In this edition:

Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Thankful

This edition is posted on the eve of my favorite month - November. I like to think of it as the "Great American Heritage Appreciation Month," where we need to be especially responsible, respectful, and thankful. The early muzzleloader deer season begins November 5th. What a great time of year to get with friends and family. The smell of the powder charge and puff of gray smoke takes us back to bygone days and simpler times. For hunters, this is the most important time for us to be respectful. Common courtesy and safety are no accident: Be respectful of other hunters, landowners, and the wild game you pursue and harvest.

More importantly, this is a time for all sportsmen to "walk the walk and talk the talk." Election Day is November 8. Do exercise your precious right and responsibility as a free American citizen and VOTE! So many decisions that affect our outdoor pursuits are made by elected officials at the local and state levels. Let your sportsman's voice be heard through your VOTE.

The following Friday, November 11th is Veterans Day, honoring the brave men and women who have fought and died to protect our freedoms - especially the privilege to vote. Do something meaningful to show your appreciation to our veterans and their families in some way this year. You might volunteer for a hunting or fishing outing for wounded warriors, share some extra venison with a military family, or send 'goodie' packages to troops serving overseas.

And finally, be thankful for the opportunity to partake of all these wonderful blessings, for treasured friendships, for the service, courage, and sacrifice by our military, law enforcement and emergency services people and their families. I wish you and yours a safe, rewarding, and peaceful Fall Season.

David Coffman, Editor

Hunting Benefits All Virginians

With the archery deer hunting season underway, and the fall turkey, muzzleloading-black powder and general firearms season opening in the next few weeks, 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 and your community...

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

Read the full story on the Department's website »

Hunt safely and responsibly.

VDGIF Basic Law Enforcement Academy Graduates Class

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Basic Law Enforcement Academy has graduated a new class of officers. Deputy Clerk of the Circuit Court for Chesterfield County Leslie Morris officially swore-in the new officers. In all, 15 new conservation police officers were sworn-in at the ceremony. These officers completed an intensive training program that included more than 200 courses and ran for nearly 29 weeks. They will take up their assignments across the Commonwealth and proceed with field training under the direct supervision of field training officers. This is the sixth class to graduate from the Department's Training Academy. VDGIF undertook establishing its own academy in order to tailor the program to the specific needs of conservation police officers.

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

See the CPO Notebook section for the list of the newest conservation police officers and the areas where they will be assigned.

2011-2012 Fishing, Boating, and Wildlife Diversity (Non-Game) Regulation Review and Amendment Process Underway

What Changes Would You Like to Virginia's Fishing, Boating, and Wildlife Diversity (Non-Game) Regulations for 2013?

Stage 1: September 1 - November 30, 2011 Scoping Period

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries review and amend all of the Virginia regulations governing wildlife and boating biennially. The regulations are reviewed in two separate biennial processes, with different regulations being under review in alternating years.

September begins the 2011-2012 Regulation Review and Amendment Process for Virginia's regulations governing fishing, boating, and wildlife diversity. "Wildlife diversity" includes regulation of those wildlife species not hunted, fished, or trapped. In this earliest, scoping stage of the current regulatory review process VDGIF staff is soliciting the public's views on what changes in regulations citizens would like to see. During this period, staff also collects and analyzes biological and sociological data relevant to regulatory issues. Such information typically includes constituent satisfaction survey results, conversations or meetings with constituents in groups and individually, and other forms of feedback from the public that occurs continuously including before the scoping period.

VDGIF strongly encourages the public's participation in the regulation review process. You are invited to use this online comment submission system to submit your views.

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

Halloween October 31... Be aware that many localities are observing Halloween on Saturday October 29 and Sunday October 30. Be alert for trick-or-treaters on both days and evenings. Make sure your little ghosts and goblins wear clothing with reflective markings or tape and carry a flashlight.

Hawk Migration Approaching Peak in September - October

The annual fall hawk migration is once again upon us. The migration begins in early September and lasts through November with peak numbers from late September to mid-October. During this time, thousands of raptors leave their breeding grounds and make their way south to their wintering grounds. Most follow geographical features such as mountain ranges and coastlines. Raptors take advantage of updrafts along mountain ranges and rising thermals along coastal areas, allowing them to travel great distances while reducing their energy expenditure," according to VDGIF Wildlife Biologist Steve Living. Hawk watch sites are set up throughout the Commonwealth to view and count the migrating raptors. Raptor species that can be viewed from these platforms include Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrels, Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, Northern Harriers, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Golden Eagles. Black and Turkey Vultures are usually counted at these sites as well.

New Hunter Education Graduates Offered Opportunity to Explore Wingshooting

Attention new hunter education graduates – have you ever dreamed of watching a bird dog lock up on point on a wily pheasant as you approach with shotgun in hand? Now you can make that dream come true. Fifty 2011 hunter education graduates from Virginia will hunt pheasants through the Explore Wingshooting program.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, North American Gamebird Association and International Hunter Education Association are sponsoring the program.

DON'T WAIT! Go to www.nssf.org/explorewingshooting today to reserve your hunt or to learn more about Explore Wingshooting.

Hunter Education Instructors to Host Youth Deer Hunt for Boy Scouts at New Kent Forestry Center November 26 and December 31

The Virginia Hunters Education Association in partnership with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Department of Forestry has developed a ground breaking program with the Boy Scouts of America, Colonial Virginia Council to provide a youth deer hunt for Scouts at the VDOF New Kent Forest facility. This jointly sponsored first ever in Virginia hunt for Venture Scouts is scheduled for November 26.

The initial hunt planned for the September 24th Youth Deer Hunting Day had to be postponed due to Hurricane Irene which caused flooding and damage to facilities at the New Kent Facility and volunteer hunting education instructors handling the logistics and safety for the youth hunt were committed to various storm recovery activities. The purpose of this innovative program is to provide a genuine hunting experience during a variety of environmental conditions for Venture Scouts in an organized group that may not have access to hunting lands or training and skill building workshops. Hopefully this will be an incentive to encourage Scouts to participate long term in hunting which uses many of the skills and sportsmanship ideals found in Scouting.

This day long event combines hunting skills training, safety, firearms handling and hunting with a mentor. The format for this special hunt has been approved up the Boy Scout chain of command up to and including the National level for Venture Scouts and it will be a scout "event". By making it a scout "event" the Boy Scouts of America insures all scout participants from the time they leave home for an event until the time they return from the event. Only those scouts which complete the first day's safety activities will be permitted for the second day's hunt.

The first hunt day is scheduled for November 26th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with the Scouts arriving at the New Kent Facility Friday afternoon November 25th and camp out departing Sunday morning November 27th. Saturday's activities will include a review of Game Laws by a VDGIF Conservation Police Officer, a review of deer biology by a VDGIF Game Biologist, a review of firearms safety and handling by Hunter Education Instructors, inspection of Scout's firearms, live fire to pattern shotguns, clay pigeon shooting and other activities. After lunch, a late afternoon deer hunt will be conducted. Hopefully there will be a demonstration of field dressing/skinning/butchering at the end of the day. Scouts may also have the option to go on a squirrel hunt or other activity. For all scout hunts each hunter will be accompanied by a scout volunteer and a VDGIF/VAHEA approved volunteer who will be the "IN CHARGE" person.

A second Hunt Day has been set for December 31st, the Saturday after Christmas, as the day for this hunt with the Scouts arriving at the New Kent Facility Friday afternoon December 30th and departing the morning of Sunday January 1st. The day's activities will consist of a morning safety brief and stand assignments followed by a morning and afternoon deer hunt. A local hunt club will provide deer hounds for this day's activities.

To participate in this Youth Hunt interested scouts should contact: Mark Wenger at (757) 253-0056 or markwenger@cox.net.

Interested DGIF Hunter Ed, Outdoor Ed or Complementary Workforce volunteers should contact: Henry McBurney at (757) 357-6430 or h-smcburney@charter.net.

Wilderness and Urban Survival, Tracking and Camouflage Workshops Offered by Wilderness Discovery School October-November

Do you want to know the basics of wildland survival, or increase your knowledge and advance your outdoor skills for tracking and camouflage to avoid detection? Are you just looking for a fun get away to challenge yourself and put your skills to the test?

The Wilderness Discovery School led by Professional Instructor Roy Hutchinson is hosting a series of workshops on these topics at various locations through October and November. The programs includes professional and expert instruction with participation limited for a better instructor: participant ratio. Optional classes include: Basics of Survival - What to think about to stay alive,  Primitive Shelter - Space Blankets to Debris Huts, Water & Wild Edibles - Finding Water and Food,  Situational Awareness – Use and detection of camouflage, Fire Craft - Making and maintaining a fire without matches,  Managing Hypo/Hyperthermia. Each participant will learn how to build their own survival kit.  Learn knowledge and skills to last a lifetime! Cost of workshops vary as to length and topics covered. Pre-registration required. Contact Roy Hutchinson, email: roy@trackingsurvival.com,  For information on other wilderness survival and outdoor skills related classes visit the Wilderness Discovery website, the Holiday Lake 4-H Center website, or the VDGIF website on upcoming Outdoor Education classes.

Oct. 29 9 am to Noon Recreational Animal Tracking (critterin') at Dorey Park in Eastern Henrico. Henrico County Parks and Rec. are handling registration go to www.henricorecandparks.com Click on Adults, then click on Nature and Outdoors.

Oct.  29 1 pm to 7 pm Urban Survival in Eastern Henrico. Remember no power during Irene? This class has been set up recently, so contact Roy details. Cost will be $35.00.

Nov 1 – 6. The TEOTWAWKI Survival challenge. This is the week a lot of you asked us for. We will do a segment each on Urban & Wilderness Survival, Land Navigation, Camouflage & Awareness, Wild Edibles and Tracking (Human and Animal). For those who choose to participate this class will conclude with a test of your newly acquired skills. We will have professional man hunters that will give you the opportunity to try and evade them in a human hunt. NO weapons, bragging rights only. The total cost is $375.00 which includes a primitive campsite. Contact me to register. Spots are very limited, so don't wait too long.

Nov. 11 – 13 Camouflage and Awareness at the Holiday Lake 4H center near Appomattox, VA. Registration is being handled by the center. Contact Bryan Branch at (434) 248-5444 or bbranch@vt.edu Meals and Lodging included for only $90.00, cheaper than one night in a motel.

Nov.18 -20 Human Tracking in Cumberland, VA.. Cost is $100.00 and includes a primitive campsite. Contact Roy for info or to register.

Upland Classic Pheasant Hunt Scheduled in Albemarle November 12-13

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Cooler weather is here with Autumn leaves splashing color all over the Virginia landscape. It's a great time to go bird hunting! The Virginia Upland Classic Series is holding a "THANKSGIVING PHEASANT HUNT" near Charlottesville, at "Liberty Corners Farm" in Esmont, just two miles south of State Route #6, and five miles west of Scottsville. The National Upland Classic Series (NUCS) is an association of gundog enthusiasts and a division of the National Kennel Club (NKC) that caters to all pointing and flushing dogs used for bird hunting. Here in Virginia the association has been holding successful Winter Quail Hunting events at Keysville for several years now, and this year the club is holding its' first " Thanksgiving Pheasant Hunt" and gundog competition, November 12-13 at Liberty Corners Farm. All Bird hunters and their favorite dogs are welcome and invited to come participate in the fun.

Upland Classic hunts are based on as close to actual, safe hunting conditions as possible and are scored for the performance of the hunter and his dog as a team. Three pheasants are randomly planted out of sight of the upcoming hunters and then the hunter and his dog are then given twenty minutes to find the birds. Once the "find" is established the hunter (who is allowed six shells) flushes and kills the bird and the dog retrieves it. A simple point system is in place for each hunting activity, and bonus points are given for using less than six shots and for any unused minutes of the twenty minute time allowance. A scorekeeper goes along with the hunter to tabulate the score and maintain the rules. It is strictly about getting three birds safely, with fewer shots, and in less time ...it is a lot of fun.

The hunting will take place in separate fields of bird cover. Mature dogs, three years old and older, hunt in fields with dogs of similar age and experience. Younger, less experienced dogs (under three years) hunt in separate fields and compete only against each other as "amateurs". First time participants (Novices) are separated in a similar manner and the scorekeeper functions as somewhat of a coach for novices to help them learn the rules and enjoy the hunt. It is a great place to take your dogs and enjoy a day of bird work and shooting.

