In this edition:

Season's Greetings!

This December edition is very special as it is the last edition of 2011 and completes the fifth year anniversary of the electronic Outdoor Report. We have grown to 35,000 subscribers and we appreciate your continued interest. I am a bit sentimental and humbled realizing all the hard work and support from colleagues, partners, contributing reporters, and readers who have made this newsletter so successful. We hope you have been informed, educated, and even inspired on occasion to do something new and different to enhance your outdoor experiences, or better yet, share with others. This edition is somewhat longer than usual due to adding some articles that would have been posted in the next edition. Due to the holidays, our next edition will be posted January 11, 2012.

This "Holiday" edition is full of ideas for gift giving whether you enjoy fishing, hunting, boating, birding, camping, or other outdoor adventures. My personal recommendation is to give someone special to you the gift of time together - an adventure shared out in the wild. You will create wonderful memories, especially for a youngster, or an adult that has not had the opportunity to discover the great heritage and traditions experienced by exploring our wild places. Read the inspiring story of Amanda Carter's first deer hunt with her Dad at age 26 and the new family traditions they created in Been There... Done That section.

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

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

David Coffman, Editor

Hunting Benefits All Virginians

With the archery deer hunting season, fall turkey, and muzzleloading-black powder underway, and general firearms season opening November 19, 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. Share the Bounty
  4. Manage Wildlife Population
  5. Develop Healthy Minds, Spirits and Bodies

Sharing the Experience, Creating Memories, Continuing Traditions...

A tradition of stewardship: Hunting is a tradition that is often passed on from one generation to the next creating a special bond between family members and friends. Many hunters enjoy mentoring others in the pleasure of and importance of being good stewards of our natural resources. For most hunters it's not the killing of game that's key to hunting, but the experiences and life lessons they gain. People who hunt have a special connection with the outdoors and an awareness of the relationships between wildlife, habitat, and humans. With that awareness comes an understanding of the role humans play in being caretakers of the environment. Read the story of the many benefits realized by both young novice hunters and the volunteer VDGIF Hunter Education Instructors who mentor annual deer hunts.

Opening Day Youth Deer Hunting Workshop in Bedford a Huge Success

The Virginia Hunter Education Association Inc., in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), conducted a Youth Deer Hunting Workshop on the coveted "Opening Day" of the firearms season, Saturday, November 19, 2011. This workshop was conducted on property belonging to the Bedford County Economic Development Authority and was hosted by the New London Emergency Services Volunteer Fire Station, both located in the New London area of Bedford County. This workshop created an incredible opportunity for youth throughout the Commonwealth to experience hunting in a safe, controlled and learning environment. Twelve youngsters, ages 12 to 15, participated in this all day event.

The hunt began at approximately 6:30 am with each youth being accompanied by a parent/guardian and supervised by a certified Virginia Hunter Education Instructor. Each hunting location had been previously scouted, with ground blinds set up to accommodate all participants. Each blind was marked off with pre-determined shooting lanes. The morning hunt ended at 10:00 am with 3 deer harvested. All participants returned to the Fire Station where a field dressing demonstration was held followed by a tree stand safety seminar. At approximately 12 noon the participants gathered for a hearty lunch of venison spaghetti, salad and garlic bread! Because of their enthusiasm to return to the blinds, the afternoon hunt began by 1:30 pm.

The days hunt continued until the close of legal hours with an amazing harvest of 6 more deer, bringing the total to 9 deer taken for the day by eight different hunters! For several of the youth, this was their first deer and led to smiles all around.

A huge Thank You goes out to the members of the Virginia Hunter Education Association and all other volunteers who were instrumental in successfully providing this tremendous youth deer hunting workshop and hunt. Additionally, thanks go out to the Association for their fund raising efforts and to all the vendors who so graciously provided donations. The numerous donations received made it possible to provide lunch and snacks for all participants at no charge. A Thank You to the Instructors for giving up their opening day of firearms deer season for the youth solicited one response that spoke volumes for why they continue this heritage: "I did not give up my opening day deer season, I gained one. This is far more rewarding than any deer hunt that I could have experienced for myself".

The past four years these hunts have offered many unique opportunities for youth to experience the hunting tradition in a safe and ethical manner. With our next muzzleloader hunt in the very near future and already filled to capacity, we anticipate another rewarding experience!!

Hunt safely and responsibly, and have fun!

