2 months 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.

8 hours ago

Roby: U.S. service academies nomination deadline is quickly approaching

It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through the month of October. November will be here before we know it, and with it comes Veterans Day. This is a uniquely special holiday, and as it approaches, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the endless sacrifices made by those who have worn the uniform.

It is a tremendous honor to serve the Second District, which is home to two of our nation’s finest military installations, thousands of active duty and reserve personnel, and a large veteran population. Working on behalf of our service members and veterans has always been a top priority of mine in Congress, and it continues to be one of the most rewarding parts of my job. With Veterans Day on the horizon, I am personally reminded of the great debt of gratitude we owe the men and women of our military.

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As this important holiday nears, I believe now is an appropriate time to remind high school seniors in the Second District that the deadline to apply for nomination to the United States service academies through my office is less than one month away on November 8 at 5:00 p.m. Central Time. If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing this fantastic opportunity, please remember to submit all necessary materials to my Montgomery office by the deadline.

As a member of Congress, one of my distinct privileges each year is to nominate candidates for appointment to four of the five service academies: The United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy. The fifth service academy, the United States Coast Guard Academy, does not require a congressional nomination for appointment.

I can nominate up to 10 individuals for each vacant slot allotted to the Second District. If you are pursuing entry to one of our nation’s distinguished service academies and endeavor to serve our country, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude and wish you the very best. It is because of our veterans, active-duty personnel and young leaders with hearts for serving this nation that we enjoy our uniquely American freedoms.

In the spirit of the upcoming Veterans Day holiday, I offer my sincerest thanks to all who have served our country in uniform. It is an honor to represent you in Congress, and I hope you will call on me if I can ever be of assistance to you. If you are a high school senior in the Second District and are interested in learning more about obtaining a nomination to the service academies from my office, please contact my staff in Montgomery by calling (334) 262-7718. Additional application information is also available on my website: www.roby.house.gov/student-resources/service-academy-nominations.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

9 hours ago

Tide continues to top AP poll, Auburn No. 11

The Associated Press released their weekly college football poll on Sunday, with the Crimson Tide holding on to the top ranking after a 48-27 win at Texas A&M and Auburn moving up one spot following a bye-week.

Alabama (6-0) received 1,503 total points and 30 first-place votes, while LSU (6-0) moved up to number two with 1,449 points and 12 first-place votes after beating Florida.

Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma rounded out the top five, followed by Wisconsin, Penn State, Notre Dame and Florida.

Georgia fell from third to number ten after a stunning home loss to unranked South Carolina. The top seven teams are all undefeated.

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LSU and Bama will play in Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9.

One conference has held both the top two spots 75 times since the AP poll started in 1936, none more than the SEC. Incredibly, this is the 27th time the SEC has simultaneously had the numbers one and two teams in the rankings since 2000. Ten of those times have involved the Tide and LSU Tigers at the same time.

RELATED: Return of ‘rat poison’: Saban warns players about listening to buzz about draft stock, records

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

10 hours ago

VIDEO: Almost everyone wants impeachment, Sen. Doug Jones feels the pressure, Alabama Democrats’ chaos continues and more on Guerrilla Politics

Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Can President Donald Trump and other Republicans force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) hand on impeachment?

— What happens if U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) votes for President Trump’s impeachment?

— Will Alabama Democrats ever end their infighting and unite as a party?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by Lt. General Jim Link (U.S. Army – Retired) to discuss foreign policy matters in Syria and Hong Kong.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” where he talks about how the NBA’s hypocrisy on Hong Kong will undermine all their social justice preening they do on American political issues.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

11 hours ago

Rain barrels helping Alabama city combat flooding

Patsy Stallworth loves her rain barrels.

“I didn’t understand it at first, but after my husband explained it to me, I like it.”

Stallworth has two 55-gallon rain barrels installed at her home in the Mobile suburb of Prichard, catching up to 110 gallons of rainwater for her to use to water her flowers, wash her cars and wash the dirt off the house.