All flushing and pointing breeds used to hunt upland birds are welcomed in this hunt. Participants will vary from experienced field trial competitors, to first time hunters who just want to come out and shoot a pheasant or two over their dogs. The hunt is lots of fun and safe for all levels of experience hunting for birds and working with bird dogs. Prizes and Ribbons are awarded for each event.

To receive more information about participating contact: bgnorris@cox.net - VUCS, Box 430, Dutton, Virginia 23050 - phone 804-694-5118

Dyke Marsh Featured on PBS TV October 28

As part of the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) This American Land series, Dyke Marsh in Northern Virginia will be featured e "beautiful places you've never heard of" with a segment reviewing Dyke Marsh's natural resources, history and threats on October 28, 10:30 p.m., WETA Channel 26.

Friends of Dyke Marsh to Meet November 16

The November 16 meeting of the Friends of Dyke Marsh will feature a program by U.S. Geological Survey scientists, led by Ron Litwin, on the study on erosion in Dyke Marsh, a study that concludes that Dyke Marsh is eroding as much as six feet a year. The program begins at 7:30 p.m., Huntley Meadows Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria, VA 22306. Cosponsored by the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park.

Claytor Lake Youth Muzzleloader Deer Hunting Workshop December 9-10, Registration Deadline November 18

Claytor Lake State Park and VDGIF are partnering to offer youth 12-17 years of age an exciting educational workshop and an opportunity to harvest a deer with a muzzleloader! This workshop begins with 5:30 pm registration on Friday December 9th followed by a evening seminar on whitetail deer biology and game management, hunting safety and ethics, muzzleloader safety, shot placement and much more! The guided hunt begins on Saturday morning at 5 AM, with the young hunters having the opportunity to harvest a deer with a muzzleloader. All youth must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Hunting opportunities are only for the registered youth hunters. All youth must successfully complete the hunter education course and meet all license requirements. Registration is limited to 20 hunting spaces reserved for youth 12-17 years of age who have not harvested a deer with a muzzleloader. Please send in registrations to reserve your space for this workshop. For information or questions, contact Karen Holson at (804) 367-6355 or email karen.holson@dgif.virginia.gov. Deadline for registration is November 18, 2011. The event information and registration form can be found at www.HuntFishVA.com/events.

People and Partners in the News

CPO Richard Howald Named VDGIF Conservation Officer of the Year

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) named Conservation Police Officer Richard M. Howald the 2010 Conservation Police Officer of the Year. Howald joined VDGIF in 2005 as a recruit in the Law Enforcement Basic Academy and graduated in March 2006. At graduation he was given both the Most Physically Fit Award and the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries Award which is given to the recruit who displays exceptional overall performance during the entire course of training.

Prior to joining VDGIF, Howald served in the United States Marine Corp as a Sergeant with the 2nd Fleet Anti-Terrorism Team. His numerous skills immediately became an asset to the Department as he shared his knowledge and expertise with his fellow officers and new recruits. He has provided instruction to all VDGIF Conservation Police Officers in mantracking, defensive tactics, and physical fitness. In 2009, Howald received the Director's Award an award presented at graduation by the agency director to the Basic Academy instructor voted best instructor by the class of recruits.

Since joining VDGIF, Richard Howald has been assigned to Appomattox County and continues to serve that locality and provide support across the region. In addition to his regular law enforcement duties, Howald has proven himself to be a highly professional leader eager to take on new duties and share his expertise. Most recently he was selected as one of the Law Enforcement Division's three canine units in that newly launched program. He and Scout, a Labrador retriever, received extensive training and graduated from the Indiana K9 Training Academy in 2011. Scout's specialized enforcement activities include: searches for missing persons and wanted subjects; locating illegally taken wildlife such as deer, bear, and turkey; evidence recovery; and participating in educational programs.

This new assignment builds on the impressive outreach work he was already doing in his community for sportsmen's groups, civic organizations, schools and other youth organizations. One of Richard Howald's most rewarding outreach programs in 2010 was participating in the outdoor "CSI" camp that was presented to 60 youths at Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center. During this program students are presented with a mock crime scene and are provided information to help solve the crime. Topics covered include evidence recovery, fingerprinting, interviewing techniques, cast impressions, and photography. This is a 3-day 12-hour class and on the last day the students must present than findings and make an arrest. Officer Howald than evaluated their performance and provided constructive feedback.

The 2010 hunting season provided Officer Howald the opportunity to fully demonstrate his belief in teamwork and showed how he acts as a true resource to his fellow officers. There were seven hunting incidents within his working district of several counties last fall and Officer Howald served as lead investigator on one of these incidents and then willingly assisted his co-workers on the other six incidents. The incident on which he acted as lead investigator was unique in the fact that the hunters involved tried to misdirect him as to the actual circumstances and location of the incident. Using his excellent investigative abilities, mantracking expertise, and interview skills, Richard Howald, after a 4-hour investigation, uncovered the actual circumstances of the incident. He was able to get the hunters to confess that the incident had actually occurred in another county, that the shooter was actually a member of their hunting party who also happened to be a convicted felon who could not legally possess a firearm, and that the individual was hunting turkeys out of season when the incident occurred. That individual was charged and found guilty. In addition, the hunters who mislead the officer were charged and convicted of providing false statements to a law enforcement officer.

Officer Howald effectively and efficiently handles calls from the routine to the complex and readily accepts difficult assignments. He has not only established this reputation with his supervisors and coworkers but also with many officers from numerous other law enforcement agencies. This was no more evident than in January 2010, when Richard Howald was called to assist in Appomattox County where one of the worst multiple murder cases in Virginia had just occurred. In total, eight people were killed at the shooter's residence before law enforcement was notified and able to arrive on the scene. Investigators were familiar with Officer Howald's mantracking knowledge and requested his support in locating the suspect in a wooded area. After the suspect was taken into custody, Officer Howald used his skills and training to recover key evidence in this pending case.

A recent example of his positive and cooperative attitude came when a neighboring county in his work area did not have a Conservation Police Officer assigned to it. Officer Howald was asked by his supervisor to cover Buckingham County. Without hesitation, he stepped up and filled in by patrolling the county and making sure that the citizens knew that an officer would be available when needed. He immediately made an impact as he made numerous cases in just a short period of time.

As a lead member of the Department's Tracking Team, Richard Howald eagerly volunteers to provide instruction to interested officers. Recently, he assisted with coordination of a multi-agency tracker training exercise for members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. This training consisted of a scenario where multiple suspects were on foot in a wooded area and were considered armed and dangerous. During the training, Officer Howald was able to provide instruction in the use of GPS, compass, mapping, and the use of aerial support in conjunction with man tracking. He also served as an evaluator and observed one of the tracking teams in action. Richard was then able to provide valuable feedback to the officers, which will assist them in real life situations.

Officer Richard Howald has an exemplary record in serving the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Conservation Police Officer and has made a tremendous impact during his service with VDGIF. He is a motivator to other Conservation Police Officers who consider it a privilege to work with him. His genuine concern for protecting natural resources coupled with his professionalism, excellent working relationships, and his confidence and ability to represent the Department in public forums make him the ideal Conservation Officer of the Year. Both the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the citizens of Virginia have benefited greatly from the efforts of this conscientious officer.

Wildlife Center Holds 16th Call Of The Wild Conference November 12-13

The Wildlife Center of Virginia invites you to the 16th Annual Call of the Wild conference on wildlife rehabilitation November 12-13, 2011 at the Best Western Inn & Suites Conference Center in Waynesboro. Wildlife rehabilitators, veterinary professionals, wildlife biologists, environmental educators, and wildlife enthusiasts from Virginia and beyond will share ideas and knowledge that can benefit wildlife, the environment, and the continually evolving field of wildlife rehabilitation. Amanda Nicholson, director of outreach for the Wildlife Center notes that the conference is sponsored by The Wildlife Center of Virginia, the nation's leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. More information can be found online.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine located in Waynesboro, admitted a total of 2,302 animals for treatment during 2010 – injured, ailing, and orphaned wildlife from all across Virginia. More than 2,400 have been admitted so far in 2011.

Art Contest Commemorates 75th Anniversary of Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration Program

Celebrate 75 years of better hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife-related recreation through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) by sharing your nature with us. Enter the "WSFR 75-It's Your Nature" Art Contest today to have your artwork featured as a limited edition anniversary print in 2012 and win a $500 gift certificate to Cabela's and travel and registration to the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in March 2012. VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan is serving as the official Chairman of the WSFR 75th Anniversary Committee and is hoping for some great artwork entries from Virginia artists. The "WSFR 75-It's Your Nature" Art Contest is hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the nation's most successful conservation effort—the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. The deadline to enter the contest is November 14, 2011! For contest eligibility and entry instructions please visit the WSFR website.

Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen Host Events for Fall Hunting Opportunities

If you have a disability and would like to participate, select your choice of hunting or skill building events and complete the Application available on the VANWTF website. Mail or email completed Application to Mike Deane wheelin4u@yahoo.com.

Hunters for the Hungry Announces New Fund Raising Raffles for 2012

Hunters for the Hungry has announced the winners of their 2011 Electronic Prize Raffle with the official drawing taking place at the Virginia Outdoor Sportsman Show at The Richmond Raceway Complex, Sunday August 14th, 2011 at 6:00 pm (see the Hunters for the Hungry website for a list of the winners). Fund Raising Coordinator Gary Arrington expressed appreciation to the many folks and organizations that have supported and helped with the raffles and other fund raisers in past years. He noted, "These funds raised are critical in paying for the processing of the donated venison and supporters continue to be a blessing to our program and to all those whose lives are touched by what you do! For every $5 ticket we sell, we can provide 25 servings of venison to needy men, women, and children."

Tickets are still available for the Outdoor Adventure Raffle for 2012 that has a first ever TOP PRIZE of an ALASKAN FISHING ADVENTURE FOR 2 - it is about 10 days with about 7 days of fishing, meals, lodging, and AIRFARE! To be scheduled in 2012! This trip package is over $6,000 in value!

Drawing to take place on March 1, 2012, between 4 pm and 5pm at the Hunters for the Hungry Office located at the Sedalia Center, 1108 Sedalia School Road, Big Island, VA.

To view the actual photos of the electronics package items, check out the website and if you would like to purchase some of these tickets and / or would like to help us sell some of these please let us know! We could so use your support in these special fund raising efforts!

Virginia Tourism Corporation Offers Popular Website To Promote Outdoor Events & Activities

With the summer vacation season heating up, thousands of visitors will be looking for outdoor adventures throughout the state. The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) encourages everyone who has an event, workshop or outdoor-related activity to post it to the official tourism website of Virginia -- www.Virginia.org. This is a free service offered by VTC. Virginia.org is very popular with both in-state outdoor enthusiasts and out-of-state visitors interested in vacationing and seeking outdoor adventures here in the Old Dominion. Dave Neudeck, Director of Electronic Marketing for VTC, notes that the Virginia.org website attracts approximately 500,000 viewers per month.

The events or workshops need to be open to the public and should be something in which the traveling public can participate. Log in to the new Virginia.org Administration Tool to submit a new listing or update existing listings.

Sportsmen and Conservation Organizations Hosting Annual Award and Fund Raising Events

A number of sportsmen and conservation organizations that partner with VDGIF throughout the year are hosting annual award and fund raising events during the summer months. If you are a member of one of these groups we appreciate your support of our aligned missions and volunteer efforts to improve opportunities for all outdoor enthusiasts and conservation of our wildlife and their habitats. If you are not a member of one of these organizations, we encourage you to find an organization that shares your views and join and support them. It is the strength in numbers that will allow us to preserve and continue our treasured outdoor traditions, be it hunting, fishing, boating, or viewing wildlife. The following is a listing of events that our partners have asked us to post:

Partner Organizations Working Together For Wildlife

The VDGIF is pleased and honored to have the support of numerous non-profit conservation organizations that are dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. Through the involvement of thousands of citizen volunteers, as well as a financial commitment to a variety of agency projects, organizations have supported wildlife conservation efforts that benefit all Virginia sportsmen and women. We encourage everyone to support these organizations and to become active participants in one or more of these groups. In this section of the Outdoor Report we spotlight one of these partner organizations, highlighting the groups programs and activities that support us in our Mission "working together for wildlife."

With Veterans Day observance November 11th, we wanted to feature several organizations and events that honor and serve the needs of veterans and their families for their courage, service and sacrifice to preserve our freedom. On Veterans Day, we honor the brave men and women who have fought and died to protect our freedoms. Do something meaningful to show your appreciation to our veterans and their families in some way this year. You might volunteer for a hunting or fishing outing for wounded warriors, share some extra venison with a military family, or send 'goodie' packages to troops serving overseas.

There are numerous organizations we have featured in past editions of the Outdoor Report that provide outdoor adventure opportunities for veterans and wounded military servicemen and women. Visit these websites to see how you may support their efforts.

Rose Hill Game Preserve Hosts Pheasant Tower Shoot to Benefit Families of the Wounded Fund November 5

Rose Hill Game Preserve in Culpeper is again offering a European Pheasant Tower Shoot on Saturday November 5, 2011 for the benefit of Families of the Wounded Fund, Inc. This event is being held to honor the memory of 1st Lt. Jason D. Mann who served in the Marine Corps as an Arab linguist, reconnaissance professional and ground intelligence officer. On July 17, 2008, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, he made the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved family, Corps, and Country. All proceeds from this memorial hunt are going to support the Families of the Wounded Fund, Inc. This charity raises funds for families who are caring for their severely wounded family member at McGuire Veterans Hospital's polytrauma unit in Richmond.

Preserve Hunt Master Don Haight Jr. notes that the European Pheasant Shoots are packed with great adventure. No other form of hunting offers so many shooting opportunities with hundreds of pheasants in a single outing. Pheasants are released from a 60 foot tower roughly 50 yards away. There are 11 shooting stations for two shooters per station. After every 20 birds are released shooters will rotate to the next station. This allows everyone a chance to shoot from all positions. The action is fast paced and exciting.

The European Shoot is great for individuals or groups. Over 200 pheasants will be released. Following the tower shoot, a delicious buffet luncheon will be served. Following lunch, groups of shooters will enter the fields with our guides and pointing dogs for a walk up shoot to harvest the pheasants not targeted at the tower shoot. Rose Hill offers an opportunity to test your skills on fast flying pheasants in the company of good friends in a beautiful setting. Pointing and receiving dogs will be provided. Register early-- spaces are limited. The hunt fee is $1,000 per hunter with all proceeds going to Families of the Wounded Fund, Inc.

Hunting Requirements:

  1. Valid Virginia Hunting License or Non resident shooting preserve license.
  2. Blaze orange hat & apparel as required under VA hunting rules.
  3. Eye protection
  4. Ear protection (suggested)
  5. #6 Shot high brass (you must provide your own) we suggest 5 boxes
  6. Alcohol not permitted before or during the hunt.

View a video from one of our Tower Shoots »

View photo's from some of our Tower Shoots »

More information from last years Tower Shoot »

Been There - Done That! Can't Wait to Go Again...

Editor's note: One of our New Year's resolutions was to get out in the field as much as possible and participate in a variety of the great events and activities that we write about each edition of the Outdoor Report. In this new Section called "Been there – done that! Can't wait to go again...", here's the 'rest of the story' from staff and partner observations participating in these memorable events...

VDGIF Wildlife Biologists John Randolph has been an avid proponent of getting youngsters out in the woods, fields and marshes to experience the adventure, fun and character building benefits of hunting. He annually hosts the Hog Island WMA youth waterfowl hunt in cooperation with numerous VDGIF staff, volunteers and sponsoring partner organizations. Here is a great story of last weeks youth hunt during the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day...

Early to bed, early to rise, the kids are headed to Hog Island to look for ducks in the skies!

It's four in the morning October 22, 2011 and the first parents with their youngsters start to arrive at Hog Island Wildlife Management Area in Surry County for the Annual Federal Waterfowl Youth Hunt Day. Parents and kids unfold from their vehicles. The adults are stretching out the kinks from the long ride and the kids are wiping the sleep from their eyes. As everyone arrives, the excitement and anticipation for great hunt begins to rise with all the waterfowl sounds in the back ground. VDGIF staff and volunteers get everyone organized for the pre-hunt safety briefing and hunt location assignments. After everyone has gotten dressed in their waders and hunting attire they are loaded into trailers and taken to the field to put out decoys and begin the hunt.

Shots ring out across the impoundments as the sun begins to break the horizon. Meanwhile back at the contact station, hunter education instructors begin to set up a skeet range, waterfowl biologists prepare for a rocket net demonstration, tables full of door prizes are set up, the grill and food are put in place for the after hunt lunch. As shooting slows, the kids and volunteers head back to the contact station for the rest of the day's events. The stories abound with talk of hits, misses, bug bites, and who has what kind of games on their cell phones, along with the other things young teens talk about. With new-found friends, the youngsters start wandering around and notice the door prizes, shotgun range, and rocket net setup. After a duck calling demonstration by call maker Brian Watkins of Poquoson, everyone gathers for the rocket net demonstration and a brief talk about why and how the net is used. The rocket net demonstration concludes with a big bang, as the net is fired over duck decoys. On to the skeet range. Hunter education instructors provide gun handling and safety instruction, then it's fire away until the food is ready. After a nice lunch the kids gather for door prizes. Everyone is excited and hoping the prize they want does not get picked before they get their chance at the table. The day concludes with handshakes, thank you's, and hope to see you next year comments. All is well and hopefully we have initiated some new waterfowlers into the sport.

For many years now the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries has provided the opportunity for this hunt to take place on Hog Island WMA and has been blessed to have several different organizations take an interest in our youth and sponsor this event. For the last seven years The Wildlife Foundation of Virginia and their Executive Director Jenny West have provided sponsorship of the event by donating food, drinks, and door prizes to make this a wonderful event for the kids. The Wildlife Foundation of Virginia has partnered with the VDGIF in many endeavors and has become a great friend and asset to the Department. Green Top Sporting Goods in Ashland has also played a big role in this event the past two years by donating additional door prizes for the kids to make sure everyone goes home with something to remember their experience. Some volunteers and parents along with donating their time have also donated nice giveaways for the kids. The participation of the Virginia Wildlife Foundation and Green Top Sporting Goods shows their unwavering commitment and understanding of the value and role our youth play in the future of hunting.

Photos by John Randolph, VDGIF.

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.

Safety and courtesy are free, share them generously

Fall Turkey Season Opens October 29

The Youth Fall Turkey Hunt Day, established for youth 15 years of age and younger, got things stirred up on Saturday, October 15, 2011. This special youth day gets interest started for the regular fall turkey season starting Saturday October 29. {see Regulations for dates in our area}. With the growing popularity of spring gobbler hunting, fewer hunters are turkey hunting in the fall. To provide added opportunities for fall turkey hunting, the season dates have been extended in some areas. and the starting and ending dates for the late segment for fall turkey have changed in most counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Hunters under the age of 12 are not required to have a license, but they must be accompanied by a licensed adult. Adult hunters supervising youth must possess a valid Virginia hunting license, may assist with calling, and shall not carry or discharge a firearm.

Fall turkey hunting has some unique methods and restrictions:

Be sure and check the regulations booklet for season dates, bag limits and other details.

How Does a Young Hunter Without a License Check in a Deer or Turkey?

One of the most frequently asked questions during the early youth seasons or any hunting season is how do deer and turkey hunters that do not have to purchase a license and therefore do not have deer or turkey tags check in their game?

What licenses are required for youths?

Resident deer or turkey hunters under 12 in Virginia are not required to purchase a license or have taken a hunter safety course. Conversely, deer and turkey hunters 12 and above must be licensed and have taken a hunter safety course. An exception to this rule is that hunters 12 and over could go hunting with an Apprentice License without having taken a hunter safety course. If a young hunter is over age 12 and has had a hunter safety course, the Junior Combination Hunting License (under 16 years of age) for $16.00 is the best deal. It includes statewide hunting privileges, archery, muzzleloading, and bear, deer, turkey tags.

Share the Memories...

Below are photos and stories from several proud young hunters who represent our future. A special note of appreciation is expressed for the adult mentors who took time off from other routine fall Saturday activities to give these youngsters a memorable day afield and create a new tradition. The creation of these new traditions are especially important in this fast paced society that tends to keep us from taking the time and effort to spend a day in the wild – appreciating the wonders of nature and spending real "quality time" with one of "tomorrow's conservation leaders." The true meaning of a "successful hunt" is also well expressed in the Young Writers Section at the end of this edition. If you took a young hunter out that special day you created a unique memory and hopefully started a "new tradition" for the last Saturday in September. Ironically and fitting this special Youth Deer Day coincides with National Hunting & Fishing Day – what better way to celebrate than taking a youngster on a hunting adventure. If you miss the special Youth Deer, Turkey, or Waterfowl Hunting Days this year, be sure and take a young person out before the seasons end – the future of our sport and hunting heritage traditions depend on it.

David Coffman, Editor

Patience Rewarded with Emily White's First Buck

Proud Dad Mike White sent in this story of his 12 year old daughter Emily White of Spotsylvania , who harvested a nice 7 point buck with a 20 ¼ inch wide spread on the special Youth Deer Hunting Day September 24th. He recalls, "On Youth Day morning while sitting in a ground blind patiently for a few hours, which is hard for a 12 year old to do, Emily and myself saw a few does. I told her to be patient and it would pay off. We had seen a couple of nice bucks while scouting earlier that week. After a nice lunch and Emily's catnap, we returned to the blind around 2 o'clock. We sat, which seemed forever for Emily , when a doe stepped out in the field, which she was itching to take, then another stepped out, and again she was ready. I told her to just wait, "I've been waiting all day" she pleaded....About 5 minutes later is when a 'wide-rack' 7 pointer stepped into the field. As I covered my ears, Emily made a perfect shot and the buck dropped to the ground. I think I was more excited then she was! What a great day for her. She learned that patience can be rewarded. We are off to the taxidermist. TAKE A KID HUNTING OR FISHING, IT MAKES FOR GREAT MEMORIES AND PROUD PARENTS!

Top Ten New Hunting Regulations and Opportunities for 2011-2012

  1. License fees for hunting and trapping have increased slightly – only the second increase in 24 years... License fees for youth, crossbow, archery and muzzleloader did not increase
  2. Partially disabled veterans shall pay half of the resident or nonresident hunting license fee, Veterans must have at least 70 percent service-connected disability
  3. Tracking dogs maintained and controlled on a lead may be used to find a wounded or dead bear or deer statewide during any archery, muzzleloader, or firearm bear or deer hunting season, the retrieval participants must have permission to hunt on or to access the land being searched and cannot have any weapons in their possession.
  4. The Special Muzzleloader Season for bears will be a uniform 1- week statewide season. Firearms Bear Season dates have changed for many areas of the state.
  5. The Youth Deer Hunting Day will be open statewide September 24, 2011.
  6. Urban Archery Season has been expanded to include new areas.
  7. Beginning fall 2011-2012, all deer killed after the first Saturday in January must be checked by the telephone or Internet checking systems.
  8. Changes in the length of the fall turkey season in many counties- most new seasons are longer, some are shorter. Turkeys killed in the fall may be checked using the telephone or Internet.
  9. Turkey hunting in January is provided in many counties for the first time. Turkeys killed in January must be checked using the telephone or Internet.
  10. A Facility Use Permit has been established, effective January 1, 2012. Users with a valid hunting, trapping or fishing license, boat registration, 16 years old or younger, or hiking the Appalachian Trail are exempt and will not have to pay the Use Fee. The fee will provide the means by which outdoor enthusiasts who use the VDGIF Wildlife Management Areas and state fishing lakes can contribute, on either a daily or annual basis, to the stewardship, maintenance and management of these facilities and their natural resources.

Refer to the full description of these new regulations in the Hunting & Trapping in Virginia July 2011 - June 2012 booklet available at license agents, VDGIF Regional Offices and sportsman shows statewide, or view on our website: www.HuntFishVA.com

Hunters: Check the Regulations before Taking Your Deer Carcass out of Virginia

Since Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been detected from two deer harvested in Frederick County, Virginia, deer hunters must follow carcass importation regulations in other states when they transport a deer carcass out of Virginia (see www.cwd-info.org).

Hunters anywhere in Virginia going into Kentucky or North Carolina must bone-out or quarter their deer carcass so the brain and spinal cord are removed.

Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will accept whole deer carcasses from Virginia except those originating from Virginia's CWD Containment Area in which case, carcasses must be boned-out or quartered so the brain and spinal cord are removed.

For Tennessee, whole deer carcasses are allowed except those originating from anywhere in Frederick County and Shenandoah County, where carcasses must be boned-out or quartered so the brain and spinal cord are removed.

For Virginia deer hunters hunting out-of-state, please make note of the following change to Virginia's carcass importation regulations. Whole deer carcasses from carcass-restriction zones, rather than from the entire state or province where CWD has been detected, are prohibited from entering Virginia. For example, only the counties of Hampshire, Hardy, and Morgan in West Virginia, and the county of Allegany in Maryland, are now restricted. For information regarding other carcass-restriction zones and deer parts allowed to be brought into Virginia from these zones, please visit the Department's website.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is continuing several management strategies in the northern Shenandoah Valley in response to the detection of CWD. These actions include:

Just as in previous years, hunters in the Containment Area should be aware of the mandatory sampling days (November 19, 26, and December 3) and be prepared to submit their deer heads for tissue samples. The Department will distribute additional information closer to those dates.

To assist with CWD surveillance, VDGIF is strongly encouraging hunters who harvest deer in the CA on days other than mandatory sampling days to voluntarily submit the head and neck from their deer for testing by bringing it to a self-service refrigerated drop station, which are located in the following places:

In addition to surveillance within the CA, VDGIF is collecting 1,000 samples this fall from across the entire state to assess the CWD-status of deer outside the CA.

CWD has been detected in 19 states and two Canadian provinces. The disease is a slow, progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk, and moose in North America. The disease ultimately results in death of the animal. Symptoms exhibited by CWD-infected deer include, staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss. There is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans, livestock, or pets. Anyone who sees a sick deer that displays any of the signs described above should contact the nearest VDGIF office immediately with accurate location information. Please do not attempt to disturb or kill the deer before contacting VDGIF. More information on CWD can be found on the VDGIF website.

New Hunting & Fishing License Fees Go Into Effect July 1

Effective July 1, 2011, some hunting and fishing license fees will be increasing in Virginia. This was the first license fee increase since 2006 and only the second license fee increase for hunting and fishing since 1988.

The basic annual fishing and hunting licenses for adult Virginia residents will increase from $18 to $23 which includes the $1 license agent fee. Annual youth licenses will not increase. Non-resident fees for similar licenses were increased by the same percentage as the resident fees. For a list of fishing and hunting licenses and the fees to purchase them, including the cost for non-residents, visit the Department's website.

The Board of Game and Inland Fisheries enacted the fee increase at their May 3, 2011 meeting with an effective date of July 1. At that same time they created a facility use permit for Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) wildlife management areas or public fishing lakes that will go into effect January 1, 2012. Anyone over 16 years old who does not have an annual hunting, fishing, or trapping license or a boat registration will need this new use permit. Users will have the choice of paying $4 for a daily pass or $23 for an annual pass to all VDGIF facilities.

Second Segment Dove Season October 25-November 5

VDGIF Conservation Police Lieutenant Scott Naff reminds dove hunters and other migratory bird hunters that keeping their daily harvest separated from that of other hunters in their party reduces confusion and the opportunity to find themselves in violation of the law. It is important to remember that it is required by law that the birds be tagged with the hunter's name, address, and total number of birds harvested prior to putting them in the custody of another person. More information can be found on tagging requirements of migratory birds on the Department's website.

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 16, 2011, 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.

There are 2 Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days for 2011-12

Youth days are no longer required to be consecutive hunting days, so Virginia is able to provide two Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days this season. The first Youth Hunt Day has been set for October 22, similar to when it has been held in the past, and the second day has been set for February 4 after the close of the regular duck season. See Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days. To get prepared and learn the skills necessary to be a successful waterfowler, the VA Waterfowlers Association in partnership with the VDGIF and Holiday Lake 4-H Center are hosting a Waterfowlers Workshop September 30-October 2. For more information and to register for this upcoming workshop or to find out about similar opportunities in the future, visit the Holiday Lake 4-H website or the VAWFA website. Come join us for a fantastic weekend at the Holiday Lake 4-H Center near Appomattox.

VDGIF Board Approves Facilities Use Fee and Certain License Increases

At the May 3, 2011, Board of Game & Inland Fisheries meeting in Richmond, several milestone decisions were made that will benefit the Agency and its ability to continue to provide a multitude of services to all the citizens and visitors of the Commonwealth. The Board approved only the second increase in license fees in the past twenty-four years along with an exciting array of hunting and trapping regulation proposals. The adoption of a facilities 'Use Fee' is important well beyond the actual revenue derived since it provides the means by which folks who use these wonderful Wildlife Management Areas and state fishing lakes can contribute, on either a daily or annual basis, to their maintenance and management. Users with valid hunting, trapping or fishing licenses, boat registrations, 16 years old or younger, or hiking the Appalachian Trail will not have to pay the use fee. In order to educate the public sufficiently, the Use Fee will have a sunrise of January 1, 2012. Award winning outdoor writer and Outdoor Report contributor Bill Cochran has posted a review of the Board actions from the "sportsman's perspective" on his Roanoke Times online outdoor column. Bill's own insight and interviews with various sportsmen leaders on these Board actions will provide you with the background and projected program enhancements to be gained by these actions.

Share your Hunting Photos and Stories With Us...

We're looking for some good deer, squirrel, rabbit, bear, and turkey hunting photos from youth, or novice hunters. Congratulations to those who have taken the time and commitment to mentor a young or novice hunter-- the dads and moms, uncles, aunts, grandparents, or friends for discovering the passion for the outdoors and providing this most important opportunity for developing new traditions, resulting in wonderful experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

Keep sending in great photos of smiling young hunters. Also, any unusual pictures or stories from any hunters are considered for posting. 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. Any firearms pictured MUST be pointed in a safe direction.

Send us the basic information to dgifweb@dgif.virginia.gov for a caption including: names, age, hometown, location and date 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.

David Coffman, Editor

License Options for Novice Hunters

Take a look at an Apprentice Hunting License for a friend or family member that wants to try out this rewarding sport this season. Apprentice hunters are reminded they still have to comply with this education requirement before legally purchasing a state resident or nonresident basic hunting license. Be sure to check out the new Apprentice Hunting License video VDGIF has posted 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 to take the time to introduce a friend or youngster to the great outdoors with an Apprentice Hunting License.

Licensed adults who take a novice hunting with an Apprentice License should be vigilant to ensure that hunting safety rules are followed at all times. It is best if the licensed adult does not carry a loaded firearm, so that the focus can stay on the apprentice. Teach new hunters to be safe from the start!

There are youth and family-friendly events throughout the year all across the state, where you can go to get information and the right gear to make your outdoor adventures safe, successful, and fun. Visit your local sporting goods store or sportsmen event and properly prepare for a great hunting season with family and friends.

Remember to make a donation to Hunters for the Hungry when you purchase your licenses through the convenient check-off option- give $5 to show you care for those in need!

Volunteer VDGIF Hunter Education Instructors do much more than teach the required Hunter Education Courses, they also develop and assist with outdoor skills training events such as Becoming an Outdoor Woman workshops, sportsman show exhibits and other Special Youth Hunts throughout the year for deer, rabbit, waterfowl, squirrel and much more. To become involved as a Hunter Education Instructor, contact Sgt. David Dodson at david.dodson@dgif.virginia.gov. Please include your locality in the e-mail.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

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

Except for early muzzleloading and 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 woodswise thing to do!

Clean Your Muzzleloader - Now!

With the growing popularity of hunting with a muzzleloader and the advances with the new in-line models, there are a lot of you out there new to shooting black powder. I am one of them. Fortunately with the mentoring of a good hunting buddy, who has been shooting black powder for many years, I got off to a great start 5 years ago and have increased my hunting time each season since shooting my 'smokepole.' Normand McLaughlin from Augusta County, has been a volunteer with VDGIF and active in several sportsmen's organizations. I have learned a lot from Normand's experience while turkey hunting, target shooting and from his companionship during our hunting trips. To get me started right with my new gun, first we spent several sessions shooting the gun to "season" it, orient me to the differences from the more familiar rim-fire rifle shooting and sighting it in. Also practice, practice, and more practice target shooting in field conditions and learning the re-loading sequence all paid off when the early November opening came. I harvested several nice deer each season with the reliable new muzzleloader, proud and appreciative that my preparation and guidance by an experienced friend made the numerous hunting trips most enjoyable. Once a shooting session, or the hunting season was over, Normand was most insistent about one thing - clean your muzzleloader thoroughly!

Regardless of what type of propellant you use, without proper cleaning, corrosion and rust will quickly pit the barrel, jam the firing mechanism, or foul the nipple shut. Even black powder substitutes like Pyrodex and Triple 7 can foul up your gun. After cleaning thoroughly following the owner's manual directions, and tips from an experienced shooter like Normand, store your gun muzzle-down, particularly if you've used petroleum-based gun oil. This prevents the lubricant from gravitating down to those parts that could jam up. Clean and store your muzzleloader properly and it will remain reliable for you next season and for many seasons to come. Put off cleaning or cut corners and you may end up with a firearm that doesn't fire at all.

I learned a new tip 2 years ago while hunting in the deep snow the last 2 weeks in December. I had the expectation that my muzzleloader with it disk style cap would reliably shoot in rain, snow or other damp weather conditions. For Safety I was constantly taking off the cap to raise and lower my gun from my tree stand or when walking out of the woods after a days hunt. I was not aware of the moisture from melting snow dripping from branches or foggy drizzlely weather allowing moisture to seep into the uncovered nipple… the last day when a nice doe walked 30 yards from my tree stand when I pulled the trigger…bang!! Not BOOM and smoke- the powder charge did not ignite. Calmly I replaced the cap and fired at the doe looking at me not startled by the cap firing. Bang ! again!! Now the doe wanders off and I am wondering what has happened. I added a third cap and fired at ground- still powder did not ignite. At lunch I told my hunting buddies of the misfires. The consensus of the group was the moisture build up over several days of hunting in rain and snow with the nipple uncapped. After 2 more caps the powder finally ignighted- BOOM was a welcome sound. Normand gave me a simple and SAFE solution. When removing a live cap for safety in transporting the gun, REPLACE IT with a FIRED CAP to seal the nipple port keeping moisture out and from building up over time. I didn't get another shot opportunity that last day- but learned another valuable lesson from my buddy Normand. This season I will 'keep my powder dry', and avoid misfires. Glad I learned the lesson on a doe and not the "buck of a lifetime." If you have a good safety or muzzleloader handling tip send it to us to share with fellow hunters. Always be sure of your target and beyond.

David Coffman, Editor

Dress for Success - Fall Turkey Hunts Require Different Tactics and Safety Precautions

The best hunt is a SAFE hunt! Both novice and experienced sportsmen should continuously review basic safety practices. The fall turkey season requires different tactics and safety precautions from the spring gobbler season. Dressing right is the key to both safe and successful turkey hunting. With the special Youth Turkey Hunting Day Saturday October 16 and the firearms turkey season starting October 23, now is the time to be planning your hunting strategy and special safety precautions. While sitting still is most important, full camouflage helps hunters blend into the surroundings, and elude the turkey's keen eyesight. But, those aren't the only eyes that could be fooled. Other hunters could mistake a hunter dressed in full camouflage using a turkey call for a wild turkey. Hunt defensively- keep in mind, when you hear a turkey call or see movement, it could very well be another hunter. Assume you are not alone in the woods and act accordingly. Your firearm, clothing, and turkey calls are all-important equipment, but thinking safety is the best tool a hunter can use.

The National Wild Turkey Federation and VDGIF Volunteer Hunter Education Instructors teach these rules to dress for success and safety:

  1. Never wear bright colors, especially not red, white, blue or black because these are the colors of a wild turkey.
  2. Wear dark undershirts and socks, and pants long enough to be tucked into boots.
  3. Camouflage your gun.
  4. Keep your hands and head camouflaged when calling
  5. Select a spot that is in the open woods rather than thick brush: wearing camouflage clothing and eliminating movement is more critical to success than hiding in heavy cover.
  6. When using a camouflage blind or netting, maintain a clear field of view.
  7. Dress in dark colored layers to adjust to temperature changes.
  8. Wear blaze orange when walking to and from calling positions and when setting up or moving decoys. Wearing blaze orange is always recommended. However, if you choose not to, tie a strip of blaze orange to a nearby tree to alert others of your presence.

