a trip to Moundville Archaeological Park and the Flintknappers Class and Gathering, I don’t have to wonder any longer.

The flintknappers there demonstrated how one can take the right kind of rock and a few primitive tools and fashion an arrowhead or knife blade as sharp as or sharper than one made from the finest steel. The keys, according to the veteran flintknappers, are finding the right material, getting a little instruction and then practice, practice, practice.

By DAVID RAINER

It was already past time to head to the house and get ready for another day of framing houses on his construction job, but Eric Easley and fishing buddy Michael Myles had a big adventure remaining in the upper end of Mobile Bay during the wee hours of Aug. 14.

The pair had been catching redfish around McDuffie Island at the mouth of the Mobile River and was packing up their gear to get ready for an interesting ride back to the boat ramp in a 14-foot jon boat with a 15-horse outboard.

June 27, 2013

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Understanding what constitutes legal dove hunting should be easier this fall after the Alabama Cooperative Extension System published new planting guidelines for Alabama.

In previous years, the state had been divided into three zones with three sets of acceptable planting dates for top-sown wheat. The new recommendations eliminate the zones and set the acceptable dates for top-sowing wheat as August 1 through November 30.

November 23, 2011

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As soon as the leashes were unhooked, the hounds disappeared in a flash into the darkness. It didn’t take long to determine which way they went.

“That’s Daisy, I’m calling a ‘strike,’” said Arnold “Nubbin” Moore, president of the Black Creek Coonhunters Club who quickly recognized the high-pitched bark of his female black and tan hound. Moore had the “Nubbin” moniker bestowed on him by his grandfather, who looked at the five-pound newborn and named him after what we country folks call an underdeveloped ear of corn.

October 31, 2013

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

When my daughter asked where I’d been as I walked in the door late the other night, I responded, “Lionfish workshop.”

“That’s the fish that’s poisonous, right?” she asked.

“Nope, the lionfish is venomous, not poisonous,” I said.

Judging from the puzzled look on her face, I needed to explain that lionfish have venomous spines but the fish’s flesh is perfectly edible, in fact, delicious and not poisonous.

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