In this edition:

Got Your New Fishing License Yet?

Summer is finally here, school's out, the weather is warm and with the recent rains, there's plenty of water in the rivers. It's a great time to get outdoors with family and friends. With rising gas prices, many people are looking to stay closer to home. Fortunately for Virginians, there's a lake, river, or stream within an hour's drive from any location in the state, making it easy and economical to get away for a day on the water boating, fishing, and relaxing. When you purchase a fishing license, you not only buy quality time, but you also are investing in conservation. For less than the cost of a tank of gas, a family of four can fish for a year. The funds generated by boating and fishing are crucial to keeping Virginia's waterways and lands in good condition and managing the state's fisheries.

Remember your fishing license is good for one year from date of purchase... mine ran out in June just before I was heading out on a weekend float trip- conveniently fishing licenses can be purchased directly online through the Department's website; by telephone through a toll-free number, 1-866-721-6911; or at sporting goods stores. The Outdoor Report is full of fishing and boating tips and information to make your outing more productive, enjoyable, and safe. To learn more about fishing and boating in Virginia, including where to fish, how to identify fish species, guides to lakes and rivers, fishing and boating regulations and much more, read on...

David Coffman, Editor

Habitat at Home© DVD Now Available

The summer months are a great time to be outside and see wildlife around you. Songbirds are nesting, mammals are on the move, and amphibians keep cool in the shade next to a pond. What's the habitat like around your home? Does your yard have a diversity of native plants, plenty of food and cover, and a variety of water sources? The new Habitat at Home© DVD features the yards of four homeowners in different parts of the state who have removed invasive plants, reduced their amount of lawn, added water features, and planted flowering perennials and shrubs.

Pan Fishing and Squirrel Skinning DVD

New Video Available:
Squirrel Skinning Quick and Easy and Panfish Preparation and Filleting

Another great DVD is now being offered at the VDGIF store, this one a double-feature: Squirrel Skinning Quick and Easy and Panfish Preparation and Filleting. If you want to learn one of the best methods we've seen for Skinning Squirrels, former Game Warden John Berry teaches it in detail on the first video. This video has been extremely popular to walk-in customers at VDGIF headquarters, and is now available for ordering on-line for the first time. In the second video, VDGIF Outdoor Education Instructor Jenny West demonstrates various ways to prepare tasty panfish, including scaling, dressing, and filleting. Get both "how to" videos on one DVD for $8.00, shipping included. The DVD makes a great gift for sporting enthusiasts young & old.

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

Summer Angling Education Workshops Scheduled

Summer is near and now is the time to register for VDGIF Angling Education events. Register now online, don't delay, these workshops fill up fast!

July 28 & August 25 - Flat Out Catfish Workshop I & II - James River at Pony Pasture in Richmond

Come out and wade for big flathead catfish on the James River at Pony Pasture in the City of Richmond with professional guide, Mike Ostrander of the James River Fishing School. This workshop is for adults 18 and over. Get more details and register online for Flat Out Catfish Workshop I and Flat Out Catfish Workshop II.

Wood Duck Box Workshop at New Kent Forestry Center July 18

The Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Waterfowlers Association have partnered to host a Wood Duck Nesting Box Workshop Saturday, July 18, 9 a.m. - noon at the New Kent Forestry Center near Providence Forge. This hands-on workshop has space for 30 participants, including children and adults, with lunch included.

The Virginia Waterfowlers Association will provide an educational presentation, instructors, wood duck box kits, and nails for participants. Participants will be required to bring hammers. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. To register, or for more information, contact Todd Cocker by email: goosesmacker@aol.com, or call (804) 317-8058.

Outdoor Classic Sportsman's Show, Returns to Roanoke July 31-August 2

Southwest Virginia's largest hunting and fishing expo is back and bigger than ever. The Outdoor Classic (formerly the Virginia Outdoor Sportsmen's Classic) will be at the Roanoke Civic Center July 31 through August 2, 2009. Event Manager, Waynette Anderson, says, "The Outdoor Classic will feature hunting and fishing guides, outfitters, and product vendors. This year we're bringing in businesses that have never been seen here before. Hunters will be able to find all of the products they'll need for hunting season later this year. For the fishing enthusiasts, there will be more fishing products and services at the show than ever before. You'll be able to book fishing trips from all over the east coast and get all the products you'll need while you're fishing." The Outdoor Classic will also feature a big buck contest and lots of entertainment included in the low weekend ticket price. Visit the Outdoor Classic website for details.

Waterfowlers' Association Hosts Hunting Workshops August 1

On August 1, there will be a Waterfowl Hunting Workshops event hosted by VDGIF and the Virginia Waterfowler's Association. This event will be held from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at Sussex Shooting Sports located west of Waverly. All participants will be required to pre-register by July 24, 2009. A fee of $10 and official registration form will be due at the REGISTRATION TABLE by 10:20 a.m. on the date of the event. These workshops are limited to 30 participants and will provide the opportunity to learn and/or improve their basic fundamentals of waterfowling. There will be three one-hour clinics and a complimentary lunch included. Participants must be 18 years or older. Those under 16 must be accompanied by a registered adult.

The event will consist of three workshops:

  1. WingShooting
  2. Duck & Goose Calling
  3. Waterfowl Identification & Waterfowl Game Laws

Workshop will be held outdoors rain or shine. To pre-register, email your name, email address to Todd Cocker at ducksandgeese@yahoo.com.

Sportsman's Show Features New Opportunities for the Whole Family August 7-9

The 26th Annual Virginia Outdoor Sportsman's Show features over 300 fun and exciting new exhibits, demonstrations and seminars- something for everyone in the family. Experienced and novice sportsmen and sportswomen can try the latest in new equipment and learn about new places and techniques to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors. The three-day show is held at The Showplace in Richmond August 7-9, 2009. You can purchase your new Hunting and Fishing Licenses and 2010 Virginia Wildlife Calendar from the VDGIF booth and also subscribe to Virginia Wildlife magazine and the Outdoor Report at the Show. Biologists, conservation police officers, Complementary Work Force volunteers, and Hunter Education Instructors will be on hand to answer your questions. Get your free copy of the new 2009-2010 Hunting & Trapping Regulations and Information booklet featuring descriptions of new regulations and opportunities to enhance your hunting experience. The booklet also gives details on popular programs like the Apprentice License, Earn-A-Buck, expanded muzzleloading seasons, telecheck and special youth Fall turkey and deer seasons. VDGIF officials will host a special seminar on Saturday August 8 at 11 a.m. to review "New Opportunities and Regulations for Hunters".

