In this edition:

Season's Greetings!

This December edition is very special as it is the last edition of 2009 and completes the three - year anniversary of the electronic Outdoor Report. We have grown to 23,000 subscribers and we appreciate your continued interest. I am a bit sentimental and humbled about all the hard work and support from colleagues, partners, contributing reporters, and readers who have made this newsletter so successful. We hope you have been informed, educated, and even inspired on occasion to do something new and different to enhance your outdoor experiences, or better yet, share with others. This edition is somewhat longer than usual due to adding some articles that would have been posted in the next edition. Due to the holidays, our next edition will be posted January 13, 2010.

This "Holiday" edition is full of ideas for gift giving whether you enjoy fishing, hunting, boating, birding, camping, or other outdoor adventures. My personal recommendation is to give someone special to you the gift of time together - an adventure out in the wild. You will create wonderful memories, especially for a youngster, or an adult that has not had the opportunity to discover the great heritage and traditions experienced by exploring our wild places.

Follow up with a personal commitment to be informed and get involved in working for solutions to the issues that threaten our wildlife, their habitat, and our opportunities to pursue traditional outdoor activities. Sharing activities with novice outdoorsmen is the best gift you can give back to the outdoors you respect and cherish. You don't have to do this alone, find a group that you can support that shares your views, and join. Each edition of the Outdoor Report contains examples of organizations that partner with VDGIF staff to provide opportunities to get folks involved in outdoor activities and making our wild Virginia a great place to live and experience the bounty of our fields, streams and forests.

Encourage your friends and colleagues to sign up for a free subscription to the Outdoor Report! We hope this newsletter has informed and inspired you to get involved and get outdoors. From all of us who work to bring you the Outdoor Report, we wish you and yours joy and peace this holiday season and throughout the New Year!

David Coffman, Editor

Hunting Benefits All Virginians

With the general firearms season underway, hunters should pause to reflect on all the benefits that their participation adds to their lives and the positive impact on fellow Virginians. Recent economic downturns have many people thinking about how to simplify their lives, how to stretch their dollars, put food on the table, let go of stress, and still somehow give to others. Reports on obesity, concerns about food quality, and the footprint we are leaving on the planet, has people wondering what to do. An activity that addresses all that and more is hunting.

What benefits do all those hunters enjoy and what benefits do we all get from their activity? What benefits can you expect when you take up the tradition of hunting? Find the answers in various articles throughout this edition of the Outdoor Report that reveal the five benefits that hunting has been doing, and can do, for you...

  1. Boost the Economy
  2. Contribute to Conservation
  3. Wildlife Population Management
  4. Healthy Minds, Spirits and Bodies
  5. Sharing the Bounty

Hunters Get Huge Rewards From Time Spent in the Outdoors

Spending a day afield, whether still hunting alone or following a pack of hounds in pursuit of their quarry, releases hunters from their day-to-day stress. Being outdoors and active builds strength and improves your overall health. Nothing clears the mind and brings on a better sense of feeling alive and part of the environment than a day in the woods. Hunting builds self-esteem as you gain outdoor skills and the satisfaction of being able to participate in the age-old need to pursue and to provide food. Hunting helps build healthy minds, spirits and bodies.

A Tradition of Stewardship

Hunting is a tradition that is often passed on from one generation to the next creating a special bond between family members and friends. Many hunters enjoy mentoring others in the pleasure of and importance of being good stewards of our natural resources. For most hunters it's not the killing of game that's key to hunting, but the experiences and life lessons they gain. People who hunt have a special connection with the outdoors and an awareness of the relationships between wildlife, habitat, and humans. With that awareness comes an understanding of the role humans play in being caretakers of the environment.

Hunt safely and responsibly. Always be sure of your target and beyond! Have a safe, successful, and rewarding hunting season!

Revised Holiday Schedule for Posting the Outdoor Report

Please send in stories, announcements, events, and photos you may want posted to at least 10 days prior to the listed posting date.

Hunting & Fishing Licenses

Give the gift of enjoyment in Virginia's great outdoors!

Field Dressing, Skinning & Processing Deer DVD

Learn how to field dress, skin, and process a deer.

Virginia Wildlife Magazine Subscription

Virginia Wildlife offers you stories and insight on the natural world, supplied by the state's leading wildlife and outdoor experts.

2010 Virginia Wildlife Calendar

Visually stunning and informative, this calendar highlights many of the most sought after game and fish species in Virginia.

2009 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife

Customized by Buck Knives, our 2009 Collector's knife features a wild turkey in full strut. The elegant, solid cherry box features a forest scene. Knives and boxes are made in the USA.

Have You Missed an Edition of the Outdoor Report?

From time to time we hear from subscribers that they did not receive their newsletter the past two to three editions. We are very proud of our record of on-time posting of the newsletter every edition the past three years. You may want to check your spam or junk mail filter to ensure that the Outdoor Report isn't being mistakenly deleted. Periodically we put a note in the Outdoor Report that if you do not get your email report on the 2nd or 4th Wednesday of any month, email us and re-subscribe on the VDGIF website. We can send you electronic copies of the edition(s) you missed if requested or you can check the archives.

Contact the Editor at

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

Youth Deer Hunting Workshop at Claytor Lake State Park December 18-19

The Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation and VDGIF are co-sponsoring a Youth Deer Hunting Workshop at Claytor Lake State Park December 18-19. The workshop includes: Friday evening seminar, whitetail deer biology and game management, hunting safety and ethics, muzzleloader safety, and shot placement; Saturday is a guided hunt, lunch, game care, and much more! Participants must be 12 to 17 years of age, and never harvested a deer with a muzzleloading firearm; may be accompanied by a non-hunting parent or guardian; must have successfully completed the Hunter Education Course, and meet all license requirements. Muzzleloading firearms only are allowed. For more information, contact Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656 or

Bedford Youth Deer Hunting Workshop December 19

The VDGIF, in cooperation with the Bedford County Economic Development Authority and the Virginia Hunter Education Association, Inc., are offering a Youth Deer Muzzleloading Hunting Workshop on December 19, 2009, beginning at 6:00 a.m.

This Youth Deer Hunting Workshop is an opportunity for area youth, specifically ages 12-15, to learn about deer, deer hunting and to hunt deer in a safe, controlled environment. Eight participants will be selected for this event. Selected youth must be accompanied by a properly licensed parent or guardian. Each team will be supervised by a certified hunter education instructor.

To be considered for this unique educational opportunity, completed applications must be received by close of business on December 11, 2009. For more information, an application packet and rules, please contact the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at: (434) 525-7522.

Applications are available at the VDGIF office in Forest at 1132 Thomas Jefferson Road, Forest, Virginia 24551.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Workshop in Essex January 9

Waterfowl USA and VDGIF Outdoor Education are sponsoring a Youth Waterfowl Hunting Workshop in Essex January 9. The workshop program includes hands-on classes for Decoys and Blinds Setup, Waterfowl Habitat & Ecology, Firearms Safety and Instruction. A field-side lunch will be provided. Participants must be under 18 years of age, have completed the Basic Hunter Education Course, and meet all license requirements. A goose and duck hunt will be provided by Waterfowl USA with guides, decoys, and blinds all included. For more information, or to register, call 804-367-0656, or email:

Fishing Expo Returns to Richmond January 15-17

The Richmond Fishing Expo is coming to the Richmond Raceway Complex January 15-17, 2010. The family-oriented show is geared to be a fun and educational experience for all who attend. Whether you are a fly fishing enthusiast, a bass fisherman, saltwater, lake or river angler, this show has something for everyone in the family. Admission price for the show is $8.00 adult, $7.00 senior, $5.00 junior (6-12). Tickets good for all 3 days of the show with free return pass, which is available at show exit. There will be conservation organizations represented and an incredible selection of outfitters, fishing charters, boating suppliers, and seminar presenters. Numerous nationally-known speakers will hold seminars to teach skills and share some great stories of their adventures and experiences. VDGIF staff will be on hand in the Commonwealth Building to answer questions on agency programs, angling education, special training events, and opportunities to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors. The Outdoor Report will also have an exhibit in the Exhibition Hall featuring Fishin' Report contributing reporters answering your questions on where to get the latest "how are they bitin'" info on more that 25 primary lakes and rivers statewide. Volunteers from the VDGIF Complementary Work Force will be on hand describing opportunities for volunteers to assist in carrying out a variety of agency programs. For information visit the Show website.

