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10 months ago

Why Are There Fewer Alabama Hunters Than Ever Before and Who’s Missing Out?

by Mr. Corky Pugh

Throughout modern history, Alabama, like many of its southern neighbors, has benefited from hunting. In addition to hunting pumping 2-billion dollars into the Alabama economy each year, the positive contributions of hunters on the culture and the conservation of natural resources are irreplaceable. Perhaps most of all, generations of Alabamians have used hunting as a way to create family memories and build bonds that represent a healthy and positive activity in which parents not only spend time with their children but teach them invaluable life lessons.

Nevertheless, Alabama is in the midst of a deeply-concerning, decades-long decline in hunters.

This decline is driven by numerous factors that range from urbanization to social trends. What’s more, many activities compete for discretionary time. Moreover, just as the kids who once played backyard football now spend more time in front of a video game console, our entire society has likewise moved inside, becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world.

To paraphrase Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, a highly-informative book about what Louv refers to as “nature deficit disorder”:  When we were growing up, we knew every root and stick and stone on the footpaths behind our houses. Today’s children have never even been on those footpaths.

Another factor is that the cost of hunting has grown higher and higher over the years, as the economic value was attached to hunting land and related recreational opportunity. The days of free or nominally-priced hunting permits for thousands of acres of land are only a foggy memory.

Cost is a determining factor for most Alabama hunters. Demographic research by the most qualified experts in the country clearly shows that the vast majority of Alabama hunters are not advantaged economically, educationally, or otherwise. In other words, the rank and file hunter in Alabama can’t afford to purchase or lease land, or even join a hunting club, so they are left to the use of public land or an occasional invitation from someone with permission to private land.

The State of Alabama has been and continues to be a national leader in hunting recruitment and retention programs. Here are a few examples:

• Alabama’s Youth Dove Fields have set a standard for other states to follow and are lauded by experts across the country

• Special Youth Hunting Days and other hunter recruitment opportunities have been included in hunting seasons regulations. Special youth hunts are scheduled at places like the Stimpson Sanctuary in Clarke County.

• The Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has partnered with the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division for many years to conduct youth events, and now even owns an incredible hunting property only a few minutes from Montgomery devoted to youth hunter recruitment.

• Alabama has been a leader nationally in partnership with the Archery Trade Association. The Archery in the Schools Program and Community Archery Parks offer excellent opportunities for this gateway activity to hunting.

• The State of Alabama has an aggressive land acquisition program through Forever Wild, and a “No-net-loss of public hunting land” statute is codified into the law of Alabama.

• Alabama offers game populations, hunting seasons, and bag limits that are the envy of most other states. Ample opportunities for hunting exist on private and public lands across the state. There are 33 intensively-managed Wildlife Management Areas, encompassing 756,000 acres from one end of the state to the other.

In spite of these wonderful efforts, Alabama’s hunting participation and hunting license sales continue to decline.

Once again, the vast majority of Alabama’s are hard-working, middle-class people. Most are only occasional participants; one-third do not even hunt as frequently as every year. That’s why it’s important that Alabama not build its hunting programs around avid, advantaged hunters, but around this much larger population of hunters who are increasingly being priced out of the market. What’s more, only ten percent of those who hunt in Alabama are nonresidents, and the overwhelming majority of our hunters will not travel more than one county away from where they live for hunting.

For these reasons, wise hunter retention programs should focus on factors that include the majority of Alabama hunters. Some key considerations:

Simplify hunting laws: Research shows that overly-complex rules and regulations negatively impact hunting participation, so simplifying these rules would encourage greater participation.

Treat All Hunters the Same: While gun deer hunters are the largest segment of our hunters, archery deer hunters,  fall turkey hunters, rabbit hunters, squirrel hunters, and other small-game hunters all deserve to have the opportunity to hunt at times when conditions are good.

Product-driven hunting regulations are a slippery slope, failing to recognize that most hunters cannot afford to go out and buy the latest fad or waste money on bait or feeders.

Hopefully, with wise efforts to encourage a culture of hunting in our state, Alabama can continue to foster this great endeavor for generations to come.

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About the Author: Mr. Corky Pugh spent 35 years working for the state of Alabama, 12 of which he served as Director of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Mr. Pugh is now the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation, an organization committed to keeping hunting opportunities available for all Alabamians.

37 mins ago

WATCH: University of Alabama Police Department completes lip sync battle featuring ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

Monday, The University of Alabama posted a video of their campus police department participating in a lip sync battle against Clemson University.

UAPD chose “Sweet Home Alabama” as their song and, afterward, challenged all other SEC schools to join in on the competition.

Watch the full video here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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44 mins ago

Rep. Byrne: Illegal immigrants will not be housed in Baldwin County

Tuesday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) announced that illegal immigrants would not be housed at Navy airfields in Baldwin County.

Congressman Byrne opposed the housing of 10,000 illegal immigrants at Naval Outlying Field Silverhill and Naval Outlying Field Wolf in south Baldwin County.

Byrne, along with other members of the Alabama and Florida Congressional delegation, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Nielson expressing their concerns with the proposal.

Byrne released both a statement and a tweet on Tuesday regarding the decision of the proposal.

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“Housing illegal immigrants at ill-equipped airfields along the Gulf Coast was always a terrible idea, so I appreciate the confirmation that this plan is no longer being considered. We had a team effort to push back this flawed idea, and I especially want to thank Baldwin County Commissioners Chris Elliott and Tucker Dorsey and Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack for their advocacy on this issue,” said Byrne in a news release.