This is your chance to see the biggest bucks harvested in Virginia. Deer hunters throughout Virginia will bring their mounts to this prestigious contest, organized by the Virginia Deer Hunters Association (VDHA). Certified judges from the VDHA and VDGIF will be awarding ribbons and trophies in four antler classes. The Virginia Open Turkey Calling Championship will be held on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. sanctioned by the National Wild Turkey Federation. There are cash and prize awards with the first place winners in four Divisions eligible to go to the National Calling Contest. Check the Show's website for information on numerous seminars, exhibits, demonstrations, sportsmen celebrities, and contests.

Take a Friend, Make a Hunter... This is the perfect event to bring a friend that is interested in the Apprentice Hunting License to talk with experienced sportsmen about the many opportunities for hunting and try out the latest gear to enhance your experience. Purchase an Apprentice Hunting License and sign up a new subscriber for the Outdoor Report at the Show and we will give you a useful VDGIF camo carabiner and a free 2009 Hunting & Fishing Virginia Wildlife Calendar!

Mother & Daughter Outdoors Weekend August 14-16

This event is designed primarily for women. It is an excellent opportunity for anyone nine years of age and above to learn the outdoor skills usually associated with hunting and fishing, but useful in a variety of outdoor pursuits. This event is for you if: you would like to get your family involved in outdoor activities and need a place to start, you have never tried these activities but have hoped for an opportunity to learn, or you are a beginner who hopes to improve your skills. Registration fee is $90 per person; the registration deadline is 5:00 PM on July 24, 2009. See registration form for more information (PDF).

Kids Fishing Day Events Provide Family Fun

More than 30 Kids Fishing Days are being planned statewide by various organizations in partnership with VDGIF. These events are an enjoyable time for the family and a great opportunity to introduce kids to fishing in a fun atmosphere. There are events every weekend state wide through June. For detailed information on dates, locations, times, and contacts, see the Kids Fishing Days schedule to find one near you! Catch the fun! Take a kid fishin'.

For details, check the Kids Fishing Days calendar on our website.

People and Partners in the News

John Obolewicz Wins Duck Stamp Contest
2009 Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Available July 1

Effective July 1, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) began selling its 2009 Virginia State Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp. The artwork for the stamp, painted by John Obolewicz from Powhatan, is entitled “Ring-Necked Duck” and depicts a ring-neck duck arching up with outspread wings on the water.

Obolewicz's painting was selected by a judging panel made up of Virginia Wildlife Art Director Emily Pels, Migratory Game Bird Program Manager Gary Costanzo, and Executive Director Bob Duncan of VDGIF and Randy Pennifill of NVC Delta Waterfowl, Frank Wade of Waterfowl USA, Bev Crump, Executive Committee STATE Council Ducks Unlimited, and Brad Puryear of Virginia Waterfowlers Association. All submitted entries were produced by Virginia artists. Stamp collectors who would like the 2009 Virginia waterfowl stamp and/or print with artwork by John Obolewicz can request it by contacting Mike Hinton at ducks@hintons.org.

Last year, 22,622 duck stamps were sold bringing in $203,598. The funds generated from all sales of the Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp are placed in the Department's Game Protection Fund and are accounted for under a separate fund designated as the Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Fund and is used to contract with appropriate nonprofit organizations for cooperative waterfowl habitat improvement projects; to protect, preserve, restore, enhance and develop waterfowl habitat in Virginia through the department's waterfowl program; and to offset the administrative costs associated with production, issuance of, and accounting for the Stamp.

For more information on waterfowl hunting in Virginia, visit the Department's website.

Carolyn Elliott Receives Morgan Award for Hunter Education Service

Carolyn Elliott, of Gate City, received the Morgan Award from Sgt. David Dodson, State Hunter Education Coordinator, and Officer Bobby Riggs, Region 3 Hunter Education Coordinator at a Hunter Education Advanced Training event held in June at Hungry Mother State Park. Ms. Elliott is the 24th recipient of this annual award which recognizes a Hunter Education Instructor who has made significant contributions to the Hunter Education Program in Virginia. Named for William Dixon Morgan, the victim of a fatal hunting incident, this award was first presented by then Governor Gerald Baliles in 1985.

Hunters for the Hungry Conducts Fund Raising Activities

The Hunters for the Hungry (H4H) program annually conducts numerous fund raising events to help cover costs of providing thousands of pounds of high protein, low fat venison to those in need, Although the venison is donated by sportsmen, the costs of processing the meat by qualified meat processors must be raised through donations. Several businesses have donated items for a really nice raffle package again this year that includes a new Arctic Cat 400 cc ATV and a Holmes drive-on trailer. The package is valued at $7,300. H4H Program Director Gary Arrington notes that, "We are giving the ATV away in August. Each $5.00 ticket will allow us to process and distribute 25 four ounce servings to needy Virginians. In these difficult economic conditions the need is greater than ever, and this is a great way to promote our hunting heritage in a positive way." Drawing for the winner will be held at the conclusion of the Virginia Outdoor Sportsman Show August 9 in Richmond. Visit the H4H exhibit at the Show for information on their statewide accomplishments and to show your support through their fund raising activities.

To find out how you can help, contact H4H at 1-800-352-4868, or visit their website.

Youth Compete at 24th Hunter Education Challenge at Holiday Lake

During the first weekend in May, the VDGIF Hunter Education Staff and over 68 volunteers conducted the annual Hunter Education Youth Challenge at Holiday Lake 4-H Center in Appomattox. Over 100 youth up to age 18 competed in archery, shotgun, rifle, map and compass and wildlife/outdoor knowledge tests. The Junior Team Champions were from Scott County and the Senior Team Champions hailed from Powhatan County. Congratulations go out to all participants. This is the 24th year that the challenge has been sponsored by VDGIF.

Wildlife Center to Hold Rehabilitation Classes in July

Amanda Nicholson, Outreach Coordinator and Rehabilitation Supervisor for the Wildlife Center of Virginia, announces upcoming "On the Road" wildlife rehabilitation classes:

July 18 - Sandy Bottom Nature Park, Hampton

July 25 - Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown

More details can be found at the Wildlife Center of Virginia's website.

Hunting News You Can Use

The following notes are quick reminders of things you may have overlooked in getting ready for hunting season, or reports of interest compiled from numerous calls we received recently at our information desk.