January - February Sportsmens' Shows Offer Something for Everyone

The six regional outdoor sportsmens' shows scheduled for January - March 2010 feature seminars, exhibits, demonstrations, and contests, promising fun and exciting new activities for everyone in the family. Experienced and novice sportsmen can try the latest in new equipment and learn about new places to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors. All the shows feature activities for kids to spark their interest in outdoor adventures. See the latest in specialized equipment and partnership programs offered by sportsmens' organizations. VDGIF staff will be on hand to provide information on hunting and fishing opportunities and agency programs to manage fish and wildlife resources. Each show offers something different, so check each show's website for all the details.

Wheelin' Sportsmen To Host Numerous Deer Hunts November-December

There are 6 Wheelin Sportsmen sponsored deer hunts scheduled through December. For details on these and other events and hunt event applications visit the VA NWTF website. Are you interested in volunteering to assist with an event or have a friend that is interested? Visit the Virginia National Wild Turkey Federation Web site to find numerous links to opportunities and information. The Virginia Deer Hunter's Association also hosts hunts for Wounded Warriors and disabled veterans

Youth Rabbit Hunting Workshop Scheduled for January 16 in Pittsylvania

The First Annual Oliver "Route" Keatts Youth Rabbit Hunting Workshop originally scheduled for November 7 has been rescheduled to Saturday, January 16, 2010. The workshop will be held at Wayside Park in Pittsylvania County. The workshop sessions include: Eastern Cottontail Biology & Habitat, Firearms & Hunting Safety, Game Care, and Ethics. Participants must be 17 years of age or under, and must successfully complete the Basic Hunter Education Course and meet all license requirements. A $20 refundable deposit is required to confirm registration.

Registration is limited. For information or to register, call Jimmy Mootz at (804) 367-0656 or email

Holiday Lake 4-H Center Offers Hunters Convenient Lodging

Are you looking for a place to stay during your hunting trip to the Appomattox/Buckingham State Forest? The Holiday Lake 4-H Center has a deal for you! The Center is located in the middle of the 20,000 acre Appomattox/Buckingham State Forest for quick access and just a short drive from Featherfin and Horsepen Lakes Wildlife Management Areas. Like a bed and breakfast, the 4-H Center offers inexpensive lodging ($15.00 per night, per person, provide your own linens) and a kitchen is available for preparing your own meals. Meal service is available for an additional fee for groups of 10 or more, or several smaller groups combined providing breakfast, a bagged lunch, and dinner. Accommodations are available weekdays from October 26- December 18, 2009. Call for weekend availability at (434) 248-5444 or Visit the website for information on the Center's programs:

People and Partners in the News

Girl Scouts Earn Basic Trapping Certificates Through Hands-on Training

The Virginia Trappers Association (VTA) hosted the second annual Girl Scout Trapper Training Weekend on November 20-22 in the Roanoke area with great success. The hands-on workshop had seven very motivated teenage scouts participate this year. The class provided the modified Basic Trapper Education Class that included a presentation and video from VDGIF Furbearer Project Leader and biologist Mike Fies on the role of trapping in wildlife management and other furbearer basics. VTA member Mike Perdue led the hands-on field activities which included boiling traps and trap-set demonstrations. Each girl set two traps. The next morning at 7 a.m. the group set out to check and pull the trap line. One set caught a red fox so the scouts got real first hand experience in all activities involved in trapping. Conservation Police Officer (CPO) Greg Funkhouser presented a program on trapping laws and what a CPO does. VTA members Gene Wirt and Dan Settles gave the scouts a fur handling demo. VTA members Ronnie Perdue also assisted with the trapping activities. Each participant earned her Trapper Education Certificate and learned a lot about the need for trapping to control nuisance wildlife and help manage predator and prey populations.

Game Warden Adventures Featured in New Book by Frank Mundy

You may have heard of the old saying "you can never get enough of a good thing." Well this is certainly the case of "Game Warden Entertainment Books", written by Frank Mundy, recently retired from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Officer Mundy served as a game warden in Virginia for over 32 years. In that time he has just about seen and heard it all when it comes to enforcement of the Commonwealth's wildlife, fishing, boating, and general laws. To compliment his first two books, "Game Warden Entertainment", "Game Warden Entertainment, The next Book", Officer Mundy has once again done a masterful job of putting on paper what can only be described as a very humorous look at one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, with his third book, "Game Warden Entertainment, The Movie".

From the everyday task of checking fishing licenses, to looking into the world of covert undercover work, these three books are a compilation of unusual, funny, and often unbelievable stories. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be a game warden, spending your days in the great outdoors, then this is a must read. For those who read Mundy's first two books, will be pleased to meet some old friends and some new ones like "Bucky" the decoy deer.

One thing that's for sure, when you read these books, you will laugh out loud. With Christmas just around the corner, these three "Game Warden Entertainment" books will make perfect stocking stuffers for that special outdoorsman or women in your life. As a matter of fact, after reading the books, you can bet that while good old Santa and his eight reindeer are hard at work delivering presents, there's probably a game warden some where looking out for them.

"Game Warden Entertainment", "Game Warden Entertainment, The Next Book" and "Game Warden Entertainment, The Movie" may be ordered directly from Frank G. Mundy, P. O. Box 22, Broadway, Virginia 22815 for $12.95 plus $3.50 shipping. Or visit his website:

New Book by Jon Ober Features Game Warden's Field Notes

Virtually any hunter or fisherman will enjoy these true stories about the little known job dedicated Game Wardens accomplish every day. In his third book, "A Game Warden's Field Notes III," Jon Ober relates with warmth and engaging wit, the rewards and dangers for Officers who are always on call. Jon has been a Game Warden with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries since 1985. His work has taken him from Eastern Shore marshes to the Chesapeake Bay and the western mountains of the Commonwealth. You may recall that the name 'Game Warden,' was officially changed to Conservation Police Officer two years ago to better describe the extensive duties and responsibilities of these highly trained and dedicated law enforcement officers. Even though the name has changed, Jon continues to capture the commitment to duty and the unique circumstances that come with the career. Outdoor enthusiasts from all interests will enjoy the stories in this up close and personal notebook journal. Soft cover—$16.95; ISBN 978-0-9841128-2-1; Order online: or any major retailer; 200+ pages; Mariner Publishing


Outdoor Writers Association Announces Annual Youth Writing Competitions

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, Inc. (VOWA) announces its 17th Annual High School (grades 9-12) Writing Competition for 2009-10. The goal of the competition is to reward young people for excellence in communicating their personal experiences in the outdoors. The competition is open to all Virginia students in grades 9 through 12, including home-schooled students.

The theme of this year's contest is based on "A Memorable Outdoor Experience." An experience by the student writer with hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, birding, or other outdoor activity should be the predominant subject matter. No athletic event or competition is an eligible subject matter. Submissions can be submitted in a Microsoft Word or text file since the three top winners will be posted on the VOWA Web site, and may be in other publications or on web sites. E-mail submissions are encouraged—write the document and then attach it to an e-mail. The submissions can be made between now and the January 31, 2010, deadline.

Awards will consist of gift certificates and gear from outdoor sports businesses and Supporting Members of VOWA. Over $500 in prizes will be awarded. Winners will be announced and awards presented at the VOWA's Annual Meeting in Charlottesville, on March 17, 2010, at the Double Tree Hotel. The winner's parents (or mentor/teacher) will be guests of VOWA for the presentation event. There is also a separate competition for college level undergraduates interested in pursuing journalism or communication careers and interests.

For competition guidelines, entry information and required entry submission form for both the high school and collegiate undergraduate contests, visit the VOWA website or contact VOWA High School Competition Chairman, David Coffman at For the Collegiate Competition, contact Marie Majarov at

Winning entries are featured in each edition of the Outdoor Report in the Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers section. After reading these stories from exceptional young writers, we hope you will be inspired to write about one of your memorable outdoor experiences and submit it to the competition.

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.

Share your Hunting Photos and Stories With Us...

With the huge success of the first new Youth Deer Hunting Day, we encourage you to send us photos of new young hunters that get their first deer, wild turkey, or maybe the buck of a lifetime during the upcoming bow and firearms seasons. Also any unusual pictures or stories from any hunters are considered for posting. We encourage you to send us inspiring stories of novice or experienced sportsmen or mentors that we can share with our readers.

The pictures need to be in good taste for publication—minimal blood, classic pose, etc. Our award winning professional photographers offer a few tips on composition of your photos so as to capture the moment with a good photo—consider background, good light, contrast, and have both young hunter and mentor in the photo, especially father-daughter, or mother-son, etc.

Send us the basic information to for a caption including: names, age, hometown, location of harvest, county , private, or public land, first deer, doe or # antlers, turkey, coyote, bow or gun specifics, comment from the young hunter or mentor.

We will send a Virginia Wildlife cap to the successful hunters whose photos we post. Good Luck, and smile for the camera!

