By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Adult Mentored Hunting (AMH) Program has two main goals – to provide those with little or no hunting experience with a safe, enjoyable weekend in the woods and to kindle an interest in hunting that will last a lifetime.
Judging from the feedback from the mentored hunts, the first goal has been a great success. For some of the newcomers – Terrance Marshall and Kevin Kurtz – those AMH outings have changed their lives.
Marshall of Clayton, Alabama, has been connected to the outdoors most of his life but never as a hunter.
“I was always big on fishing,” said Marshall, who has been an officer at the Ventress Correctional Facility for the past 20 years. “I love fishing.”
Marshall and WFF Conservation Enforcement Officer (CEO) Bill Freeman have been buddies for many years, a friendship that started with the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC). Freeman moved to Conservation and Marshall stayed with the DOC.
“Bill got into all the (outreach) programs, and he found out that I was interested in going hunting,” Marshall said. “Bill called me, and I told him I’d never been hunting. I’ve got a passion for fishing. I told him if hunting was like fishing, I was going to love it.”
Marshall teamed up with Freeman and retired CEO Johnny Johnson, who sat in the stand with Marshall, for a late-season deer hunt.
“I enjoyed it,” Marshall said. “I didn’t get the opportunity to shoot anything, but it was relaxing. I loved it. The next day I bought a rifle. Johnny had a Remington .270. I fired it before our hunt when we went over firearms safety. I liked the way that rifle fired, so the next day I went and purchased one.”
A new rifle wasn’t the only purchase Marshall made to enjoy Alabama’s great outdoors.
“I just purchased a tract of land, 114 acres with two ponds and all kinds of wildlife,” he said. “In fact, I’ve been over there bushhogging and cleaning things up to get prepared for the season that’s coming in.
“I love the outdoors and I love the cold. I don’t regret a minute of it. I give credit to Bill for reaching out and telling me about the programs. Not only was I going, I brought my son along when they had something for the youth. I also took my daughters to the youth fishing events.”
Meanwhile, Kurtz, an Auburn graduate, is in the process of making a more dramatic commitment to his new hunting activity.
After traveling the world in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, much of that time as a Service Warfare Officer (what Kurtz calls a ship driver in simple terms), he went into the geographical information systems (GIS) business in Tampa, Florida.
“I hadn’t been back to Alabama in a long time because there aren’t too many Navy bases,” he said. “But when my son (Nathan) applied to and was accepted into Auburn, I got my interest back in Alabama.”
Nathan entered the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to study Geospatial and Environmental Informatics, which includes digital mapping.
“The School of Forestry was just getting ready to graduate their first class in that program, and Professor Scott Enebak found out what I was doing after my retirement from the Navy,” said the elder Kurtz, whose Navy career included guiding the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman through the Suez Canal. “He asked me to be on an advisory board. Obviously, I said yes.”