Final Board Action Sets Regulations Amendments for 2009-10 Hunting & Trapping Seasons

On February 27, 2009, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries proposed amendments to 37 of the Commonwealth's hunting and trapping regulations for the 2009 and 2010 hunting and trapping seasons. During the period of March 11, 2009 - May 11, 2009, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries received more than 2,200 public comments on the proposed regulation amendments. Final action on the proposed regulation amendments took place at the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries meeting held on June 2, 2009. The following is a summary of the Board's action on the proposed regulation amendments. The 29 proposed regulation amendments approved by the Board will take effect on August 1, 2009. For specific details on the approved regulations, refer to the Hunting and Trapping in Virginia digest which will be available in late July. Details of the regulation changes will be featured in the July 22nd edition of the Outdoor Report.

Application Period Now Open for Quota Hunts

The application period for 2009- 2010 Quota Hunts opened on July 1, 2009. Hunting opportunities are available for waterfowl, white-tailed deer, dove, rabbits, quail, black bear, and spring turkeys. Several hunts offer multiple species during the hunt segments.

New Quota Hunts:
North Landing River Deer Hunts in the City of Virginia Beach (See Series # 203)
Late Season Feral Hog Hunts at False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach (See Series # 604)
Lone Star Lakes Deer Hunts in the City of Suffolk (See Series 212 and 213)

Hunters may apply by mail: Virginia Quota Hunts, c/o CyberData, Inc. P.O. Box 9009, Hicksville, New York 11802, telephone (1-877-824-8687) or through the Department's website

New Application Deadlines:

New for the 2009 - 2010 Quota hunt Season:

VDGIF would like to thank the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia State Parks, Virginia Department of Forestry, City of Suffolk, Chesterfield County, U. S. Army Radford Ammunition Plant, and The Nature Conservancy for providing the many quota hunting opportunities this coming year.

Floating Blind Licenses Now Available from License Agents and Online

To streamline the purchase of Waterfowl Floating Blind licenses, VDGIF will be selling the permits through the same point of sale system used to sell hunting and fishing licenses. Previously, waterfowl hunters who wished to purchase a floating blind permit had to buy one from specific license agents who handled duck blind licenses. Now, waterfowl hunters can purchase this license at any license agent or online.

A floating blind license is required if hunting waterfowl from a floating device that uses a means of concealment other than the device's paint or coloration and is used in the public waters of Virginia for the purpose of hunting east of Interstate 95, except in Accomack and Northampton counties where a float blind license is not required. The float blind license includes a plate with an annual decal that must be attached to the floating blind. The decal and plate (if needed) will be mailed after the point-of-sale purchase to the address on the license application. Because delivery of the plate and/or decal can take some time, hunters are strongly encouraged to purchase their floating blind licenses well in advance of their planned hunt. For more information about waterfowl hunting, about hunting licenses, and hunting regulations in Virginia, visit the Department's website.

Information on New Regs Featured at Sportsman Show August 7-9

Be sure and visit the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries booths at the 26th Annual Virginia Outdoor Sportsman's Show held at The Showplace in Richmond August 7-9, featuring over 300 fun and exciting new exhibits, demonstrations and seminars- something for everyone in the family. Conservation police officers and wildlife biologists will be on hand to answer all your hunting, fishing, and wildlife information questions. It's also a great time to purchase your hunting and fishing licenses, or the new 2010 Virginia Wildlife Calendar. Get your free copy of the new 2009-2010 Hunting & Trapping Regulations and Information booklet featuring descriptions of new regulations and opportunities to enhance your hunting experience.

With record deer and bear harvests last year, there are bountiful opportunities for pursuing big game, small game, waterfowl, and trapping. Sportsmen and landowners can get information on habitat improvement and the new quail restoration program. Hunter Education Instructors will have demonstrations on safe firearms handling, tree stand use, and safety reminders for all hunters. Complementary Work Force volunteers will show opportunities for volunteers to work side by side with professional staff in a variety of projects. The Department and partner organizations will have displays featuring specialized, innovative equipment, and opportunities for persons with disabilities and training in outdoor skills. Visit www.HuntFishVA.com for more information on Department programs and hunting opportunities.

Apprentice Hunting License: A New Way To Get Involved in Hunting

New regulations recently passed by the Board provide for numerous opportunities this upcoming fall season to take a new or novice hunter in the field to experience the many benefits hunting offers. There are now both a Youth Deer Hunting Day on September 26, 2009, and a Youth Turkey Hunting Day on October 17, 2009. If they do not have their hunter education class completed, an Apprentice License can be purchased by a new hunter. However, apprentice hunters are reminded they still have to comply with this education requirement before legally purchasing a state resident or nonresident basic hunting license. Be sure to check out the new Apprentice Hunting License video VDGIF has posted to its website. The video is an overview of how the new Apprentice Hunter program works. Watch the video and consider becoming a mentor to a friend or family member who's always wanted to try hunting.

What are you waiting for? Call toll-free 1-866-721-6911 for more information.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Effective July 1 Boating Education Required for PWC Operators Age 14-20

Attention boaters, VDGIF has begun to phase in Virginia's boating safety education requirement and wants to remind boaters that as of July 1, all operators of personal watercraft (PWC), including Jet Skis, Sea Doos, and other PWCs, age 14 to 20 will need to have proof of boating safety course completion onboard while operating the vessel. PWC operators must be at least 14 years old. It is unlawful in Virginia for anyone under the age of 14 to operate a personal watercraft. To find out more about the boating safety requirement, the rest of the phase-in for Virginia boaters, or to find a boating safety course, visit the Department's website.

Life Jackets Required

Virginia's life jacket laws require that there must be one wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) USCG approved life jacket of the appropriate size for each person on the boat. All boats, except for personal watercraft, canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts, must carry one USCG approved Type IV throwable ring or seat cushion. In addition, if you are boating on federal waters where the USCG has jurisdiction, children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket unless below deck, or in an enclosed cabin.

Borrow a kid's life jacket: If you're expecting young guests aboard and have a temporary need for the right-sized lifejacket, the BoatU.S. Foundation has over 500 Kids Life Jacket Loaner Program locations across the country where you can borrow one for free.

For more information on boating water safety and the BoatU.S. Foundation services for Boating Safety and Clean Water go to BoatUS.com. For details on Virginia's laws or to take a boating safety course, check out the DGIF boating website.

Stay Safe on the Water - Boat Smart and Sober!

With the summer boating season upon us, VDGIF reminds all boaters to boat smart, boat sober, and boat safe while out on our waterways. All boaters should:

Remember safety and courtesy are free, share them generously!

"Green Tips" for Outdoor Enthusiasts

This section in the Outdoor Report provides tips and articles on ways you as an outdoor enthusiasts can join with others to do simple things in your outdoor pursuits that can make a big difference in keeping Virginia "green" and wildlife "wild" to benefit us all.

Plant a Tree in a State Park

Governor Timothy M. Kaine recently announced that, "Through the Renew Virginia Campaign, we are committed to making the Commonwealth a leader in energy conservation and efficiency and protecting the environment. This is not an easy task in these times, but we want to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to make Virginia a better place for ourselves and our children."

One such opportunity is the Odwalla Plant a Tree program that provides trees to be planted in state parks across the country. You can help plant trees in our Virginia State Parks by simply logging on here. No purchase or registration of any kind is required. Just select a tree for Virginia State Parks and you will be doing your part to help conserve Virginia's natural resources.

Save Time, Money and Gas - Plan Your Summer Vacation for Virginia

With rising gas prices this summer, consider visiting Virginia on your vacation this year. There is a good reason why our Commonwealth is a top tourist destination - there are thousands of attractions, outdoor adventure opportunities, and natural and cultural history opportunities to explore right here at home! Rediscover why Virginia is for Lovers! This year celebrates the 40 anniversary of the popular 'Virginia is for Lovers' slogan.

To help plan your Virginia adventure, visit VirginiaGreenTravel.org, a website dedicated to environmentally friendly travel in Virginia. The new site has convenient links to Virginia state parks, outdoor adventure programs, the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, eco-friendly events, 140 green lodging facilities, restaurants, attractions, and travel tips. "Virginia Green is a new and important focus for our tourism industry, as we work to educate ourselves and improve upon how we treat the natural habitat that helps make Virginia a top travel destination," said Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. "It's smart business sense for Virginia and will help preserve and protect our natural heritage for future generations of citizens and tourists."

Notes for Young Nature Explorers

This new section features articles and tips of interest to youngsters to encourage them to get outdoors and explore nature. With school out for the summer break, learning can continue with the types of experiences that cannot be found in books, the internet, or video games. Observing and exploring the natural environment can be exciting, interesting, and fun. The Virginia Wildlife calendar lists natural events that can serve as a "lesson plan" to get students outdoors exploring, observing, and having fun while learning about the woods, fields, and streams and the fascinating plants and animals that share these habitats with us. Each edition we will bring you ideas on topics, natural occurrences, and events to spark your interests in exploring nature. Make it a family affair!

Video-Freshwater Mussels

Many people haven't heard about the important role freshwater mussels play in keeping our waterways clean. Freshwater mussels—of which there are 81 species in Virginia—filter algae, bacteria, and other particles in Virginia's rivers and streams, improving water quality, and providing for recreational opportunities like swimming and fishing.

Biologists from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries joined with representatives from many other agencies to help educate landowners and the public about these amazing animals at the 3rd Annual Mussel Fest. The event was held Father's Day along the banks of the Cowpasture River at Ft. Lewis Lodge in Bath County. Children attending the festival discovered many exciting activities like using "viewtubes" to see underwater, painting mussel shells, and holding crayfish. The highlight of the event was the release of the James River Spinymussel into the river. This endangered mussel is found no where else but parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Never seen a freshwater mussel? Check out the video clip of the event.

Outdoor Blogs and Websites Provide Nature Adventure Info For Kids

For excellent information on getting youngsters interested in exploring and learning about nature there are several blogs and websites to review: EE Week and the school year may be behind us, but there are opportunities throughout the summer to engage students in environmental learning as well as take advantage of the time to reflect and deepen our own connection to nature and commitment environmental education. Read below for upcoming programs and opportunities for educators and students.

Nature Observations from The Byrd Nest by Marika Byrd

Solar Oven Cooking

Cooking with the sun's rays has become an enjoyment for some families. This is not a new 'energy saving' method of cooking as it dates back over 250 years. In the 1760s a Swiss naturalist named Horace de Saussure tried building a solar oven using hot sun rays for heating and cooking food.

Using the right items makes heating some foods a cheap choice over today's indoor stoves. Solar cooking helps to conserve our natural resources and creates less pollution. For example, reusing, or repurposing, a small or medium size, empty pizza box, even a Pringles container, is one way to solar cook or heat. A covering with heavy-duty aluminum foil gives you a cooking surface--just like the heat that builds inside on a hot sunny day when the car windows are closed. A scout leader I know uses a pizza box oven, pictured above, to cook or warm many a light meal with her Girl Scouts. Once properly built, you can melt cheese sandwiches, heat hot dogs, make english muffin pizzas or just heat food. The oven has to pre-heat in the hot, mid-day sun for about thirty minutes to be hot enough for cooking or heating. Planning the cooking time is as important as what you cook.

Using the solar oven can make cooking a fun and learning experience. However, accidents happen; so you should have a parent or responsible adult with you. Oh yes, learn from their experience. The children-friendly web sites below give the instructions to build the solar pizza box and Pringles can ovens. Collect all the needed items to make and use your own solar oven. Have Fun!

Habitat Improvement Tips

If You Find a Fawn, Leave it Alone

It's that time of year again when white-tailed deer fawns are showing up in yards, and hayfields and concerned citizens want to know how to help. In almost all cases, the best way to help is to simply give the fawn space and leave it alone. Fawns, born from April through July, are purposely left alone by their mothers. Female deer, called does, stay away from the fawns to avoid leading predators such as dogs or coyotes to their location. The white-spotted coat camouflages a fawn as it lies motionless in vegetation. By giving it a wide berth, you also reduce the risk of inadvertently leading predators to the hidden fawn. Does will return several times each day to move and/or feed their young. You probably will not see the doe at all since she only stays to feed the fawn for just a very few minutes before leaving it alone again.

Concerned people sometimes pick up animals that they think are orphaned. Most such "orphans" that good-intentioned citizens "rescue" every spring should have been left alone. Most wild animals will not abandon their young, but they do leave them alone for long periods of time while looking for food.

If a wild animal has been injured or truly orphaned, do not take matters into your own hands. You may locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator by calling the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) dispatch at 804-367-1258 (24 hours, 7 days a week). You may also visit the VDGIF website for that same information.

Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. Feeding the wrong food to a fawn can make it very sick and possibly lead to its death. Cow's milk will induce very severe diarrhea in fawns.

The best advice for someone who wants to help wildlife is to keep it wild. Once we interfere, we reduce the opportunity for animals to be cared for by their natural mothers and we increase the risk of harming our wildlife heritage.

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) website.

Got Pictures of Your Catch? Share Them With Us on Flickr!

How was your last fishing trip? Did you take pictures of your catch? Send them to us and share it with the world! Here's how:

  1. Email your photos to us and we'll post them on our "Virginia Fishing" group on the photo-sharing website, Flickr.
  2. Or, if you already have an account on Flickr, join the group and submit your photos. It's easy!

No matter how you send in your pictures, please remember to include the species, date, and location of your catch. If you know the length and weight, please include it.

