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Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF)
Outdoor Report

Managing and Conserving Our Wildlife and Natural Resources

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

VDGIF is an agency of the Virginia Secretariat of Natural Resources
In this edition:
  • Wild Turkey Release Demonstrates Success Story
  • Governor Lifts Statewide Ban on Open Burning - Local Restrictions May Still Apply, Caution is Urged
  • Hunters - Did You Remember To...
    • Successful Hunt Is More Than You Think
    • Have You Checked - Rechecked Your Batteries?
    • Do You Have ICE on Your Cell Phone?
  • People and Partners in the News
    • QDMA Offers Youth Deer Hunt - Entry Deadline November 30
    • Manslaughter Charge Dismissed Against Conservation Police Officer
    • Multi-State Investigation Uncovers Illegal Trade in Foxes and Coyotes
    • 2008 Virginia Wildlife Calendar Great Gift Idea!
    • New! 2007 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife
  • Be Safe... Have Fun!
    • What You Need to Know About E-10 Ethanol Fuel and Winter Boat Layup
  • Virginia Conservation Police Notebook
    • Field reports from officers protecting natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation
  • Fishin' Report
    • Freeman Wins Bass Federation National Championship
    • Draw-Down at Lake Shenandoah
  • In Case You Missed It...
    • Links to recent articles of on-going interest

Wild Turkey Release Demonstrates Success Story

The James City County Freedom Park near Jamestown was the site for an educational release of 15 wild turkeys November 20, 2007. More than 150 local fourth grade students, teachers, parents and reporters watched the wild turkeys fly to new habitat. The event was hosted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to demonstrate how wildlife managers nationwide have successfully restored wild turkey populations and continue to keep them healthy through active management and research.

In the 1930s, wild turkey numbers were at an all-time low of 30,000 throughout North America. Because of state wildlife agency restoration efforts, the wild turkey population was on the rebound. When the NWTF was founded in 1973, the organization accelerated those efforts through the purchase of trapping equipment and transfer boxes, and through the help of its volunteers.

VDGIF Wildlife Division Director Bob Duncan noted, "In Virginia, large-scale wild turkey restoration began in 1961, when the state's wild turkey population was at a very low level. Today, numbers have increased dramatically to an estimated 130,000 to 150,000. Initial restoration efforts involved the release of pen-raised wild turkeys, but quickly proved fruitless because pen-raised birds did not have the necessary skills to survive in the wild. Thanks to the development of the cannon and rocket nets, wildlife managers began catching wild birds and moving them into suitable areas to start new populations. We are proud of our record of success in cooperation with sportsmen's groups like NWTF as we continue to manage and enjoy healthy populations of this magnificent bird"

Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant, VDGIF Director Carlton Courter, VDGIF wildlife managers and NWTF staff and local member volunteers taught the students through various presentations about the wild turkey and the importance of conserving our wildlife resources, managing habitat and passing along our hunting traditions. The students took turns up close learning about the turkey's features that help it survive in the wild - like powerful legs and wings, keen eyesight, camouflage pattern of feathers and special calls they make to communicate. They were able to handle the birds and assist the wildlife managers with the release into the wooded park. Many students were amazed at how powerful the turkeys were and how swiftly they ran and flew up into the trees.

Because of the tireless efforts of state wildlife management agencies, the NWTF and thousands of volunteers, more than 192,000 wild turkeys have been transferred since the 1970s to restore turkey populations across the nation. There are now more than 7 million wild turkeys throughout North America. This live natural history lesson near Jamestown gave these students something to talk about over Thanksgiving... they got to see live wild turkeys up close and learn of their importance to past and future generations.

Governor Lifts Statewide Ban on Open Burning

Local Restrictions May Still Apply, Caution is Urged

Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced November 15, 2007, that the statewide ban on open burning has been lifted. The ban was instituted October 19, 2007, when weather conditions across the Commonwealth pushed the drought and wildland fire indices into the dangerous range. Local burning restrictions may still apply, and anyone planning to burn should check with their local fire department and/or fire marshal's office before proceeding.

