By DAVID RAINER

Trout fishing on the Sipsey Fork below Lewis Smith Dam continued to take center stage at the latest Alabama Conservation Advisory Board meeting in Gadsden, although the board did not take any action on the conflict between user groups. The board did vote to approve the use of telescopic sights on crossbows.

September 13, 2012
 
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Lamar Harrison and his son-in-law, Mike Eubanks, had a successful hunt on the opening day of the mourning dove season in Alabama’s North Zone last weekend, and they didn’t fire a shot.

For the past 10 years or so, the pair has played host to a growing number of guests on their farm near Orrville, Ala., and the fertile soil of the Alabama Black Belt that nurtures just about any sort of row crops. The soybeans, corn, grain sorghum and millet provide excellent forage for all sorts of wildlife, including a considerable flock of doves for the opening hunt during many of the previous years.

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
After a significant public outcry, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mobile District has agreed to take a second look at a controversial lock policy that would preclude recreational boaters on rivers like the Alabama.

Because of budget restrictions, the Corps had announced that recreational boats would no longer be allowed to use the lock facilities on 27 waterways in the U.S., including the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers.

By DAVID RAINER

The discovery of a fawn or baby wild animal by itself may leave people compelled to take action. At the time, picking up the wild animal in an attempt to “rescue” it might seem the right thing to do. Almost without fail, that is the worst course of action. Wild animals in captivity do not fare well.

A recent incident in Cleburne County illustrates this point exactly. A buck that had been picked up as a fawn was in a backyard enclosure. The family’s 12-year-old son, who considered the buck his personal pet, went into the enclosure and ended up in the hospital with serious puncture wounds from the deer’s antlers.

By DAVID RAINER

Tired of the hustle and bustle of life? Ready to get away from it all?

There’s likely no place in Alabama better for a little peace and solitude than CheahaState Park this time of year.

By DAVID RAINER 

When the phone rang at 5 a.m., the immediate worry of some type of emergency was quickly allayed when Lee Rivenbark’s voice was immediately recognized.

“Rivenbark,” Lee announced with the hint of a lilt. “Shrimp jubilee. Pier Street.”

If you’re fortunate enough to be a member of the “jubilee network” on Mobile Bay’s Eastern Shore, the pronouncement of a jubilee is short and sweet – meaning time’s a wastin,’ jump out of bed and get to the bay on the double.

This incredible jubilee phenomenon supposedly happens only in a couple of places in the world, but none with the regularity of Mobile Bay.

By DAVID RAINER

They came from all over the country, dressed in wet suits, chest waders, hip boots and knee boots and bailed off into Mobile Bay. They emerged covered in enough mud to make a rambunctious 5-year-old boy envious.

But this mud fest was not about play. It was serious business. This was the opening step in a five-year journey to restore habitat in coastal Alabama.

By DAVID RAINER 

Chris Jaworowski has witnessed first-hand how a feral hog situation can get out of hand in a hurry.

Jaworowski, Area Wildlife Biologist for the Lowndes Wildlife Management Area (WMA), saw two feral hogs when he started his career at Lowndes in 1997. The next year, he saw between 50 and 60 hogs.

“By the third year, they had pretty much taken over a 5,000-acre tract,” Jaworowski said of the 11,124-acre WMA in central Alabama. “Supposedly, our hogs came from an intentional release by a neighboring landowner in the early 1990s. Those 10 hogs have multiplied exponentially.”

By DAVID RAINER

Should anyone question Alabama’s claim to the title of biodiversity champion east of the Mississippi River, a road trip from the sparkling white sands of the Alabama Gulf Coast to the breathtaking vistas of Little River Canyon should settle that debate.

Having lived near the Gulf Coast for more than 15 years, I was well aware of the abundant wildlife and natural resources of the coastal plains region. However, I really hadn’t taken the time to explore the opposite end of the ecological spectrum and spend some time in northeast Alabama, where the landscape is completely different.

March 28, 2013

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
 
Brrrrrrr! What a difference a year makes for the opening weeks of wild turkey season. Last year, spring sprung extremely early with dogwoods blooming around March 1. This year, I’m still throwing logs on the fire.