Rules for submitting photos to the group:

  1. Photos must be of fish caught in Virginia.
  2. Photos must not depict unsafe practices.
  3. Please do not publish personal information (last names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc.).
  4. Please do include the species, location, and date of catch!
  5. Only submit photos for which you have permission to post online. For example, any minor pictured must have documented permission from his or her parent or guardian in order to appear in the group. By submitting a photograph of your child, you are giving VDGIF permission to post the photo on the Flickr "Virginia Fishing" group.

Kids Fishing Day Events Provide Family Fun

More than 30 Kids Fishing Days are being planned statewide by various organizations in partnership with VDGIF. These events are an enjoyable time for the family and a great opportunity to introduce kids to fishing in a fun atmosphere. There are events every weekend state wide through June. For detailed information on dates, locations, times and contacts, see the Kids Fishing Days schedule to find one near you! Catch the fun! Take a kid fishin'.

For details, check the Kids Fishing Days calendar on our website.

Anglers Be on the Lookout for Fish Kills

With the warmer summer temperatures, fish kills are possible with the most severe die-offs among smallmouth bass and sunfish. Many of these fish develop skin lesions before dying. Scientists continue to collect water and fish samples this season from the Shenandoah and upper James rivers before, during, and after any disease or fish kill outbreaks. Researchers have credited the public with providing significant assistance in their investigations. Many of the outbreaks were reported by fishermen, landowners and other river users. Knowing the timing and location of these events allows scientists to concentrate on the areas where fish kills are active. DEQ and DGIF ask the public to continue to report observations of diseased or dead fish. Key information includes types and numbers of fish, location, and any unusual circumstances. Digital photographs are particularly helpful. Anyone with information on dead or dying fish is encouraged to contact the DEQ regional office in Harrisonburg at (540) 574-7800 or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-592-5482. Information and photos also can be emailed to DEQ at fishreports@deq.virginia.gov. A detailed summary of findings through the 2008 fish kill season is available on the DEQ website.

Life Jackets Required

Virginia's life jacket laws require that there must be one wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) USCG approved life jacket of the appropriate size for each person on the boat. All boats, except for personal watercraft, canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts, must carry one USCG approved Type IV throwable ring or seat cushion. In addition, if you are boating on federal waters where the USCG has jurisdiction, children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket unless below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

For more information on boating water safety and the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water go to BoatUS.com. For details on Virginia's laws or to take a boating safety course, check out the DGIF boating website.

Sara White's Notebook - Regional River and Lake Reports on Fishing Conditions

Region 1 - Tidewater

Beverdam Swamp Reservoir: I talked to ranger Eddie Hester and he said the bass were hitting fairly well. Your best bets for lures are plastic worms with the best colors being tequila shad and natural shad. Minnows will work well too. Crappie are hard to find, as the water is heating up and the fish have gone to the depths. Catfish in the 3 lbs. to 6 lbs. range are plentiful, and are going for chicken livers and fiddler crabs. Sunfish are readily had, especially around the floating docks, with crickets and night crawlers being the preferred bait. The water is clear, down 2 inches from full pool and 83 to 84 degrees.

Lower Potomac: J.G. Sports (571) 436-7521. Joe Hawkins told me that the bass are very responsive on the grass beds on Aquia Creek. A good bet to throw are the Berkley Pulse Worms especially in blue fleck. Another good bet is a chartreuse blade with a chartreuse skirt. Crappie angling is slow, with minnows being the preferred bait. Cats are in the outer grass beds on the outside bends on the main Potomac. They like cut bait. The water is clearing up, at normal level and 79 degrees.

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefiled (443) 336-8756. Captain Jim says that croakers can be had in the York and James rivers, try using squid or fish bites. Spade and Triggerfish can be found around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, with blood worms being the best bet for bait. The water is 82 degrees and clear.

Little Creek Reservoir: By Park Supervisor Robert "Doc" Eveland. Hot weather continues to keep fish in deeper water off the points, in the range of 12 to 20 ft. Bait fish continue to be scarce; however threadfin herring are schooling near the surface. Notable catches this week:

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Alton Williams reports that not much has been going on around River's Rest; with pleasure boaters far outnumbering the anglers. The water is somewhat stained and warming.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. According to Dewey Mullins, bass are really hitting early and late. Action at mid-day is slow. Topwater lures are good, so are buzzbaits and poppers. Crappie angling is picking up off the main channels. Good bets are minnows, small spinners and beetlespins. No word on cats. Bluegill are responding to crickets. The water is at full level, clear and 86 degrees.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7857. Drew Dixon told me that high temperatures have kept most folks off the water. Early and late fishing for bass, however, has had success. Try soft plastics, top waters and crankbaits. No word on crappie. Cats are responding early and late to cut bait. Some big ones have been landed in the Nansemond. Shellcrackers are going for red wigglers at night and in the early morning. Bluegill are going for crickets. The waters are clear, at full level and in the high 70s.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner www.blackwaternottoway.com. Fishing on both rivers is just fair right now. Upper sections where moving water can be found will produce better results. Dissolved oxygen (DO) levels are low right now and the fish are sluggish. It is a great time to fish for species that are tolerant of these water conditions. Species like gar & bowfin are fun to catch and put up a good fight. Find a curve or cove where you see gar porpoising at the surface. Take a large minnow, small bream or you can use cut bream in a pinch and put it on a steel leader hook under a big bobber. Sling it out and wait for the gar to take it. You have to let them take it a long time, then set the hook. You can try different hook set-ups to improve your percentage of hook-ups. Check local all local laws before using live fish for bait.

Region 2 - Southside

Lake Gordon: Our man in the boat, Willard Mayes, writes: Ignored the rest of the chores and dragged the boat to Lake Gordon today even with the promise of high winds. Had the boat in the water by 9:00 a.m. and fished until little after 4:30 p.m. The water is very warm and has a very dark brown tint. The fly rod was a challenge in the wind but it was worth it. I picked up 34 blue gill 6 to 8 in. along the bank in several different places. I could catch 5 or 6 in each place before they would slack off biting. The wind finally won around 1:00 p.m. and I switched over to the spinning rod with lead head and twister tails. I put 14 crappie from 8 to 10 inches in the live well along with 6 white perch, up to 9 inches. I do not remember catching more than two crappie in one place, just picking up one here and there in about 4 to 6 feet of water. I caught one 12 inch bass on the way in to the dock coming down the middle of the lake.

The water level of the lake is at the normal summer low for the lake with most of the stumps visible at water line.