"The statewide ban on open burning helped reduce the immediate threat to citizens and their property," Governor Kaine said. "Without the ban, we could have had as many as 1,500 wildfires during the six-week fall fire season. Instead, we've had 118 fires that burned a total of 855 acres." Forestry officials stress that lifting the burn ban does not mean the threat of wildfire is gone. "As the leaves fall and dry, windy weather conditions continue, our wildfire risk will increase," said State Forester Carl E. Garrison III. "Anyone planning to burn should take all necessary precautions; make sure no local restrictions are in effect, and check the weather conditions before burning." Garrison added, "We know it was a hardship for many landowners, campers, hunters, scout troops, festival-goers and others who rely on open-air fires each fall. We very much appreciate their understanding and cooperation during the statewide burn ban."

VDGIF also lifted the ban on outdoor fires on Department-owned lands. VDGIF Wildlife Division Assistant Director Rick Busch commented that, "hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers will now be able to build fires using wood, charcoal or coal for cooking or warming. Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts are still advised to use caution while recreating outdoors and do everything possible to prevent wildfires." Everyone is encouraged to be watchful and to report any sign of wildfire on Department lands to the VDGIF Law Enforcement Dispatch at (804) 367-1258.

Tips on how to reduce the danger of an open-air fire escaping may be found at www.dof.virginia.gov.

Hunters - Did You Remember To...

The following notes are quick reminders of things you may have overlooked in your efforts to get ready for hunting season. Most of these notes are reported from numerous calls we received recently at our information desk or experienced afield.

Successful Hunt is More Than You Think

Have you had a successful deer hunting season so far? You read over the new regs, sighted in your gun, double checked your equipment, scouted your hunting area, and reminded everyone you hunt with about basic safety precautions. So far, so good. When you went afield you were patient and didn't fall asleep (too long zzzzzz) at your stand. Then, rewarded by all your preparation, you made a great shot and harvested a deer. Well, you're still not completely successful yet! Proper preparation of that venison is now just as important for complete success as the effort leading up to that great shot. Whether you plan to butcher the deer yourself, take it to a meat processor, or share it with someone, here are some basic tips gleaned from a lot of experience and advice from "old timers" to complete your hunt.

  1. Field dress and cool down ASAP. If cold - below 40 degrees - after field dressing, a deer can hang for several days to chill the meat. If temperatures are getting above 40 degrees, you need to skin and cut up into manageable pieces: shoulders, hind quarters, loins, "scraps" for burger, jerky, or stew and place in open plastic bags and ice down these bagged pieces, or place in a refrigerator. Refrigerating a deer can be as simple as four or five bags of ice and an insulating blanket or tarp and cardboard box. The meat also handles much easier when chilled.
  2. Cleanliness is important for maintaining both the taste and quality. Use paper towels to blot up stray hair or leaves and grime from the field. Cut away and discard any bloody tissue. Trim off visible fat and any sinew, the shiny "silvery" lining on the outside. A fillet knife works well for this process. Wash debris off meat pieces and pat dry excess water before cooling.
  3. Plan what type of cuts you are going to process: steaks, roasts, burger, sausage, jerky, etc. If inexperienced at all this, ask for suggestions and advice from fellow experienced hunters - you don't want to mess up now. We also recommend purchasing the VDGIF video, "A Professional Guide to Field Dressing, Skinning and Butchering White-Tailed Deer" which gives step by step instructions on how to field dress a deer as demonstrated by VDGIF Wildlife Biologist Ron Hughes. The video also features professional butcher and Hunter Education instructor Rob Bingel who demonstrates how to cape out a deer for mounting and details how to de-bone and professionally butcher a deer using only a knife and a hacksaw. You can order by telephone or online.
  4. Before freezing your cuts, be sure all air is sealed out. Freezer burn and reduced shelf life will result if you don't. A vacuum sealer works best, but good-quality freezer paper also does an excellent job of preserving meat. Plastic freezer bags are also convenient and easy as long as you squeeze all the air out. Properly processed, venison should last at least a year in the freezer.
  5. Now you've had a successful hunt. If you are fortunate to harvest more deer than what you can use and really want to do a little extra, donate your deer to a local processor who handles deer for Hunters for the Hungry. A list of processors can be found on the Hunters for the Hungry Web site. Also consider paying the $30 processing fee to help offset processing expenses. Another option is to ask the processor to set aside several packages of any deer they process for you for donating to Hunters for the Hungry. Every donation helps whether it's cash or venison and helps show that sportsmen do positive things in their communities. Now we all can be proud of a successful hunt!

Look in the December 12 edition of the Outdoor Report for an update on how close Hunters for the Hungry is to their 2007 goal of 360,000 pounds of meat and sufficient funds to pay for processing. Contribute what you can so donations by hunters from the woodlands of Virginia will be on supper tables of families in need.

Have you Checked - Rechecked Your Batteries?

If you made it through the first week without finding (usually at the most critical time) that your batteries in your flashlight, radio, camera, GPS, 'fill in the blank' gadget died... check and replace with fresh batteries before going out again. A battery meter to check power levels is a great gift idea!

Do You Have ICE on Your Cell Phone?

No, not the frozen stuff. Most outdoor enthusiasts carry a cell phone with them on their outings. They are a great safety item. But what if you are injured and cannot operate your phone to communicate? Emergency responders remind you that for safety purposes you should enter the numbers of at least two people that can be contacted In Case of Emergency (ICE). Program the numbers in your phone under ICE, so if you are injured and unable to communicate with rescuers, they can use your cell phone ICE numbers to contact a friend or family member about your situation. Do this for all your cell phones in the family.

People and Partners in the News

QDMA Offers Youth Deer Hunt - Entry Deadline November 30

The Central Virginia Chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is holding its Second Annual Youth Hunt on December 15, 2007, at the Luck Stone corporate land in New Kent County. Youth must be age 15 or younger and have a Hunter Education Certificate. Only shotguns with buckshot may be used. To apply, submit hunters name, birth date and brief statement ABOUT why the applicant feels he or she should be chosen to participate. The name, address, daytime and evening telephone number and email address of the parent or legal guardian who will attend with the child. To enter, send a fax or email of 100 words or less to: email QDMA@de-technic.com or fax (804) 262-3043. Deadline for entry is November 30.

Manslaughter Charge Dismissed Against Conservation Police Officer

The charge of voluntary manslaughter against Conservation Police Officer Robert O. Ham, III, was dismissed November 20, 2007, by Greene County Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Bouton. Officer Ham, with the Law Enforcement Division of VDGIF, had been charged with voluntary manslaughter following a shooting incident that occurred in January when he was assisting deputies with the Greene County Sheriff's Office. Ham was assisting the Greene County Sheriff's Office responding to an alert for an "endangered missing juvenile" female who may have been abducted by a juvenile male who was "possibly armed" and had "made threats to multiple individuals."

The incident was investigated by the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. An internal administrative investigation was conducted by VDGIF.

According to Colonel Mike Bise, Chief of VDGIF's Law Enforcement Division, "Our administrative investigation determined that our officer acted appropriately. It was an unfortunate and tragic event, but we have been confident the court would reach this decision."

Virginia conservation police officers, previously called game wardens, have full police authority but focus on enforcing the Commonwealth's wildlife and boating laws. Typically, one officer is assigned to work a county or city, but in some cases there may be more than one assigned to a jurisdiction depending on the needs of that community. Officers provide backup and assist each other in adjacent counties within their work area. Frequently, conservation police officers work with local law enforcement providing support for manhunts, search and rescue, and other enforcement efforts.

Multi-state Investigation Uncovers Illegal Trade in Foxes and Coyotes

A multi-state covert investigation involving the illegal buying, selling, possession and transportation of foxes and coyotes is unfolding with arrests being made across the Southeast and Midwest. In Virginia, Conservation Police Officers with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) have conducted a statewide inspection of 41 foxhound training facilities, shutting down 35 for violations of their permits. Charges are pending.

The investigation in Virginia began in 2006. VDGIF covert agents soon realized that the scope of the criminal activity reached far beyond the Commonwealth's borders. Foxes and coyotes were apparently trapped and sold in western states and illegally transported to Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia for use in foxhound training facilities. VDGIF covert agents infiltrated the illegal interstate market, buying and selling foxes and coyotes and gaining access to foxhound training facilities.

Foxhound training facilities are used for training dogs on pursuing foxes and in evaluating that training. In Virginia, the permits were established in 1996 in an attempt to regulate these fenced enclosures. VDGIF issues the permits and conducts inspections of the sites. The permits require that foxes be provided with adequate shelter, food, water, and escape dens beyond the reach of dogs being trained in the facilities and that operators maintain documentation on the foxes used in the facility and other records.