David Coffman, Editor

Tale of Hunting a Trophy Pie Bald Buck

Chris Blankenship with 8 point pie-bald buck harvested in Bedford County.

Chris Blankenship, from Bedford, sent in these interesting photos of a pie bald buck he hunted on private land in Bedford County, in the White House area around Smith Mountain Lake. He notes, "We had trailcam photos of this buck starting back in the summer so we were keeping an eye out for him. I got in the stand a few minutes after 6 a.m. that morning, the stand is an elevated box stand that overlooks a cutover of planted pines from last year, with hardwood borders all around. I noticed what looked like a deer grazing in a green field about 500 yards away shortly after getting situated in my chair. It wasn't light enough to make out anything other than an animal moving through the field at that time. Once the sun started to brighten things up I was able to see the white patches all along his back and knew this had to be the buck we were looking for. I watched him for what seemed like an eternity, while I was trying to urge him to keep coming because the trail would have brought him within 100 yards of the stand. Instead he turned and started walking toward a large patch of pines that we know to be a very popular bedding ground. I knew if I didn't take him then he would go into the pines and disappear. I picked up my Savage 25-06 rifle which is equipped with a laser range finding scope and ranged him at 228 yards. I led him just to the front of his front shoulder and waited for him to step forward then squeezed the trigger. He dropped in his tracks and I nearly fell out of my chair. I've probably killed a few dozen deer with this rifle over the last ten years but rarely do they drop in their tracks with a 25 caliber round. I found later that I had made a perfect heart shot on him and when he was hit his left antler hooked a small tree causing his head to turn and keeping him from even taking a step. He is a typical 8 pointer, about 180 pounds with an outside spread of 22 inches and inside spread of 20 inches. Here is a link to the blog I started on him and also a link to a Flickr page with additional photos. I will be getting a full body mount done by Dustin's Taxidermy and it will be on display at the annual outdoor show held at Palestine Baptist Church in Huddleston, in February."

Robert Clark, a VDGIF Complementary Work Force (CWF) Volunteer from the Region 1-Tidewater area sent this photo of his grandson, Jake Belvin, age 14 from Chester, with his first deer hunting on private land in Dinwiddie County on Thanksgiving morning. The proud grandpa reports they had a slow start that morning due to fog, but it worked out alright as Jake was patient, finally dropping the 5 pointer in his tracks with one shot from his 20 gauge single shotgun at about 25 yards. Congratulations to both grandson and grandpa on a memorable 'first deer!'

My nine year old son Logan took this fine doe with his Rossi 410 shotgun, at 120 steps away! I was lecturing him about the mud on the end of his barrel and to always make sure you keep it away from the ground to be sure not to plug it up. As I was wiping the mud off the end of the barrel he suddenly said, "Dad, a deer!" Sure enough, there a good distance away stood a doe on the dirt road browsing her way across. I handed the shotgun back and told him to take the shot. He struggled to pull the hammer back and then was shaking so bad he had to lay the gun on a rest to steady himself. He pulled the trigger and as I expected she jumped into the wood line. He asked if we could go see if he got her, and I told him no, that we would wait until after the dog drive was over, and then go check it out. I then asked him what did the deer do when he pulled the trigger as from my vantage point I could only see her hind quarter and he said she jumped into the air. With that answer I thought maybe we should go check. So we walked toward the area and before we got to where she went in, I could hear her thrashing around. I would have never believed it if I wasn't there for myself. We dragged the deer out to the road and stayed there until the hunt was over. I wanted to be sure everyone got to see this one for sure. Once the hunt was over the other standers came out to us and saw the deer. I told them the story knowing they thought I had a loose screw. I had left our stools where we were originally and showed them—they were awestruck. A day I will never forget, and as you can tell by my son's smile, one he will never forget either. Thank you Rossi, Winchester, and most of all God!

Thanksgiving Squirrel Hunt One to Remember

Jeff Tomlin and Robert Saunders, with the Amherst-Nelson Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, provided six young hunters with a fun-filled, exciting, and successful Thanksgiving Day squirrel hunt that, judging from the proud smiles, will be remembered for a long time. Jeff sent us this great story and photo... "It took awhile and a lot of .410 shells, but each boy finally harvested a squirrel during our Thanksgiving Day hunt. All the young sportsmen are from Nelson County. The smiles in the group photo tell it was a remarkable day to share with friends and family in the great outdoors."

A 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 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 website. Also consider paying the $40 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!

Venison is Healthy and Delicious

Venison, when properly processed and prepared, provides healthy-low fat meat and can be served in a variety of delicious recipes. For great venison cooking recipes, purchase the Hunters for the Hungry Cookbook containing 224 recipes and over 300 pages. You not only get a variety of delicious venison uses, but help support a great charitable program to help our neighbors in need.

VDGIF Complementary Work Force Volunteer Hank Grizzard, from Tidewater, shared this venison recipe that he has used for years. He notes, "That in these often busy times, this recipe can be done in the microwave and is 'good and quick.' This one is also very versatile, we add different things from time to time, to bring out new flavors, and always with good results."


Optional additions: potatoes cut into ½ inch chunks, small can of mushrooms, or sliced up apple.

  1. Coat meat with flour. Place butter and meat in 2-quart glass casserole. Cover with glass lid or plastic wrap.
  2. Microwave on HIGH for about 10 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Stir in remaining ingredients; recover.
  3. Microwave on SIMMER for 30 minutes. Stir and continue cooking on SIMMER for 15 to 20 minutes or until meat is fork tender. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes, before serving. Makes 4 to 6 Servings.

Try serving over wild rice.

Safety and courtesy are free, share them generously

Deer Hunters Must Follow Carcass Importation Laws When Crossing State Lines

To prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) into Virginia, regulations were adopted in 2006 which prohibits the importation or possession of whole deer carcasses, or specified parts of carcasses originating from a state or Canadian province in which CWD has been confirmed.

Hunters should learn whether or not the state in which they intend to hunt deer or elk has CWD, a fatal neurological disease affecting deer and elk. The disease has been found in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. These include Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alberta and Saskatchewan. If you're going to be hunting in a CWD-positive state, be sure to check that state's regulations for proper handling of deer and elk and if samples are required.

For more specific information about the carcass importation requirements, visit the Cervid Carcass Importation Regulations FAQ.

Choosing A Quality Taxidermist Takes Pre-Planning

Are you dreaming of a trophy deer, bear or turkey for Christmas? We have gathered some timely tips in order to properly handle skinning your trophy without causing costly damage. You should also know what to look for in choosing a taxidermist prior to bagging your trophy. Todd and Vickie Rapalee from Goochland have shared some great advice for the Outdoor Report. Todd advises, "Just as important as scouting for game in the field, is scouting for a taxidermist to handle all of your taxidermy needs. You should take time to visit taxidermist's showrooms and web sites prior to your hunt to decide on who will handle the preservation of your trophy, be it whitetail, bear, gobbler, bobcat, coyote, or waterfowl. Remember that you will take the trophy of a lifetime one day. Choose your taxidermist before the hunt. The most important thing is to get your trophy to the taxidermist as soon as possible if you plan to have it mounted." Review taxidermy tips for deer in the past three editions: October 28 - deer, November 10 - bear, and waterfowl in November 24. For additional information on taxidermist services visit Rapalee Taxidermy, Inc. website and the Virginia Taxidermist Association.

Mark your calendars to attend the 29th Annual Virginia Taxidermist Association Annual Convention & Competition, March 20-21, 2010 at the Best Western Inn in Waynesboro. For details and registration visit the Virginia Taxidermist Association website.

Great Gift Idea for Outdoor Enthusiasts!

2009 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife

Our 2009 Collector's knife has once again been customized by Buck Knives and features a wild turkey in full strut. The elegant, solid cherry box features a forest scene. Knives and boxes made in the USA.

Click here for more information and to purchase!

Hunters - Are You Ready?

The late muzzleloader and archery seasons are upcoming in the West and there's still three weeks left in the East for deer, bear, turkey, and several other species. With many folks taking time off for the holidays there's still time to get in some 'quality time" afield. Here are some ideas to take advantage of the remainder of the season...

Purchase Your Licenses

A Customer Service Center has been established at VDGIF to help purchasers of hunting and fishing licenses. Call 1-866-721-6911 or email for assistance 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday, except holidays.

Where You Goin'?

If your favorite deer or turkey woods now has houses growing on it, or you are looking for a new place to hunt, do some scouting online through VDGIF's Find Game interactive web-based map-viewer and public hunting lands information system.

Get the Kids Involved

The Apprentice Hunting License is a good option for a friend or family member who wants to try out hunting this season. Check out the new Apprentice Hunting License video VDGIF has posted on YouTube. The video is an overview of how the Apprentice Hunter program works. Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, stars of the Outdoor Channel program, "The Crush with Lee & Tiffany," have a special video message for you.

Review the safety tips and common sense precautions in Be Safe... Have Fun! section.

Remember Safe Hunting is NO Accident!

Ultimately, every hunter is responsible for identifying their target and beyond before pulling the trigger. Most hunting fatalities are the result of careless gun handling, the hunter not making sure of his or her target, or shooting at sound or movement. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and never point the muzzle at anyone—including yourself. Before you go afield, let someone know where you will be hunting and when you expect to return. Take a few basic emergency items with you: snacks, water, safety whistle, a fold up space blanket, a method to light a fire, extra batteries for radios or GPS and fully charge your cell phone

Most importantly wear blaze orange—it's the law for a good reason—it can save your life!

New Seasons Set For Waterfowl and Webless Migratory Birds

  • New season dates for waterfowl were set by the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries at their August 18, 2009, meeting in Richmond. The dates and bag limits for various migratory waterfowl and webless species are posted in the sidebar of the Outdoor Report under the "Hunting Season at a Glance" section, or can be found on the Department's website. A new regulation this year states that dove hunters are no longer required to wear blaze orange during the deer firearms seasons. The first segment of Dove Season runs September 5 - 26, and the second segment starts October 7 through November 7, 2009.
  • Floating Blind Licenses Now Available from License Agents and Online
  • 2009 Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Available July 1
  • Remember to get a new HIP number.
  • Non-Toxic Shot Now Required for Hunting Rail, Snipe, Moorhen, and Gallinule
  • Shotguns Need to be Plugged for Doves, Ducks, Geese, and More...
  • VA Stamp
  • Federal Stamp

Mandatory CWD Sampling in Effect for January 2 in Parts of Frederick County

VDGIF has established a Mandatory CWD Sampling Area in southwestern Frederick County that consists of the area west of Route 600, north of Vance's Cove Road and Paddy's Cove Lane, and south of Fall Run Lane and Heishman Lane. Please see the accompanying maps (2009 CWD Surveillance Area PDF and Mandatory CWD Sampling Area PDF). This is the area of Virginia closest to the CWD detection in Yellow Spring, West Virginia. Consequently, deer harvested in this area on January 2, 2010 (last day of deer season) MUST be brought to one of the 4 stations:

Please note that the telephone or internet checking system may still be used to report the harvest, but the deer should still be taken to one of these check stations for sampling. For hunters who harvest an animal they wish to have mounted, the deer should still be taken to one of these check stations. We will work with the hunter and/or local taxidermist to obtain the samples we need. Hunters will be able to check the CWD test results for their submitted deer heads on the Department's website. Results should be available within 60 working days after collection.

VDGIF Deer Project Coordinator Nelson Lafon added, "Concerns over CWD should not keep hunters from enjoying the deer hunting season." Persons who have questions or need additional information about CWD should visit the Department's website, or contact Fred Frenzel, (540) 984-4101, ext. 130, or Nelson Lafon, (540) 248-9295

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Blaze Orange Is Not Just For Hunters! Be Safe, Be Seen!

Except for hunting waterfowl, wearing blaze orange during the general firearms hunting season is not only smart—it's the law! And a good one that saves lives each year. But blaze orange is not just for hunters. This high-visibility "safety orange" is recognized in the workplace, both indoors or out, so you can be seen. If you are a landowner, jogger, hiker, or walk your dog on woodland trails, you would be wise to wear a blaze orange hat, vest, or coat so a hunter can see you and not mistake your movement for game. Just like driving defensively, you should take the same precautions and awareness if you go to the woods for any reason during the hunting seasons from October through January. Dress defensively. Wear blaze orange to be safe and be seen. Also, if you should fall and get injured, rescuers will find you easier... time saved that could keep you from further harm. If you have dogs that "roam" out of the yard, put a blaze orange collar on them so they are not likely to be mistaken for a fox or coyote. Remember whether you are a hunter, or just enjoying the outdoors, cutting firewood or walking a woodland trail, wear "safety orange"- it's the "woods wise" thing to do!

Remember: Safe Hunting is NO Accident!

Make Safety a Part of Christmas Tree and Holiday Decorations

The winter holiday season is a festive time of year throughout Virginia. Family gatherings and decorations are hallmarks of the season, and safety should be part of your planning when preparing for these festive days. The Virginia Department of Forestry website offers some of our suggestions to help you be safe during the holidays.

Christmas Trees - Selecting the ideal tree is an enjoyable part of the holiday season. Choosing the "perfect" tree will be easier if you know what species you are looking for, the different features that indicate a good tree, and how to maintain freshness. Learn how to select and care for your tree at the Virginia Department of Forestry website.

The best gift hunters can give, or receive are those of safety and courtesy - give often and generously!

Gifts That Can Save Lives - Affordable and Priceless

We're always looking for unique gifts. With anglers, that can be anything from antique lures and tackle to the latest computer-aided, battery-equipped, depth-finding, temperature-recording, fish-finding gizmo to help us go from "fishing" to "catching." One area where we seem to ignore something that could literally save our lives concerns a common piece of safety equipment that seems to have absolutely no glamour about it—at least not compared with the computer-based location and emergency reporting gear—our personal flotation devices (PFD). The PFD is a mandated piece of gear for every boat, and every passenger aboard every boat—but we seem to believe the $14.99 special PFD that's cleverly disguised as a sun-faded, waterlogged seat cushion will suffice.

Unfortunately, it seems some people would rather be dead wrong—emphasis on the dead—rather than inconvenienced by the PFD. A few years ago, that trend started to change when the idea of comfortable, inflatable, and capable devices could actually be worn without completely immobilizing the wearer. Today, professional anglers, racers, and other professionals wouldn't be without their inflatable PFDs.

But there hasn't been much advancement in the technology for those who don't always fish from boats - or those who might see someone in trouble who aren't equipped with personal flotation devices. Those can be anyone from fly fishermen to adults who simply fall into the water from the shore and find themselves in trouble.

Mustang Survival has addressed those scenarios with a pair of their inflatable flotation devices. The first is called the Rescue Stick. The Rescue Stick weighs less than a pound, is just over a foot long, and comes in a waterproof bag. It's activated by pulling it from its waterproof bag and tossing it near the person in trouble. It activates when it hits the water, inflating into a large horseshoe shape with a 35-pound buoyancy considerably more than necessary to keep someone afloat with their head out of the water until they can be rescued. The average person is capable of tossing the baton-shaped stick 100-150 feet. That's about triple the distance anyone can throw a life ring or rope bag. It's small enough to fit into a backpack, boat, vehicle, or by a pool. And it's reusable. Simply repack the flotation portion, screw on a new handle that contains a fresh CO2 cylinder and it's ready to go again. It's one of those affordable (MSRP: $39.99) devices that can truly be a lifesaver.

The second flotation device combines the classic fishing vest with floatation. When fly fishing, I fall. So far, I've never injured anything but my pride, but I'm the type who has a fear of drowning that can only be understood by someone who's come close to drowning in the past. I can still remember being pulled from the water, dazed, choking, and out of breath—it's not a sensation I'd like to repeat. I can promise you I will not fly fish again without wearing Mustang's F3 Inflatable Fishing Vest. It's comfortable, has all the hook and fly patches, inside/outside pockets, leader eyelets and catches, and spaces for my tiny tackle offered by my former vest. But it also has the same 35-pound buoyancy as all Mustang Survival's Inflatable PFDs. Combined with my waders and boots, I feel I have an increased level of safety that more than compensates for the cost. The 3-Fs referenced in the name are: Form, Functionality, and Flotation. Personally, I'm at the point where I like all three working together for my own good. There are lots of great safety devices out there for all of us who love the water, but these can help keep us safe without interfering with our recreation. Not a bad combination.

Reprinted courtesy of Jim Shepherd, The Outdoor Wire and The Fishing Wire.

Stacey Brown, VDGIF Coordinator, Boating Safety Education adds that, "Inflatable lifejackets can be type III or type V. Check the label of the lifejacket to determine the proper use. Inflatable lifejackets are not approved for use by children under the age of 16 or for high impact water sports like water skiing, riding a PWC, or jetski."

"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.

Hunters Sharing the Bounty in this Season of Giving

Hunters across the Commonwealth are helping their neighbors in need by putting food on their tables. Food banks need donations now more than ever. Hunters are providing the much needed protein to Virginia's needy families by donating a deer or a portion of it to Hunters for the Hungry. Last hunting season, more than 363,000 pounds of venison was distributed in the Commonwealth through this program. Since Hunters for the Hungry was founded in 1991, more than 3.6 million pounds, equal to 13.5 million servings, of venison have been distributed in Virginia. In tough times, hunters continue to share the wealth of their harvest. The non-hunting public can donate money to Hunters for the Hungry to off-set the cost of processing that donated meat.

Notes for Young Nature Explorers

This section features articles and tips of interest to youngsters to encourage them to get outdoors and explore nature.. Observing and exploring the natural environment can be exciting, interesting, and fun: plus provide the types of experiences that cannot be found in books, the internet, or video games. 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 adventure!

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 school year 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.

The Education Outreach Coordinator, Sheila Mary Barnett, with the Virginia Office of Environmental Education in the Department of Environmental Quality offers this gift idea for educators. If you are looking for a great, green gift for an educator and want to support environmental education in Virginia, consider a subscription to Green Teacher magazine. From now until Christmas, all purchases of a digital or print subscription to Green Teacher magazine will support environmental education in Virginia. The editors of this award-winning magazine and previous speakers at our annual conference, will donate 20% to Virginia Naturally.

Create a Holiday Tree for the Kids and the Birds

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Whether there is ice and snow, or just frigid temperatures, here are some ideas to help wildlife through severe weather. If you are wondering what to do with the kids over the long holiday break from school, these activities will get them away from the video screens and outdoors exploring nature.

When the holidays are over and all the decorations and tinsel have been removed, put your cut tree out in the yard to provide additional cover for the birds. Outside, cut trees will remain green long after the holiday has ended, if they were cared for properly inside. You may want to anchor the tree with tent stakes and string to prevent the wind from blowing it over. Once stable, you can "decorate" the tree again, this time with food for the birds. An evergreen holiday wreath can be recycled in your yard the same way.

Fill the cut tree (or old wreath) with fruits and nuts strung on narrow twine or tied with other inexpensive string. Suitable foods include apple slices, whole peanuts in the shell or cranberries, and raisins; suet in nylon net bags; or pine cones filled with peanut butter and rolled in seed. Use foods that are natural and not full of added sugars or artificial ingredients. Be sure to tie the treats close to the branches so that once eaten there isn't a long string dangling for a bird to become entangled in; remove strings as they are emptied. The birds will welcome the treats and will take advantage of the protective cover from the tree as winter winds and cold settle in. Keep re-decorating the tree with more fruits and nuts as the food is eaten through the winter.

When spring comes, don't haul the now leafless tree to the dump. Instead, lay it on its side in an out of the way location, or incorporate the dead twigs and branches into a compost pile. The tree can also be used with other dead limbs or fallen branches in the yard to construct a brush pile for chipmunks, rabbits, and other small animals.

For more info visit the VDGIF website for "Bird Feeding Basics" (PDF)

Nature Observations from The Byrd Nest by Marika Byrd


The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is a large semi-aquatic rodent almost completely hidden in its rich brown fur. The partially-webbed, hind feet and the long flattened, scaly and sparsely haired tail serves as a rudder when swimming and diving, both forward and backwards. Imagine being able to stay underwater for about 17 minutes, taking a three-second surface for air, and then staying down for another ten minutes without a breath. What lung capacity! This mammal can close its mouth and chew underwater in spite of protruding incisors. The muskrat averages 20 inches in length and weighs about four pounds. Being nocturnal, you will see them active at sundown, at dawn, or even nightfall. In all seasons, they like to rest on logs or go swimming to bask in the suns warming rays.

Like the American beaver, it uses the small forefeet to help build lodges. Domed houses are constructed from rushes, leaves, sticks, and mud, and can contain four to six family members. They erect two types of housing: the elliptical nesting or dwelling lodges as well as circular feeding shelters on the water. They keep a clean "home," but the feeding shelter can be littered with food. For safety, they have several entrances/exits to the lodge as they tunnel into the riverbanks or wetlands and build dens under the waters edges. In the freezing winter, they feed on aquatic plant roots while they last. Their diet contains cattails, grasses, crayfish, frogs, and freshwater clams, as they are omnivorous. Because of their tunneling activities, the muskrat is known to cause damage to dams, levees, and crops they feed upon.

This member of the mouse and rat family produces a strong musky odor--so aptly named! Look for them in most counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and in the Chesapeake Bay watershed; they like fresh, brakish or saltwater marshes, ponds, lakes, low-gradient streams, canals, bank burrows or houses.

Look at the Virginia Wildlife Calendar for when these nature events occur in December:

Get your copy of the 2010 Virginia Wildlife Calendar here.

Habitat Improvement Tips

Make a Special Bird Treat

The following recipe is a great food mixture for birds that can be smeared on tree bark, fence posts, the wood in a wood pile, or pine cones hung in the yard where they can be seen from your windows. This mix provides a supplemental source of fat energy and nutrients to the birds. Making the mixture is fun, inexpensive and something the whole family can join in.

First, in large bowl, stir together:

Then add 1 part of lard or peanut butter and stir until the mixture holds together in one big ball. (Or, you can substitute bacon grease that's been rendered and chilled, but do not use shortening.)

This mixture will attract nuthatches, chickadees, tufted titmice, brown creepers, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and even bluebirds. Keep a record of the different species of birds you observe, it's fun, and educational for "children" of all ages. The birds will appreciate it too!

For more info visit the VDGIF website for "Bird Feeding Basics" (PDF)

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.

Popular Bass Bait - Madtoms Featured in December Virginia Wildlife Magazine

The "Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild!" section in the December 2009 edition of Virginia Wildlife magazine features "Madtoms and Other Little Known Bullheads," describes eight species of madtoms, small catfishes of the genus Noturus, which includes 27 species that occur throughout the eastern United States and Canada. Of those, nine species are found in the mid-Atlantic region; six of those species occur in Virginia. The name "madtom" was coined by a biologist (Jordan) in 1889, in describing the fish's erratic swimming behavior when startled. In Virginia they are often called "cat minnows," and are in fact netted by bait dealers and fishermen (sometimes illegally) and used for bait, especially for smallmouth bass. Additionally, some are taken to be put in home aquariums.

These small catfish reach a maximum length of about 12 inches although most barely reach four. All are scale-less and have four pairs of barbells. They also have pectoral and dorsal fin spines that are encased in a sheath containing mild venom. The rear edge of the pectoral spine is serrated or toothed. These spines can be extended and held stiffly erect and locked into position, which provides an effective deterrent to predators and anyone who handles them.

Because of water pollution and other problems, two species in Virginia are listed as threatened. The yellowfin madtom is federally threatened and is found in the upper Tennessee River drainage and the orangefin madtom is state threatened and is found in the upper Roanoke and James river systems. Acquaint yourself with properly identifying the various madtom species to avoid unnecessary impacts.

Read more about the madtom on VDGIF website Fisheries section.

Come Visit Us at the Richmond Fishing Expo January 15-17

The Outdoor Report will have an exhibit in the main Exhibition Hall featuring Fishin' Report contributors to answer your questions on where to get the latest "how are they bitin'" info on more that 25 primary lakes and rivers statewide. Volunteers from the VDGIF Complementary Work Force will be on hand describing opportunities for volunteers to assist in carrying out a variety of agency programs. Stop by our booth and tell us you are a subscriber and we will ask you to take a short reader survey or sign up a friend for their own free subscription and receive a carabiner. Also visit the VDGIF agency exhibit where we will have fisheries biologists, angling education specialists, and law enforcement officers to answer your questions. We hope to see you at the Fishing Expo-bring a friend and take the day to see all the interesting exhibits and seminars. For information visit the Show website.

Attention Anglers -- Nottoway Lake Bass Regulation Change January 2010

Effective January 1, 2010, the largemouth bass length limit at Nottoway "Lee" Lake will be changed to a 14-18 inch slot limit. All bass between 14 and 18 inches must be released unharmed. The five (5) largemouth bass/day creel limit will remain the same. Nottoway Lake has always been a very good bass fishery with very high bass numbers and also a high percentage of quality bass over 15 inches—not usually something that most systems can maintain. Unfortunately, conditions have shifted in the past 2-3 years with fewer of these quality fish sampled in the population; potentially due to harvest. While the 18-inch upper limit won't protect all big fish it does fit the average growth potential of Nottoway Lake. An index commonly used by VDGIF to measure the relative abundance of bass in Virginia waters highlights this decline in bigger largemouth bass; this is the measure of the number of bass greater than 15 inches collected in one hour of sampling effort:

CPUE - Preferred
2005 24.5 f/hr
2007 15.8 f/hr
2009 5.0 f/hr

Overall total numbers of bass in the Nottoway population remain very high so the number of young bass entering the system is definitely not a concern at this time. The new slot limit will serve a dual purpose at Nottoway Lake. First, it will allow for the harvest of some larger fish up to 14 inches. Second, it will reduce the number of smaller largemouth bass competing for limited prey resources which should provide more available prey for the larger bass in the population. We are confident that this regulation change will be very beneficial for anglers and for the bass population at Nottoway Lake.

How to Avoid the Six Most Common Boat Winterizing Mistakes

Free BoatU.S. Winterizing Guide Available

With winter approaching, BoatU.S. Marine Insurance has reviewed its claim files and reports the following six most common mistakes made when winterizing a boat:

  1. Failure to winterize the engine: Freezing temperatures occur in all 50 states and while they are taken seriously up north, it's the balmy states of California, Florida, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia where boaters are most likely to have freeze-related damage to engine blocks. It routinely occurs to boats stored ashore here. Boats left in a slip are less susceptible to sudden freezing as the surrounding water retains heat longer than air.
  2. Failure to drain water from sea strainer: If your winterizing plan calls for draining the engine, the seawater strainer must be winterized or residual water could freeze and rupture the watertight seal. Sometimes you won't know it's damaged until spring launching and water begins to trickle in.
  3. Failure to close seacocks: For boats left in the water, leaving seacocks open over the winter is like going on extended vacation without locking the house. If a thru-hull cannot be closed, the vessel must be stored ashore - the sole exception is cockpit drains. Heavy snow loads can also force your boat under, allowing water to enter thru-hulls that are normally well above the water line.
  4. Clogged petcocks: Engine cooling system petcocks clogged by rust or other debris can prevent water from fully draining. If one is plugged, try using a coat hanger to clear the blockage or use the engine's intake hose to flush anti-freeze through the system.
  5. Leaving open boats in the water over winter: Boats with large open cockpits or low freeboard can easily be pushed underwater by the weight of accumulated ice and snow. Always store them ashore.
  6. Using biminis or dodgers as winter storage covers: A cover that protects the crew from the sun does a lousy job protecting the boat from freezing rain and snow. Unlike a bona fide winter cover, biminis, and dodgers tend to rip apart and age prematurely by the effects of winter weather.

To get a free copy of the BoatU.S. Winterizing Guide full of tips to help you prepare your vessel for the winter, go to, or call 800-283-2883. Press Contact: Scott Croft, (703) 461-2864,

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.

Safe Boating is No Accident — Wear your Life Jacket and Take a Boating Safety Class

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. 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

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 For details on Virginia's laws or to take a boating safety course, check out the DGIF boating website.

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

Christmas is upon us again, and although the fishing action has slowed down, the angler on your list would still appreciate a fishing-themed present. Since you might not want to brave the crowds, now may be the time to do some shopping on-line. There are a lot of websites that are sources for a variety of ideas for great fishing gifts. Simply google some key words you are interested in , like "fishing lures", "fishing rods", or the trade names of the various tackle that are noted in the fishing reports from experienced guides and you'll have plenty of choices and some good bargains. It's still not too late to have them by Christmas, especially if you don't mind paying a little more for shipping.

Some of you might be wondering what to get the little would-be angler on your list. One necessary gift is a good personal floatation device, or life jacket. This may not seem too exiting, but it can and does save young lives. There are also many different designs, probably one with your youngster's favorite character on it. Once that vital piece of equipment is purchased, there are many other gifts available. One such is the first rod. Depending on the child's age and seriousness about fishing, there are different rods in different price ranges. Shop around, there are several inexpensive first rods that are designed with characters like Spiderman and Scooby Doo. They also family combo packages which include two rods and tackle sets for those of you with two little anglers.

Outdoor Report Editor David Coffman offers another gift idea to support your area fishing related businesses... Consider booking a fishing trip with some of the many guides that contribute their experience and expertise to the Fishin' Report each edition. Their websites and telephone numbers are listed with their reports. Also support your local bait shop, sporting goods store, marina, or other area retail businesses to help support your local economy. Also remember that a portion of your purchases of licenses and fishing equipment comes back to wildlife management agencies to fund management and research programs to enhance your sport. Remember it's the sportsmen that pay for conservation. Best wishes for a New Year of tight lines and calm waters.

Region 1 - Tidewater

Little Creek Reservoir: Contributed by Park Supervisor Robert Eveland. Due to recent rainfall the lake is now 9 inches below full pool. Fish continue to hang in deeper water off the points and occasionally on structure. Spinner baits, crankbaits and plastic worms were baits of choice. Notable catches this past week. Jim Pendo, a croaker, 2 bass, about 4 lbs. 6 oz. each, taken on spinnerbait. Robert "Doc" Eveland, 2 bass up to 3 lbs. taken on a plastic worm.

We are now entering our winter schedule. We will be open on Saturdays & Sundays, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weather permitting) and will be closed during the week. This schedule will last until March 1, 2010. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefield (443) 336-8756. Captain Jim reports that things have been windy and stormy. Nevertheless, rockfish have been responding well around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. They are going for jigs, bucktails and Fishbite. Tautog fishing has been slow. Bluefish can be found at the mouths of the York and James and are biting spoons and cut bait. Puppy drum and speckled trout can be found at the Lynnhaven Inlet and will attack Fishbite and Mirrolures. The water is fairly clear and 58 degrees.

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Charlie Brown tells us that things have been very slow due the cold and rain. Some fairly big cats have been landed on cut bait, but that's about it. The water is stained and cooling.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. Dewey Mullins says that some bass have been brought to boat with small jigs, soft plastics, and topwaters early and late. It seems to me that any angler who is willing to venture out early in this weather deserves a fish. Crappie are hitting fairly well on minnows and small jigs. No word on cats. White perch are really biting on minnows and nightcrawlers. A few stripers have been fooled by spinners, crankbaits, and especially rattletraps. The water is clear and in the low 60s.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Drew Dixon reports that things have been really slow due to the cold rain. Stripers are doing okay on minnows. No word on bass, crappie, or cats. The water is clear and cooling.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner Well, the waters in the Blackwater and Nottoway went down enough last week for me to get on the river. However I did not do well and only snagged a couple of toothy gar. I tried just about every trick in the book, but to no avail. I did hear of a nice 5 lbs. plus largemouth that was caught in the Nottoway. Now with all the rain this week the river is again near flood stage. So it's most likely not going to be worth hitting any of these rivers for the next week at least. You can always check the USGS gauge for the lower Nottoway. If the gauge at Sebrell is over 10 ft. forget about going fishing. The lower Blackwater the gauge data link is here. If the gauge near Franklin is over 8 ft. forget about going fishing.

Region 2 - Southside

Lake Gordon and Nottoway Falls: Contributed by our man in the boat Willard A. Mayes. For most of my life I can remember wishing for rain, so even now I can not say I would like for the rain to stop. I will just grin and bear with it. On Tuesday, Dec. 1, I stopped by Nottoway Falls to see its condition, found it muddy and about 8 or so inches over normal. Wednesday we dropped by Nottoway Reservoir and it is over a foot above normal and muddy. The river itself is out the banks. I was in South Hill Friday so we rode out to Lake Gordon to find it 3 feet above normal winter level and same ole muddy appearance. There were two people fishing from the bank and I talked with one and he said he had fished Thursday and caught several small bass. I had gone by Brunswick and Great Creek last week and they were not as muddy as the other lakes but both were above normal by several inches. If there is a break in the weather I will try out Brunswick first warm day next week.

James at Scottsville: Local Guide L.E. Rhodes, (434) 286-3366. Wish there was something to report. The James is blown out. The smallmouth fishing is pretty much over now. Keep a watch on the weather and look for a warming spell and more favorable river conditions and give it a try. The water is stained and cooling.

Kerr Reservoir: Contributed by Bobby Whitlow, Bob Cat's Lake Country Store, (434) 374-8381. Taken from the website.

Stripers: Striper fishing remains good in certain areas. With recent heavy rains, the Clarksville area is very dirty with lots of logs and trash. There have been good reports of fish around Goat Island up to the mouth of Eastland Creek. Fishermen have been using live bait, super flukes with jig heads and Flip Flop buck tails. Most fish are running 4 to 6 lbs. in size.

Bass: Fish are using deeper pockets with bait present. Fishermen are mostly throwing deep running crank baits in front of flooded bushes. There have been reports on good numbers and sizes of 2 to 4 lbs. A few good areas to try are Grassy Creek, Panhandle, and Butch's/Rudd's Creek. Water temperatures are in the mid fifties.

Crappie: Crappie fishing slowed up a little with high lake levels, which seems to scatter fish. The lake slowly dropping will pull fish back out to the deeper brush piles and off shore homes. Casting jigs and tight lining seem to work well. Hot fall colors are Pearl, Black/Chart, Red/Chart, Cajun Cricket, and John Deere Green.

Catfish: Same as our previous report. Blues are being found in deeper waters around Goat Island and flatheads remain in the Clarksville area on main river channel bends and breaks. Most fishermen are anchoring and/or drifting using bottom rigs and free lines using large corks. Baits of choice are bream, large shad, goldfish and cut bait.

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane, (434) 385-0200. Doug Lane reports that it's too cold to fish in his patch, but the brook trout and brown trout are biting. Good flies are Flashback Hare's Ear, sizes 10 to 14; Krellx sizes 4, 6 and 8; and Wooly Buggers in all colors, size 6. The water is dingy but should clear up once the rain stops. The temperature is in the low 40s.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina (434) 636-3455. Ron Karpinski told me that the lake has been flooded and muddy. This has kept anglers away. A few have been out for stripers, but didn't have much luck. The water is muddy and cooling.

WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN IMPORTANT WARNING: The Virginia Department of Health has issued an advisory on walleye fish consumption due to mercury contamination in Lake Gaston. Recent fish tissue sample results from the North Carolina Division of Public Health show mercury levels in walleye fish exceed the amount considered safe for long term human consumption. VDH advises the consumption of no more than two meals a month of walleye taken from Lake Gaston. Virginia's advisory stretches from John H. Kerr Dam downstream 18 miles to the Virginia-North Carolina state line. For additional details, visit the VDH fish consumption advisory page.

VDH recommends the following precautions to reduce any potential harmful effects from eating contaminated fish:

Smith Mountain Lake: Contributed by Mike Snead. Virginia Outdoorsman, (540) 724-4867,

Stripers: The striper fishing is mixed. Good numbers of fish are being caught using a variety of different techniques, but using large live bait (gizzard shad) on downlines has been producing the best quality fish. Captain Bert had a client catch a striper that weighed over 22 lbs. last week and a number of striped bass 32 in. or longer were reportedly caught and released. A majority of the better fish continue to be reported in the upper lake, although floating debris has been making unrestricted navigation difficult in some areas. Stripers are also being caught in the mid and lower lake with fish reported in Bull Run, Craddock Creek, Walton Creek and Gills Creek. While fishing with live bait has been producing the best fish, stripers are also being caught by anglers trolling Captain Mack's Umbrella Rigs with both gasoline and electric trolling motors. Trolling with individual swim shad has been less productive since the huge schools of "peanut shad" appeared on the scene. Larger swim baits and deep diving large crankbaits are producing an occasional striper, especially when they are found feeding on the small baitfish near the mouths of major creeks. The seagulls have begun to arrive this year, so keep an eye out for diving gulls and keep a rod rigged to take advantage of the stripers feeding on the baitfish below them. Flukes and curly tailed grubs rigged on quality jigheads with spinnerbait skirts are producing an occasional striper when presented near the shoreline and are good rigs for stripers feeding on baitfish just below the surface. Bucktails are another good lure that will produce fish found near the shoreline and off main channel points, especially early and late in the day. Fluke and bucktail fishing should continue to improve as we move toward Christmas. Vertical jigging with flukes, spoons and selected blade lures is working for stripers as well as bass, white perch and the occasional flathead catfish. Kastmaster, Hopkins, Luhr Jensen and Cotton Cordel are good spoons and the most popular size weighs ¾ ounce.

Bass: Bass fishing continues to be mixed and sustained patterns are eluding most anglers. Bass are being caught using a number of different lures and techniques. Shaky head jigs continue to work under and around deep water docks. For deeper fish, try a pig and jig using jigs made by Bill Easterly, Cheeseburger, Eakins and Daves with ZOOM, Berkley and Netbait trailers. Some bass are being caught in deep water using heavier football head jigs with trailers and Carolina rigs with craw and creature plastics. Crankbaits in crawfish colors and slow rolled spinnerbaits are also producing an occasional bass. Bass are also suspending off rock ledges and points where they can be caught on jigging spoons, drop shot rigs and lipless crankbaits (Rat L Trap, Strike King, Rapala, Daiwa, Spro). Good colors include those that represent shad including sexy shad, khaki, chartreuse shad, bone and pearl. Lipless crankbaits with chrome sides and a blue or black back are also a good choice.

Crappie: Fishing continues to be very good with good numbers of big fish reported by those using small "crappie" minnows rigged on gold thin wire hooks and light jigheads. One angler reported success using small jigheads with small plastic grubs and minnow imitating trailers by Bobby Garland. Last week, when the temperature on the surface was around 54 degrees, a number of crappie were being caught from 6 to 10 feet below the surface in submerged timber. With the water temperature dropping, the crappie will probably move a little further down in the water column.

Water temperature is 52 degrees with good clarity.

Region 3 - Southwest

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. John Zienus says that temperatures have kept the action slow. Even the muskies have been non-responsive. In the future, however, bass should come up to feed. The water is clear and in the low 50s.

Region 4 - Mountain and Shenandoah Valley

North and South Forks of the Shenandoah: Harry Murray (540) 984-4212 Harry told me that when fishing for bass in the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah, fish deeply. You can still land a good one in the deep pools. Good flies are nymphs and streamers like the Murray's Magnum Blue Gill, size 4 and the Murray Hellgrammite, size 4. The water is 49 degrees and clear. The stocked streams in the Valley are good for rainbows. Good steams are Big Stoney Creek West of Edinburg; and Passage Creek East of Edinburg. Good flies are Murray's Cranefly Larva, size 12 and the Casual Dress, size 12. The water is 44 degrees and clear. Harry says that the mountain streams are too cold to fish.

North and South Forks of the Shenandoah: Mossy Creek Fly Fishing (540) 434-2444. According to Ryan Briscoe, there are some big bass in the Shenandoah, but they are hard to get at because they are in their winter holes. Try rattletraps, tubes, and crayfish flies. Trout angling is good. In Mossy Creek try streamers like the Crystal Bugger, size 6. In Beaver Creek, try streamers and nymphs. The water is clear, depending on the rain, and cooling.

Region 5 - Northern Piedmont

Piedmont Rivers: Local blogger and author Steve Moore, / Fishing the North Branch of the Potomac. Steve reports that the recent incessant rain has blown out most of the water in the Piedmont area. The mountain trout streams are running violently full and generally unfishable except at the upper headwaters. The Upper Potomac is equally swollen and murky, running almost 1.5 feet above normal as measured at the Point of Rocks gage.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, Captain Mike Hoke, Life's Revenge Guide Service, (804) 357-8518. Captain Mike told me that while the water is still high and full of debris, he and his clients have landed some big cats on cut bait and cut shad. Crappie can be found in creeks and in the old river channel, the usual minnows and jigs do the trick. The water is muddy and high, with the temperatures fluctuating between 55 to 58 degrees.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, John Garland, Screaming Reels Fishing Charter, (804) 739-8810. Call for recent report and conditions.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Contributed by Capt. Mike Ostrander, James River Fishing School, (804) 938-2350, Fishing for blue catfish on the James River this past week has been phenomenal. The blue cats have been biting well using fresh cut gizzard shad. Catching lots of fish in the 20 to 50 lb. range. One day last week we boated almost 500 lbs. of blue catfish (all released). Caught 25 that day and the biggest was 48 lbs. Another day we caught 8 citation sized catfish (all over 30 lbs.). The cold stormy weather does not seem to have affected the bite. The water is cooling quickly now with all the cold rain water coming out of the non-tidal James.

Lake Anna: Contributed by Jim Hemby, Lake Anna Striper Guide Service (540) 967-3313,

Striper: The month of December ushers in the winter fishing patterns which should hold through February. Schools of stripers are breaking all over the lake with constant action in the 208 Area and around Dike 3. Gulls are advertising where the fish are when they are not blowing shad out of the water and, if you are stealthy sneaking up to a school, you can be assured of multiple hook-ups. For anglers casting artificial lures, Redfins, Spooks, and Pencil Poppers work great while the fish are up on the surface and Sea Shads, Sassy Shads, Super Flukes or most swim baits will catch the fish once they sound. Count your offering down to the depth you see them on the depth finder and retrieve your bait with a steady slow retrieve or jig spoons in their faces to catch these strong fighting fish. Once the water temperature falls below 45 degrees. downsize your baits for more action. Stripers are literally all over the lake feeding now and will continue to be unless the upper lake freezes over. Trolling can also put some fish in the boat in the winter but is not as productive as in the summer months.

Live bait fisherman will continue to catch the larger stringers of stripers this month as is evident by our latest catches. As the water cools we will be converting from running 8 to 12 in. gizzard shad to fishing with the smaller herring and 4 in. gizzards. Downlake, where the water is warmer, the bigger baits will work all month catching some of the largest fish of the year. This month in low light conditions I will usually start off running a dozen freelines on boards and bobbers and as the sun gets brighter I will add downlines to put baits in the zone where I see them on the depth finder. The larger fish will use mainlake points, flats and humps to feed on where the planner boards excel and the smaller fish usually school up over the 20 ft. to 35 ft. flats where we will use downlines to catch the stripers. Choose areas to fish where the boat traffic is minimal for better and more constant action. As the water cools the fish will gradually move with the baitfish from the splits region down toward the power plant.

Bass: Savvy bass anglers have always favored Lake Anna for cold weather fishing and the citations over the years for huge bass has proven that the lake is one of the best fisheries for bass in the area. Winter patterns exist now with fish settling into their main lake haunts. The Bass are still feeding heavily putting on weight for the winter. Concentrate your efforts in clearer waters this month, Bass are very hard to catch in cold stained or muddy water. It is hard to beat suspending jerk-baits this month, working them with long casts to points and over cover, using a jerk, jerk, pause retrieve. Bass will move 20 feet in the right conditions to hit this bait. Black back-foil and natural colors work best in the clearer waters. You can cover lots of water quickly with this bait to locate bass. Once you develop the pattern of the day you may catch the bass of a lifetime this month. Lake Anna bass also love swim baits. There are many to choose from, use smaller baits and slower presentations in colder waters. If the fish are more lethargic you may have to slow down and use a more vertical presentation. Light line works well in the clear water using small drop shot techniques, tube baits, and even jigging spoons. Bass will school now so when you locate them work the area thoroughly for some great winter action. Flats and humps less than 20 feet deep are excellent holding areas for big bass.

Crappie: The fish are schooled on 10 to 25 foot structures and are putting on the feed bag! Bridge pilings, main lake points with rock drop-offs in the 10 to 20 foot range, humps, ledges and deep brush piles all are holding crappie. Also deep docks especially with lights on them hold large schools of fish. Live bait and slower vertical presentations work best this month. Bridges hold the easiest fish to catch, run your depth finder around the pilings to locate the fish and the depth they are holding at and fill up the livewell with these wonderful tasting fish.

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.

Region 2 - Southside

Spotlighter caught shooting deer in his own yard... On December 2, 2009, Senior Conservation Police Officer Gavin Fariss was contacted by VDGIF Communication Center in reference to a citizen hearing a single gunshot at approximately 5:00 a.m. Senior Officer Fariss responded to the location and found the suspect standing in his yard. When the suspect saw Officer Fariss, he immediately started walking towards Officer Fariss and frantically began telling Officer Fariss that there were some guys spotlighting next door and he had been chasing after them. Officer Fariss allowed the suspect to tell him all about the spotlighting and then told the suspect that he wanted to see the deer in his shed. The suspect then admitted to illegally shooting a deer himself. The buck was killed at 5:00 a.m. in the suspect's side yard while illuminated by house lights. The suspect was charged with killing a deer illegally. For more information contact Lt. Tony Fisher at (434) 525-7522.

Region 3 - Southwest

Citizen tips and investigation lead to Parkway spotlighters arrests... On November 8, 2009, Conservation Police Sergeant Rolland Cox received information that four individuals had spotlighted and killed three deer along the Blue Ridge Parkway and had transported them to a residence in the Pipers Gap section of Carroll County. Sgt. Cox and Conservation Police Officer George Shupe went to the residence and observed two individuals in the shed in the process of skinning a deer. The officers located two processed deer in the bed of a pickup. Their investigation revealed that four individuals had taken part in the offense and the three deer had been illuminated with the vehicles headlights and shot with a .22 rifle from the bed of the pickup. Charges were placed for killing deer at night with the aid of lights, shooting from the roadway, unlawful possession of deer, and killing deer with a .22 caliber firearm. For more information contact Lt. Rx Hill at (276) 783-4860.

Region 4 - Mountain & Shenandoah Valley

Patience and persistence with Surveillance pays off in poacher arrests... An investigation that began last hunting season by District 41 Officers concluded on Friday, November 13 with the arrests of two individuals in Page County. The two individuals were shooting deer, specifically nice bucks, from the back porch of the residence. Surveillance on four different nights during the 2008-09 hunting season confirmed a spotlight was being used. At times the light was cast on a doe, but no shots were fired. On one occasion, a red light was attached to a firearm and cast into the field behind the residence. This activity was documented and surveillance began again this hunting season. District 41 Officers conducted surveillance on the Friday nights prior to the Youth Deer Hunting Day, Early Archery Season, Early Muzzleloader Season, and finally, the General Firearms Season. On November 13, the spotlight was cast upon a buck and a shot was fired. The two suspects searched unsuccessfully for the deer. Upon arriving back at the residence, the suspects were met by Conservation Police Officers. Interviews were conducted and evidence recovered; the suspects had also been baiting the deer close to the residence. The two suspects will face multiple charges including take/attempt to take deer by the aid of a spotlight/optical sights, kill deer illegally, hunt over bait, and illegal possession. For more information contact Lt. Ronnie Warren at (540) 248-9360.

These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other hunters an undeserved bad reputation. Don't let the actions of a few outlaws tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen!

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

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

Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

'Tis the season' when familiar carols like "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" or, "I'll Be Home for Christmas," stir fond memories for many outdoor enthusiasts of experiences like a deep snowfall, a frozen over creek or pond, animal tracks in a fresh snow, new birds at you window feeder. For a young teenager a huge ice storm Christmas eve provided not only a white Christmas but a most memorable outdoor experience when family not only came home for Christmas but got stranded in the storm. Taylor Nelson Fariss was a senior at Lancaster High School in Weems, when she entered her article in the 2008-09 Virginia Outdoor Writers Association High School Youth Writing Competition. Her moving story was awarded Third Place. Taylor has beautifully captured the joy and peace of the season being with family and friends and realizing a special connection with nature in all it power and beauty.

The Miracle of Winter

By Taylor Nelson Fariss

As the broad, structured limbs loosely intertwined above my head, a few warm rays of sunlight escaped from the frigid grasps of that December morning. As they leaked through the tree's canopy, each ray not only brought a small ounce of warmth to my chilled face but also reflected against the icicles that hung from every frosted branch. This reflection projected mini rainbows that cascaded down from the highest branch to the snow dusted ground, where I lay. I was officially in a winter wonderland.

Christmas Eve was finally here; however, with it came the largest ice storm Lancaster County had seen in ages. No electricity, busted pipes, and icy roads were some of the side effects that came with this white Christmas. Most of the adults' minds were clogged with these thoughts and could not escape their worries. Where are we going to cook the Christmas ham? How am I going to get to the airport with the roads being covered in black ice? Wait, whose pipes just busted? I could have watched them panic, but instead, I watched the snow as millions of delicate snowflakes dotted the dark, bitter night sky. Christmas was only a few hours away.

By the early morning hours, calmness overcame the household. There were no frantic phone calls or people constantly pacing. However, there was a plan. Despite the slick roads and the freezing air, everyone bundled up and jumped into their cars, heading to an unknown destination. To me, this place was not unknown, but rather a place I had known for almost my whole life, a place I would escape to on a spring morning or a summer afternoon, but never during winter. As six cars pulled into this deserted and snow covered field, one by one we piled out and stood in amazement. In front of us was a 60-foot tall tree covered in ice. Icicles dripped from every branched while a light snow was sprinkled over every limb. Sparkling mimosas were passed around to all of the adults and homemade hot cocoa to all of the kids. As we toasted to this Christmas, we all gazed up at this miracle of nature that showed us the beauty of what we despised before. We saw nature for what it truly is: a gift.

Now, here I lay with my head up against this ancient tree. Laughs and pieces of my family's mid-morning chatter hum into my ears as a smile comes across my chapped lips. I watch a few snowflakes slowly descend from a branch above after a slight gust of wind pushed them off the edge. As they land, the frozen ground is dusted with these white shavings, slightly resembling the mounds of snow that lay outside this tree's canopy. I am completely engulfed by nature and its pure beauty portrayed as through frosted glasses. This magical touch truly shows me the miracle of winter and how sometimes it is what is needed to open one's eyes to life: a life with nature.

This entry in the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) 2007-08 High School Youth Writing Competition by Taylor Nelson Fariss of Lancaster High School, placed Third in the 2008-09 Competition. For information on the VOWA Collegiate or High School Youth Writing Competitions visit the VOWA website:, or contact VOWA Writing Competition Chairman:

David Coffman, Editor, Outdoor Report
VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries
POB 11104 Richmond, VA 23230
Telephone: (434) 589-9535, Email:

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for: