2 years 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.


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.

17 mins ago

Birmingham’s Sidewalk Cinema and Film Center capital campaign making impressive progress — Still more work to be done

Sidewalk Film Festival representatives on Thursday provided an impressive update and a call to action regarding the “Make Movie Magic” capital campaign for construction of the Sidewalk Cinema and Film Center in Birmingham’s “The Pizitz” building.

To date, $4.2 million of the projected total of $4.9 million for the center’s development has been raised through contributions from Birmingham-area individuals, corporations and local government entities. The project most recently was boosted by the Birmingham City Council’s generous donation of $200,000.


While the capital campaign’s progress has been tremendous, there is still more work to be done to get to the finish line.

“April 2019 marked two years since the inception of fundraising efforts, and while we are proud of our progress — and appreciative of those providing financial support — we will be aggressive in our efforts as we work to secure another $750,000 in the coming months,” Chloe Cook, Sidewalk Film Festival executive director, explained in a statement.

This comes as the 21st Annual Sidewalk Film Festival is set for August 19-25 in downtown Birmingham.

If the center’s construction stays on schedule, the planned two-screen, 100-seats-per-screen Sidewalk Film Center + Cinema will serve as an official screening venue during the nationally lauded Birmingham festival.

“We are three months out from our open-and-operational deadline,” Edgar Marx Jr., capital campaign chair, outlined. “It is paramount that the Birmingham and Central Alabama community come together to take what will be a pivotal community asset across the funding finish line.”

In addition to use during the Sidewalk Film Festival, the Film Center + Cinema will screen films daily and will provide in-house education in technology and film — enhancing the revitalization to Birmingham’s downtown and adding to city residents’ quality of life.

“Supporting this campaign isn’t about a one-week festival, rather it is support for a better, brighter Birmingham for all of us,” Cook concluded. “This center will be an icon of immense pride and a key attraction for residents of and visitors to the Magic City alike.”

You can find more information here and donate here.

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

47 mins ago

‘The American Taliban’ released early from federal prison over objections of Alabama officials, Spann family

John Walker Lindh, a.k.a. “The American Taliban,” on Thursday was released years early from federal prison, despite the objections of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), President Donald Trump, the entirety of the Alabama legislature and the family of Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, who was an Alabamian and the first American known to be killed in “The War on Terror” in Afghanistan after 9/11.

After being captured in Afghanistan in 2001, Lindh pled guilty to serving as a soldier of the Taliban. He was sentenced to 20 years in a federal penitentiary in 2002 for his role in the death of Spann, a Winfield native and Auburn University alumnus then serving as a CIA officer.

Lindh was released prematurely from federal custody in Indiana on Thursday. As of a 2017 Foreign Policy article, Lindh still intended to spread terrorist ideology upon his release from prison.

CNN has reported that Lindh will live in Virginia under set restrictions.


Alison Spann, the late Alabamian’s daughter, recently wrote a letter to the president calling Lindh’s early release “a slap in the face — not only to my father and my family but, but for every person killed on Sept. 11th, their families, the U.S. military, U.S. [intelligence] services, families who have lost loved ones to this war and the millions of Muslims worldwide who don’t support radical extremists.”

In an interview with Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Lindh’s early release as “unexplainable and unconscionable” and followed Shelby in calling for a review of prison system policies.

Restrictions placed on Lindh, according to the Associated Press, include that “Lindh’s internet devices must have monitoring software; his online communications must be conducted in English; he must undergo mental health counseling; he is forbidden to possess or view extremist material; and he cannot hold a passport or leave the U.S.”

His release came only a day after NBC reported that Lindh, in a letter to a producer from Los Angeles-based affiliate KNBC, wrote in 2015 that the Islamic State group is “doing a spectacular job” and “is clearly very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle.”

Yellowhammer News on Wednesday learned that Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) imminently will file legislation to ensure convicted terrorists like Lindh are never released early from federal custody in the future.

On Lindh, Byrne has tweeted, “This man was held responsible for the horrific death of an Alabama CIA officer, and now he is getting out of jail early for good behavior. This is just so wrong!”

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

1 hour ago

Huntsville Hospital lets children drive toy cars into surgery, goes beyond medical care

Huntsville Hospital is helping kids with much more than their medical needs.

WHNT on Wednesday reported, “Hospitals can be a scary place for anyone, but especially for kids. Huntsville Hospital has child life specialists whose sole job is to help the children there beyond their medical needs. Making a trip to the hospital, not only bearable but even fun.”

One of the favorite features for young patients at Huntsville Hospital is that children are allowed to drive toy cars right into surgery.

Additionally, the hospital waiting room has become more like a game room, with interactive games projected onto the floor for kids to play with while waiting.


“So this is kind of one of those things that keeps their mind off everything before they have to go back,” Haley Franks, a pediatric ER registered nurse, told WHNT. “Especially if they have any kind of procedures or anything they are able to kind of play out here in the lobby and have some fun while they’re waiting.”

This incredible child life department has been in Huntsville Hospital for over two decades.

“There are some kids that are excited to be here. There are some kids that are really really scared and don’t even want to come in the door, stand on the scale, put on a bracelet,” Michelle Barksdale, a child life specialist, said. “We have all developmental ages and ranges of emotions.”

Specialists like Barksdale are trained in child psychology and development to know how to meet the needs of every individual child.

She said the needs of kids are very different than adults. She said a lot of kids are concrete thinkers they need to see what the surgery room will look like, not just be told.

Barksdale explained that the famous toy car rides even come complete with a unique driver’s license for each child.

“That car is a transition piece from parents who they know, where they’re safe, to people who they don’t know in scrubs,” she added.

For the pediatric staff at Huntsville Hospital, this is a labor of love for those kids. Not only are they working to heal them, the staff truly cares about making kids feel better, too.

“It makes it easier on that transition for the parent as well as the child. Because they know the child is not scared, they’re not crying, they’re not leaving them in a fearful state,” Amanda Rochowiak, a pre-op coordinator, said.

Watch below or here:

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

2 hours ago

Watch: Mobile’s WKRG anchor Mel Showers signs off for the last time after 50-year run

On Wednesday, long-time Mobile television personality Mel Showers anchored his newscast after a 50-year tenure at WKRG, the market’s CBS affiliate.

Back in March, Showers marked his 50th anniversary with WKRG.

Showers was joined by his family as he signed off Wednesday’s 10 p.m. newscast.


“Well, I would like to take just a few moments of your time tonight to say thank you,” Showers said. “I want to thank you for allowing me into your homes for the past five decades — first as a booth announcer, where you heard my voice more than you saw my face, then as a reporter and now as a news anchor. I was honored earlier today by the management and staff of Nexstar in a luncheon. Later today, my son and grandsons flew in from Dallas, Texas. It was a big surprise, and tonight, I want you all to see my family gathered here. I have sisters. I have nephews. I have nieces. I have granddaughters. I have their friends. And I have my WKRG family as well, as you can see them.”

“So, there’s a lot of love here involved in this studio,” he added. “And I want to thank you for tolerating me all these many years. Along with thanking you, I want to thank my family and my friends and my WKRG family, of course, many of whom are here tonight as you see. I will miss you. I love you and may God continue to bless all of you, every one of you. Look at that beautiful family.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

Episode 7: Surviving and thriving with photos and Frosties

Marshall and I share about a plane crash we survived; the characteristics that did or did not draw us to each other; our crazy engagement story; how important it is to communicate – always; how phases are not forever, but marriage is; and how sitting down to stare at your early relationship photos can save your marriage.

>Challenge today: Why did you fall in love in the first place? Have some fun together reminiscing about the great moments in your relationship and never stop learning about the wonderful parts of your partner!