2 months ago

Rain can’t dampen enthusiasm at Buckmasters Life Classic

The consensus was that the recent 2020 Buckmasters Life Classic event may not have been the warmest at around 70 degrees for the three-day January deer hunt, but it was probably the wettest.

Persistent rains during the event at one of Alabama’s premier wildlife properties, Sedgefields Plantation near Safford, failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the hunters who deal with a variety of challenges on a daily basis.

It was fortunate for Colton Woolbright of Gordo, Alabama, that the weather was not frigid because of his battle with cystic fibrosis.

Colton’s dad, Rodney Woolbright, said his son was diagnosed with the malady just a few days after his birth.

“We deal with it the best way we can,” Rodney said. “They’re always making improvements with the medicine and treatments, and it’s all in God’s hands. He’s been doing real well lately. He’s had different bacteria growing in his lungs that we’ve had some tough battles with. But our pulmonologist and everybody at the hospital come up with the best treatment plans. It’s working right now.”

The elder Woolbright said they have to pick the days when it’s prudent for Colton to go hunting.

“We try not to hunt when the weather is bad,” Rodney said. “We’d rather stay at home for those two hours of hunting than be in the hospital for two weeks. We hunt when we get the opportunity and the weather cooperates when it’s not rainy and cold. We had to do the best we could during this hunt. We’ve had a lot of rain, but it’s been warm, and we made it work.”

Colton, 9, braved the intermittent downpours to bag a beautiful 10-point buck on the second day of the hunt.

“My guide spotted the buck behind us,” Colton said. “It came through some sedge. I tried to get him in my scope, but he kept on moving, so I put my scope to where he was moving to and shot him in the shoulder. He ran about 50 yards and he dropped. That was pretty cool.”

Rodney said a few deer had been spotted that morning but nothing his son wanted to shoot with his rifle loaded with a .300 Blackout cartridge.

“Then this deer came in on the back side of the blind,” Rodney said. “Our guide was looking out the back of the blind and saw the deer coming around. We got the gun out and got ready. Colton’s heart started pounding. We had to sit there and wait until the deer made its way around the blind. He finally showed up about 50 yards in front of the blind. Colton put the shot on him. Like Colton said, about 50 yards later, the buck just fell over.”

“We celebrated with a lot of high-fives,” Colton added.

One of the hunters from Alabama was able to take the first deer, a nice 8-point, of his hunting career. Copeland Spires of Prattville, Alabama, was on just his second deer hunt. His older brother, Taylor, got to witness the hunt.

“We had seen two deer before the buck came in at 4:30,” Spires said. “I got real excited and shot him. He was about 100 yards and made a good shot. The deer ran about 80 yards, so we had to go look for him. When we found him, we celebrated and took a lot of pictures.”

Spires is dealing with bronchiolitis obliterans, which has significantly limited his daily activities.

“He’s basically breathing off one lobe of one lung,” said his father Dan Spires. “It really limits what he does without his ventilator machine.”

The elder Spires said the Life Classic was a special time for Copeland, and he was happy that Taylor was there during the eventful hunt.

“For him to kill his first deer with his older brother – they have a special bond that I cannot explain,” Dan said. “It couldn’t have happened any better than to have his brother with him. It’s been a very blessed time.”

Included in the Life Classic were two Marines as part of the Hope for the Warriors program.

Staff Sergeant Jeremy Austin, who lost both legs to an IED (improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan, managed to bag two bucks during the event.

Austin spent 12 years in the Marine Corps and was on his second tour in Afghanistan when the Humvee he was in exploded.

“The truck took the brunt of the explosion and I got the rest,” he said. “My lower legs were destroyed in the blast. It fractured my pelvis, broke ribs, broke my elbow, knocked my teeth out and fractured two vertebrae. I got busted up pretty good.”

The amount of blood that Austin was given in the three days after the blast indicated how precarious his situation was.

“The human body holds 10 to 12 units of blood, depending on the size of the individual,” he said. “If you average that out to 11, the first day I got hurt I took 18 units of blood. The second day I took 12. The third day I took five. That’s three times the volume of blood the body holds. If you ask my momma, she says I was just too stubborn to die. I’m fortunate to be here. Donated blood and the Good Lord kept me here, so every day above dirt is a blessing. This has been a phenomenal experience to see these kids and all their smiles. I was fortunate, for a lack of a better term, to be an able-bodied individual for 28 years of my life. These kids know nothing different. It’ll humble even the most hardened souls to see these kids having the can-do attitude and wanting to get after it, hunting-wise.”