VDGIF Chief of Law Enforcement, Col. Mike Bise, said, "We had long suspected that permits were being violated, but it took some time to gather sufficient evidence to launch a full-scale investigation. Once we got in, we saw that the problem was more serious and more widespread than suspected. Some of the closures were for minor violations, but others may result in criminal charges." Investigators found that careless management of the fox hunting operations was leading to animal deaths, and the capture of more wild animals. The investigation is continuing.

VDGIF Chairman James W. Hazel commented, "I have been impressed with the hard work of our covert agents and conservation police officers in conducting this investigation. From what I learned, this is a closed society with access to the facilities limited to a very few people. Even the dog owners are often not allowed inside where their dogs are training or being scored." Hazel continued, "After being briefed on this case, I am deeply concerned about what may be going on inside some of these sites. Let me be clear that the activities inside these fenced enclosures are outside of traditional hunting."

2008 Virginia Wildlife Calendar Great Gift Idea!

It's time to purchase the new 2008 Virginia Wildlife Calendar. For more than 20 years the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has been publishing one of the most informative and beautiful wildlife calendars in the country. This special edition of the Virginia Wildlife Calendar highlights 12 of the 925 species of greatest conservation need identified in the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan. This comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy unites natural resource agencies and citizens through a common vision and concept for the conservation of the Commonwealth's wildlife and habitats in which they live.

An important component of the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan is participation of citizens from around the state to get involved with wildlife conservation efforts. By purchasing the new 2008 Virginia Wildlife Calendar you not only get 12 months of incredible wildlife viewing, but you also take that first step in helping to bring awareness to important wildlife issues facing our state.

Virginia Wildlife Calendars make great holiday gifts and are only $10 each. They begin with January 2008 and run through December 2008. Quantities are limited, so order now! Please allow 1-2 weeks for delivery.

New! 2007 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife

The VDGIF 2007 Collector's knife has been customized by Buck Knives. This classic model 110 folding knife is 8-" long when fully opened and has a distinctive, natural woodgrain handle with gold lettering. Each knife is individually serial numbered and has a mirror polished blade engraved with a fox. Our custom knife comes in a solid cherry box with a collage of foxes engraved on the box cover.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

What You Need To Know About E-10 Ethanol Fuel And Winter Boat Layup

Last year recreational boaters in most parts of the country were introduced to gasoline containing higher concentrations of ethanol, a corn-based additive that replaced a known carcinogen, MTBE. The new fuel, dubbed "E-10" for its 10% ethanol content, unfortunately has the ability to attract greater amounts of water and "phase separate," or form two separate solutions in the gas tank, usually over a long period of time. Once this happens, the engine may not run and internal damage can occur.

With the lengthy winter lay up period again upon us, many boaters and anglers are asking how they can avoid winter fuel problems. BoatUS has these recommendations, some of which were gleaned from Midwestern marina owners where E-10 has been in use for over a decade:

The best practical recommendation is to continue to top off a boat's fuel tanks to about 95% full, leaving room for expansion. A tank that is almost full limits the flow of air into and out of the vent, which reduces the chance of condensation adding water to the fuel. Anglers who fish over the winter should also top off their boat's gasoline tanks between outings to prevent condensation.

Note that some mechanics mistakenly advise that leaving a tank partially filled allows you to "freshen" the old fuel by topping off the tank in the spring. Leaving a tank partially filled with E-10 invites phase separation, which cannot be remedied by adding fresh gasoline. Once E-10 phase separates, the water will remain at the bottom of the tank. Midwest marina owners report that phase separation typically occurs when boats were stored with tanks only one-quarter to one-half full.

Draining fuel tanks of E-10 gas, while completely eliminating any chances of phase separation, is potentially dangerous and not recommended. Once phase separation occurs in E-10 gasoline, additives and water separators can't help. The only remedy is to have the gas and ethanol/water professionally removed from the tank.

Ethanol is known to chemically react with fiberglass fuel tanks, which can cause them to deteriorate and potentially fail. This is most common with tanks built before the mid-1980s. Unless your boat's manufacturer can confirm that your tank was built to withstand ethanol, the only remedy is to not use E-10 gas (which may not be possible) or to replace the tank with a non-reactive material such as aluminum. While ethanol does attract moisture, never try to plug up a fuel tank vent to prevent moist air from entering a tank. Without room to expand, the additional pressure could rupture fuel system components. With any fuel that sits in a tank for a long time, it's important to add a stabilizer. But understand that stabilizers do not prevent phase separation.