Ultimately, every hunter is responsible for identifying their target and beyond before pulling the trigger. Most hunting fatalities are the result of the hunter not making sure of his or her target, or shooting at sound or movement. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. Before you go out, let someone know where you will be hunting and when you expect to return. Take a few 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.

"Green Tips" for Outdoor Enthusiasts

This section in the Outdoor Report provides tips and articles on ways you as an outdoors enthusiast 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.

Autumn Leaf Color Viewing Tips

One of the great rewards of living in the Old Dominion is the blaze of autumn color as the leaves turn from summer green to the brilliant hues of gold, red, yellow, and orange. If you are looking for information on when and where to view the color change, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has developed VDOF-Recommended Fall Foliage Driving Tours. If you don't want to fight the traffic that clogs some of the best-known places, such as Skyline Drive, this site is for you. Each of these tours is designed by a local VDOF forester and is sure to exceed your expectations and fill your eyes with wide swatches of vibrant autumn colors. And, because these recommended drives are "off the beaten path," you'll be able to enjoy a leisurely trip without the hassles of a lot of traffic on the road or large crowds at vistas along the way.

To view the Fall Foliage Report and Driving Tours, see VDOF's "Fall Foliage in Virginia" website.

For Information by Phone:

Hawk Watching Fun Peaks in October - November

By Marie Majarov
Majarov Photography www.majarov.com

If you and your family are looking for exciting outdoor fall adventures, consider hawk watching! Virginia has some of the best locations along the east coast to view migrating raptors. "Hawk Watching Across Virginia," Virginia Wildlife Magazine September 2011, will help you become familiar with our Commonwealth's rich opportunities for seeing magnificent birds of prey.

Peak hawk watching happens early September through late November as thousands of birds make their way from Northern breeding grounds to wintering areas across Mexico and the tropics of Central and South America. Northern Harriers, Sharp Shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed and Red-Shouldered Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrels, Merlins and Peregrine Falcons can all be seen. You might also sight Bald and Golden Eagles, Osprey, and Vultures.

As you read this article huge numbers of migrants are tracing their way along our mountain ridges and coastline. One of the most outstanding spots this year is Snickers Gap in the Northern Blue Ridge between Winchester and Leesburg where record numbers of Broad-winged Hawks, over 38,000, have already been counted in the month of September! At the Kiptopeke Hawk Watch on the Delmarva big numbers of American Kestrels, Sharp-shins, Merlins, and Peregrines are being viewed.

When you are first learning about hawk identification and their travel patterns and thermals it is a good idea to choose one of the official sites all of which have counters and experts who are very willing to share their skills to help you learn. Read about raptors with your family, then grab some binoculars, folding chairs, dress for the weather, and get out there and enjoy the spectacular show that is going on over our heads!

Marie Majarov is a Virginia Master Naturalist and member of both the Virginia and Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Associations. She and her husband Milan are retired Clinical Psychologists, nature enthusiasts, living in Winchester where they maintain a butterfly garden and bluebird trail at their home in Winchester, VA. Inspiring children, both young and old, about the wonders of nature and encouraging the preservation of our precious natural resources is their dream for Majarov Photography. More about their work can be seen at www.majarov.com.

Reminder: Effective September 1, Feeding Deer is Illegal in Virginia

Effective September 1, it will be illegal to feed deer statewide in Virginia. The annual prohibition runs through the first Saturday in January. In addition, it is now illegal to feed deer year-round in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties and in the city of Winchester as part of the Department's chronic wasting disease (CWD) management actions established in April 2010.

This regulation does not restrict the planting of crops such as corn and soybeans, wildlife food plots, and backyard or schoolyard habitats. It is intended to curb the artificial feeding of deer that leads to negative consequences.

Problems with feeding deer include: unnaturally increasing population numbers that damage natural habitats; increasing the likelihood for disease transmission, and increasing human-deer conflicts such as deer/vehicle collisions and diminishing the wild nature of deer.

In addition, feeding deer has law enforcement implications. Deer hunting over bait is illegal in Virginia. Prior to the deer feeding prohibition, distinguishing between who was feeding deer and who was hunting over bait often caused law enforcement problems for the Department's conservation police officers.

Deer Feeding was Booming Along with the Population

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Deer Project Coordinators Matt Knox and Nelson Lafon noted when the regulation first took effect in 2006 that, for more than 20 years, the practice of feeding deer had expanded across the eastern United States among both deer hunters and the non-hunting general public. The most common reason for feeding deer is to improve their nutrition and to supplement the habitat's ability to support more deer; in other words, to increase the carrying capacity for deer.

According to Knox, many people feed deer because they believe it will keep them from starving, but this is not a legitimate reason to feed deer in Virginia. In Virginia, deer die-offs due to winter starvation are rare. In addition, according to Lafon, "We do not need more deer in Virginia. In fact, we need fewer deer in many parts of the state."

Nelson Lafon completed a revision of the Department's Deer Management Plan in June 2007. Based on his research, it appears that the citizens of the Commonwealth would like to see deer populations reduced over most of the state. Lafon noted that Virginia's deer herds could be described as overabundant from a human tolerance perspective and stated that feeding deer only makes this overabundance problem worse.

Is Your Birdfeeder Attracting Deer?

Supplemental feeding artificially concentrates deer on the landscape, leading to over-browsed vegetation, especially in and around feeding sites. Over-browsing destroys habitat needed by other species, including songbirds.

It is not unheard of for deer to take advantage of birdfeeders and begin to eat spilled birdseed. Individuals who inadvertently are feeding deer through their birdfeeders may be requested by VDGIF conservation police officers to remove feeders temporarily until the deer disperse.

Deer Are Wild Animals

In their natural state, deer are wild animals that have a fear of humans because we have preyed upon deer for thousands of years. However, when deer are fed by people, they lose this fear, becoming less wild and often semi-domesticated.

Fed deer are often emboldened to seek human foods, leading them into conflict with people. Despite their gentle appearance, they can become lethally dangerous during mating season capable of goring and slashing with their sharp hooves and antlers. There are numerous cases across the country of individuals injured, and in some cases even killed, by deer they treated as pets.

People often treat the deer they feed as if they own them, even going so far as to name individual deer. Not only does this association diminish the "wildness" of "wildlife", it also leads to a mistaken notion regarding ownership of wildlife. Deer and other wildlife are owned by all citizens of the Commonwealth and are managed by the Department as a public resource.

Deer Feeding Congregates Animals, Increasing the Spread of Disease

The increase in deer feeding that has taken place in Virginia over the past decade now represents one of Virginia's biggest wildlife disease risk factors. Deer feeding sets the stage for maintaining and facilitating the spread of disease.

Diseases are a big issue in deer management today across the United States. Feeding deer invariably leads to the prolonged crowding of animals in a small area, resulting in more direct animal to animal contact and contamination of feeding sites. Deer feeding has been implicated as a major risk factor and contributor in three of the most important deer diseases in North America today. These include tuberculosis, brucellosis, and CWD. Virginia's first case of CWD was discovered in a doe killed during November 2009, in western Frederick County less than one mile from the West Virginia line.

Please Don't Feed Deer

It is clear that the negative consequences of feeding deer outweigh the benefits. If you are not feeding deer, you should not start. If you are currently feeding deer, you should now stop. Feeding deer is against the law between September 1 and the first Saturday in January. If anyone sees or suspects someone of illegally feeding deer during this time period, or observes any wildlife violations, please report it to the Department's Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712.

To learn more about Virginia wildlife regulations visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website at www.dgif.virginia.gov.

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!

Be aware that many localities are observing Halloween on Saturday October 29 and Sunday October 30. Be alert for trick-or-treaters on both days and evenings. Make sure your little ghosts and goblins wear clothing with reflective markings or tape and carry a flashlight.

Virginia Naturally Website Link to School Environmental Learning Programs

Visit the Virginia Naturally website now for ideas on nature learning activities. Teachers, there are also ideas for workshops and training available for your continuing education and getting a start on environmental lesson plans for the next semester.

Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia Now Available

A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia is a 44 page field guide that covers all 27 species of frogs and toads that inhabit Virginia. Species accounts, descriptions, biology, behavior, habitats and conservation issues are all described and illustrated through more than 80 photographs and drawings. Included is a complimentary CD of The Calls of Virginia Frogs and Toads. The price is $10.00 and is available through the VDGIF website.

Read the introduction to A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia »

Nature Observations from the Virginia Wildlife Calendar

Look at the 2011 Virginia Wildlife Calendar for answers to these wildlife related questions for early November:

Answers to October 12th edition quiz for nature events for October...

Get your copy of the 2012 Virginia Wildlife Calendar here.

Habitat Improvement Tips

Too Many Deer Can Damage Habitat

Hunting is an important wildlife management tool. Abundant population equals ample opportunity. This time of year in Virginia the deer population is up around one million animals. Hunters harvest about 250,000 each year, but deer are a renewable resource and the population rebounds. Hunters enjoy liberal seasons and abundant game here in the Commonwealth: archery, muzzleloader, general firearms seasons, fall turkey hunting, waterfowl hunting, hound hunting, mounted fox hunting, special late seasons and urban programs. There's good hunting in Virginia!

When deer are not dear - Farmers, landowners, drivers, and outdoor recreationists all benefit from hunters harvesting the white-tailed deer population in Virginia. Hunting reduces pressure on crops, protects expensive landscaping, cuts down on deer in the roadways, and prevents deer overgrazing an area and destroying habitat needed by other wildlife such as songbirds. Hunters help maintain that balance for Virginians.

Fall is Best Time to Establish Wildlife Plantings

Thinking about establishing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife? "Your timing is excellent," advises VDGIF Habitat Education Coordinator Lou Verner. "Fall is absolutely the best time to establish new plants, whether you're considering trees or shrubs, wildflowers, or if you have the space, a wildflower meadow. Remember to seek out those species that are native to your region of the state." Fall planting (September through early November) gives trees and shrubs 6-8 months to establish their root system under cool, moist conditions. This will greatly increase their odds of surviving their first hot, often dry, summer. One of the more common mistakes made in planting trees or shrubs is digging the hole too deep and not digging out two to three times the diameter of the root ball. Directions for properly planting trees and shrubs can be found on the Virginia Department of Forestry's website: How to Plant a Seedling. A list of native species and their benefits for wildlife habitat, erosion control and other benefits can be found on the VDGIF website.

Fall seeding of native wildflowers imitates natural reseeding. Changes occur to the seed and seed coat (stratification) during winter that enhances germination. Spring annuals may germinate and lie dormant through the winter, while most perennials and warm season grasses will germinate in the spring. Properly preparing the seedbed this fall will help develop a successful wildflower garden next spring.

One final thing to put on your fall "to NOT do" list: do NOT deadhead all your wildflower seed heads! Rudbeckia and Echinacea species (Black-eyed and brown-eyed Susans, many species of coneflowers) are especially valued seed resources used by many of our over wintering finches. Happy fall gardening!

For more information on the Habitat at Home© program, see the Department's website.

Quail Biologists Eager to Assist Landowners and Hunters

In January 2011 as part of implementing the VA Quail Action Plan (VQAP), five new pairs of field boots hit the wildlife habitat dirt. These boots belong to Virginia's first cooperatively hired Private Lands Wildlife Biologists. Marc Puckett, VDGIF Co-Project Leader for the Quail Recovery Initiative (QRI) reports that this unique program represents a joint hiring effort between the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, they are the first of their kind in Virginia. Similar, highly successful, programs have existed for several years in Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina and other states. They represent the closest partnership ever between the cooperating agencies. Jack Bricker, State Conservationist for NRCS and Bob Duncan, Director of the VDGIF, signed an agreement formalizing the partnership December 2009. The new biologists work daily with partners in the agricultural community – one critical to wildlife nationwide. Their primary role is helping private landowners develop wildlife habitat through a variety of financial incentives programs.

VQAP was the impetus for this successful partnership. In its first year of implementation, the hiring of the 5 new biologists was a major goal of the VQAP. The biologists spend a great deal of their time working on early-successional habitat – a habitat type that benefits not only bobwhite quail but dozens of early-successional species including pollinating insects.