James at Scottsville: Local Guide L.E. Rhodes www.hatchmatcherguideservice.com. Finally! The James has shaped up nicely. Fishing has been great the past two past weeks. Rob and Gwynn Creighton had a super day with the smallmouth. They caught and released several fish 3 lbs. and up. Fish were taking Husky Jerks and soft plastics. Danielle Deane came back for a trip on the James this week and boated fish up to 16 inches. These to were taken on soft plastics.

Fly anglers are starting to take fish on top. Damsel patterns in blue or olive are the best producers. The top water bite has been slowing about mid day. CK Baitfish-Clouser Darters-Trow Minnows are all producing smallmouth. Hopping crawfish patterns also produced some fish. Best baitfish colors have been white-olive-rust. If the water is stained try a chartreuse baitfish. Fish are being found along mid stream structure and in the tail outs of riffles. The top water bite has been good until mid day.

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store (434) 374-8381. Bobby Whitlow reports that bass are responding to soft plastics, with green pumpkin being a good color. Crankbaits are also good. Crappie fishing is "excellent" in 15 ft. to 25 ft. of water near brush. Try minnows, jigs or white bucktails. Cat angling is great in the Crossville area, in the Stanton and Dan rivers. White perch in the reservoir are going for jigging spoons. The water is clear, at full pool and in the low 80s.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina (434) 636-3455. James Brown (no not that one) told me that bass are hitting early and late, with the Rebel Pop-R being a good thing to throw. Crappie can be had around docks; minnows are a good bet. Cat fishing is really taking off at night. Try cut shad. Some cats close to 20 lbs. have been brought to boat. Perch are going for night crawlers. The water level is low. The water is clear and around 84 degrees.

Smith Mountain Lake: Virginia Outdoorsman (540) 721-4867. While the cool weather front that moved through late in the week slowed the bite a little, overall the fishing continues to be good. The cooler water temperature has extended the "shoreline night bite" as the alewives continue to come to the bank to spawn. The spring bite usually slows or ends around July 4th as the alewives conclude their spawn. The cool weather and current water temperatures appear to be extending this popular pattern. Bass and stripers continue to move up into shallow water near the shoreline to feed on the alewives where they are being caught on Cotton Cordell Red-Fins, Storm Thundersticks, Lucky Craft Gunfish, and jitterbugs. For tips on night bass fishing see Mike's website.

In the daytime bass will be found at a variety of different water depths, but will usually be in locations with access to deep water. There are a number of good lures currently being used to catch bass. These include shaky head jigs, crankbaits, Texas rigged plastics (Deep Creek, Netbait, ZOOM) and a unique salt impregnated worm by Gary Yamamoto called a YamaSenko. The Senko can be fished a number of different ways, but one of the best this time of year is wacky rigged. To rig the bait just run a Wide Gap Finesse hook through the middle of the worm (without any other terminal tackle) so it just hangs from the hook. Use a spinning outfit and pitch the Senko worm right next to vertical structure (pilings, ladders, etc.) allowing the bait to sink naturally to the appropriate depth. Leave your bail open so the bait sinks right next to the structure. Watch your line closely and when you see it start to move take the slack out of your line, lift up on the rod tip to set the hook, reel and hold on.

The catfish bite continues to be strong with stinkbaits, nightcrawlers and live bluegill all producing good fish. The panfish bite is good, especially around docks and riprap shorelines. Red wiggler worms rigged under floats on small hooks and small tubes and plastics rigged on small lead headed jigs are all producing good numbers of small panfish.

Stripers are being caught in many different locations around the lake. The mid and lower sections of the Roanoke and Blackwater rivers continue to produce good numbers of fish and several stripers over 32 inches long have been caught in these sections of the lake. Striped bass continue to be caught during the day by anglers pulling shiners, alewives and gizzard shad on freelines and shot lines behind planer boards and Redi-Rig floats. Fishing live bait on downlines from 16 to 22 feet below the surface is also producing good results.

Surface water temperatures dropped 5 degrees last week as a result of the cooler than normal temperatures at night and over the past weekend. This week the weather forecast is for daily highs of 80 degrees and lows of 60 degrees until late in the week. The water temperature is 79 degrees and the water is clear.

There were numerous bass tournaments held on Smith Mountain Lake the week of July 4th. Al Galliher and Dante Villa took top honors in the Limit-5 Tuesday Night Tournament with a total weight of 16 lbs. including the tournaments lunker weighing 4.6 lbs. The team of Nicely and Gootes beat out 36 other teams to win the Friday Night State Park Tournament with a nice bag of bass weighing 18.87 lbs. This past weekend Saturday Night Bass Tournament out of Foxport Marina was won by the team of Jake Holland and Milton Smith with a weight of 15.85 lbs.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Rock House Marina (540) 980-1488. Wyatt Blevins reports that fishing overall has been slow. Bass are responding to topwaters early and late and soft plastics during the day, particularly crawdad imitations. Crappie fishing has been very slow, but a minnow will work if anything will. A few cats have been landed, but they have been small. Your best bets are live shad or chicken livers. Some big stripers have been brought to boat. For them try live shad. The water is at full pool, clear and around 80 degrees.

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. John Zienius let me know that bass fishing on the river is very good. Gitzits and small hard jerkbaits are what you want to try. There has been no crappie fishing on the river No word on cats. Muskie fishing has slowed down, but try a big inline spinner. The water level is full with the water being a clear green color and warming.

Region 4 - Mountain and Shenandoah Valley

North and South Forks of the Shenandoah: Harry Murray (540) 984-4212 www.murraysflyshop.com. The smallmouth fishing in both the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah is very good. For fishing on the surface Harry recommends the Shenandoah Blue Popper, size 6 and the Damsel Popper, size 6. Under the surface, he recommends the Murray's Madtom, size 8 and the Murray's Sunfish, size 6. The waters in these areas are clear and 74 degrees. The stocked streams in the Shenandoah Valley are clear and fishable with good flies being the Betsy Streamer, sizes 10 and 12; and the Casual Dress, sizes 10 and 12. The water in these streams is clear and 72 degrees. The mountain streams are clear and fishable with good flies being the Murray's Flying Beetle, sizes 14 and 16; and the Murray's Sulphur Dry Fly, sizes 16 and 18. The water in the mountains is clear and 60 degrees.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Local Blogger Steve Moore (SwitchFisher.com / Fishing the North Branch of the Potomac) reports that smallie season has arrived! The major rivers in the Piedmont are all now clear enough to make it worthwhile to fish. The Upper Potomac is at the top end of flow for cautious wading – be sure and wear a PFD if you wade. Anglers report good results in the section from Seneca Breaks to the Monocacy River on powerbait grubs with chartreuse mixed with brown being the hot color. Farther south, the Rapidan and Rappahannock are both open for "business" although the Rappahannock is above the safe level for wading. The high water and milky water has had a payoff in both these rivers. The vegetation that carpets the bottom and interferes with fishing is just now starting to grow. The next several weeks will be prime time for unobstructed fishing in great summer weather. Anglers report 50 fish days as the as yet unpressured smallies attack both surface and subsurface presentations. Normal plastics in brown and melon are producing when bumped along the bottom. For fly anglers, nothing beats a blue or green size 6 popper floated in the shady areas next to the bank.