Just days ago, I had on my warmest thermal undergarments and an insulated jacket for a Sumter County turkey hunt with Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes and two-time World Champion turkey caller Larry Norton.

This, apparently, is the winter that won’t end as weather forecasts predict freezing temperatures this week for most of Alabama.

March 8, 2012
 
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
No month in Greg Vinson’s lifetime will likely have the profound impact of this leap year’s February.

Not only did Vinson’s wife, Stephanie, give birth to their first child, a boy named Gaige, the 34-year-old from Wetumpka also had the best tournament of his short professional career on bass fishing’s ultimate stage – the Bassmaster Classic.

Gaige, who weighed in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces and 19 inches, on Feb. 6 preceded his dad’s weigh-ins the last weekend of the month at the Classic venue of Shreveport, La., and the Red River fishery.

By DAVID RAINER

When the caller ID indicated my pal Jay Gunn was on the phone, I thought it would be one of those “catching-up” calls. However, I would soon be pleasantly surprised by what was on Gunn’s mind.

“You got anything going tonight?” he asked.

“Not really,” I replied.

“Meet me at my house at 7:30 (p.m.), conditions are perfect to do some floundering,” he said. Of course, I jumped at the chance and asked what I needed to bring, knowing full well that Gunn was completely outfitted for the excursion.

June 13, 2013

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

High winds and waves during the two opening weekends of red snapper season is the perfect example of why Capt. Randy Boggs has promoted a novel concept for the head boats that fish the Gulf of Mexico.

Boggs, who owns two head boats docked at SanRoc Cay Marina in Orange Beach, has pushed has pushed for a pilot program that would allow up to 20 head boats to choose their days at sea. Head boats are walk-on charters that charge a daily fee per head and typically carry more anglers than charter boats, which are most often booked by groups.

June 12, 2014

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Sometimes surprises come in big packages, some 10 feet and longer.

While visiting old friends last weekend at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic (MGCBC) in Biloxi, a steady stream of boats was backing down to the weigh dock with huge fish.

With 53 boats from all over the Gulf Coast participating, the top boats would usually be spread out among the five Gulf states, but this MGCBC was an exception. Basically, boats from Alabama ruled.

The top two blue marlin were landed by Alabama boats, which also had the winning yellowfin tuna, the third-place wahoo and swept the top three spots in the dolphin category.

October 10, 2013

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

When he was a kid, Michael Niemeyer found adventure in the outdoors, discovering and interacting with as many animals as he could find in south Alabama. As an adult, he’s turned that passion into a vocation.

Niemeyer and J.J. McCool formed a business, Wildlife Solutions, that deals with the outdoors as a whole. McCool specializes in habitat restoration and enhancement. Niemeyer is the “critter getter,” handling the nuisance animal aspect of the operation.

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Marine Says "Fishing Makes Day Better"

June 6, 2013

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

A little more than a week ago, the nation celebrated Memorial Day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Occasionally, we get the opportunity to celebrate those who are still serving our great country.

Such was the case when Marine Lance Corporal Taylor Klarman headed home to Baldwin County for some R&R after a tour in Afghanistan. Although a big sow bass in Magnolia River refused to fall for any of the lures Taylor tossed her way, he knew he was home.

December 13, 2012

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
 
 
A week or so ago, a friend sent me a picture of the feeder he has on his property in Baldwin County. He’s sent me photos before, but they had always contained a nice buck or two. This photo was different. The feeder was totally surrounded by feral hogs.

Other landowners, hunters and farmers are experiencing the same anxiety as the feral hog problem continues to spread throughout Alabama and the nation. Feral hogs are now found in 45 states with no abatement in sight.

May 1, 2014

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Playing catch-up is a difficult task in almost every endeavor. That’s especially true when the issue at hand is the explosion in the feral hog population.

I heard a story last week from a hog hunter who had trapped and relocated a group of hogs to the Tombigbee River swamp in the 1980s before everyone realized what a destructive force an unchecked wild hog could become.

The complicit owner of the swamp told the hog hunter, “If I knew then what I know now, I’d have killed you and the hogs.”

While that statement might be a bit over the top, landowners with feral hog infestations know the damage these eating machines can wreak.

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