These wildlife biologists can be contacted for habitat assistance at the following USDA Service Centers:

Large-scale habitat restoration and education are the key elements of the VQAP. The Virginia Quail Council was established as a coordinating group of conservation organizations and agencies actively supporting the Virginia Quail Action Plan through the promotion and application of land management practices and programs that increase the quality and quantity of quail habitat on agricultural and forested landscapes.

A copy of the Virginia Quail Action Plan and Virginia Quail Council members can be viewed on the Department's website. For information on the bobwhite quail, and activities and accomplishments of the Quail Recovery Team read the latest edition of The Bobwhite Bulletin (PDF). Also view the video, "Answering the Call: Virginia's Quail Recovery Initiative."

Habitat at Home© DVD Now Available

The Habitat at Home© DVD features the yards of four homeowners in different parts of the state who have removed invasive plants, reduced their amount of lawn, added water features, and planted flowering perennials and shrubs. VDGIF Habitat Education Coordinator Carol Heiser advises, "Native shrubs in particular are an excellent choice for wildlife, because they support native insects that make up a critical part of the food web. Native plants are better adapted to our growing conditions and are much easier to maintain than non-native ones. So many of our neighborhoods lack the kind of native plant diversity that wildlife really needs. You'll be surprised at the number of birds and other wildlife that use native shrubs. Visit our website to purchase your own copy of the 40-minute DVD!

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.

Support Your Local CPO...

Don't let the actions of a few outlaws or unethical outdoorsmen tarnish the reputation of Virginia's sportsmen! Safety and courtesy are free, use them generously as you share the outdoors with others. Last week the VDGIF Basic Law Enforcement Academy proudly graduated 15 new Conservation Police Officers from their 6th Basic Class. These officers took an oath to serve and protect you and the resources we all use and enjoy from those who act irresponsibly and break the law. These highly trained and dedicated men and women have a daunting task to serve in a new location and get acquainted with a new community. They can use your assistance to get oriented to their new assignments. Remember these officers are there to protect your freedom to enjoy the outdoors — support them in their important work by setting a good example and seeing that others around you do their share to enjoy the outdoors safely and ethically. Get to know the new CPO in your county. They are your best partner in preserving and protecting our rich hunting and fishing traditions. Help make all our jobs safer and more successful - support your area conservation police officers in any way you can. They are there to benefit you.

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

VDGIF Basic Law Enforcement Academy Graduates Class

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Basic Law Enforcement Academy has graduated it's 6th class of 15 new officers. These officers completed an intensive training program that included more than 200 courses and ran for nearly 29 weeks. They will take up their assignments across the Commonwealth and proceed with field training under the direct supervision of field training officers.

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

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

TOP SHOT AWARD (Firearms - Presented by Officer Shannon Smith)

The Top Shot Award is given to the Conservation Police Officer recruit with the highest overall qualification scores on all firearms courses. The selection is based solely on qualification scores earned at the conclusion of the 80-hour block of firearms training held during the Academy. Recruits were required to demonstrate proficiency with their issued pistol and rifle during day and night courses in a variety of demanding situations. The recipient of the Top Shot Award is Officer Robert W. Shafer who is assigned to Nelson County. Officer Shafer was born in Lynchburg, VA. He is a graduate of the Tidewater Community College with a degree in the Administration of Justice and has proudly served our country in the United States Marine Corps.

OUTSTANDING DRIVER AWARD (Driving – Presented by Officer Beth Garrett)

The Outstanding Driver Award is given to the Conservation Police Officer recruit with the highest overall qualification scores on all driving courses. The selection is based solely on scores earned during the 80-hour block of driver training during the Academy. Due to the nature of the locations our officers are required to access and patrol, four-wheel drive vehicles are among the primary focus during this training. Training for this type of vehicle goes beyond the traditional training for sedan patrol vehicles utilized by traditional law enforcement agencies. Driving courses include Asphalt Precision courses, High-Speed Reaction courses, Emergency Vehicle Operations course, Off-Road Obstacle Negotiation, All Terrain Vehicle Operation, Gravel Surface Braking Course, and three different Trailer Backing Courses. The recipient of the Outstanding Driver Award is Officer Kevin M. Joyner who is assigned to Louisa County. Officer Joyner was born in Baltimore, Maryland but soon returned to the Richmond area. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Building Construction.

MOST PHYSICALLY FIT AWARD (Physical Fitness – Presented by Officer Isaac Boulanger)

The Most Physically Fit Award is given to the Conservation Police Officer recruit with the best overall performance in the three areas tested by the VDGIF Basic Training Academy. The recruits were given a pre-test when they began the Academy in March, a mid-term test and a final test. The recruits were required to participate in a physical training program each day for one hour for the entire 28-week period of the Basic Academy. The four performance areas were push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and a mile-and-a-half run. The scores were compiled and reviewed by the instructors that assisted with physical training and then confirmed by Academy staff. The recipient of the Most Physically Fit Award is Officer Jesse D. Suders who is assigned to Orange County. Officer Suders holds a Bachelor's degree from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania where he studied geography, urban planning, cartography and environmental science.

BOATING AWARD (Boating & Marine Operations – Presented by Sgt. Greg Funkhouser)

The Outstanding Boating Award is presented to the recruit that demonstrated the best overall ability to operate large patrol boats, jon boats, and personal watercraft. One of the primary duties of a Virginia Conservation Police Officer is to patrol the vast waterways of the Commonwealth. The recruits took part in a rigorous three week course during which instructors evaluated their performance in high speed boat operation, precision docking drills, and a timed personal watercraft course. The recipient of the Outstanding Boating Award is Officer Kyle Wooldridge who is assigned to Brunswick County. Officer Wooldridge is a native of Campbell County and a graduate of Longwood University with a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology.

COLONEL'S AWARD (Academic Achievement – Presented by Colonel Dabney Watts)

The Colonel's Award is presented to the Conservation Police Officer recruit with the highest grade point average in the recruit class. This is the average of all 25exams administered in the Academy. Exams covered 1771 questions, of which, this officer answered 1763 correctly. These questions addressed training objectives set by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, in the areas of Professionalism, Legal Issues, Communications, Patrol, and Investigations. Other exams taken during the course of the Basic Academy were as a result of training that addressed the non-traditional law enforcement functions that pertain specifically to the unique law enforcement duties of the Virginia Conservation Police Officer. Some of these topics were Marine Theft Investigation; Hunting Incident Investigation; laws and regulations specifically pertaining to hunting, fishing, trapping, and boating; camouflage and concealment; and permits. In a very competitive field, this year's recipient edged out classmates by obtaining a 99.5483 % average. And for her efforts, I'm honored to present the Colonel's Award to Officer Amy E. Mills. Officer Mills grew up in Hagerstown, Maryland and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Science from Waynesburg University. She went on to receive her Master's degree in Forensic Science from the University of New Haven in May of 2010. Officer Mills is assigned to Madison County

DIRECTOR'S AWARD (Best Instructor – Presented by Director Bob Duncan)

The Director's Award is presented to the person voted best instructor by the recruit class. To be eligible for the award the instructor must have taught at the Basic Academy and could have been from any VDGIF division (not just Law Enforcement) or any outside agency. The recipient of the Director's Award is Officer Shannon Smith. Officer Smith has been a law enforcement officer with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for seventeen years, serving most of his time in Botetourt County. He provides invaluable instruction to all of our officers in area of firearms and serves our agency as the Chief Firearms Instructor for the Law Enforcement Division. Officer Smith is recognized by the class for his knowledge of subject matter, ability to effectively convey the information, and for his rapport with the students.

BOARD AWARD (Exceptional Overall Performance – Presented by J. Brent Clarke, III, Chairman)

The Board of Game and Inland Fisheries Award is given to the recruit who displays exceptional overall performance during the entire course of training. The recipient was selected for his motivation, professionalism, peer leadership, and for being an inspiration to others. He is also recognized for his support of the Academy and staff by providing outstanding logistical and administrative support. The recipient of the Board Award is Officer Scott E. Terry who is assigned to Henry County. Officer Terry was born and raised in Henry County

Reports from the field officer's notebook...

Region I - Tidewater

Spotlighters caught with loaded guns... On September 30, 2011 at approximately 2030 hours, Conservation Police Officer Krista Adams was conducting surveillance of harvested fields in New Kent County when she observed the occupants of a pickup spotlight a field with a handheld spotlight. Upon stopping the pickup, Officer Adams found a loaded .270 Browning rifle and a 12 gauge Ithaca shotgun in the rear floorboard of the pickup. The firearms, ammunition and spotlight were seized as evidence and both occupants were charged with spotlighting deer while in possession of a firearm.

Bird foot and feathers evidence gets confession... On September 30, 2011, Conservation Police Officer Weller received information that a subject had killed a Great Blue Heron approximately one month prior, and had tried to kill another one the previous day on a farm pond in Dinwiddie County. Officer Weller and Sergeant Valasek responded, met the complainant, and started an investigation. A few feathers were found floating on the pond and they were suspected to be those from a heron but there was no immediately obvious evidence of a recently killed heron. Officer Weller donned hip waders and utilizing a leaf rake was able to collect feathers and a foot from a Great Blue Heron. Armed with this evidence, the officers contacted and interviewed the suspect. After presenting him with the evidence, they obtained a written statement from the suspect admitting his guilt. Charges are pending in this matter.

Region II - Southside

Illegal fishing 'nets' huge fine... Roanoke County Court hands down big fine in illegal fishing case. A Roanoke County man faced a charge of fishing during closed season in Roanoke Court on Oct 3rd. Conservation Police Officer John Koloda contacted the suspect in August 2011, after a late boat shift on Smith Mountain Lake. Officer Koloda charged the suspect for fishing during closed season after noticing that he was casting a throw net into the Roanoke River and catching numerous fish. Officer Koloda contacted the individual and noticed his creel of white bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill and the endangered Roanoke Log Perch. All these fish had been caught in the throw net. The defendant was found guilty on Oct 3rd in Roanoke County Court and was levied a $1000 fine for possessing the game fish and endangered log perch.

Region III - Southwest

Poachers nabbed hunting over bait... On October 1, 2011 Virginia Conservation Police Officer Jason Harris returned to baited stands that were located on September 27 and found two subjects hunting over the baited areas with .22 magnum rifles. A third subject was also located hunting from a vehicle, over bait, and without license on the same property. Two summonses were issued for hunting over bait, one for hunting during the closed season, one for hunting from vehicle, and one for hunting without a license. The subjects stated that they were only squirrel hunting but had drag ropes, grunt calls, scent wafers, and skinning knives.

Alert Officer nabs illegal Sunday hunters... On October 2, 2011, Senior Officer R.A. Salyers received a call from dispatch of a possible hunting violation occurring in Russell County. Officer Salyers arrived at the location, located a truck with ATV ramps on the tailgate, and tracks leading onto property near the parked vehicle. As Salyers was entering into the woods, he heard an ATV traveling in his direction. Officer Salyers returned to the area near the truck and concealed himself. When the ATV arrived, three subjects were observed on the ATV, with one subject holding two shotguns. As the ATV pulled up to the truck and the subjects saw the officer's vehicle down the road, one said "Get rid of the squirrel". One subject jumped off the ATV and threw a small pack into the tall weeds near the truck. At this time Officer Salyers stood up and identified himself. Following an investigation, it was determined that two of the three subjects were indeed hunting squirrels. The recovered pack had one squirrel and several shotgun shells in it. The subjects were issued summonses for hunting on Sunday.

Region IV - Mountains & Shenandoah Valley – Northern Piedmont

Father admits trespassing and hunting over bait for two decades... Conservation Police Officer Eller received information about a baited site in Louisa County prior to archery season. Upon visiting the site, Officer Eller located a large area of corn along with a trail camera. On October 1, 2011, Officers Eller and Garrett arrived at the location and found a juvenile hunting over the baited area. The individual was interviewed and the officers learned that the individual's father was hunting in a different location. The juvenile showed the officers where the father was hunting. Contact was made with the father and a different area was located with corn present near his hunting location. The father explained that he knew that he could not use bait and that he placed his son at the other baited location. He also advised that he had been hunting over bait and trespassing at that location for approximately 26 years. The appropriate summonses were issued with several warnings for other violations.