Even the biggest deer of Austin’s career, a huge 8-point, didn’t compare with the joy he saw on the kids’ faces, especially Jack Speegle of Tennessee, who took a big 12-point on the second day of the event.

“No disrespect to my buck or the guide and cameraman with me, but I was more excited to see Jack’s buck and seeing that big, ear-to-ear smile when he was telling that story over and over again,” Austin said. “That’s chicken soup for the soul.”

Austin said Sedgefields’ Jimmy Hinton was his guide on the hunt when he shot the big buck, and Hinton had hinted that the deer might respond when the heavier rain started to fall.

“We saw a few deer, and then when the rain got heavier, the deer just flooded into the field,” Austin said. “We saw eight bucks and four does. We saw another buck that had taller antlers, but he didn’t have the mass of my buck. This Sedgefields Plantation, they’ve got some healthy animals and plenty of them. This buck is definitely going on the wall. I shot an 8-pointer in Texas a few years ago, but this buck has such good mass. I’m going to have a mid-sneak mount to be able to see that thick neck he had. That’s part of the memory. You want to honor the animal as best you can. It’s a trophy, but it’s a trophy that brings that memory back. As hunters, that’s what we try to do, to remember the hunt and remember the people you met on a hunt like this.”

Buckmasters Founder and CEO Jackie Bushman said he will never complain about the weather as long as the hunters have success at the Life Classic.

“What’s clear to me is that Jimmy (Hinton) and his many volunteers have done a heck of a job to give these hunters the opportunity to take a buck of a lifetime despite the rain and 70-degree weather,” Bushman said. “A lot of these hunters walk up and thank me, but I thank them. It’s the best three days of my life every year. We already see what the kids are going through, but to watch what the parents have to do on a day-to-day basis to take care of these kids, that’s something you’ve got to admire. To watch these kids get their first deer or best deer, those smiles will never go away. We’ve been doing this for 25 or 26 years, and it just seems to get better.”

Go to http://buckmasters.com/resources/disabled-hunters/badf-life-hunts to find out more about the Buckmasters-sponsored hunts for hunters with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/physically-disabled-hunting-and-fishing-trail to discover the opportunities available on Alabama’s Hunting and Fishing Trail for People with Physical Disabilities.

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.

1 hour ago

Ivey issues ‘stay-at-home’ order for the state of Alabama effective Saturday afternoon

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey has issued a “stay-at-home” order for the state of Alabama as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths continue to rise.

The order is effective beginning Saturday, April 4, at 5:00 p.m. and will expire Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. CT.

Exceptions apply for essential activities and businesses.

The order can be read here.

An updated supplemental State of Emergency can be read here.


Ivey made the announcement at a press conference Friday at 4:00 p.m. CT alongside State Health Officer Scott Harris, Attorney General Steve Marshall and the Reverend Cromwell A. Handy of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Reporters were able to attend and ask questions live afterwards while following social distancing guidelines.

In a statement, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth said he supports the stay-at-home order.

“I agree with Gov. Ivey’s decision to issue a stay-at-home order throughout Alabama, and though many may find it inconvenient, her action is the best method of combatting and controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our cities, towns, and communities,” he said.

“Alabamians have always shown courage in a crisis, so at this critical time, the best way we can stand together is by staying apart,” Ainsworth concluded.

Ainsworth’s full statement can be read here.

Ivey said in her remarks that it became obvious to her Thursday afternoon that more must be done to flatten the curve.

The governor advised she was “convinced our previous efforts to reduce social interaction [had not been enough].”

“That’s why we are taking this more drastic step,” she added.

Ivey cited the jump in confirmed cases the state experienced Thursday, along with location data made available by news outlets, as sources of information she found relevant in making her decision.

“April stands to be very tough, and potentially very deadly,” warned Ivey.

The governor said that Alabama should expect a surge in hospitalizations that she estimates will peak in 2-3 weeks.

Harris noted the the models projecting caseload change every day.

Marshall said that intentionally violating the new order is a class-c misdemeanor.

