9 months ago

Calhoun youth dove hunt draws largest crowd yet

Tucked in the foothills of the Appalachians in north Alabama was a sight to behold: More than 80 youngsters were gathered in one of the many fields carved into the rolling hills, and not a single eye was glued to a smartphone.

Other activities occupied their minds as the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division readied the crowd of young hunters, parents and mentors for the annual Calhoun County Youth Dove Hunt.

Before the hunt started at noon, the young participants had their choice of shooting Daisy BB guns at the National Wild Turkey Federation-sponsored shooting range, learning to throw a hatchet, or testing their skills at the ever-popular cornhole toss. Those activities preceded a hamburger-hot dog lunch and safety instructions from WFF Conservation Enforcement Officer Ben Kiser, who along with WFF’s Ginger Howell went to great lengths to continue the hunt’s tradition as one of the top youth events in Alabama’s great outdoors.

Kiser and Howell engaged the nearby Calhoun County communities to support the event, and the response was sufficient to supply plenty of food and drink as well as an abundance of outdoors-related door prizes.

“Ever since I became a game warden, my goal has been to introduce youth to what Alabama has to offer in the outdoors, whether it’s hunting or fishing, getting them off of cellphones or the internet and putting them in a treestand or blind, in a dove field or fishing on the bank or in a boat,” Kiser said. “I want to show them there’s more to offer instead of sitting at home in front of a TV or computer screen.

“I remember growing up hunting with my dad. There may be a lot going on in these kids’ lives, and this is a way to get them away for a few hours.”

Kiser and Howell want to make the event sufficiently special that the youngsters will never forget the day.

“If we can bring kids out here and give them a door prize or present, we can help them make a memory,” Kiser said. “Then a few years down the road, when they get old enough to hunt and fish on their own, they will remember this and be more likely to buy that license and hunt or fish. Our Department (Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) depends on getting people out here and being involved in what we do for a living.”

Kiser and Howell started working on the youth dove hunt about three months ago, reaching out to the landowner to get the fields prepared for the hunt as well as local retailers who might be willing to support the event.

“We started going around to local businesses and vendors, people who had expressed interest in helping us put on one of these events,” Kiser said. “We ended up getting three shotguns donated, two of which were donated to us from Exile Armory, a Yeti cooler, several Moultrie game cameras and other items. We got a lot of help from the ACEOA (Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association) and Superior GMC-Cadillac in Anniston. They were big in making this event bigger than last year. We got items that we thought the kids would be more apt to use instead of what the adults would use. Then we got out and hit the pavement. We put up signs everywhere – in store windows, Jack’s, gun shops, Academy. We posted the hunt on social media. I talked to several people who had been here before and got it out by word of mouth. There’s a lot that goes into an event like this.”

Howell added, “We made sure we had plenty of food, and we made sure every youth here got a door prize. This hunt allows families to spend some quality time together and bond.”

The local NWTF chapter brought its shooting sports trailer with a blow-up BB-gun range and a hatchet-throwing game. The BB-gun range introduces the young hunters to gun safety and keeps them engaged.

Obviously, the first step in holding a youth dove hunt is to secure a place to hunt, which is where Randy Martin of Calhoun County stepped forward.

“I love to see all these young’uns come out here,” Martin said. “I think we live in a culture where these kinds of events can help establish a moral foundation and bring them into God’s creation so they can get a little different perspective on life. We’re trying to use our farm in ways that not only benefit us but allow others to benefit. That’s why we’re holding this dove shoot. I feel like my part is the easy part. The organization and fundraising that Ben and Ginger take care of is what takes all the time. I’m very appreciative of these people. I think they have the same goals for the youth that we do.”

One of the adult hunters, WFF Enforcement Section Chief Matt Weathers, brought his son and his son’s friend to the youth hunt. Weathers relayed an interesting incident that occurred on the way to the hunt.

“We stopped at Jack’s for breakfast on the way up here,” Weathers said. “The two little boys with me were both wearing camouflage. We were sitting there eating. After they finished, they got up to go to the bathroom. One of the guys sitting in the booth behind us, an older gentleman, was getting up to leave, and he turned around and came back to me. He said, ‘You know, you don’t see little boys wearing camouflage anymore. Most daddies don’t take their kids hunting anymore.’ I told him that we were going to a youth dove hunt in Calhoun County, and this daddy takes kids hunting, some that are not mine.”

Weathers said the conversation progressed into a discussion about how priorities are changing as well as the role of the father in families.

“He was in his late 70s, and he talked about how he had taken his children hunting all their lives,” Weathers said. “From my standpoint, I talk about that a lot. I bring that subject up, but seldom does the public come to me with the subject that I’m so familiar with. The gentleman had no idea I was the Game Warden Chief. He just knew he and I shared the same views on passing our hunting heritage along. I thought that was an interesting conversation on my way to a youth dove hunt where the sole focus is to introduce the next generation to hunting.”

Each registered adult hunter was required to bring one or two youths 15 years old or younger. The adult, who was allowed to join in the hunt, had to remain within 30 feet of each youth at all times when the participants reached the dove field.

Although the weather was hot for a typical mid-September day in north Alabama, the young hunters spread around two fields, some near round hay bales, and watched the skies for any sign of doves.

Although the doves waited very late to fly because of the heat, the hunters were able to shoot enough to make the shotshell manufacturers happy, not to mention those 80-plus young hunters.

The youth dove hunt program has provided a continued opportunity for youngsters to enter the ranks of hunters. This hunt highlights only one of the 28 youth dove hunts hosted by the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries across the state. If you’re interested in attending one of them, visit https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/Public/AvailableHunts/6 for a list of youth dove hunts still available. But don’t hesitate because very few hunts remain.
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.

3 hours ago

State Sen. Ward on Confederate monument controversy: ‘You can’t let mob rule dictate any of the policy, one way or another’

Given the subject matter related to the nationwide protests and demonstrations underway in the name George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police, it was inevitable that the controversial subject of Confederate monuments in Alabama was to be raised.

In 2017, the Alabama legislature passed a law requiring local governments to obtain permission from the state before moving or renaming buildings and monuments older than 40 years.

During an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) weighed in on the law, which is under scrutiny as the city of Birmingham has acted in violation of the law and removed a monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers and sailors that was on display in the city’s Linn Park.

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“It’s a civil penalty, not a criminal — so in other words, you can’t hold a city liable for a crime but you can penalize them for civil means,” he said. “My interpretation of the law sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, and was voted on pretty overwhelmingly by the House and the Senate, is that it is a $25,000 fine to remove historical monument — and I think there is a period of time back it had to be constructed. Anything before 1968 or 1970 … it is considered a historical monument. Therefore, in order to remove it, you had to appeal to this executive commission set up and appointed by the governor.”

“Birmingham can pay the $25,000 fine,” Ward explained. “They have the means to do that. I think a lot of your smaller cities that $25,000 penalty would be considered a pretty hefty fine for some of these local city budgets, smaller towns.”

Ward said there has been a movement in the past to strengthen the law by enhancing the penalties for violations, but maintains the law is still a civil statute and not a criminal statute.

“You can’t make it criminal, but you could look at civil penalties if you want to enhance the civil penalties,” he added. “I believe Senator Allen has said he wants to look at increasing somehow some of those penalties. If you’re going to change the law in order to strengthen it — that’s how you would do it. At the same time, before we get too bogged down in the whole debate on monuments, we also got a lot of other issues we need to deal with, as well.”

The Shelby County Republican lawmaker warned against the terms of the law being altered as a reaction to “mob rule,” which could threaten the system of government if allowed.

“You can’t let mob rule dictate any of the policy, one way or another,” Ward said. “You’re for or against the monuments, in my opinion. If you start doing that, you’re throwing your whole republican form of government out the window. I mean, the idea is we have laws. Change the laws if you don’t like the monument law, change the law. Make it stronger or make it weaker. But if we start saying, ‘Well, we got some people that are starting to riot. We’ve got to ignore or change some of the laws on the books to adapt to that. I think that’s a very dangerous precedent.”

What could happen going forward with the Alabama Monuments Preservation Act is uncertain, according to Ward. However, he said he expects there to be a continued debate between now and the lead-up to the 2021 legislative session.