Missing hikers found to be illegal "sangers"... On October 9, 2011, Officer Mike Entsminger received a call from the Bath County Sheriff's Office concerning two hikers that were missing in the Back Creek area of Bath County. Officer Entsminger responded to the call and assisted in the search and rescue of two male individuals. After carefully interviewing the complainant, she advised that the two subjects were dropped off the day before and spent the night in the woods in order to dig ginseng. Officer Entsminger interviewed both subjects and found them in possession of ginseng roots and had dug approximately 66 plants in two days. Officer Entsminger issued each subject a summons for illegally digging ginseng on National Forest.

New Wildlife K-9 Team Pilot Program Needs Your Support

VDGIF Law Enforcement has introduced a pilot program K-9 Team with three Labrador retrievers trained in tracking, wildlife detection and evidence recovery. The dogs and their CPO handlers graduated from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' K-9 Academy in April. This was an intense and physically demanding eight week training course that all three handlers completed successfully with their dogs and returned to Virginia to begin their work. These K-9 units have already made an impressive start assisting CPOs and other state and local law enforcement and search and rescue teams with the dogs special skills and abilities. The members of the new K-9 Team are: from Portsmouth in Tidewater region, K-9 Officer Megan Vick and her partner Jake; from Appomattox County in Central Virginia, K-9 Officer Richard Howald and his partner Scout; and from Rockingham County in Western Virginia, K-9 Officer Wayne Billhimer and his partner Justice.

VDGIF Director of Law Enforcement Col Dabney Watts, Jr., has high expectations for this new versitle Team noting, "It is our hope to fund this new agency program through donations made by individuals, businesses and wildlife organizations. In fact all three of our original dogs, as well as the 2 dogs from Kansas, were donated either by individuals or animal shelters. Through the efforts of VDGIF Grants Manager Tom Wilcox and Jenny West, Director of the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia, the Wildlife Foundation has agreed to accept and manage monetary donations made to the Department's K-9 program. Information on how to donate is provided on both the Foundation and Department websites. In addition Lee Walker, Director of Outreach, arranged for the printing of trading cards with a picture of each canine unit on the front and a brief introduction of each officer and his or her dog on the back along with information on how to donate to the program. These cards will be handed out at all public events attended by one of our canine units. See the feature on the K-9 Team's introduction at the Richmond Squirrels baseball game in the July 13th editon.

Watch for updates in the Outdoor Report on events where you can meet members of the new K-9 Team and see demonstrations of their remarkable skills used in enforcement of wildlife laws and search and rescue.

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.

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.

For regulations and conditions on saltwater fishing, visit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) website. New Saltwater Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) Requires Angler Registration Starting January 1, 2011: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) will implement a free state saltwater angler identification program as of January 1, 2011. Purchasers of annual Virginia saltwater fishing licenses do NOT have to register. The Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) will require unlicensed saltwater anglers aged 16 and older to register and receive an identification number annually. Adult anglers who fish for anadromous or marine species in freshwater must also register. There is no cost for registration. Online registration is available on VMRC's website. To register by phone, call toll-free 1-800-723-2728. For more information, visit VMRC's website or contact VMRC at (757) 247-2200.

The new 2011 Freshwater Fishing in Virginia (Fishing Regulations) book has been published and a copy can be obtained at the upcoming fishing and hunting shows, all license agents and Department offices. This publication not only contains the fishing regulations, but an extensive 'Let's Go Fishing' section, with information about major sport fish, public fishing lakes, major fishing rivers, and the trout stocking program. Also, you can find information about fish citations, state records, angling education programs, exotic species, and more." The Freshwater Fishing Regulations section, including the complete Trout Fishing Guide, on our website have also been updated for 2011.

The Fishing Spot

by Chris Dunnavant, VDGIF Angling Education Coordinator

Greetings folks! My name is Chris Dunnavant and I am the Angling Education Coordinator and Director of the Angler Recognition Program here at VDGIF. My travels with the Agency as well as my personal fishing exploits have taken me all over the Commonwealth to experience great fishing and meet some really neat and talented people. In this new feature of the Outdoor Report, I will be sharing a variety of fishing information including fishing tips & hotspots, interviews, stories, program news and much more. I hope to pass along to you some of the wonderful opportunities afforded to me as an angler that may help improve your skills and at the least, provide some enjoyment. After all, Fishing is Fun!

Try a Drop Shot Rig

It was 1998 at the Bassmaster Western Invitational in New Mexico where a rig was introduced that would take the bass fishing world by storm. Seiji Kato of Japan was paired with tournament leader Dennis Hoy and was catching fish out of the back of the boat faster than Hoy. The event was televised and the U.S. bass fishing community was introduced to a new technique that has become one of the most effective rigs for catching bass and many other species as well.

To rig a drop shot simply tie on a hook using extra line to create a longer than normal tag end. Next position the hook with the point up and thread the tag end of the line down through the eye of the hook. This will keep the hook in the upright position for better hooking and reduce snagging. Next, attach a weight to the end of the tag end, 8-14 inches of line from the hook to the weight is a common length. Finally attach a plastic worm or bait to the hook and you are ready to fish.

The big advantage to this technique is that the weight rests on the bottom and the worm is suspended above which gives it a lot of action since the weight is not directly attached to the lure. Simply allow the rig to go to the bottom and shake the worm on a semi-slack line, drag the rig and repeat, maintaining bottom contact throughout the retrieve.

The drop shot was designed as a finesse presentation for use with spinning tackle, light line and small plastic worms and baits. A good place to start is with a 6'6" medium action spinning rod and reel spooled with 6-8 pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Finesse baits such as 4-5" straight tail plastic worms, 4" grubs, small plastic flukes and mini creature baits are the most effective lures for the rig.

Many hooks and weights have been created specifically for drop shotting with 2 basic hook options. First, a small #6 - #1 hook designed to nose hook a plastic bait. Simply thread the hook into the head of the worm about a ¼" before bringing the hook out. With very little of the hook in the bait it allows the worm to wiggle and undulate wildly. Secondly, if you are fishing around cover and snags, use a light wire #1-1/0 work hook and Texas rig the plastic bait. There have also been weights designed with clips especially for drop shotting, 3/16 and ¼ oz, are the most popular sizes. Split shot can also be crimped on the line – just tie an overhand knot at the end of the line to prevent them from sliding off.

Drop shotting is not just for bass, it can be effective with a number of species and used with live bait also. For Crappie, Sunfish and Perch; forego the jig head and plastic grub combo and thread the grub on a drop shot hook instead. This will give the fish a new look, allow you to fish deeper, keep the bait near the bottom and hang up less. It is also great for live bait; use a #6 Eagle Claw 449W, barbed weedless baitholder hook for panfish and thread on a night crawler and you're in business! The hook can also be tipped with a minnow; in fact, the only limitation to the rig is your creativity.

The drop shot is a popular rig of the pros, but it is very effective for beginners. It is easy to keep on the bottom and feel the bait and because of the small hook, when a fish bites and pulls, it is already hooked and all the angler has to do is reel the fish in. Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

Gear up for Fall Boating! Wear your Life Jacket and Take a Boating Safety Class

Attention boaters, VDGIF has begun to phase in Virginia's boating safety education requirement. 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.

Review the article, "Does Your Lifejacket Really Fit?" in the Be Safe... Have Fun section.

Video Features Squirrel Skinning Quick and Easy and Panfish Preparation and Filleting

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

Order your own copy today!

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.
The Memories Are Always Bigger Than the Fish
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Sarah White's Notebook

Regional River and Lake Reports on Fishing Conditions

Regular readers of the Fishing Report will remember teacher and coach Becky Gore and the Orange County High School Fishing Team. These teens are not just skilled anglers; they are smart, well spoken and great ambassadors for the sport of fishing. I recently received an email from Becky letting me know that the Orange County Fishing and Sportsman Expo is coming up on February 18th and 19th, 2012. 100 spaces are available for vendors and groups. Becky advises those who want a space to sign up soon, as spaces run out very quickly. The registration forms can be found on the team's website or by emailing Becky at iteach72@yahoo.com. Come on out, see some great vendors, and support the team, we guarantee you’ll have a good time!

Attention Readers – If your favorite body of water is not covered in the Fishin Report, and you are a guide, tackle shop owner, marina or just a devoted angler; please drop me a line and we will see about adding your bi-weekly or periodic reports in the e-newsletter by telephone or email contacts. You can reach me, Sarah White at fishing_report@hotmail.com.

Region 1 - Tidewater

Little Creek Reservoir: Contributed by Park Concessionaire Diane Priestley, (757) 566-2277, hhhatlcr@aol.com. The fish are biting on the creek. The cooler weather has dropped the water temperature to 67 degrees and the visibility is good at 17 ft. Bass are in the shallows in good numbers but on those sunny days they back off to deeper water. They'll hit in anything that looks like cover, going for crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits or just about anything in your box. The average fish is 3 lbs. with a couple going over 4 lbs. Now is also a good time to try bluegills or large minnows just over the grass near deep water. Crappie are starting to school and taking small minnows. The long polers are catching fair numbers in 10 to 15 ft. of water in the mouth of coves. Some respectable bluegills have been taken with wigglers and jigs. A few cats are still being caught along points, try large minnows or bluegills. Not many stripers in the last two weeks. No one is fishing for them, and the bait is hard to find, but trolling should work.

Beaverdam Reservoir: Contributed by Eddie Hester, (804) 693-2107. The bass fishing here at Beaverdam hasn't really settled into a pattern as of yet. We have seen some nice bass from the 2lb. to 5lb. range, but not a lot. The grass on the lake will start dying back with the falling water temperatures. Bass fishing should only get better as the fish start the fall feed. The crappie fishing is fair and I anticipate it will only get better. The water is slightly stained, at full pool and 71 degrees.

Cat Point Creek: Contributed by our new reporter Penn Burke of Spring Shad Charters (804) 354-3200. No report this edition.

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefield (443) 336-8756. Captain Jim says that speckled trout can be found at Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets and in the Elizabeth River. They are going for Fishbite and Mirrolures. Rockfish season has started, but you may only keep 2 and they must be 18 inches or larger. They are hanging out around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel near the Islands and the Tubes. Bucktails are a good bet for these fish. Spot and croakers are at the mouths of the James and York rivers, and also Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets. They are attacking Fishbite and blood worms. Bluefish have come to Cape Henry and are hitting spoons. The water is 64 degrees and fairly clear.

Back Bay: Local angler Tom Deans. No report this edition.

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Alton Williams reports that the bass bite is good. Top-waters, Senkos and shadowbaits are all good lures. Crappie action is good as well with minnows and jigs of docks and rocky points. Cats big and small are taking eel. No word on perch or bluegill. The water is in the upper 60s and clearing.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. Dewey Mullins told me that bass are very active and going for cranks and spinners. Crappie have not schooled up yet, but you can still get one with a minnow, jig or small spinner. No word on cats. Lots of bluegill are coming in on red wigglers, crickets and popping bugs. The white perch have schooled up and will take a small spinner, night crawler or a minnow or jig. Stripers are in the creeks and will go for cranks, spinners or minnows. The water is in the low 60s and clear.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Drew Dixon says that bass are taking dark colored plastics. Top-water time is almost over. Crappie fishing is very good, try minnows or jigs. Cats are happy to go for cut bait. Perch may be gone for the season. Bluegill action is slowing down, but minnows or crickets may get you a fish. The water is clear and cooling.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner www.blackwaternottoway.com. Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 22nd through the 24thon the Blackwater below the Steel Bridge. The water was clear, 58 degrees and high at 8 ft. on the United States Geological Survey Gauge at Burdette. Air temps ranged from 34 degrees to 70. I could not have asked for more perfect weather this trip. Cool nights and balmy days; it is what I hope heaven is like. Trash on this trip was amazingly light, but there is a reason for that. The old overhead pipeline and it trestle have been removed from the river. That trestle was the cause of huge log jams in the past. I have been after the City of Norfolk for years to get rid of that thing and finally it is gone. Fishing was pretty darn good. I caught 9 catfish on limblines to 5 pounds. One was a blue cat, which is the first one of this species I have caught this far upriver. I also caught 5 largemouths. They were all small and caught on an AC Shiner. I also caught a bunch of really nice bream. I needed bait for the cat lines and just could not catch any. I tried every lure I had. I finally tried a twister jig and was getting hits on that, but the fish were in really shallow water up in the woods. This made me have to reel the lure so fast to keep from getting hung up that the fish just did not have a chance to get hold of it. So I tied a cork on my line about 20 inches up above the jig. It worked like a charm with just a slooow retrieve. That was really fun on the two rivers we call the the Blackwater and Nottoway.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, Captain Mike Hoke, Life's Revenge Guide Service, (804) 357-8518. No report this edition.

Region 2 - Southside

Ft. Pickett: Contributed by our man in the boat Willard A. Mayes. Both batteries at full charge and old blue ready to run, so I thought it was time to check out the reservoir on Ft Pickett. I had the boat in the brownish green water by 12:45 and started out using pumpkin seed and chartreuse twister tails and fished down the first aeration line only catching a 14 inch channel cat. I was already thinking I had lost my horse shoe or all the fish were visiting their relatives in some other lake. I continued on down in the shallower area and caught a hand size bluegill and an 8 inch crappie. The sun was out and it was such a nice day, no puff of wind, so there was no way I could leave the fly rod in the tube. I fished the shore line with a number 12 popping bug and got many strikes without landing the first fish. Yep, I took time to get the bug in and make sure it had a hook on it, which I am sorry to say it had a good one, so back to it. I had to allow the bug to sit for a time before they would hit it. I managed to land 4 hand size ones before that everlasting wind showed up and I could no longer see the bug on the water, so back to the spinning rod. I continued fishing the shallower areas to 6 feet of water and caught a total of 15 crappie and 5 hand size bluegill. I caught the most on the purple 1/32 two inch twister tail. The crappie were between 7 and 9 inches. My cats loved the two 7 inchers.

Sandy River and Briery Creek: Contributed by Longwood College Fishing Club's Jack Pollio. No report this edition.

James at Scottsville: Local Guide L.E. Rhodes www.hatchmatcherguideservice.com, (434) 286-3366. No report this edition.

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store, (434) 374-8381. Brandon Gray reports that bass action is good with cranks, spinners and rattletraps being the lures of choice. The crappie bite is "picking up", try minnows and jigs near bridge pilings and brush piles. Cats can be found at the Clarkesville area of the lake. They are going for jumbo shiners, shad and crappie. No word on perch or bream. Stripers are in the creeks and biting shad, shiners and bucktails. The water is clear and in the mid 60s.

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane, (434) 385-0200. Doug Lane says that the bass bite is "okay", with baitfish or crawdad imitators being good bets. The rainbows and browns in the Jackson are taking baetis imitators, Adam's parachutes, ants and flashback hare's ears. The mountain brookies are spawning and should be left alone. The water is clear and in the mid to upper 50s.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina, (434) 636-3455. Craig Karpinski told me that the largemouth action is fair, with suspended cranks and Carolina rigs working well. Crappie fishing is improving; try minnows, jigs or small spinners about 5 to 8 feet down. Catfishing remains steady, with chicken livers and clam snouts proving effective. Local perch will take red wigglers and spinners. Bluegill will respond to the same things and will also bite a popping bug. The water is clear and 65 degrees.

Lake Gaston Health Advisory: 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.

Smith Mountain Lake: Contributed by Mike Snead. Virginia Outdoorsman, (540) 724-4867, www.virginiaoutdoorsman.com. As most of you know, Suzanne and I closed the Virginia Outdoorsman retail store for the winter earlier this month. We plan to move and reopen the tackle, marine and shooting accessories portions of the store in with the U.S. Post Office in the adjoining suite in the spring. We continue to buy, transfer and sell consignment firearms on a special appointment basis as usual, but will be doing so from the adjoining suite over the winter. We check our telephone messages and respond to all inquiries sent to the store email address virginiaoutdoorsman@gmail.com daily.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Contributed by Mike Burchett of Rock House Marina, (540) 980-1488. No report this edition.

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. According to John Zienius, local bass are "on fire" and attacking jigs and small cranks. Muskies are reluctant to bite right now, but you may get lucky with live bait. The water is clear and 65 degrees.

New River: Tangent Outfitters, (540) 257-0415. No report this edition.

Upper New River: Contributed by Captain Forest Pressnell, (540) 818-5274, New River Charter. Captain Forest reports that bass action is slow, but spinners or plastics in white or neutral colors may get you a smallie. The muskie bite is very good, as they are feeding up for winter, try top-waters or glidebaits. If you're going for walleye, go with jerkbaits. The water is clear and 57 degrees.

Top New River: Contributed by local guide Richie Hughes, owner of New River Trips LLC. Chilly fall weather has arrived here on the New from Mouth of Wilson to Fries. We had frost the last two mornings which will slow the smallmouth bite. Water levels are normal to slightly above normal and clear. Tubes, jigs, Senkos, crankbaits and jerkbaits may attract the smallies for a couple more weeks. Trout creeks in the area of the Top New which have been stocked the past two weeks are: Cripple Creek, Crooked Creek, Elk Creek, Hales Lake and Rural Retreat Lake Pond. Chestnut and Big Wilson Creeks should be stocked soon.

Use common courtesy on the river and at landings... Blackwater and Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner advises if you're boating or fishing on the river this spring please remember that a lot of people fish anchored in the middle of the river this time of year. So, please slow down around those blind curves and don't wake people hard when they are fishing. At the boat ramps please don't prepare your boat to put in on the ramp or prepare your rig for going home on the ramp. There is usually lots of room in the parking lot. If you're in your boat waiting for the boat ahead of you to get out of the way, remember, don't make it harder on them by cruising back and forth in front of the landing at ¼ throttle and throwing a 3 ft. wake. You're only going to make him mad and take longer to get their boat on the trailer, plus it's against the law! Be courteous and respectful of others, after all we all want a safe and enjoyable trip to and from the river.

Region 4 - Mountains & Shenandoah Valley - Northern Piedmont

North and South Forks of the Shenandoah: Harry Murray (540) 984-4212 www.murraysflyshop.com. Fly guru Harry Murray told me that the smallmouth streams in the North and South forks are clear and fishable with a temperature of 56 degrees. They are at a full level, so float, don't wade. Fish deeply and you should do fine. Good flies are: Murray's Magnum Creek Chub Streamer, size 4; and Murray's Magnum Hog Sucker, size 4.

The stocked streams in the Valley are producing some large rainbows, especially in Back Creek and Passage Creek. Good flies are the Betsy Streamer, size 12; and the Pearl Marauder, size 12. The water is clear and in the low 50s.

The mountain brookies are spawning and don't need the added stress of being fished for.

Lake Moomaw: Contributed by local anger Bill Uzzell. The fishing at Lake Moomaw has picked up a bit now that the weather has stabilized. Anglers are finding decent numbers of smallmouth and largemouth bass, but have to hit a variety of places and use a variety of baits to accumulate a good limit. The bass are pretty scattered as the fall turnover is starting to have an effect. Deep running crankbaits, jigs, and drop-shots are popular right now and should continue to perform as long as the water temperatures remain in the 60s. Fish can be found from shallow to 25 ft. depths. Recent bass tournaments are being won with 12 to13 lbs. bags. No giants to report right now, but some 3 to 4 lb. fish are being caught. Ramps are still open at Fortney Branch (use the ramp next to the dock) and Bolar in Bath Co. Fall colors are beautiful right now and should last another week or so. Enjoy!

Lake Moomaw: Local Guide, Mike Puffenbarger, (540) 468-2682, www.mapletreeoutdoors.com. Puff is busy fishing, and getting ready for bow season starting October 1 in the Highlands. Check his website for the latest news on fishing conditions and what's biting. Also check his site if interested in a great deer or fall turkey hunting experience.

Piedmont Rivers: Local author Steve Moore (Wade Fishing River Guidebooks covering the: Rappahannock, Rapidan, Upper Potomac, North Branch Potomac; Blog: SwitchFisher.com) Despite the cold weather, there is still smallmouth action available on the Potomac. The water levels are too high for safe wading, but perfect for those who have boats. Down on the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, the season is pretty much over with the water also being too high to wade and the fish retreating to their winter pools. The good news is that the fall trout stocking program has kicked into high gear with many of our Piedmont streams being replenished (Passage, Rose and Hughes). Please focus your trout fishing on those streams rather than the mountain streams in the Blue Ridge. This is the fall spawning season and an inadvertent footstep could squash next year's fingerlings. Please protect those delicate eggs!

Lunga Reservoir and Rappahannock River: No report this edition.

Lake Orange: Contributed by Darrell Kennedy of Angler's Landing (540) 672-3997. Angler's Landing is closing for the winter and will reopen in March.

Lake Anna: Contributed by C. C. McCotter, McCotter's Lake Anna Guide Service, (540) 894-9144. No report this edition.

Lake Anna: Contributed by Local Guide Jim Hemby (540) 967-3313. No report this edition.

Attention Readers – If your favorite body of water is not covered in the Fishin Report, and you are a guide, tackle shop owner, marina or just a devoted angler; please drop me a line and we will see about adding your bi-weekly or periodic reports in the e-newsletter by telephone or email contacts. You can reach me, Sarah White at fishing_report@hotmail.com.

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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Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

Kelly Plume Uses Persistence, and a Little Prayer, To Bag First Bear With Crossbow

Kelly Plume from Elkton killed her first black bear during the early archery season while hunting near her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains above the Shenandoah River. Kelly is 20 years old and in her own words proudly tells the tale of her first bear.

"I'm an 'outdoors gal' and have been hunting with my dad ever since I was born pretty much. When I was younger, I would mostly just tag along and watch and learn. The past three years have been the first years I've actually hunted hardcore, like in the woods every single minute. I like to do it all; bow hunt, rifle and muzzleloader. I've always hunted deer and bear, there haven't been many turkey where I hunt, so I've never gotten into it, but I'd love to start doing some turkey hunting.

I went hunting early that morning on October 5, it was a very pretty morning, sun was shining and I could feel the warmth coming through the trees. I saw five bear that morning. One bear was down in the hollar about 8:20ish, but it was out of range and then about 30 minutes later a momma and 3 cubs came running down the mountain. It was a lot of fun to watch them. I didn't see anything after that, so I packed up my stuff round 10:30 and went to go do a little bit of scouting in some areas I hadn't looked at yet, didn't see anything there either, so I went on home.

I hadn't planned on going hunting that evening, but something, a feeling, just pushed me out that door. I got to the woods bout 4:30 and walked towards the tree where I always sit. I walked slowly and would stop every few steps just to listen, never heard anything. There are bear trails all around where I'm sitting so its a very good spot. I walked bout 30 yards down the mountain to look in a different spot. I was having a hard time deciding just where I wanted to sit. After standing there for a few seconds I decided to go back to my 'favorite tree'. So I casually turn around and there's a bear trotting straight to me bout 10 steps away! I was not expecting to see a bear right behind me, and never heard it coming: goes to show how quiet they are! I think we were both surprised to see each other...

Standing frozen, slowly I reached to click off the safety of my crossbow, but the bear whipped around and took off up the mountain. I was kinda upset at that point cause that was about the fourth time a bear has spooked and run off leaving me with no shot. It's very challenging hunting on the ground, I'm not using a tree stand so movement is very easy to detect. I went back to my tree and sat down facing up the mountain, and literally prayed out loud to God " Please send me an opportunity here, just maybe turn that bear around or something! I was praying and praying for a good open shot. It wasn't even 5 minutes after my simple request that I see black coming through some bushes. I pushed my hat back, laid my Parker crossbow out there on the shooting stick just waiting for that bear to come through the thicket. I saw her cross the main trail and onto my side of the trail. Looking through the scope, I could see her perfectly, making sure she has no cubs with her. I get ready. I kinda hollar at her and she stops, but there's a tree blocking the lung area, she takes two steps, I hollar again, and she stops… there's my open shot - I take it. I pulled the trigger and she lets out a soft grunt-like noise and runs down the mountain. As soon as I saw that arrow hit, I called dad and say, "Hey! I shot a bear...GET UP HERE NOW!

I'm listening intently while waiting for dad and I can hear heavy breathing so I knew I hit a lung. Dad arrives about 15 till 6:00 and we start tracking, she ran a good ways cause I only hit one lung, but we tracked till we found her and got her out that evening. The sow dressed out 140 pounds, not the biggest, but I sure am proud of her, she's a beauty. I shot at a bear last year with my compound bow and missed, so getting this bear this year was amazing to me. God blessed me that day, answering my prayer with an open shot at a beautiful bear. I'm so grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to hunt with my Dad in God's great outdoors. Now, I'm really excited about muzzleloader season coming up! Hopefully there's a big buck out there waiting for me!

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