Marshall urged law enforcement officers around the state to practice restraint in enforcing the order, only using criminal action if someone was endangering others.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 hours ago

Alabama’s budgets will face real issues post-coronavirus

Every American is fixated on the current coronavirus pandemic. It dominates local and national news, daily talk radio and Alabama’s major newspapers three days a week.

The Alabama political press is busy using this to accuse Governor Kay Ivey of wanting Alabamians to die because she hasn’t issued a “shelter-in-place” order. To their credit, usually, it’s Alabama’s budget cuts, low taxes, taxes on food, failure to expand Medicaid or abortion bans that are being used as an implement of murder by their target of the day, so give them credit for creativity.

If we as a state look past this healthcare issue and look at the damage it is already doing to the state’s economy, we will see a bunch of major issues on the horizon.

When State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) appeared on WVNN Friday morning, he talked about budgeting issues that will definitely be of major concern when the state is back open for business and the legislature resumes its budgeting process.


Orr, who has chaired both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund committees, said that the next legislative session will be a hard one with hard fiscal choices.

Planned pay raises for teachers and other state employees are gone. Orr noted that the budgets that are passed will be “level-funding” — or close to it — and hard choices will have to be made.

But that “pain” may be short-term, not that the reverberation of the coronavirus pandemic won’t last for years. There could be long-term issues as well.

The Retirement System of Alabama has long been a hot-button in this state.

Orr sounded the alarm on the viability of the system, saying, “The RSA is among, if not the most, highly exposed defined benefit, public defined benefit plan in the country to equities or to the stock market.”

He noted, “When the stock market has tanked 30 plus percent, RSA feels a much larger hit than other retirement funds. It’s going to be a concern.”

My takeaway:

With a defined benefit payout and few opportunities to increase revenue. the actuarial tables will take a beating as the stock market slides.

Most expect the market to rebound eventually, but Orr has been talking about the RSA’s vulnerabilities for years. And this will not help.

Even if you aren’t a beneficiary of the Retirement System of Alabama, you will still feel the impact if its finances continue to head south. Orr warned of a stark reality where “taxpayers will be ending up having to pay more for retirement for all the government employees.”

Obviously, no one is thinking about this right now, but we will be revisiting this in the very near future and the impact of this could go on for a very long time.


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

2 hours ago

Survey: 50% of small businesses cannot survive more than two months of coronavirus restrictions

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Center on Friday released its latest survey detailing the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on small businesses across the country.

The survey was conducted March 30 and utilized a random sampling of the organization’s 300,000 members. This garnered 1,172 usable responses, all small employers with 1-465 employees.

Unfortunately — but also unsurprisingly, the survey showed continued overall deterioration in the small business sector since the NFIB’s previous similar survey, which was conducted on March 20. A release from NFIB on Friday stated, “The severity of the outbreak and regulatory measures that cities and states are taking to control it are having a devastating impact on small businesses.”

In the latest survey, 92% of small employers said they are negatively impacted by the pandemic, up from 76% saying the same just 10 days prior.


The latest survey also showed 3% of small employees answering that they are positively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. NFIB explained that these select firms are likely experiencing stronger sales due to a sharp rise in demand for certain products, goods and services. That effect will likely wane in the coming weeks as consumers feel more secure about their personal supply levels, NFIB added.

State-specific survey data was unavailable, but NFIB Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash said in a statement, “Without a doubt, the coronavirus has taken a tremendous toll on Alabama’s small businesses. Our members are determined to get through this, and they’re working to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans and other forms of financial relief so they can avoid layoffs and having to close the doors for good.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) noted, “We have organized an Emergency Small Business Task Force to identify problems our businesses are facing during this difficult time. We need to bring clarity to issues and government orders that are often confusing and to effectively communicate solutions and direct business owners to resources that can help. NFIB is an indispensable member helping to guide this task force.”

RELATED: State Rep. Whitt on coronavirus restrictions: ‘Our small businesses are getting destroyed’

Among negatively impacted small employers in the NFIB survey, 80% reported slower sales, 31% reported experiencing supply chain disruptions and 23% reported concerns over sick employees.

One other major point in the survey pertained to how long can small businesses can continue to operate under current conditions.

With the pandemic projected to continue for weeks, it is especially concerning that approximately half of small employers said they can survive for no more than two months. About 15% of small employers responded that they cannot last even another month.

Mitigation is ongoing, however. Due to escalating financial stress on the sector, more small businesses are now talking with their bank about financing needs than was the case 10 days ago. Approximately 29% of small employers have talked with someone at their bank or with the Small Business Administration (SBA) about finance options, and another 23% are planning to do so soon. A total of 38% of small employers have not, and do not, intend to do so, per NFIB’s survey.

Read the full survey here.

RELATED: University of Alabama program helps connect small businesses with federal relief funds

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

3 hours ago

Alabama automakers lend a helping hand in COVID-19 battle

Alabama automakers are stepping in to aid their communities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, including support of crucial testing services and production of protective face shields for healthcare workers.

Toyota’s Huntsville engine factory is producing 7,500 protective face shields for local hospitals.

In addition, the plant has donated 160 safety glasses to local hospitals, along with $25,000 to the United Way of Madison County to support COVID-19 relief efforts.


“With our plant idled, Toyota Alabama is eager to contribute our expertise and know-how to help quickly bring to market the equipment needed to combat COVID-19,” the company said in a statement today.

Similar efforts are also happening at Toyota facilities nationwide.

Other Alabama automakers are offering community support as well.

Hyundai Motor America and its Hyundai Hope On Wheels program have donated $200,000 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to help expand community testing efforts.

The grant will support the existing drive-through testing site in downtown Birmingham and help other sites in Jefferson County provide much-needed screening, said UAB Medicine CEO Will Ferniany.

“Support like this gift from Hyundai Hope On Wheels helps our frontline medical staff understand that they are not alone in this fight,” he said. “This grant will help further UAB’s commitment to providing access to communitywide testing.”

The grant will also be used to expand access for pediatric-specific testing services. About 20 percent of the downtown testing site’s patient population is age 25 and under, and officials from UAB Medicine, the UAB Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Alabama hope to continue to expand testing for this group.

Nationwide, Hyundai is donating $2.2 million to support drive-thru testing centers at 11 children’s hospitals throughout the U.S.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels supports families facing pediatric cancer, and the company said the pandemic is a particular risk to children with cancer who have compromised immune systems.

Hyundai operates an auto assembly plant in Montgomery, which has been idled amid the outbreak, as have other auto assembly plants in the state.

Honda’s plants across the U.S. are also helping out during the crisis, including its factory in Talladega County.

Honda has pledged $1 million to food banks and meal programs across North America. Plants also are donating equipment, including N95 face masks, to healthcare providers, deploying 3-D printers to manufacture visors for face shields and investigating ways to partner with other companies in producing equipment.

In Tuscaloosa County, the Mercedes-Benz plant has donated N100 reusable filters,  protective suits and other supplies to local hospitals, as well as $5,000 to the DCH Foundation to help with the hospital’s curbside testing process.

Mercedes is also working with the Alabama Department of Commerce on ways the company or its supplier network can support making parts for the medical industry, and it is providing expertise to other manufacturers that are producing healthcare supplies.

The automaker also hosted a LifeSouth community blood drive that received about 95 donors.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 hours ago

Birmingham nonprofit aims to feed medical workers with food from local restaurants

A new charitable effort has sprung up in Birmingham that aims to help two of the groups hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak: health care workers and local restaurants.

The initiative is called CareHealth and the premise is that the group will use donated money to buy food from locally-owned restaurants and then it will give those meals to hardworking health care professionals across the Magic City.

CareHealth is a project from Urban Avenues, a collaborative coalition of charitable organizations that focuses on improving the City of Birmingham.


So far, the initiative has partnered with local favorites like Saw’s BBQ, Eugene’s Hot Chicken and Crestline Bagel to provide meals across Birmingham’s health care system.

According to a release, CareHealth has delivered 1,700 meals in its first week and supported 15 restaurants in doing so.

The meals are delivered by volunteers, who receive training and equipment that keeps them and their deliveries safe from contamination.

“CareHealth offers a double dividend for every dollar invested. Health care providers get meals amidst their battle and the light stays on for our food community due to the good people that are investing,” said John Lankford, founder of Urban Avenues.

Those interested in donating to CareHealth, requesting a meal or getting involved in the project can do so at the Urban Avenues website.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.