For more boating safety information visit the BoatUS Web site: www.boatus.com.

Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

The "Virginia Conservation Police Notebook" provides an overview of the variety of activities encountered by our officers, previously called game wardens, who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. The Notebook entries are listed by Region.

Region 4 - Mountain & Valley

Muzzleloader accident fatal for hunter. On November 10, the first day of the early muzzleloader season west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Conservation Police Officers William Angle, Tosh Barnette, Michael Entsminger, Lisa Rhudy and Sgt. Jerry Jones responded to the report of a hunting fatality in the Lake Moomaw Area on Department land in Bath County. Upon arrival, it was confirmed the shooting victim was a 36-year-old Bath County resident who was allegedly mistaken for a game animal. Officer Entsminger was the primary investigator of the hunting fatality incident. He was assisted by other officers and Hunter Education Specialist Kris Dougherty and Sgt. Steve Bullman. The shooter remained at the scene and the investigation is continuing with charges pending. Hunters are reminded to follow safe handling and shooting rules for their own safety and others.

  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded;
  • Control the direction of your muzzle, only pointing at what you intend to shoot; and
  • Before shooting, clearly identify your game and what is beyond.

For more information contact Lt. Kevin Clarke (540) 248-9360.

Region 1 - Tidewater

Hunting and alcohol dangerous and costly mix... On the evening of November 11, Conservation Police Officer Frank Spuchesi was following up on a trespass complaint in King George County. While patrolling the area, Officer Spuchesi encountered two hunters returning to their vehicle. Upon conducting a compliance license check Officer Spuchesi detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from one of the hunters. Officer Spuchesi conducted several field sobriety tests, which the suspect failed. A preliminary breath test was administered. The suspect was arrested for hunting under the influence and transported to the King George County Sheriff's Office. For more information, contact Lt. Ken Conger (804) 829-6580.

Region 2 - Southside

Spotlighters caught in pack of lies, face numerous charges. On the night of November 17, Conservation Police Officers were en route to patrol campsites in the National Forest area of Craig County for game violations. While en route to the camp sites, Officer John Koloda, Officer Greg Funkhouser, and Sgt. Bryan Young observed tail lights from a vehicle on the road a short distance in front of them. They observed a passenger in an SUV shining a flashlight into the woods as they rode down the road. The officers stopped the vehicle and found three subjects in the vehicle with fresh blood on their hands, boots, and clothes. Three firearms were also visible in plain view. When asked what they were doing, the passenger shining the flashlight stated they were looking for a lost hunter. When questioned regarding the blood, the passenger in the back seat stated they had been tracking a deer and had gotten some of the blood on them, but they were unable to locate the deer. After some more serious interviewing, all three subjects admitted they were spotlighting deer when the officers stopped them. The passengers stated they had killed two antlerless deer that evening by mistake (no either sex season there) and all three men helped cut the deer up and load them into the vehicle. When checking their licenses it was determined the license was improper since he had never attended a Hunter Education class or had a hunting license before this year. The suspects faced 19 charges including: Spotlight deer by aid of lights; Reckless handling of a Firearm; Take deer during closed season; Fail to check deer; Fail to notch tags; Hunt from a vehicle; Hunt without valid licenses; Unlawfully possess/transport illegal deer. For more information contact Lt. Tony Fisher (434) 525-7522.

Region 3 - Southwest

Tip leads to arrest for killing deer over bait. On November 8, Officer Jason Harris and Sergeant Scott Naff responded to a complaint of a 12-point buck and an eight-point buck being killed that day with a rifle. Upon arriving at the suspect's residence a "skinning pole" was observed and there was fresh blood underneath. The suspect was contacted and interviewed. The suspect subsequently provided the officers with the 12-point antlers and cape and admitted to killing it over bait that day with a crossbow while in possession of a firearm. The suspect also provided the officers with two eight-point sets of antlers, one with a cape; a three-point set of antlers with a cape; two sets of turkey fans, beards, and spurs; a video of the suspect and his friends and relatives hunting over bait and with some of the aforementioned antlers; and numerous photos of the illegal deer. All of these deer and turkeys were killed over bait as well. The hunting stand was located and it was very well baited with corn, apples, and salt. The suspect also implicated his friend who had killed a doe and an eight-point buck over bait that had not been checked-in, and had been transported across the state line to NC. For more information contact Lt. Rex Hill (276) 783-4860.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Poacher and landowner both arrested for hunting over bait. On October 12, Officer Lenny Anderson received information regarding an individual hunting illegally. Officer Anderson and Ryan Shuler met with the landowner and gathered information on the suspect and walked the area in which he hunted to locate his stand. Vehicles needed to be parked a mile away to walk into the property without being seen on the road by the suspect. Taking a back way through the woods, Officer Anderson found a baited tree stand on another piece of property. On October 16, Officer Anderson located the suspect from the original complaint hunting with a muzzleloader during archery season. He was arrested for no hunting license, hunting during closed season, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On November 3, Officer Anderson returned to the baited tree stand and found a hunter in the stand, he admitted to hunting over bait and said that the property was not his and he didn't put the bait out. He was charged for hunting over bait. Officer Anderson went to the owner's residence to inform him that he needed to remove the bait. During the conversation with the landowner, Officer Anderson asked if he had hunted out of the stand and the landowner said that he had not. Officer Anderson gave the landowner his card and asked him to call when the bait was removed to be re-inspected. Officer Anderson told the landowner that he was going to remove the camera he had placed over the site and if anyone was seen on the camera he was going to charge them for each time they occupied the stand unless they came forward and provided a written statement for hunting over bait. Officer Anderson told the landowner that since he had not hunted out of the stand he had nothing to worry about. On November 10, the landowner called Officer Anderson and said that he had prepared a written statement admitting to hunting over the bait . A warrant was obtained for the landowner. For more information contact Lt. John J. Cobb (540) 899-4169.

If you suspect or witness a violation, report it to the Wildlife Crimeline at 1-800-237-5712.

Don't let the actions of a few outlaws tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen!

Fishin' Report

Anglers throughout Virginia and neighboring states want to know "how are the fish bitin'?" To provide some answers, more than 25 license agents, marinas, fishing guides and bait shops have volunteered to serve as contacts for information on recent fishing conditions for primary rivers and lakes throughout the state. Sarah White, outdoor writer and regular contributor to Virginia Wildlife magazine, prepares this Fishin' Report from interviews with these contacts the week prior to publication of the Outdoor Report.

The Fishin' Report is only available as part of your free subscription to the Outdoor Report.

The rivers and lakes featured in the Fishin' Report are listed by VDGIF Administrative Regions so you can quickly locate the area in which you are most interested. Consult the regional location map to find the major river or lake you want to know about.

For regulations and conditions on saltwater fishing, visit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Web site.

Reporter's Notes...

Sarah is traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays so there are no local reports. The Reports will resume in the December 12 edition. Congratulations to Jeff Freeman, from Max Meadows on his recent BASS Federation National Championship. Here's his story and photo courtesy of The Fishing Wire Report and Bassmaster.com.

Freeman Wins Bass Federation National Championship

Jeff Freeman, a deputy sheriff from Max Meadows, Virginia, locked up the BASS Federation National Championship in Kissimmee, Florida, November 10, 2007 with a three-day total of 27 pounds, 11 ounces, outlasting a field of 55 amateurs and earning a coveted berth in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, February 22-24 on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, South Carolina.

"It's nice to see a cop finally win," Freeman, 35, said. "I'm so fired up right now, it's hard to put into words. I love the competition and to be able to go to the Classic is the pinnacle of the sport. "Freeman not only punched his ticket to the Classic through the Mid-Atlantic Division, he won a Triton boat package valued at $50,000 and an invitation to the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Fishing near the first lock from the launch area on expansive Lake Tohopekaliga, Freeman drop-shotted a Roboworm into precise spots. He rotated through the area, allowing each to replenish while hitting the others. He said he found his winning spot by accident: While he was waiting to lock through during the official practice period, he had some time to kill, so he started fishing the area. He caught a few bass and decided to leave the area alone until competition time. He said 13 of his 15 weighed-in fish were plucked from the honey hole.

The BASS win was Freeman's second. His first was in June as a co-angler at a Bassmaster Elite Series event on Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, Va., where he once used his police privileges to put a scare into Elite pro Kelly Jordon. "I pulled over Kelly in Virginia a few years ago," Freeman said. "He asked what he did wrong. I told him he did nothing wrong. I just wanted an autograph."

Freeman, a longtime fan of professional bass fishing, is excited he will be able to view himself when coverage airs of the premier amateur championship on The Bassmasters on ESPN2 Saturday, Feb. 16, at 9 a.m. ET.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years. BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, FL.

Media Contact: Bass Communications (407) 566-2208

Draw-Down At Lake Shenandoah

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries plans to lower the water level of Lake Shenandoah in Rockingham County starting in late November. The 36 acre state owned reservoir is a popular destination for anglers and boaters in the Harrisonburg area. Two embayments of the lake have filled with sediment over the years and no longer provide adequate fish habitat. In order to determine the feasibility of renovating the lake, the Department needs to lower the lake level approximately 3-5 feet. Once the exposed sediments have dried and the Department has conducted its assessment, the water level will be returned to full-pool. Refilling the reservoir will depend upon precipitation. The Department anticipates that the lake will be back to full pool by late winter prior to the beginning of fishing season.

While the lake level is lowered the boat ramp in the parking area will be closed to launching boats. Angler access from the shoreline at the South end of the lake will also be affected. Anglers wishing to fish the lake during the draw-down period will have to focus on the North end of the reservoir near the dam. In 2007 aquatic vegetation took over the shallow areas of the lake and this winter draw-down should help minimize the vegetation in 2008. The bluegill and black crappie populations in Lake Shenandoah have been "stunted" for many years. There are high numbers of these species, but their growth rates are slow and very few are reaching desirable sizes. An additional benefit of this winter draw-down will place these smaller sunfish in closer proximity to predators and should help restructure the sunfish and crappie population to larger and faster-growing individuals. Questions concerning the winter draw-down at Lake Shenandoah should be directed to Stephen Reeser, DGIF District Fisheries Biologist, in Verona at (540) 248-9360.

Got Tips?
Got Tricks?
Adventure Stories?
The one that got away?
The one that didn't?

email your material to
and it might get used in the Fishin' Report!

In Case You Missed It...

Editor's note: With numerous new subscribers each issue, we realize that some of the seasonal features are important and timely enough to bear repeating. So readers can easily review these seasonal items, we have retained the headlines and information links in this section "In case you missed it..."

We hope you enjoy the new, electronic Outdoor Report and invite you to share this information with your friends and colleagues. Simply visit the Department's Web site and click on the Outdoor Report link to subscribe. New editions are sent directly to your email address the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Stay informed on issues and opportunities about Virginia's outdoors!

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for:

  • Holiday Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts
  • New Educational Wild Turkey Video Available Online
  • Update on Hunters for the Hungry
Barn owl. Artwork copyright Spike Knuth.

Barn Owl
(Tyto alba pratincola)
by Spike Knuth

The barn owl is a bird of open country; croplands, meadows, fencerows, and dry marshes. It is sometimes called the monkey-faced owl because of its long, heart-shaped facial discs that resemble a monkey's face. This slim, long-legged bird has a relatively oversized head, and flies with deep, loose or erratic wing beats, and wavers from side to side as it flies. It is a secretive bird, and is active almost exclusively at night.

Barn owls are 15 to 21 inches in length with a wing span of 43 to 47 inches. Their under-parts are white or buffy, with cinnamon, buff, and mottled gray upper parts all in a finely marked, delicate pattern including small spots. Their plumage is soft, including the edges of their flight feathers which allows for nearly silent flight.

Barn owls nest in a variety of buildings, under bridges, church steeples, caves, mine shafts, or other man-made structures. They also nest in large tree cavities and will use man-made nesting boxes to some extent. About 5 eggs are laid and once hatched; the young require prodigious amounts of food. Adults eat their own weight in food each day so with the added consumption by the young, that means a lot of rodents are caught and consumed. Often they need to hunt even on cloudy days to meet the needs of the young. Their main foods are small rodents of all kinds; mice, voles, rats, and shrews, and large insects. This makes the barn owl a very desirable species to have around. Indigestible parts of its food are ejected as pellets.

It's been found that while they have excellent eyesight, barn owls hunt mainly by sound. They have long, vertical ear slits with asymmetrical openings allowing them to pinpoint sounds. While they have a narrow field of vision, like other owls they can rotate their head to compensate for it.

It is a vulnerable species due in part to diminishing grasslands, from where it gets its favored food - meadow voles, and the loss of its traditional nesting places of barns and other old wooden structures. Barn owls are not migratory but will wander southward in winter and in some cases move northward in summer and fall.