“I don’t know there’s an appetite to do that,” he said. “There’s a couple on the Democratic side of the aisle who want it reversed. I know Senator Allen on the Republican side has spoken about increasing, making it stronger. We can’t go back into regular session until February 2021. I’m sure there will be a lot of debate between now and then as to what happens with this particular law.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

3 hours ago

Attorney general backs Wednesday tear gas usage by law enforcement officers in Huntsville — ‘Crowd was found to have backpacks full of weapons’

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Thursday afternoon released a statement supporting the dispersal of a crowd in Huntsville the day previous by law enforcement officers.

Officers on Wednesday evening used tear gas and pepper spray to break up the crowd after they reportedly refused to comply with orders to disperse. At least one police officer was injured by the so-called protesters, and a reporter on the scene said objects were thrown at law enforcement vehicles. One local business was damaged.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle on Thursday morning released a statement about what occurred, noting that “people who were not part of our community” were responsible for the unpermitted gathering that led to the clash.

A release from the attorney general’s office said Marshall supports “law enforcement in their efforts to protect the public from violence spurred by anarchists attempting to hijack peaceful protests.”

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Given the infrequency with which tear gas is employed, the attorney general’s office explained that Marshall believed it was his duty to examine what necessitated its use in Huntsville.

A review of the incident by Marshall resulted in him backing the law enforcement officers’ usage of the non-lethal tool.

“The appropriateness of police actions must always be judged by the circumstances in which they occur,” Marshall said in a statement. “After talking with the Huntsville Police Department and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, I am well-satisfied that the actions taken by police were reasonable under the circumstances.”

“After a peaceful protest, hosted by the local chapter of the NAACP—which abided by the law and should not be blamed for what came after—hundreds of hostile demonstrators ignored multiple requests by law enforcement to leave the area. Rather than leaving, those demonstrators put on gear and readied for battle,” he outlined. “After an hour and a half of warnings and with daylight dwindling, law enforcement dispersed the crowd with the least amount of force possible and using no lethal weapons. This, despite the fact that the crowd was found to have backpacks full of weapons and spray paint, and which attacked officers with rocks and bottles full of frozen water.”

The attorney general’s office stressed that they have zero tolerance for aggressive acts against law enforcement.

“Alabama is fortunate in that most protests taking place in recent days have been conducted peacefully,” Marshall concluded. “At the same time, over the last 10 days—and even as we speak—law enforcement intelligence from around our state indicates the intent of some to infiltrate protests with violence, property damage, and targeting of law enforcement officers.”

RELATED: Huntsville mayor: ‘People who were not part of our community’ led Wednesday protest which resulted in tear gas usage, police officer injury

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

4 hours ago

Jerry Carl endorsed by Coastal Alabama business, civic leaders

Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl on Thursday announced that he has been endorsed for Congress by Coastal 150, a group of community leaders who work to further the mission of the Coastal Alabama Partnership to advance the interests of coastal Alabama.

In a statement, Coastal 150 executive director Wiley Blankenship said, “Our members believe that Jerry Carl is the right person to serve our region in Congress. He understands our unique needs and supports our shared vision for coastal Alabama.”

“We expect that Mr. Carl will represent coastal Alabama well and we look forward to working with him in Washington,” Blankenship continued. “The experience, character and leadership that he brings to the office is what we believe is necessary to solve the challenges facing our region and our nation.”

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Carl is running against former State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) in the Republican primary runoff to be held on July 14. They are vying for the congressional seat currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01).

“Coastal 150 represents many of the job creators in south Alabama, and I am thankful for their endorsement,” Carl commented. “I have worked closely with these business leaders to foster economic growth and a job-friendly environment. They understand the unique needs we have here in south Alabama and know what it will take to get our economy back on track. As a small businessman who has created jobs right here in our community, I am honored to have their support and will fight tirelessly alongside Trump to get our economy open again.”

This comes shortly after Carl received the endorsement of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s political arm, FarmPAC. He has also been endorsed by the third and fourth place finishers in the AL-01 GOP primary, State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) and businessman Wes Lambert.

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

5 hours ago

Protests don’t have to end in tear gas

The latest contentious protest in Alabama took place in Huntsville Wednesday night as the city made it clear that it would not be tolerating lawlessness and open-hostility in the street.

How long can they hold this position? Time will tell.

Before we get started, let’s take a second to remember all of this is predicated on the unanimous agreement among citizens and politicians alike that an event that happened over 2,000+ miles away was horrendous, illegal and needs to be aggressively punished to the full extent of the law.

No one in Huntsville has expressed a different opinion or begrudged anyone for being outraged.

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This was not a clear lie, much like the Michael Brown situation in Ferguson. This was clearly a situation where a man was killed at the hands of the police while in restraints and unarmed. Period.

But this is still a society where free speech is not only important — it is necessary.

That means that the government will not infringe on your right to assemble and voice your opinion. The value of that opinion is irrelevant. Klan members and Nazis have utilized it because unpopular speech is what needs to be protected.

Stating that George Floyd should be alive is not controversial in any way, and no one has pretended otherwise.

As protests across the country indicate, a multi-racial cross-section of America has taken to the streets to share this opinion.

But, and this is important, I can’t walk into a judge’s chambers or scream my opinion while running down the freeway expressing it as cars try to avoid me.

In Huntsville and everywhere else, you need a permit to close city streets, and the city appears to have even been lax on that in this matter.

Trust me, I know something about this:


Obviously, you can just walk in the road and force the authorities to stop you. Maybe they will give you “space to destroy,” maybe they won’t.

Much like Monday’s protest, Wednesday’s protest ended with most protesters going home. Both were followed with a standoff that ended in tear gas (quibble if you want, that’s what it was).

Why? Because after the protest, a portion of the protesters moved on while a remaining mob decided they were going to stand in the street until the cops made them move.

They wanted negative attention, and they got it.

Where does this end?

Huntsville’s downtown area was already shut down for two days this week. Is this to be expected every other day until those protesting declare we have racial equality? It’s unlikely we ever get there.

So at some point, the city will be required to open up the street and the protesters will have to move on.

The warning was given repeatedly. It was obvious that the crowd was not going to leave the road until a reaction from law enforcement was obtained.

So they got one. Tear gas was deployed, things were thrown, an officer was hurt and 24 non-protesters were arrested.

Did this advance the cause of the actual protests? No. It hurt them.

Was disruption the goal after the fact? Probably, so mission accomplished.

Citizens do not want this strife in their city, especially when they already agree with the cause.

Most Americans know we can always be better as a society.

Most Americans know we have come a long way from where we have been.

Most Americans want peace and fairness but they also want law and order in their communities.

Some in the media are sitting at home egging-on the protesters and hoping for more lawlessness.

But that is about them. Bad behavior at protests and after them emboldens the elected officials and law enforcement to give less leeway to actual protesters. It will also make citizens equate the actual protesters to the rioters and looters we see all day on cable news, and no one should want that.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama Democratic Party chair calls on Jefferson Davis state holiday to be abolished

State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), the chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, on Thursday sent a letter to Governor Kay Ivey in support of ending the state holiday that recognizes Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

The holiday this year was on Monday, June 1; it is recognized on the first Monday in June of every year in accordance with state law (Section 1-3-8, Code of Alabama 1975).

In his letter, England requested that Ivey include amending this section of state law if she calls a special session this year. The 2020 regular session of the legislature ended last month.

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A spokesperson for Ivey’s office told Yellowhammer News in response to England’s letter, “That is a conversation that would have to begin with the Legislature. However, Governor Ivey is certainly open to sitting down with lawmakers to discuss this proposal.”

England has been a member of the state legislature since November 2006.

Yellowhammer News’ search of online legislative archives found that no bill has been introduced during England’s tenure in the legislature to end Alabama’s state holiday recognizing Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Before Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010, both the Alabama Senate and the House had been majority-Democrat since 1868.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) brought a bill in 2015 that would have made both Jefferson Davis’ birthday holiday and Confederate Memorial Day unpaid state holidays, unless decided otherwise by the governor each year. The holidays are currently paid. That bill passed out of committee but never received a vote on the Senate floor.

Jefferson Davis, a member of the Democratic Party, served as president of the Confederacy from 1861-1865.

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