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3 months ago

Mentored turkey hunt yields unforgettable results

The fate of a turkey hunt’s outcome is indeed fickle. High-fives can be the celebratory conclusion just as easily as the dejected hunter’s incessant second-guessing of the tactics that caused the gobbler to walk away instead of strutting into range.

Chuck Sykes, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director, has been in both situations. Sometimes that fate varies daily. Sometimes it’s different segments of the season, and sometimes, it’s different years.

With a little less than a month left in the season for most parts of the state, Sykes said hunters have had mixed results.

“Some hunters are doing well; some are not,” Sykes said. “It depends on where you are in the state. Personally, I think the turkeys are a little behind for this time of the season as compared to previous seasons. Gobbling has been very poor for me. I’ve hunted quite a few days, and I’ve seen five turkeys die, so don’t be crying for me.

“It’s substandard for me compared to what it was last year, which gives me great hope that the end of the season is going to be really good. I just think that cold snap slowed things down a little bit. I know we had some cold weather last year, but there’s something just a little bit different this year.”

Sykes said last year’s opening few days started with lows in the 30s, but the turkeys were still “gobbling their brains out.”

“We even had a couple of mornings in the upper 20s, but we were killing turkeys,” he said. “They were working right. This year, turkeys are gobbling two or three times, hitting the ground, and it’s over with.”

Sykes said it appears the 2017 and 2018 seasons will be flipped in terms of turkey activity and hunting success.

“The first few weeks of the season last year couldn’t have been any better for me,” he said. “The last two or three weeks of the season couldn’t have been any worse.

“I’m anticipating, based on past experience, that during the last few weeks of the season, the gobbling should be better and turkeys should be working better. I think we’re going to have a good closing few weeks of the season.”

Although the overall season has been a disappointment for Sykes, one magical afternoon will be forever etched in his memory, and he wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger.
That hunt occurred on one of the WFF’s Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) during an Adult Mentored Hunting Program outing.

Sykes recruited his old hunting buddy Al Mattox to help guide during the hunt on the new Pine Barren SOA area. Charles Barrow of Ozark and Adam Arnold of Pelham were the lucky hunters who were randomly drawn for the hunt.

“Charles actually participated in one of the mentored deer hunts,” Sykes said. “He was lucky enough to get selected for the turkey hunt.”

Arnold, on the other hand, has been an avid shooter for years, including long-distance shooting and sporting clays, but had really never hunted.

“Adam is one of those guys who has been participating in the Pittman-Robertson Act program by buying guns and ammunition, but he hasn’t been buying a hunting license for us to be able to capture that money and bring it back to Alabama,” Sykes said of the excise tax levied on firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment. “So, this was a unique experience.

“His family didn’t hunt. I think he may have been dove hunting once or twice throughout his life, and that was it. His family and group of friends weren’t exposed to hunting, but he was introduced to shooting later in life.”

Sykes said Arnold is a very accomplished shot who has his own shotgun and extensive knowledge of firearms overall.

“The gun part of it was easy,” Sykes said. “The hunting portion, we had to do a lot of teaching. The way we handled it, my best hunting buddy, Al Mattox, was with me. Al got back from Afghanistan three weeks before the hunt and wanted to help. He had been serving a tour in Afghanistan for about nine or 10 months. Al and I have hunted together a long time.”

Sykes and Mattox came up with a plan to hunt as a four-man team with a primary shooter and a backup shooter.

“That way, during the heat of the action, whoever was with the secondary shooter could give them a play-by-play of what was going on, taking the pressure off of them,” Sykes said. “They weren’t worried about shooting. They were worried about learning. I could walk them through everything. I could explain what Al was doing with the primary shooter. Al could explain what I was doing with the backup shooter.”

What Sykes and Mattox didn’t anticipate was that by the end of the hunt there was a spent shell lying on the ground next to each hunter.

“It worked out really well,” Sykes said. “It just so happened, when everything came together, there were two mature birds and both were able to harvest their first birds.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience for those guys as well and Al and I as the mentors. It was a very emotional afternoon.”

Sykes said the unsuccessful morning hunt got the hunters prepared for the eventful afternoon session.

“It all worked out for the best,” he said. “During the morning hunt there was no gobbling, nothing. So, we got to teach them how to be still. We got to teach them how to pick a location when turkeys aren’t gobbling; how to look for tracks; how to look for sign. We taught them a bunch of the basics that morning.

“Right after lunch we went out, and on our first setup, I called in an extremely vocal hen. They were introduced to a live turkey at close range. They could use what we taught them that morning on camouflage and how to be still, when to move and when not to move.”

Mattox had done some scouting a few days before the hunt and found some gobblers in one area. Still, the hunters were on unfamiliar ground because WFF had just recently closed the purchase on the Pine Barren tract. Sykes and Mattox used aerial maps on their smartphones to survey for likely turkey hangouts.

“We actually found a hidden food plot and set up off the edge of it,” Sykes said. “Adam was the primary shooter. I was with Charles off to the side. We placed two hen decoys out in the field. I yelped on a box, and a turkey gobbled about 400 yards from us, kind of behind us. About 15 second later, I looked and saw two other gobblers in the hardwoods coming to us.

“Adam did really well. Al was talking him through everything. Charles and I were sitting back as spectators at that point. Adam and Al let the turkeys strut all the way by them, about 75 yards across the field at a distance of about 15 yards from the hunter.”

Al waited to give Adam the sign to shoot so that the turkeys would be in position for Charles to get a shot if the second turkey happened to hang around for a few seconds.

“When the turkeys got into a position where I knew Adam was ready, I called to them,” Sykes said. “The dominant bird gobbled. I was letting Adam and Al know it was time.”

Arnold fired and dropped his bird. Sykes then coached Barrow through the backup-shooter process.

“When turkeys are at 15 yards and there is a big boom, they don’t know where it came from,” Sykes said. “The turkey was walking in circles. I was cutting to him. The turkey didn’t know what to do. By the time the gobbler got his bearings, Charles was ready and made a good shot.

“It was an incredible hunt.”

Sykes fully expects similar scenarios to unfold on the Pine Barren SOA in Dallas County.

“It’s the most exciting piece of property I’ve been on that is public hunting,” Sykes said. “It’s part of the old Hit and Miss Lodge where Mossy Oak did a lot of their filming. The amount of game there is incredible.”

For those who haven’t had much luck this turkey season, Sykes said it’s time to regroup but never surrender.

“You’ve just got to keep going,” he said. “As my grandmother always told me, a bad beginning means it’s going to be a good ending, and I’m counting on it.”

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.

39 mins 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.

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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)

3 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.

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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.

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4 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.

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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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5 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.”

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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
not.

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.