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“I was amazed at how it worked,” Stallworth said. “When it rains it fills up really quickly. This is a new adventure for me.”

Rain barrels helping alleviate flooding issues in Prichard from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The rain barrels were installed at Stallworth’s home, free-of-charge, thanks to a stormwater mitigation program organized by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. Christian Miller, Watershed Management Coordinator for the Mobile Bay NEP, said the rain barrels are a big help in reducing flooding in Prichard, which is part of the Three Mile Creek Watershed.

“We’ve had a lot of issues with residential street flooding and some issues with sanitary sewer runovers, so some of the ways to combat this are to put in these rain-catchment devices,” Miller said. “These two 55-gallon drums aren’t going to solve all of our problems, but as we get more of these out it will hopefully help to reduce these localized issues with residential flooding.”

An inch of rain falling on a typical 1,000-square-foot roof yields more than 600 gallons of water which, in urban areas like Prichard, ends up washing down streets and other hard surfaces, picking up and carrying pollutants into waterways. Miller said increased rainwater harvesting will help reduce impacts associated with residential stormwater runoff.

“The residents have been the biggest champions,” Miller said. “Once we get them in and see what utility they have, they go around and tell their neighbors, the neighbors come to see them and we get phone calls at the office. People really like them and want to have them installed at their house.”

Miller said dozens of rain barrels have been installed in Prichard thanks to donations of materials and labor, including 98 barrels at 46 homes installed by volunteers from Alabama Power Service Organization.

“We’ve got a really good partnership with several different entities,” Miller said. “Greif Packaging and Soterra LLC have donated the barrels and Alabama Power has been really helpful providing supplies and labor to help install. With those folks and Mobile Bay NEP, we’ve really had a good combined effort to put all of these rain barrels out around the community.”

To learn more about the rain barrel program, visit mobilebaynep.com or call the Mobile Bay NEP at 251-431-6409.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 hours ago

Return of ‘rat poison’: Saban warns players about listening to buzz about draft stock, records

Two years ago in College Station, Texas, one of University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban’s most famous lines was born.

After a 27-19 victory at Texas A&M, one in which the Tide led 24-3 and did not close to Saban’s liking, he lamented that positive media headlines about the team were “rat poison” to the players.

It must be something about the Aggies — or maybe it’s just this time of the season — but Saban brought the phrase back after Saturday’s 47-28 win on Saturday.

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Speaking to reporters post-game, Saban was asked about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa becoming the school’s career passing touchdowns leader, moving ahead of A.J. McCarron with four touchdown tosses for the top-ranked Tide against No. 24 TAMU.

Saban gave a hat tip to how Tagovailoa handles himself before pivoting to talking about what really is important.

“Well, it means [Tagovailoa] had a great career to this point and we certainly appreciate his competitive spirit, the way he prepares for games, his leadership, the way he practices, his ability to help us score points on offense,” Saban answered. “He’s very instinctive, so it means a lot from that standpoint, but it also doesn’t mean much when it comes to, ‘What are you going to do in the future?’ And I think he has an opportunity, based on the type of offensive team we have, to have great production if he can continue to just stay focused on what we want to do.”

The legendary coach then referenced the genesis of the “rat poison” line two years ago in the same location, before explaining how it is relevant today.

“I mean, this is where — this very seat is where ‘rat poison’ was born,” Saban continued. “So I remember that two years ago, all right? And when I hear things in the media about whether guys are first-round draft picks or they’re setting great records and all that type of thing, that’s not really what I like for players to be focusing on right now.”

He emphasized, “You’ve got to focus on what are you doing right now, not what’s going to happen in the future, not really what happened in the past, but, ‘What can I learn from what’s happened in the past? How can I affect what’s going on right now?’ Because that’s what’s going to affect the future in a positive way. So, that’s how we want our players to think regardless of how difficult y’all make it for us sometimes with some of our players.”

RELATED: Yellowhammer Power Poll after college football week seven

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