This section of each issue of the Outdoor Report features one of the 925 animals that have been identified in Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan whose existence is at risk.

Think you can't make a difference? You can! Be wild and work with your local officials and in your local communities to conserve Virginia's wildlife resources. Find out how you can help and join our team!

The artwork used to enhance this publication is produced by award-winning Virginia artist Carl "Spike" Knuth. He is currently retired from VDGIF and continues to be active in numerous activities contributing to wildlife conservation, information and education through his artwork and writing. We appreciate his continued service and support through his exceptional talent for both illustrations and writing. Spike's artwork can be seen at the Jager Gallery, 6939 Lakeside Avenue, in Richmond.

December 2007
1 Basic Fly Fishing (PDF), Chesapeake. Contact Bill Campbell at (757) 635-6522 or tu389-bwills@cox.net.
8 Educational Rabbit Hunting Workshop, Bedford. Contact Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656.
24 Christmas Eve - State Offices Closed
25 Merry Christmas!
29 Educational Youth Waterfowl Hunting Workshop, Essex. Contact Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656 or jimmy.mootz@dgif.virginia.gov.
31 New Year's Eve - State Offices Closed
January 2008
1 Happy New Year!
3-5 Nation's Outdoor Sportsmen's Show, Dulles Expo Center
We have opportunities for the public to join us as volunteers in our Complementary Work Force Program. If you are interested in devoting your time and talents, apply here.

Opportunities will be posted regularly providing descriptions of available volunteer positions.

The Department offers numerous hunting, fishing, and outdoor education programs designed for families, women, beginners and seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
Visit Find Game, the Department's award-winning online public hunting lands locator!

For persons with disabilities: a calendar of hunting, fishing, and skill-building events, as well as areas designed for access to persons with disabilities can be found on the Department's online events calendar, accessible fishing areas page, as well as the VANWTF site.

Find out where to fish, fishing access, and much more at the Department's Web site.


The following is a partial list of upcoming seasons starting in September and October for the more popular species. For a complete list and regulations consult the 2007-08 Hunting & Trapping Regulations and Information.

Beginning in September 2007
Crow: through March 15 Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday only.
Squirrel: Sept. 1 - Jan. 31
Beginning in October 2007
Snipe: Oct. 22 - Jan. 31
Duck, Merganser, Coot, Gallinules, & Moorhen: Oct. 4 - 8
Opossum: Oct. 15 - Mar. 10
Raccoon: Oct. 15 - Mar. 10
Grouse: Oct. 27 - Feb. 9 West of Interstate 95 only.
Beginning in November 2007
Bobcat: Nov. 1 - Feb. 29
Fox: Nov. 1 - Feb. 29 certain counties, see regulations
Snow Goose: Nov. 1 - Dec. 1
Rabbit: Nov. 3 - Feb. 29 (new regulation enacted by Board of Game & Inland Fisheries)
Nov. 5 - Jan. 5 certain counties, see regulations
Nov. 26 - Jan. 5 certain counties, see regulations
Quail & Pheasant: Nov. 10 - Jan. 31
Nov. 17 - Dec. 1 certain counties, see regulations
Nov. 17 - Jan. 5 certain counties, see regulations
Duck, Merganser, Coot, Gallinules, Moorhen, & Canada Goose: Nov. 17 - Dec. 1
Atlantic Brant: Nov. 24 - Dec. 1
Please contribute to Hunters for the Hungry through the $2 check-off when purchasing a license, or at any time through our online Outdoor Catalog.
To report a wildlife violation, call 1-800-237-5712, or email WildCrime@dgif.virginia.gov.

FOR AN EMERGENCY SITUATION, contact the local conservation police officer immediately through the local sheriff's office or police department.

Don't allow the actions of a few to tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen and sportswomen!

  • If you would like to become a regular subscriber to Virginia Wildlife magazine, visit the Department's Web site, call 1-800-710-9369, or mail a check payable to "Treasurer of Virginia" and send it to Virginia Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. A one-year subscription or 12 issues is only $12.95. Let Virginia Wildlife magazine be your guide to the best in hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife information.


The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall afford to all persons an equal access to Department Programs and facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex or age. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any program, activity or facility, please write to: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4010 West Broad Street, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230-1104.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia 23230
(804) 367-1000 - www.dgif.virginia.gov