Lake Anna: Jim Hemby Lake Anna Striper Guide Service (540) 967-3313. Striper fishing: HOT, HOT, HOT...The days of July may be hot but not as hot as the striper fishing will be this month. Striper fishing this summer has been awesome, my clients have been limiting out easily and on many days enjoy catches of 50 to a 100 fish a morning. Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries stocking programs are really paying off now, we are seeing acres upon acres of stripers ranging from above the splits down to the dam. The creel limits on the lake are generous also, 4 per person per day over 20 in.

Bass: By now the bass have taken up residency in their summer haunts and are predictable in their feeding patterns. In low light conditions, fish top water baits [chuggars, prop baits, twitch baits, etc.] on main lake points, flats and humps. Many fish will school in the mouths of creeks and on structures especially humps and ledges where baitfish are present. After the sun gets bright the bass will retreat back to the depths using stumps, rock and brush piles, bridge pilings and ledges as cover.

Catfish: The cats have moved to the 20 to 40 foot depths and are feeding on herring now. You can use live bait as well as cut bait to catch the fish. They are either behind or underneath the schools of stripers and can be located on your depth finder as arches on or just above the bottom on deep flats.

Crappie: Most slabs have moved to deeper water now using bridge pilings, brushpiles and ledges in 15 to 30 feet of water as holding areas. Also try fishing the docks that have lights on them in deeper water. Use heavier jigs or slip bobbers tipped with small minnows to catch the slabs this month.

Lake Orange: By Darrell Kennedy at Angler's Landing (540) 672-3997. The water is clear with temperatures in the low to mid 80s. Crappie are hanging around in 10 to 15 ft. of water around brush piles and the fishing pier. Crappie are feeding on small minnows. Large mouth bass are hitting top water early and late in the day with soft plastics attracting the bite during midday. Catfish continue to be strong throughout the lake on chicken liver. Walleye are being taken on crankbaits and worm harnesses on cloudy days.

Tidal James: By Capt. Joe Hect Fat Cat Guide Service (804) 221-1951. The fishing on the lower James is producing large blue catfish up to 77 lbs. on cut bait and eels. The larger fish are coming from channel edges and deeper water. As the summer months go on the fishing will continue to get better. On the upper James the water conditions have improved and we are starting to catch good numbers of smallmouth on crank baits and power grubs. Good Fishing and Tight Lines!

Tidal James: By Guide Mike Ostrander. The James River above Richmond, in the non-tidal water, has improved greatly over the last week. There is good smallmouth bass fishing right now. Smallmouth bass have been caught on jigs and small topwater lures. The catfishing has been excellent. Clients of the James River Fishing School (mike@jamesriverfishing.com) have caught flathead catfish to 30 lbs., along with a few blue and channel cats. James River Fishing School guide, Andrew Campbell, reports lively action can be had now on the fly rod using white lightly weighted wooly buggers and popping bugs around size 4. Work pocket waters and banks and look for hatching insects dimpling the water. Lots of sunfish are being caught with the occasional smallmouth bass slammin' your fly.

On August 1, the James River Fishing School will be offering 'Fishing 101', a fishing class for students aged 11-15. This class offer fishing, aquatic insect sampling and water quality investigation in order to teach them the importance of scientific understanding and environmental stewardship. For more info, contact Capt. Mike Ostrander at mike@jamesriverfishing.com or 804-938-2350.

Mid Point Potomac: Warbird Outdoors (703) 878-3111. Terry Olinger reports that bass are hitting topwaters, soft plastics and chatterbaits. Crappie are doing well around bridge pilings when tempted with minnows and jigs. Cats are hitting cut herring and clam snouts. The water is mostly clear, at normal level and around 80 degrees.

NOTICE: All anglers are reminded to acquaint themselves with a good description of the northern snakehead fish. If you should manage to catch one of these exotic imports, please kill it immediately and report the catch to either the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries or the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

View video about the snakehead »

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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

To increase awareness of the activities of our dedicated Conservation Police Officers, previously called game wardens, the "Virginia Conservation Police Notebook" provides an overview of the variety of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia.

CPO Academy Graduates To Begin Field Assignments

The VDGIF Basic Law Enforcement Academy graduated a new class of officers June 26th. Clerk of the Circuit Court for Chesterfield County, The Honorable Judy L. Worthington officially swore-in the 20 new officers.

These officers completed an intensive 29-week training program that included more than 200 courses. They will take up their assignments across the Commonwealth and proceed with field training under the direct supervision of field training officers. This is the fifth class to graduate from the Department's Training Academy. VDGIF undertook establishing its own academy in order to tailor the program to the specific needs of conservation police officers.

The list of the newest conservation police officers and the areas where they will be assigned is as follows:

Nathaniel Wayne Bowling - Orange County
Mark Lawrence Brewer - Floyd County
Philip Ray Cook - New Kent County
Daniel James Corley - City of Virginia Beach
Carl Haynes Dobbs - Page County
Robert Jeffrey Drummond - City of Virginia Beach
James Lee Flint - Metro Richmond
Nicholas Maximilian Gleeson - Greene County
Christopher Stephen Heberling - Fluvanna County
Andrew Jeremiah Howald - Brunswick County
Edgar Thornton Huffman - Madison County
Robert Henry Kemery, Jr. - Lunenburg County
Ivan Michael Kopelove - Chesterfield County
James Joseph Marchese - Southampton County
David Franklin Peake, II - Lunenburg County
Marc Edward Pengal - Albemarle County
Matthew Samuel Sandy - Mecklenburg County
Megan Christie Vick - City of Chesapeake
Austin Robert Wakefield - City of Suffolk
Justin Alan White - Bland County

Conservation police officers must be proficient in a wide array of skills including handling of firearms; crime scene investigations; drug and operating-under-the-influence enforcement; search and rescue; boat operation and boat trailering; etc. Awards were presented at the ceremony to recognize the hard work and proficiency of the recruits and the dedication of instructors and academy staff.

