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6 months ago

Beginning Hunter’s Dream: Lucky five learn from pros in Mentored Hunt Program 

(David Rainer)



A group of five scored what might be considered the lottery for hunters who want to pursue white-tailed deer in the Black Belt of Alabama.

Those lucky hunters were selected in a random drawing to participate in the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Adult Mentored Hunt Program.

Before the weekend was over at Cedar Creek Special Opportunity Area in Dallas County, one participant had shot a firearm for the first time and followed that with a shot that sent her home with venison. One hunter made a 10-hour drive from central Florida to participate and also went home with venison. And another hunter, who didn’t have time to pursue hunting during his military career, was able to bring his 12-year-old to join in all the activities as a guest, including watching his father take his first deer and an additional one during the event.

The Adult Mentored Hunt Program was developed to facilitate new or novice hunters in their quest to learn the skills necessary to pursue Alabama’s wild game. The most recent hunt treated those five hunters – Mary Beth Brown, Esther Conde, Chris Forman, Marynell Winslow and Jeffrey Bogue – to weekend hunts like those available at one of Alabama’s premier hunting lodges with a notable exception. That exception was personal instruction from a variety of WFF personnel.

Before the hunters ever sat in a hunting stand, they underwent instruction in firearms safety before participating in a live-fire event at the lodge range. The hunters also learned about the function of the Division and how it operates, wildlife management, the use of safety equipment while hunting as well as shot placement.

That shot placement instruction served Conde well when she shot a 4 ½-year-old, mature buck. Her shot dropped the buck in its tracks.

“I’ve done several BOW (Becoming an Outdoors-Woman) events,” said Conde, who traveled from St. Cloud, Fla. “That’s more educational. This is more of an experience. We got instructions on all the equipment. It was hands-on and we could actually use it. I felt more comfortable in what I was doing. Even if I didn’t harvest a deer, I felt comfortable enough when I got home I was going to be able to apply what I learned.”

Conde was definitely in the hot spot on the 6,000-acre tract with 25 deer spotted on her first hunt. She was not comfortable with any of the shots presented and decided to wait.

The afternoon hunt was markedly different.

“We saw three deer soon after we got into the blind,” she said. “Then I decided to shoot. It was all about when I felt comfortable. It felt right. I didn’t feel any pressure.

“I got really, really excited. When the buck got right to the perfect spot, I did what my mentor told me, breathe and squeeze the trigger. I didn’t even know if I’d shot it. My mentor said, ‘you got it.’ I looked in the scope and there it was. He dropped right there. In the classes, they show you where to shoot and have a decoy to show you. It was a perfect shot.”

Other than the deer meat, Conde said she is taking more back to Florida.

“The confidence, the confidence,” she said. “I’ve already called my son. He’s 19, and we do these things together. We’ve never been confident enough to try it. I told him now we’re going out the first weekend we’re not working.”

Despite growing up in Winfield, Ala., Mary Beth Brown had never even fired a gun.

“Over the past few years, I realized I was interested in going hunting, but I didn’t have anybody close to me that hunted,” she said. “I had some distant cousins but I really wasn’t comfortable asking them. I just Googled adult hunting in Alabama and found the program.

“I sent in the application. I got lucky. When we went to the range, I found it was a lot less scary than I thought it would be.”

The only problem was that Brown and her mentor, Marianne Hudson, realized on the final hunt that Brown was shooting right-handed but was left-eye dominant. After some practice and letting a couple of deer walk, Brown found looking through the scope with her left eye worked best.

“There was a buck behind the doe, but the buck was facing away from me,” she said. “He walked off and never turned around, so I got the scope on the doe. She was in the perfect position. I took the shot. I didn’t feel nervous at all. I had decided to take the next shot that was doable.

“Even if I hadn’t shot something, I really enjoyed it because I don’t know many hunters. It’s been great talking to everyone and learning about their experiences. I was really actually glad I was able to get a deer. Even if I hadn’t shot a deer, I still learned so much.”

The person who went home with an ice chest filled to the brim with venison was Jeffery Bogue, who bagged a buck and a doe during the Saturday afternoon hunt.

Although Bogue got his hunter education certificate when he was 16, he didn’t have much of an opportunity to hunt before he joined the Army. After a 20-plus-year military career, he settled in Alabaster and recently decided to get involved in hunting with his son, Vincent.

Bogue also was surfing the internet when he found the mentored program, applied and was selected.

“You just can’t beat it,” Bogue said. “This is such a great opportunity for inexperienced hunters to come out and work with the mentors. They were so helpful with everything and getting in the right position. If I had gone out on my own, there would have been no way I would have been as successful as I was during this event.

“Now we’re going to have our freezer stocked with venison. I can’t wait to try some burger like we had at the event.”

WFF’s Justin Grider, the Adult Mentored Hunt Program coordinator, said one-day mentored hunts had been available in Mobile County for a couple of seasons, but this is the first for the program on a statewide scale. The hunts are available to adults 19 years of age or older.

Grider said the response to the mentored hunt program has exceeded his expectations with applications coming in from all over the state as well as Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

“We opened the process in September,” Grider said. “I was apprehensive that there wouldn’t be very much demand for the program. I was surprised and excited that that wasn’t the case. We’ve had 115 applicants and more than 40 percent were female. We’ve had participants from 19 years to 78. I’d say the majority have been folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s.”

Grider said the applicants cover the societal spectrum and those selected are done by random computer drawing, so he has no idea of the roster for the hunts until the draw is completed.

“We’ve had teachers at UAB, who are doctors with private practices,” he said. “We’ve had high school teachers. We’ve had people in the professional trade industry, whether it’s HVAC or welding. So, we’ve had folks from all walks of life and different personalities. It’s really been fun getting to know our hunters. With the random-draw process, we never know who our hunters will be or where they’re from, so it’s been fun.”

Grider has also discovered that sometimes the students in a mentoring situation can provide as much insight as the mentors.

“We’ve had some really great groups, and we’ve learned a lot from them,” he said. “A lot of times when you’re hunting, you’re predisposed to doing things certain ways. So, when you have folks from different walks of life, who have different experiences than you, it allows them to see things through a different lens. They ask questions, and that allows you to dig into your reasoning and why you do things the way you do.”

Grider said what connects all the applicants is they want to learn something new and to take control of where their food comes from.

“When they get here, we have a welcome portion where we get to know each other, and we learn why they applied for the program,” he said. “The common theme each hunt is they want to have control over where their food comes from and to be able to provide for themselves.”

Grider couldn’t have been happier with the outcome of the most recent hunt despite the cold weather.

“It’s great to see them do that and to see them go home with coolers full of their own meat,” he said. “We feed them several different dishes with venison. We share recipes with them, and on Saturday, we let them get involved in a cooking workshop, where they execute a simple burger recipe. They grill the burgers and eat their own venison creations.

“They learn how to hunt. They learn how to prepare the deer, and they learn how to apply those recipes at home.”

Visit this link for information on upcoming mentored hunts.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years.


3 hours ago

Alabama Power customers start seeing federal tax reform benefits this month

Alabama Power customers are beginning to benefit this month from a decision made by the Alabama Public Service Commission related to federal tax reforms.

Starting with July bills, the typical monthly bill for a residential customer is being reduced by more than $9 each month for the remainder of the year. The savings will be reflected in the “Total Due” section on monthly bills for the remainder of the year.

“We are pleased to begin providing these savings to our customers,” said Richard Hutto, vice president of Regulatory Affairs for Alabama Power.


The federal tax reform legislation, approved late last year, lowered corporate income tax rates, which reduces taxes for Alabama Power. Taxes levied on the company are passed on, so a lower tax rate directly benefits Alabama Power’s 1.4 million customers.

This is the first portion of $337 million in savings coming to all Alabama Power customers through 2019.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Rep. Martha Roby: Pro-growth policies are working in AL-02 communities

Over the last year and a half, Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration have worked tirelessly to unleash our economy and foster growth right here in the United States. Since November of 2016, 3.7 million jobs have been created, and one million of those came after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law. Unemployment numbers are at the lowest point they’ve been in decades. Job openings are at a record high – 213,000 jobs were added in June alone. Also last month, there were 6.7 million job openings, which marks the first time since the year 2000 that the number of job openings is larger than the number of people unemployed.

As you may know, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act roughly doubled the standard deduction while lowering tax rates. Because of this historic tax reform, 90 percent of Americans have seen bigger paychecks this year. Plus, more than four million Americans have seen increased wages, bonuses, and expanded retirement options.


Thanks to tax reform and our efforts to spur economic growth, Americans are working and businesses are growing – and Alabama’s Second District hasn’t missed out on the momentum. Since the enactment of our tax overhaul last year, several businesses have announced they are opening branches in our district, expanding existing ones, offering pay increases to employees, and more. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly share some of the great economic news we’ve received so far.

Most recently, Alabama manufacturer Sabel Steel, which has locations in Montgomery and Dothan, announced they will provide pay increases to all employees, invest in new equipment, expand existing facilities, and hire additional workers thanks to tax reform. I believe the company’s CEO Keith Sabel said it best himself: “There’s optimism. With the previous administration, we were hammered by rule changes and regulations. It was like trying to drink water out of a firehose. The change in policy under President Trump was enormous, and the attitude among businessmen and especially other steel manufacturers has been incredibly optimistic. Tax reform and other policies psychologically have made an enormous difference.”

James Hardie Building Products announced plans to open a new manufacturing plant in Prattville. This project is the largest industrial development in Autauga County in 50 years, and it will have a significant economic impact on the area.

U.S. firearms maker Kimber Gun Manufacturing also announced a project in AL-02. By early 2019, the company will open a $38 million production facility in Troy that will create more than 350 high-paying jobs over the next five years.

Also in Troy, Rex Lumber Co. will soon open a state of the art sawmill operation that will employ more than 100 people. This $110 million investment will create quality employment opportunities and a significant new timber market in Pike County.

In Coffee County, Wayne Farms has announced a $105 million expansion at their Enterprise fresh processing facility. This investment will bring a strong economic boost to the area.

Last, but certainly not least, Great Southern Wood Preserving based in Abbeville recently announced it will use savings from the tax overhaul to invest in additional employee benefits, including lower health care costs, more paid time off, and a new scholarship program. In addition, the company has given pay increases to employees across the board.

So you see, thanks to our pro-growth policies and a commitment to fostering economic growth in this country, Americans are confident in our economy – and rightfully so. Hardworking people in our very own communities have already benefited tremendously as a result of these important efforts, and I am eager to see this positive forward momentum continue for all Alabamians.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.

Listen to the craziest case Jonathan Cooner has ever worked…. WOW

Alexander Shunnarah “Shark of The Week”, Jonathan Cooner came to the studio with some great stories. Jonathan started it off by talking about his time with the law firm and the number of phone calls they get and how he started off. Jonathan told the guys a story about “A toddler and a mechanical bull.”  Jonathan went into depth about what it means to be a member of the Shunnarah Law Firm and even gave his wife and daughter a shoutout.


Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

6 hours ago

Coal company executive, Alabama attorney convicted of bribery

A prominent Alabama attorney and a coal company executive have been convicted on federal charges involving bribery of a state lawmaker.

The verdict against Joel Gilbert, a partner with Balch & Bingham law firm, and Drummond Company Vice President David Roberson was announced Friday after a four-week trial. Jurors found them guilty of conspiracy, bribery, three counts of honest services wire fraud and money laundering.


Prosecutors said the two men bribed former state Rep. Oliver Robinson to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s expansion of a Superfund site, and also to oppose prioritizing the site’s expensive cleanup. Robinson pleaded guilty last year to bribery and tax evasion. He has not yet been sentenced.

A third defendant, Balch attorney Steven McKinney, was dismissed from the case one day before closing arguments began.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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7 hours ago

Yes, we DO get along!

I don’t remember the airline or where the flight was headed. But I will never forget the woman seated next to me.

During the course of our brief conversation, I mentioned that my family lives in Orange Beach, Alabama. Her eyebrows furrowed as she received that fairly innocuous information. Without hesitation, however, she said, “I wouldn’t live there in a million years.”


I was taken aback, but smiled gamely, and asked, “Really? Why’s that?”

“I just couldn’t take the rain,” the woman told me.

I was silent for a beat or two, looking into the woman’s eyes, mentally scrambling to figure out what I had missed. She also continued to look at me, waiting I suppose, for a response. When none tumbled from my lips, she leaned in my direction somewhat aggressively and as if she were talking to an idiot, being forced to explain something obvious and simple, said, “The Rain. Your rain. It rains all the time in Orange Beach. I could never live in a place like that.”

I nodded as if I understood and asked how many times she had been to Orange Beach.

“Twice,” she told me. “Once for three days and another time for a whole week. We never saw the sunshine. It rains constantly in Orange Beach.”

I’ve thought about that woman off and on for years. It was such a ridiculous exchange that I’ve never really decided if it was funny or just stupid.

Obviously, it rained the only two times she ever visited. Now, I don’t study weather patterns, I don’t know Jim Cantore, and I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in a long time, but I’m fairly certain that it rains every day somewhere! In a lot of places, I’ll bet it even rains for a week at a time! And who, over the age of six or seven, has not seen it rain during a vacation?

Yeah, I’m sorry, but for a person to single out a week and a half and believe they can accurately extrapolate the cloud and moisture conditions that visitors to Orange Beach can expect for the rest of forever…is nuts. It’s beyond nuts.

Except that you and I virtually do the same thing almost every day.

We allow the media to dictate what we believe is “happening everywhere.” In print, online, and on television, we allow our fears to be stoked and our thoughts to be directed. By consuming “overlarge” portions of what they are serving, we encourage the news media’s overwhelming coverage of All Things Horrible.

Understand, I am not blaming the media for what they do or how they do it. I’m not even suggesting they do anything differently. Would it have any effect if I did? (The correct answer is “no”.)

Neither am I suggesting that racial anger, regional bias, political selfishness, or deranged behavior do not exist. But if you and I begin our day with the news and check in on the news several times during the day, then end our day with the news, it doesn’t take long for us to become convinced that what we see in the news is an accurate portrayal of society. And it’s

Consider the fact that there are 19,519 towns and cities in America today. There are another 16,360 unincorporated townships. We have a population of 326 million people. All those people have access to multiple channels and online entities. They are available to us 24-hours a day. And they use those twenty-four hours every single day to keep us “informed” about exactly what is happening—not just in America, but in the whole world…

So here’s a question: If things are as bad as many of us have begun to believe, what are all those news outlets leaving out?

Shouldn’t there be at least enough bad stuff to fill twenty-four hours without repeating the same things again and again?

But as far as I can tell, when something crazy happens, not only does every channel “break” the same news, they “report” it over and over for days on end.

Look, we do care about what’s happening nationally. You and I care about race relations and politics and schools and statues and prison reform and the Boy Scouts and killer lettuce and whatever the heck that goofy looking psycho in North Korea will do next…

But I have to believe that you and I would rather put more time and constructive thought into our own families and communities. Yet, even those subjects—when they are mentioned at all—are delivered by most of our national media drenched with the overarching message: People who are different from each other in visible ways do not get along.

My point is a simple one. I’m convinced that we get along better than some folks would have us think. I’ve been watching this whole thing for quite a while now. I travel extensively and am through airports, in hotels, visiting cities, their suburbs, and exploring small towns.

I don’t always fly. I drive—sometimes long distances—and stop often to talk with the people I meet. I’ve spoken to and talked with the students on more than 400 college campuses, eaten at great restaurants, not so great restaurants, and locally favorite restaurants in every corner of this nation.

I have spoken to audiences in all fifty states and each of our nation’s territories. I have spoken to convention halls filled with men and arenas with thousands of women. I have spent time with the men and women who serve on military installations around the world.

I have watched people pull together during times of enormous stress. I have witnessed families with nothing to spare, give generously to families with nothing at all.

And after all that, I must say that I’m not sure why the media appears so determined to convince us that we do not get along…(the only possible answer is “ratings”) but assuming their efforts will not stop, we need to recognize the effect it has on us and at least stop bathing in the information.

We understand what drives television ratings. We know what sells newspapers. I wonder however, if we understand the strategy the media employs in order to attract enough viewers to stay on the air?

There is one major rule governing that strategy and it is this: If there is no large and wide-spread amount of anger and outrage to show the public, we will seek out the largest that can be found at the moment. Even if the only anger and outrage we find is a small and contained amount, with proper camera angles and specific wording by the reporter, it can be presented as an example of “what is happening everywhere.”

Except that it’s not.

What is happening almost everywhere? Folks are being polite. They are being considerate.

Yes, especially in the south.

I was checking out of the Bay Minette, Alabama Wal-Mart last week. As the cashier scanned my items, a forty-ish-year-old guy in a ball cap leaned around me, apologized for the interruption and spoke to the cashier. The following, word for word, is exactly what each of them said to the other.

Man: Excuse me, ma’am. When you get a chance, I need some help in the Photo department.

Cashier: Sure. (She turns to speak to a manager several lines away…) Miss Dana! Miss Dana, there’s a gentleman who needs help in Photos.

Man: (walking away) Thank you, ma’am.

Cashier: You’re welcome, sir.

I have to say, I smiled. I was proud of us. Yeah, us. You know…America. The South. Alabama. Baldwin County. Bay
Minette. Us!

Oh sure, I was proud of the cashier and the man. But they are us. It is, after all, how most of us act. Especially in Orange Beach. Even when it rains.

One more thing about the cashier and the man in the ball cap….Seeing them act with such respect towards each other really made my day. It crossed my mind to hug them. But I didn’t. I didn’t even know their names…

So I just took their picture. For US!

Let’s all do our part this week and continue to “Get Along.”

Perform an act of kindness or “Notice” a good gesture—then let me know about it in the Comments section of my website or on Facebook or Instagram.

I would love to continue to hear about how we are continuing to get along.

Andy Andrews is hailed by New York Times reporter as “someone who has quietly become one of the most influential people in America,” Andy Andrews is the author of multiple international bestsellers including The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. He is also an in-demand speaker, coach, and consultant for the world’s largest organizations.