He added, “While I am glad this issue is resolved, we must continue working to secure the border and eliminate the need for additional housing for illegal immigrants altogether. I remain 100% committed to working with President Trump to build a border wall, hire additional border patrol officers, and ensure our border security is as strong as possible.”

Click here to read the full letter ICE Deputy Director Ronald Vitiello sent to Rep. Byrne regarding the decision.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and also contributes weekly to The Daily Caller

1 hour ago

Liberal heckler hurls object, expletives at Doug Jones — Jones says ‘there’s just as many people passionate on the other side’

After a liberal heckler hurled an object and expletives at Sen. Doug Jones at a town hall Monday, Alabama’s junior senator compared the incident, which ended with police officers hauling the agitator out, to peaceful conservative efforts to persuade Jones to vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

AL.com’s Howard Koplowitz reported that Jones indicated at the town hall that “conservatives in the state are trying to apply the same pressure on him as the woman at the Birmingham event,” referring to the protester.

Jones said, “There’s just as many people passionate on the other side, so that doesn’t make it real easy.”

While the pressure on Jones from the left has stooped to this kind of antic, conservative efforts have all been peaceful and respectful to this point. They are backed by the fact that a majority of Alabamians polled support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

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The Judicial Crisis Network’s massive ad buy has been flooding Alabama’s airwaves since July 9, and the NRA started their own ambitious television campaign last week.

Concerned Women for America, a Christian women’s organization, is also focusing grassroots efforts on the state.

Sen. Richard Shelby voiced his strong support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation after meeting with him recently, but Jones remains undecided.

“Senator Doug Jones’ inability to make a decision on casting an Alabama vote for Judge Kavanaugh is disconcerting,” Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan told Yellowhammer News.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Arab High School to dump ‘Dixie’ tradition at football games

A rural Alabama high school is ending its tradition of playing “Dixie” at football games.

John Mullins, superintendent of city schools in Arab, said he made the decision to quit playing the song at Arab (AY-rab) High School, but not because of any “external pressure.”

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Leaders in the educational system and the school board have talked for months about dropping the song, he said, and local news outlets reported in June that the longtime band director was retiring.

“While I fully understand the difficulty of changing a tradition, the song has negative connotations that contradict our school district’s core values of unity, integrity, and relationships,” Mullins said in a statement reported by WHNT-TV.

School bands throughout the South used to play “Dixie,” but the practice ended as the region got further away from legalized racial segregation.

The Arab High School Band has played “Dixie” after touchdowns for decades.

Students and staff at the school will vote on a new fight song after this football season.

In the meantime, the band will play an instrumental soul song that’s popular among marching bands, “The Horse.”

Census statistics show the town of about 8,200 people, located in northeastern Alabama, is more than 96 percent white.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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Rep. Byrne: ‘Great value’ found in traveling around district, speaking with local leaders

Each August, the House of Representatives typically enters a period of recess known as the August District Work Period. This is time set aside for Members of Congress to travel across their home districts visiting with the people they represent.

For me, this is incredibly valuable time that I can spend listening to my constituents and gaining a better understanding of the issues impacting our area. Here is just a quick highlight of my August District Work Period so far.

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As you probably already know, I love to hold town hall meetings throughout the First District to hear directly from the people I represent. This August, I am holding a “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour with twelve stops in all six counties that make up the First District. So far, we have held town hall meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle and Mobile. Later this month, we will make stops in Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley and Spanish Fort. You can get all the details about the town halls online at Byrne.House.Gov/BetterOffTour.

Visiting local businesses and talking with employees is another priority for me in August. For example, I have already visited Olin in McIntosh, the Louisiana Pacific facility in Clarke County, Serda Brewing in Mobile, and Metal Shark Boats and Master Marine in Bayou La Batre, just to name a few. The visits help me learn firsthand how federal issues are directly impacting employers and employees in Southwest Alabama.

A really special opportunity was being able to ride along with UPS to help deliver packages on the Eastern Shore. I dressed up in the full UPS uniform, rode in the truck, and personally delivered packages. It really helped to step in the driver’s shoes and see the difficult work they do every day. I am especially grateful to Chris Dorgan for showing me the ropes.

Just last week, I hosted Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, down on Dauphin Island for a Red Snapper research trip. As one of the leading federal officials responsible for our fisheries, I welcomed the opportunity to show off the health of the Red Snapper stock in the Gulf, as well as the very impressive research being done locally by the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Also last week, I traveled to the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi to meet with the director and get an update on services for our veterans. As you may know, the Biloxi VA oversees most of our local VA facilities. It was a productive visit as I work to hold the VA accountable and ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.

We had the annual Women’s Forum in downtown Mobile, which is organized by the Community Foundation of South Alabama. We had another outstanding crowd as local women had the opportunity to network and hear from speakers and panelists about issues important to them.

I find great value in holding roundtable discussions to hear directly from leaders about specific issues. With this in mind, we held separate roundtables with local school superintendents, economic developers from our area, and community leaders from Chatom. Each of these roundtables were very informative, and we have more scheduled later this month.

As you can probably tell, this August District Work Period has already been a huge success. The good news is that we are just getting started. I look forward to spending more time around Southwest Alabama throughout August to help me be the best Congressman possible.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.