Top Shot Award - Officer Philip Ray Baker, assigned to New Kent County, proudly served our country on both foreign and domestic soil in the United States Marine Corps.

Outstanding Driver Award - Officer David Franklin Peake, II assigned to Lunenburg County, is a graduate of Radford University where he earned his degree in Criminal Justice.

Most Physically Fit Award - Officer Philip Ray Baker assigned to New Kent County, is the recipient of the Purple Heart as a result of his service to our country with the 2nd battalion, 1st Marine regiment in Fallujah, Iraq.

Outstanding Boating Award -Officer Justin Alan White assigned to Bland County, is a graduate of Bluefield State College with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Business Administration and an Associate's degree in Computer Science.

Colonel's Award - Officer Ivan Michael Kopelove assigned to Chesterfield County, is a graduate of the University of Virginia with two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one in Environmental Science and the other in Biology.

Director's Award for Best Instructor- Officer Richard M. Howald, has been serving in Appomattox for four years.

Board Award - Officer Andrew Jeremiah Howald is assigned to Brunswick County, has served our country in several venues throughout the world as a Military Police Officer.

VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan also spoke at the graduation ceremony noting, "This is a very impressive group of individuals. Their training has been rigorous both physically and mentally. We are so fortunate to have this caliber of people joining us at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries."

For information on individual awards and becoming a conservation police officer visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

Support Your Local CPO...

Don't let the actions of a few outlaws or unethical outdoorsmen tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen! Safety and courtesy are free, use them generously as you share the outdoors with others. Last week we proudly graduated 20 new Conservation Police Officers who took an oath to serve you. They serve to protect you and the resources we all use and enjoy from those who act irresponsibly and break the law. These highly trained and dedicated men and women have a daunting task to serve in a new location and get acquainted with a new community. They can use your assistance to get oriented to their new assignments. Remember these officers are there to protect your freedom to enjoy the outdoors — support them in their important work by setting a good example and seeing that others around you do their share to enjoy the outdoors safely and ethically. Get to know the new CPO in your county. They are your best partner in preserving and protecting our rich hunting and fishing traditions. Help make all our jobs safer and more successful - support your area conservation police officers in any way you can. They are there to benefit you.

David Coffman, Editor

Pulaski YMCA Assists Law Enforcement Officers

In appreciation for providing the gym and pool for "Fit for Duty" testing, Captain Clark Greene presented an appreciation plaque to Executive Director Suzanne Wantland of the Hensel Eckman YMCA in Pulaski. Officers are required by policy to participate in this training and the YMCA served as an excellent location to accommodate officers throughout the southwest region. Plans are to utilize the facility again next year for the purpose of promoting the physical well-being of law enforcement personnel. The YMCA provides many services to benefit the community.

To learn more about Virginia conservation police officers visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

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!

Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

As summer has officially begun, tending to your yard and garden become chores for some and a delightful past time for others. As VDGIF Backyard Habitat Coordinator Carol Heiser has noted in the new Habitat at Home© DVD, there are many opportunities to improve habitat for both wildlife and your family. As Maya Nedeljkovich describes in her story, "Majesty of Nature," just letting nature run it's course without planning or tending to the landscape, leads to wildness that while it may be inspiring, may not be as beneficial as developing a landscaping plan. Maya offers some valuable observations and suggestions from her experience returning to an abandoned home site from her youth. Maya was a sophomore at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach when she submitted her winning story which was awarded second place in the 2007-08 Virginia Outdoor Writers Association High School Youth Writing Contest with the theme - "My Most Memorable Outdoor Experience."

Majesty of Nature

By Maya Nedeljkovich

Nature can take thousands of years to carve out the most beautiful jewels in the universe out of very basic material. However, it only takes a split second for the human mind to become completely boggled by these amazing feats. Though humans are part of nature, we have become so secluded from its terrifying wonders that when we are exposed to them, they can come as a great shock. Such was my experience when I, after years of being away, entered the backyard of my old house.

The place had not been tended for quite some time. My granddad occasionally made sure the house itself was alright and fixed anything that could completely break over time, but he never touched the backyard. Needless to say, it was very clear how the place had been allowed to thrive for the past five or six years. Nature had certainly done her best to recapture this land, so much that I was set back by its awesome changes.

Grass, that had once been neatly mowed and bright green, was now covered by a thick layer of dead leaves and fallen twigs. The trees, whose branches had once been neatly trimmed but low enough so little children could still climb it, had gone rouge, their branches like arms; reaching towards the skies, and their roots spread deep in the ground, taking in water beneath their fallen leaves. Rose bushes that had once been kept in a corner, bearing beautifully colored flowers, now intertwined with everything they touched, their thorns ominously warning off intruders.

This backyard, once a beautiful garden that captivated my young imagination, had become a sort of wild, frantic forest. As I climbed down the steps that lead to the biggest opening amongst the plant life, I had to tread meticulously; making sure my feet would not get caught and trip on something. This wasn't the place of my childhood; this wasn't where I grew up and played. This place was so foreign to me that I was frightened. Through the progression of my walk, or rather hike, through this wasteland, I began to become angry. It seemed as though Mother Nature had taken away one of my most precious memories. I began to resent there ever being plants who could so easily grow wild and change.

However, as I approached my favorite tree, the one I had climbed countless times, I noticed snails making their way slowly up and down its thick trunk. Sunlight hit their slimy bodies and made them sparkle and appear so brilliant. The bushes no longer seemed so threatening, but rather graceful as they curled in intricate patterns around other plants. The foliage was a warm inviting bed rather than an ugly cover which suffocated life. One thing became very clear to me about every other living being in that space surrounded by a wire fence. This had become their home, and in the years I had been gone they were keeping it safe. I could not be upset with them for doing the only thing they knew how: living. Indeed, that is what the backyard of my past, this place that had been abandoned, had learned to do. It moved on without us, as we had done without it.

I had become very proud of nature, and its innate ability to prevail. Nature created chaos in the order my family had attempted to impose. Nature is chaos and in this chaos lays immense beauty. Though six years had gone by and I had tucked this place into the back of my mind, the changes it had undergone left a permanent impression on me. I may have left it far behind once more, but I will always remember it and cherish the truths it made me realize.

This entry in the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) 2007-08 High School Youth Writing Contest by Maya Nedeljkovich won Second Place. Maya was a sophomore at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. For information on the VOWA Collegiate or High School Youth Writing Contests visit the VOWA website: www.vowa.org, or contact VOWA Writing Contest Chairman:

David Coffman, Editor, Outdoor Report
VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries
POB 11104 Richmond, VA 23230
Telephone: (434) 589-9535, Email: david.coffman@dgif.virginia.gov

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for: