2 weeks ago

Alabama sets first sandhill crane season in century

Alabama hunters will have their first opportunity in 103 years to hunt a migratory bird that has been making a steady comeback for the past few decades.

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division will conduct a draw hunt of 400 permits to hunt sandhill cranes, becoming the third state east of the Mississippi River to hold a sandhill hunt.

“The last sandhill crane hunting in Alabama was in 1916,” said Seth Maddox, WFF Migratory Game Bird Coordinator. “This is the first time in 13 years that we’ve had a new species open to hunting. The last was alligator in 2006. It’s pretty exciting.”

The sandhill crane season will be split with the first segment from December 3, 2019, to January 5, 2020. The second segment will be January 16-31, 2020.

The daily, season and possession limit will be three birds per permit. Hunters can harvest all three birds in one day if they choose.

“This sandhill crane season came about through the feedback of hunters,” Maddox said. “They started seeing increased numbers of sandhills while they were out hunting other species, especially waterfowl. Hunters wanted the opportunity to hunt this species in Alabama. They’d heard about the seasons in Kentucky and Tennessee from their friends. Hunters have paved the way for the species recovery of sandhill crane. We want to provide hunting opportunities when they are available.”

In the early 2000s, discussions began about possible sandhill crane seasons in the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. In the Eastern U.S. the subspecies is called the giant sandhill crane.

Maddox said by 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved a sandhill crane management plan that included a hunt plan for the Mississippi Flyway, which includes Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“Kentucky was the first state to take advantage of that,” Maddox said. “They opened their season in 2011. Tennessee opened their season in 2013. We’ll be the third state east of the Mississippi to have a sandhill season this year.”

Thirteen states west of the Mississippi River have sandhill crane hunting seasons.

“We started counting sandhills in 2010 in conjunction with our aerial waterfowl surveys,” Maddox said. “We conduct the aerial surveys each fall and winter. Since 2010, we’ve seen a 16% increase on average per year in the state.”

In 2016, WFF staff began discussions about the possibility of a sandhill season and began the tedious process to get a hunting season approved by USFWS.

“We had to go through the Flyway (The Mississippi Flyway Council) process, just like any other state that wants to add a new season on migratory birds,” Maddox said. “We began discussing that with the Flyway. We gathered all of our data and put together a proposal for a hunt plan. It took a couple of years to get through that process.”

When that effort was completed, Alabama was granted a three-year experimental season, beginning in 2019.

WFF opted to make the season a limited draw with 400 permits that will be issued through a computer-controlled random draw. Those drawn must complete the process. Once approved, each permittee will be issued three tags for a maximum total harvest of 1,200 birds.

The registration process is limited to Alabama residents 16 or older or Alabama lifetime license holders. Applicants must have their regular hunting license and a state waterfowl stamp to apply.

Maddox said the registration process will open in September and be open for several weeks. The drawing will occur in October.

However, the process is not complete even if you are lucky enough to be drawn.

“If drawn, they will have to take an online test that includes species identification and regulations,” Maddox said. “Once they pass that test, we will issue the permit and tags. Then they must purchase a federal duck stamp and HIP (Harvest Information Program) license, and if hunting on a WMA (wildlife management area), a WMA license. Once they have all that, they are good to hunt.”

Maddox said the number of permits was derived from the number of sandhill cranes counted over a five-year average. The guidelines under the hunt plan allow a state to harvest 10 percent of that five-year average.

“Our five-year average is 15,029 birds,” he said. “For the experimental season, we elected to keep the harvest below 10 percent because we wanted to take it slow and ensure hunting will not be detrimental to the population.”

Maddox said the majority of migratory sandhill cranes are found in the Tennessee River Valley with some birds wintering in Weiss Reservoir on the Coosa River.

Sandhill cranes prefer wetland habitat with emergent vegetation. Unlike other wading birds, sandhills don’t target fish or other aquatic species for forage.

“Sandhills mainly eat small grains,” Maddox said. “You see them feeding a lot in harvested grain fields, corn fields particularly in Alabama. They normally roost near water and forage during the day in the harvested grain fields. They typically roost in water to stay away from predators. But they roost in large numbers to give them more eyes to watch for predators.”

Sandhills stand 4 to 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 4 to 6 feet. Maddox said those who have harvested sandhills rave about the taste of the bird, although he’s never eaten it.

“I know they call them the ribeye of the sky,” he said. “They’re known as one of the best-tasting migratory birds out there.”

Hunting will be limited to north Alabama in a zone that runs from the Georgia state line down Interstate 20 to Birmingham, then north of I-22 to the Mississippi state line.

