3 months ago

Captains treat Fallen Outdoors to Alabama’s great inshore fishing

After a ride through the significant chop caused an unusual June north wind, Capt. Bobby Abruscato pulled back on the throttle and idled to one of his favorite fishing spots in Grand Bay, west of Dauphin Island.

Aboard were a couple of special guests, Derrick Warfield and Kyle McCleland, who were quickly hooking fish during the inaugural The Fallen Outdoors (TFO) inshore fishing trip that treated a group of active military and veterans to the beautiful outdoors paradise we call the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Warfield, who resides at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery with his active-duty wife, retired after 10 years of active duty.

Since then, Warfield has taken up the cause that is TFO, which is a support group for active, retired, separated and medically retired military with a focus on the outdoors.

Before this week, TFO, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, hosted veterans and active military on mostly hunting excursions with only a little fishing mixed in.

“Most of our trips are done from Montgomery north,” Warfield said of the TFO’s Team Alabama. “We do a lot of hunting trips. Two weeks ago, we actually did a hog-hunting trip on a farm just south of Montgomery. We went out with three guys running dogs, and we got into about a 200-pound sow. The dogs caught the hog and we dispatched it.”

Needing to schedule events for the summer, Warfield reached out to several inshore fishing guides on the Alabama coast and quickly hooked up with Capt. Richard Rutland with Cold-Blooded Fishing.

“Richard said if there was anything he could do, he’d love to help,” Warfield said. “He said we could go out on his boat and make something happen. Then he said, ‘We need to make this big, something awesome.’”

Two weeks later, Warfield got a call from Rutland, who said, “I’ve got seven boats lined up. How many people can you get?”

Warfield posted the potential trip on The Fallen Outdoors Facebook page that reaches 14,000-15,000 veterans. Initially, Warfield got 25 takers, which whittled down to the 14 who enjoyed a day of fishing on the beautiful Alabama coast.

Rutland, a former president of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, got commitments from seven other captains. He also got a donation from the Mobile Jaycees, where he currently serves as chairman of the board. Additional boat captains included Abruscato with A-Team Adventures, Patric Garmeson with Ugly Fishing Charters, Wesley Hallman with Bay Sound Charters, Terry Turner, Ben Raines, Joe Geil and Theo Atkinson with Spots, Dots and Scales.

“We just appreciate these captains being able to get these guys who are dealing with physical and mental issues out on the water,” Warfield said. “This gives them a chance to get out, get away from the real world and relax, whether it be hunting, fishing, camping or whatever we can do outdoors. This wouldn’t have been possible without Richard. Richard really pushed it. He wanted to make it really big, and he wants to make it an annual event.”

The Jaycees’ donation for the trip also provided lunch after a morning on the water. The guides took care of the equipment, and bait dealer Maurice Ryan donated the live shrimp.

The anglers hauled in a wide variety of Alabama’s inshore species, including the edible species of speckled trout, redfish, white trout, flounder and pompano. Mixed in for anglers’ enjoyment were the acrobatic ladyfish, croakers and the ubiquitous hardhead catfish.

“We’ve never had an event this big,” Warfield said. “Before, the biggest trip was with five or six guys. This was a huge, huge trip for us, and it wouldn’t be possible without all these captains. What I tell the captains is if you can help out, great. If you can’t, we understand because you have to make a living.”

Warfield said a good many TFO members want to take part in the outings, but time constraints limit the participation.

“Weekends are really, really busy for them, but today was a perfect day,” he said. “It was a Monday, and we had plenty of people who wanted to come.”

Warfield said the organization tries to get the message out about The Fallen Outdoors through outdoors trade shows and social media. Rutland lined up several media outlets to cover the Dauphin Island event, including the Mobile Press-Register and Mobile TV stations WALA and WKRG.

“This was the most media we’ve had for a TFO event,” Warfield said. “Hopefully this will get us out there more and let veterans know there are free or low-cost hunting and fishing trips available.”

TFO was started in the 2009 in Washington state and has grown to a membership of about 34,000 veterans. Warfield said between 13,000 and 14,000 veterans are signed up in the southern region. Visit thefallenoutdoors.com for more information.

“It’s just another way to reach out to veterans,” Warfield said. “Our focus is strictly on the outdoors, whether it’s hunting, fishing, hiking or just hanging out near the water. We just want to make the connections. All of us have our demons. Nobody understands what a vet is going through better than another vet. People look at you and think you’re normal, but inside you’re torn apart. It could be physical injuries. It could be PTSD. And making the transition from military to civilian is totally different. A lot of things in the military don’t translate to civilian life. This trip was amazing. We had veterans come from Florida and Louisiana as well as Alabama. These vets get to meet more people they can lean on. They can definitely make new friendships on trips like these.”

Because of the proliferation of veterans organizations in the past decade, Rutland admitted he was cautious when originally contacted by Warfield.

“I always like to do my homework before I put something on like this,” Rutland said. “After talking to Derrick several times, I looked at my books and realized I had June 10 open. He said he could probably get 15 to 20 vets to come, and I started calling my guide friends to see who might be available. It really came together nicely. This is my busy time of the year, and it kind of got here real quick, but everything came together as well as I could have expected.”

Although June is a busy month for charter captains, Rutland said he’s sticking with an early June date for next year’s event because it’s the best time for the veterans.

“Basically, the whole deal with Derrick reaching out to me is this is kind of a dead period for outdoors activities for the veterans,” Rutland said. “They have a lot of hunting in the fall and winter and a little fishing in the spring. By the time it gets into early summer, he has a slack period until the end of the summer. They really needed to experience the Alabama Gulf Coast. I’m planning to make it an annual event.”

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier dropped by the ADSFR site to share a lunch of fried fish with the veterans.

“First of all, anytime we can do something positive for our veterans, it’s a good thing,” Mayor Collier said. “When they can incorporate Dauphin Island into it, it’s even better. Who wouldn’t enjoy going out on a nice day and catching fish.”

The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) provided support for the event, and MRD Director Scott Bannon also joined the group for lunch.

Warfield said the inshore fishing trip definitely exceeded expectations.

“We would have been happy if it had been two people, but it turned out to be a lot more,” he said. “We’re not going to argue with Richard about making it an annual event, because we would love to come back. I can’t say thank you enough to all the captains.”

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.

40 mins 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.

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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.

14 hours ago

Bradley Byrne campaign announces launch of ‘Farmers for Bradley’ coalition

Bradley Byrne’s campaign for United States Senate announced Friday that key leaders from Alabama’s agriculture community have launched a “Farmers for Bradley” coalition to support Byrne.

Agriculture remains the top industry in Alabama, and we need a Senator who will not only vote right, but who will actually fight tooth and nail to support our farmers, landowners, and agribusinesses,” Byrne said in a statement. “To have such a strong group of agriculture leaders backing our campaign is a real honor and a testament to the hard work we have done over the years to support our Alabama farmers.”

Both State Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) and Mark Kaiser from Baldwin County, who lead the coalition, believe Byrne will fight for farmers in the Senate.

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“When I first met Bradley, it was clear he is a fighter,” Jones said. “Agriculture is a very difficult industry with a wide range of challenges, so it is so important we have a U.S. Senator who will work with our farmers and leaders at the state level to make life a little easier.”

Kaiser echoed Jones’ comments and said, “Bradley just gets it when it comes to agriculture. He has taken the time to learn about the various issues impacting Alabama’s agriculture community, and he has used that knowledge to fight for us in Washington. Bradley doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.”

“Bradley has an impressive record as a champion for Alabama’s farmers,” a press release stated. “From supporting the Farm Bill to cutting bureaucratic red tape, Bradley has always fought to ensure the farm economy remains stable and fair. Bradley plans to continue the fight for farmers by seeking a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

15 hours ago

Did a police officer go for his gun or not? This is not an appropriate resolution to the Alabama A&M/UNA issue

Last weekend, the Alabama A&M Bulldogs upset the University of North Alabama Lions in a football game that most of you didn’t know even took place by a 31-24 score.

After the game, a series of allegations were made that were pretty serious and require further investigation.

Here are the problems Bulldogs’ head coach Connell Maynor pointed out:

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  • “It ain’t 1959, we don’t have to put up with that type stuff.”
  • Alabama A&M received no free tickets or tickets to sell to the public
  • Alabama A&M player weren’t allowed access to the field prior to two hours before the game
  • Alabama A&M coaches were told to have their credentials hanging around their neck, UNA coaches had theirs around their waist
  • His assistant coaches were not able to use the elevator right away because of fans being given priority
  • “There was too much stuff that went on off the field, behind the scenes that was not professional on their part at all.”
  • “And we were very very disappointed in the way they treated us, in every aspect off the field.”
  • The teams will not play again

And most importantly, according to the Florence Times Daily:

Maynor also alleged an incident occurred in which a police officer put “his hand on his gun” and saying “Did you hear what he said?” during an argument between a coach and security.

Whoa… what?

A police officer put his hand on his weapon during an argument with staff?

Wait.

A police officer put his hand on his weapon during an argument with the staff of a Historically Black College and University at a football game?

Why don’t we know what agency this officer was with?

His name?

The name of the coach involved?

This is a serious allegation and is, no doubt, a racially tinged accusation.

There must be an investigation of this entire situation.

Only, there will not be an investigation. Alabama A&M has made it clear neither the coach nor the school will be commenting further, which is insane.

Alabama A&M’s head coach is alleging some pretty serious stuff, including a police officer going for his gun over a coach’s access to part of a football stadium.

Instead, we got a statement from the two schools that says the following:

“Alabama A&M University and the University of North Alabama are vital educational institutions that serve the North Alabama region and beyond. Both institutions are committed to working collaboratively to advance our respective missions. We are separated by 76 miles; however, we remain united in ensuring the viability of our institutions and the success of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and programs, both academically and athletically. As part of that collaborative commitment, both universities have been in communication since Monday about the recent UNA-AAMU football game at Braly Stadium to decide what, if any, next steps are necessary. Both institutions are committed to providing a safe, accommodating, friendly, and inclusive environment. We remain dedicated to furthering our relationship and enjoying a bright future, both on and off the field.”

The highlight is this (bold text added for emphasis):

As part of that collaborative commitment, both universities have been in communication since Monday about the recent UNA-AAMU football game at Braly Stadium to decide what, if any, next steps are necessary.

To put it bluntly, that statement is complete garbage.

Was there racism or not?

Was this just normal rivalry stuff?

Was there an effort by the University of North Alabama to behave in a way that Alabama A&M’s coach, staff, and players led to these words by a state employee about another state institution?

Is Coach Maynor lying?

If he is, why is he still employed?

If he is not, why don’t we know what actually happened?

Why is this police officer still on the job?

Shame on everyone involved in this situation, especially the leadership of these universities who have no interest in getting to the bottom of what actually happened.

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

16 hours ago

OIG report: ‘Serious issues,’ possible misuse of taxpayer dollars at Alabama Women’s Business Center locations

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a report identifying “serious” material deficiencies with Women’s Business Center, Inc., an Alabama-based recipient of the SBA’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) grant program.

Women’s Business Center, Inc. is responsible for operating two WBCs, located in Mobile and Brewton.

In the course of the OIG’s audit of SBA’s oversight of the nationwide WBC program, Women’s Business Center, Inc. denied OIG auditors access to both coastal Alabama center’s offices and records.

After issuing an administrative subpoena, the SBA OIG uncovered that both WBCs had actually been permanently closed since the fall of 2018 yet were still collecting federal government funds.

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Further violations uncovered by the OIG included inadequately staffing centers, late and unpaid payroll, a major potential conflict of interest and failure to maintain an adequate financial management system and audited financial statements.

The OIG’s report concluded:

We determined that the Recipient has materially violated federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of its cooperative agreements. Its lack of required financial systems, records, and policies, and inability to pay its obligations, maintain open and available facilities and service hours, and staff its WBCs with full-time program directors indicates serious issues in the Recipient’s ability to operate and fulfill the WBC program requirements. We have deemed the documentation the Recipient has provided to us to be insufficient and incomplete. The Recipient denied access to OIG, an independent, authorized oversight entity, and disregarded governing federal regulations and terms and conditions of its cooperative agreements.

These findings impel SBA to take prompt corrective action to protect taxpayers’ dollars and help to ensure the integrity of the WBC program. SBA should pursue actions including, but not limited to, suspension, termination, and nonrenewal of the Recipient’s cooperative agreements, as well as suspension and debarment of the Recipient and its personnel.

In a statement reacting to the OIG report, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said, “The gross lack of oversight uncovered in the SBA OIG’s most recent management advisory is incredibly troubling.”

“SBA must take action to remedy the numerous deficiencies identified and enact the Office of Inspector General’s recommendations immediately,” he added. “I appreciate the Office of the Inspector General’s diligence in this matter and look forward to its swift resolution.”

Read the OIG report here.

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

16 hours ago

Ivey back in Montgomery after outpatient procedure ‘went well and as planned’

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday underwent an initial outpatient procedure at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for early-stage lung cancer.

This followed her Thursday announcement that disclosed the next day’s procedure and radiation treatments to follow.

In a statement, Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, said, “The governor’s outpatient procedure today at UAB went well and as planned.”

“She is back in Montgomery and looks forward to returning to her regular schedule next week,” Maiola concluded.

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