Maddox said the typical migration route for sandhills is to enter north Alabama before moving east into Georgia and then south to Florida.

“There are areas south of Birmingham associated with non-migratory populations in southeast Mississippi and in Florida,” he said. “Those birds are protected. That’s why we chose to keep it in north Alabama.”

After the season, all permit holders will be required to take a postseason survey provided by WFF. If those permit holders fail to complete the postseason survey, they will not be eligible for the drawing in the future. WFF is required to provide that information to USFWS to continue the experimental seasons.

As expected, Maddox said WFF received some negative feedback when the sandhill season was announced.

“We have received some negative feedback,” he said. “Mainly, the callers did not know much about the species. We try to provide them with information about what the hunt is going to be like, the data we have collected, and the vetting and thought process that has gone into this. Conservation efforts funded mostly from hunters is one of the main reasons for the rebound of the crane, similar to many other species of wildlife. Most of the people I have talked to have changed their minds by the end of the conversation, or at least been okay with it. There will still be people who are not going to be swayed because they don’t want to see this species hunted. But sandhills are like any other game species. A hundred years ago, deer and turkey were rare in the state. We had to build those numbers back up. It just took sandhill cranes a little longer.”

Maddox said this likely won’t be a slam-dunk for those who get permits.

“Sandhills have great eyesight and are pretty wary,” he said. “It can be tough hunting. Some people will pass-shoot them and others will use blinds and decoys. It will be interesting the first couple of years to see how hunters adapt.”

A friend of mine from Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., just outside Chattanooga, shared some insights on the Tennessee seasons, at least the first five. To his chagrin, he didn’t get drawn for last year’s season.

Tony Sanders, an outdoor writer and radio host, said, without a doubt, it’s the most exciting hunting he’s ever done.

“I’ve hunted two ways, and both are fun,” said Sanders, who also is the District 4 Wildlife Commissioner for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “I’ve hunted just pass-shooting, coming off the water going to the fields to feed. It was almost like a big dove shoot. But sandhills are deceptively big and extremely tough. I didn’t realize that the first year. I feel like I’m a pretty good shot. There was a group of five birds coming by. I’m on the first bird in the group. When I shot, I dropped the third bird. It didn’t make any sense. Ten minutes later, I walked to my car parked in a small food plot. The birds were flying over, and I realized how fast they were flying. These birds are so big and deceptively fast.”

Sanders most often opts to hunt cranes another way, which is in a blind with a decoy spread.

“The second way is more fun,” he said. “You set up a decoy spread and call them in. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see them cup their wings several hundred yards away, knowing they’re coming to your spread. But they are extremely wary birds. They’re like ducks on steroids. Everything has to be right, and you’ve got to be hidden. I hope the people of Alabama really love it. I can’t wait for our drawing. It’s our anniversary. I told my wife I had to be at the drawing. She’s great. She understood.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

19 mins ago

Alabama-made ULA rocket powers another GPS satellite into orbit

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted its 135th mission Thursday morning when it powered yet another Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite into its targeted orbit.

The GPS III Magellan, built by Lockheed Martin, will enable the U.S. Air Force to continue modernizing the nation’s worldwide navigation network with improved accuracy, better anti-jam resiliency and a new signal for civil users.

250

GPS satellites are frequent payload into space. Today’s launch was the 73rd GPS payload powered by ULA.

Of the 81 Air Force satellites in orbit, 34 are GPS satellites.

This fact recently led former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to quip, “The blue dot on your phone is not provided by your cellphone company; it comes from the United States Air Force.”

She elaborated that the Air Force provides GPS coordinates for about 1 billion people every day and enables an $80 billion piece of our economy. With its satellites, the Air Force takes pictures, gathers intelligence, facilitates global communication, monitors weather and conducts the critical task of providing timing signals for the New York Stock Exchange and every ATM in America.

This was the final flight for ULA’s Delta IV Medium rocket. The powerful Delta IV Heavy, with its three common booster cores, will continue to fly U.S. government missions.

The Delta IV’s main engine, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, consumed nearly a ton of fuel per second as it pushed the rocket in flight.

ULA’s 1.6 million square-foot manufacturing facility in Decatur is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Watch the launch:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

49 mins ago

16 female inmates baptized in Blount County, turn to Jesus Christ — ‘I was crying like a baby’

The Blount County Sheriff’s Office continues to offer voluntary baptisms to inmates as a way for them to help turn their lives around, this time with a group of female inmates baptized for the first time under their program.

Yellowhammer News in June reported on 24 male inmates being baptized at the Blount County Jail through a partnership with Redeemed Ministries, which is run by a former convict who found faith and turned away from a life of crime.

Sheriff Mark Moon at that time explained the thought process behind the program, “This is who I was before I met Jesus Christ, and now, I’m dead and I’m buried. My old self is gone, and I’m resurrected new. And I’m somebody totally different in Jesus.”

Now, Moon has confirmed to Yellowhammer News that 16 female inmates chose to be baptized at the county jail on Monday through this same program.

454

This latest round of baptisms was first reported by WBRC.

No public funds are given to Redeemed Ministries for the program, which is completely voluntary for inmates to participate in.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News on Thursday, Moon said ultimately he wants this to help end the “revolving door” of the same people cyclically coming in and out of the county jail.

“If we can help them change their motives by changing their heart, getting their life right, getting their families back together — if we can get families back together then we can really make a difference in communities,” the sheriff outlined. “And with the epidemic that’s going on in our country with opioid abuse, drug abuse, I believe that if you change people’s hearts, you change their motivations, you change their desires, then you can start seeing them get their families back together — and they can become positive contributors to society instead of just continually being in and out of jail.”

“I truly want people to make a difference and to make good choices,” he stressed. “I don’t want people in my jail.”

Also a pastor, Moon explained that helping inmates and others in need certainly has biblical roots.

“Jesus even said, ‘Because you fed me when I was hungry, because you clothed me when I was naked, because you visited with me when I was in sick in the hospital or in prison, then you’re blessed.’ If we can reach out to the ones that… our world sees as unlovable and unreachable, if we can reach them and change them — man, what a difference we can make,” he said.

Moon advised that he was was not able to attend the baptisms of the male inmates in June, since he was preaching in a revival that day. However, he got to witness Monday’s baptisms and was overwhelmed with what he experienced.

“It was so powerful… It was so powerful, the Holy Spirit was just really thick and I was crying like a baby, I’m not going to lie,” Moon told Yellowhammer News. “It was fantastic. I’m so thankful for what God’s doing.”

He added that there will be some people skeptical that all of the inmates are getting baptized for the “right” reasons. However, Moon emphasized that just one inmate truly accepting Jesus Christ and turning their life around makes it well worth it.

“We’ve got to get them the Word, we’ve got to get them the Gospel,” Moon concluded. “If they make true conversions, true changes … it’s a success in the eye of the Lord, and that’s what we want to do. We want to please God with what we do, not man.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Byrne on ‘disgusting’ NYT scandal: ‘Anti-Semitism is growing and being adopted by the radical left’

It was reported on Thursday that a New York Times political editor has a history of anti-Semitic comments on social media, with Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) reacting by saying this could explain the newspaper’s defense of Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Breitbart detailed that Tom Wright-Piersanti, a senior staff editor at the NYT who oversees the paper’s political coverage, “has made a series of antisemitic and racist tweets over the year.”

Examples of these social media posts in question are included in Breitbart’s report, including one in which the NYT editor wrote, “I was going to say ‘Crappy Jew Year,’ but one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic. So…. HAPPY Jew Year. You Jews.”

Byrne, a Republican running in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, first reacted to the revelation in a tweet of his own on Thursday.

266

“More anti-Semitism, NYT?” Byrne lamented.

He outlined that this came a day after the NYT “falsely labeled” President Donald Trump as “an anti-Semite.”

“Today, it’s revealed that one of their editors has a long history of anti-Semitic tweets,” Byrne continued. “Maybe this explains why they’re always defending Omar & Tlaib?”

“DISGUSTING,” the congressman concluded.

In a further statement to Yellowhammer News, Byrne added, “This kind of biased reporting is disgusting and the American people deserve better.”

“It’s clear that anti-Semitism is growing and being adopted by the radical left,” he concluded. “As a nation and as a people, we should always stand up against anti-Semitism.”

This latest episode involving the NYT comes just days after the executive editor of the newspaper was caught stating that they intend to target Trump on racial issues leading up to the 2020 election.

Read Breitbart’s full report for more on the charges of anti-Semitism against the NYT.

Byrne on Thursday also published a Facebook post saying “The Squad,” comprised of Omar, Tlaib and Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), are “allies” with groups committing terrorist attacks on Israel, including Hamas.

RELATED: Jones: Israel shouldn’t have barred Omar, Tlaib; Trump’s Tuesday comments ‘imbecilic’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Ainsworth: ‘Shouldn’t be the job’ of citizens, others to come up with Mobile Bay Bridge alternatives — We have a well-funded ALDOT, John Cooper

Wednesday during an appearance on Birmingham radio Talk 99.5, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth challenged the claim of the purpose of October’s meeting of the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge, and Tunnel Authority as a forum for those to offer alternatives to the proposed $2.1 billion I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge project and toll structure to finance the project.

According to Ainsworth, that responsibility should fall on the Alabama Department of Transportation and its director John Cooper.

The lieutenant governor also called attention to the binary offering from Cooper on the project.

247

“I want to say this because this is an important point: It really shouldn’t be the job of citizens and other people to have to come up with a plan. We’ve got an organization that is well funded in this state called ALDOT and a gentleman named John Cooper that is running it that really should come to this meeting with a series of other alternatives. And you’re going to see us come out and push on that pretty hard. They’re the experts.”

“He has taken a position, just like he’s done in the past on some things that ‘hey, it’s this way or nothing,” Ainsworth continued. “And from talking to other experts across the country, that’s not the case. But really, they should be – ALDOT and John Cooper – should be saying ‘these are all the different options we can do,’ if we want to do it in phases over a 40-, 50-, 60-year period. ‘These are some things we can do.’ But you don’t hear that from them. It’s basically, my understanding – I was not able to attend one of the meetings down there – my understanding was it was basically this or nothing. That’s not leadership. That’s not solving problems.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

7 Things: Alabama House speaker remains neutral on toll roads, Jones dodges a bullet, Tuberville drubbing his opponents and more …

7. No more student debt for disabled veterans 

  • On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will forgive permanently disabled veterans’ student debt. Disabled veterans will also be exempt from paying federal income tax on the student loans.
  • The current system does allow eligible veterans to enroll in a debt forgiveness program, called the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, but veterans must have a VA service-connected disability rating of 100%, and due to the complicated nature of the process, only around 20% of eligible veterans are actually enrolled in the current system.

6. More jobs for Alabama

555

  • On Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey announced that Vuteq, a Japan-based auto manufacturing facility, will be opening a new facility that will serve the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. plant currently being constructed in Huntsville.
  • The first Vuteq location in Alabama will provide 200 jobs; construction on the facility is expected to begin in October and be completed by September 2020.

5. Birthright citizenship could be on the way out

  • Speaking outside the White House, President Donald Trump said that he’s “very seriously” looking at ending at the “ridiculous” birthright citizenship policy. He could use an executive order to end the policy.
  • Trump said that because people can just walk into the United States, have a child and that child becomes an American citizen, it encourages illegal immigration. The only issue with Trump’s statement is that the 14th Amendment designates citizenship to people born or naturalized in the United States.

4. Dems now say Trump is anti-Semitic

  • President Donald Trump said that Jewish Americans show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” for supporting Democrats, and now Democrats in Congress have called Trump’s statement an “anti-Semitic attack,” which means the president, who wants to be supported by all Jews, is somehow anti-Semitic for attacking liberals who want to cut off financial aid to Israel that keeps them safe.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was quick to speak out in a tweet where he said, “To my fellow American Jews…when he uses a trope that’s been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences he is encouraging – wittingly or unwittingly – anti-Semites throughout the country and world. Enough.”

3. Tuberville is crushing it

  • Recent polling data released by Moore Information Group and the Tuberville for Senate campaign took responses from 400 likely Republican Alabama voters, which shows former football coach Tommy Tuberville taking a strong lead in the 2020 U.S. Senate primary.
  • Tuberville leads with 33%, U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) came out at 17%, former Chief Justice Roy Moore polled at 15%, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill was at 13% and State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) trailed behind at 1%.

2. Doug Jones can sleep easy — he’s not racist

  • State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) has confirmed that he’s not going to run against Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in the 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate primary.
  • Rogers initially said that he would only run if he could raise $500,000, and after months of consideration, he never raised the sufficient funds, but Rogers also weighed in on the controversy between Jones and the Democratic National Committee against the Alabama Democratic Party and the Alabama Democratic Conference, saying that he doesn’t think Jones is a racist. Rogers said he “wouldn’t dare call him a racist.”

1. House Speaker McCutcheon neutral on Mobile Bay Bridge and Skyway project tolls

  • As the battle over tolls in Alabama rages on, one member of the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge, and Tunnel Authority says he is attempting to keep an open-mind ahead of the Authority’s meeting on October 7.
  • Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) issued a statement acknowledging the need to alleviate congestion on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, but made it clear that he needed more information, stating, “The devil lies in the details of determining how we can most effectively address the issue.”