Hunters for the Hungry Needs Donations of Venison and Processing Funds

During this season of giving, sportsmen are sharing the bounty of our fields and forests in many ways. Food banks need donations now more than ever. Hunters are providing much needed protein to Virginia's needy families by donating a deer, or a portion of it, to Hunters for the Hungry. The potential exists to receive, process, and distribute 400,000 pounds of venison annually providing 1.6 million servings to the less fortunate across Virginia. Since Hunters for the Hungry was founded in 1991, more than 4.2 million pounds, equal to 15.7 million servings, of venison have been distributed in Virginia. In tough times, hunters continue to share the wealth of their harvest. Hunters can also contribute by donating $2 to Hunters for the Hungry when they purchase their hunting licenses. Another valuable contribution is to also pay the $40 tax deductible processing fee for the deer they donate. The non-hunting public is also encouraged to donate money to Hunters for the Hungry to off-set the cost of processing the donated venison. Share the bounty in any way you can in this season when we give thanks for all the many blessings we share. There are numerous other ways for sportsmen to 'give back' to their sport, their neighbors and their communities featured in the articles throughout this edition.

General Assembly Legislation of Interest to You

The Virginia General Assembly will convene January 12, 2012, the day after our next Outdoor Report edition. To keep you informed we have provided several links related to your legislature. There is a lot of legislative action scheduled this year on issues that may affect you as an outdoor enthusiast, landowner, or concerned citizen. After the Assembly is in session you can view bills related to the Department's mission that may be of interest to you. The link will be included in the January 11, 2012 edition

The most appropriate way to express your opinion about these bills, or any other legislation, is through your local delegate and/or senator. For more information about your legislators and how to contact them, visit the Virginia General Assembly website. You may also contact the Virginia General Assembly's Constituent Viewpoint Comment line toll-free at 1-800-889-0229 (804) 698-1990 in Richmond.

Revised Holiday Schedule for Posting the Outdoor Report

The Outdoor Report regularly posts to your email on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. With the various holidays observed in November-December, we will be 'tweeking' the posting schedule just a bit to accommodate both staff and subscribers holiday schedules and provide time to enjoy the season's festivities:

Hunting & Fishing Licenses

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

Field Dressing, Skinning & Processing Deer DVD

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

Virginia Wildlife Magazine Subscription

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

2012 Virginia Wildlife Calendar

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

2011 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife

Our 2011 Collector's knife has been customized by Buck Knives and features a bobwhite quail in flight. The elegant, solid cherry box features a field scene. Knives and boxes are made in the USA.

New for 2012 - Facility Access Permit

Effective January 1, 2012, a Facility Access Permit will be required when using any Department-owned Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake. Such permit shall not be required for any person holding a valid hunting, fishing or trapping license or a current certificate of boat registration issued by the Department or persons 16 years of age or younger. The Facility Access Permit requirement does not apply to Department- owned boat ramps or segments of the Appalachian Trail on Department- owned land. The Facility Access Permit fee is $ 4 for a daily permit or $23 for an annual permit. The Facility Access Permit may be purchased online or at any license agent.

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

Pheasant Hunt is Perfect Christmas Present for Your New Hunter

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. If you are looking for that perfect gift for the new hunter in the family, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and North American Gamebird Association may have just what you're looking for – an 'Explore Wingshooting' gamebird hunt. Fifty recent hunter education graduates in Virginia will hunt pheasants at no charge through the new Explore Wingshooting program while their adult partner can hunt at a special discount price.

The first 50 graduates to respond to the Explore Wingshooting invitation can take part in a specially packaged pheasant hunt at one of the preserves listed online.

"As the grandfather of a young hunter, I can't think of a better Christmas gift for my grandson than a day afield hunting pheasants on a professional hunting preserve", said Ladd Johnson, Executive Director of the North American Gamebird Association. "It's an especially good value since NSSF will pay for my grandson's hunt", added Johnson.

Hunters must contact the preserve closest to them and mention the Explore Wingshooting program to reserve their hunt. Hunts can be taken on any mutually agreeable date during the preserve's hunting season, which typically extends well into the next calendar year.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, North American Gamebird Association and International Hunter Education Association are sponsoring the program to provide a safe and enjoyable game bird hunting experience for new hunter education graduates on their first outing. All hunts are fully guided by professional hunting guides with trained bird dogs. Each hunt will be for a preserve half-day, which is typically three to three and one-half hours. The hunts will include only the student and his or her adult hunting partner.

Students will receive a complimentary hunter-orange hat, eye and ear protection and vest courtesy of NSSF and Cabela's. NSSF is the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry. NAGA is the professional association of the game bird breeding and hunting preserve industries. 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 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 was held November 26. A feature story on the hunt is planned for the January 11, 2012 edition.

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.

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.

Christmas Bird Count - Get Involved!

Upland Classic Gundog Quail Hunt in Keysville January 7-8

If you manage to make it through Christmas and New Years, it will be time for a break, and preparations are underway for a "Virginia Upland Classic Quail Hunt" on Saturday & Sunday, January 7th and 8th, 2012. Each year for the past several years Virginia bird hunters gather at the FFF Shooting Preserve near Keysville for a January, Mid-Winter quail hunt and gundog competition sanctioned by the National Upland Classic Series (NUCS), a division of the National Kennel Club (NKC). A growing number of Virginia bird hunters are enjoying these hunts and this past November the "Pheasant Hunt" event at Liberty Corners in Albemarle County attracted over 70 hunters and their dogs, including 22 first time participants. A bunch of fat pheasants turned up on a lot of Thanksgiving family tables as a result.

The January event at Keysville will be a Quail hunt, and the FFF Hunting Preserve is a great place to hunt birds. Separate fields of good bird cover will be used for the adult Pointing and Flushing dogs as well as different fields for the younger dogs (under three years, "amateurs"). First time participants are also separated into fields that are especially for "novices" to the sport and where the score keeper is a "coach" for the newer participants to help them learn the sport and have a safe & fun experience. Some of our wives, daughters, and girlfriends like to bird hunt as well and a "Girls with Gundogs" event will take place on Sunday afternoon for the ladies.

The sport is really simple. It mimics a true bird hunt as closely as possible. The hunter and his dog are assigned a field that is planted with three quail. He or she is allotted six shells and twenty minutes to go find and shoot the birds. Points are accumulated by the score keeper for finds or flushes (as the case may be), shot birds, bagged birds, and retrieved birds. Extra points are given for unused shells and unused minutes of the time allotment. At the end of each event the top three total scores are declared the winners. Adult(Open) championship runs(call backs) for pointing and flushing "singles" take place on Sunday along with the doubles events and "Girls with Gundogs" for the ladies. Prizes and ribbons are awarded to the top three dogs in each event.

All gundog breeds used for hunting upland game are welcome. You will need a Virginia hunting license and a blaze orange hat to participate. If you would like more information contact the Virginia Upland Classic Series (804-694-5118) or bgnorris@cox.net.

5th Annual Bass & Saltwater Fishing Expo Returning to Meadow Event Park January 20-22

The 5th Annual Bass & Saltwater Fishing Expo (formally called the Richmond Fishing Expo) is returning to the Farm Bureau Center at the new Meadow Event Park in Caroline County near Doswell, January 20-22, 2012. The family-oriented show is geared to be a fun and educational experience for all who attend. Whether you are a fly fishing enthusiast, a bass fisher, saltwater, lake or river angler, this show has something for everyone in the family. Again this year, your admission ticket will allow you to return to the Show another day. There will be conservation organizations represented and an incredible selection of outfitters, fishing charters, boating suppliers, and seminar presenters. Numerous nationally-known speakers will hold seminars to teach skills and share some great stories of their adventures and experiences. VDGIF staff will be on hand to answer questions on agency programs, angling education, special training events, and opportunities to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors. The Outdoor Report e-newsletter will also have an exhibit featuring Fishin' Report contributing reporters answering your questions on where to get the latest "how are they bitin'" info on more that 25 primary lakes and rivers statewide. Volunteers from the VDGIF Complementary Work Force will be on hand describing opportunities for volunteers to assist in carrying out a variety of agency programs. For information visit the Show website or view the Show flyer.

2nd Annual Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Festival January 27 - 29

Registration is open for the 2nd Annual Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Festival set for Friday January 27 through Sunday 29. The Festival highlights the great wildlife viewing opportunities that Virginia Beach offers during the cold months. There are trips scheduled to Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Back Bay and False Cape and numerous other sites along with workshops and an exhibit hall on Saturday at the Princess Anne Recreation Center. Be sure to join us Friday evening for a screening of the amazing documentary "Winged Migration" at the Virginia Aquarium. This screening is sponsored by the Back Bay Restoration Foundation.

The festival is presented by Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries with support from VA DCR State Parks, USFWS, Lynnhaven River Now, the Virginia Aquarium and Virginia Beach Audubon. In addition to providing an amazing opportunity to get out and enjoy Virginia's amazing wildlife resources, events such as this support local economies and build support for continuing conservation efforts. Go to the festival website for more information or contact Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation at (757) 385-4461 Email: outdoors@VBgov.com.

January - April Sportsmens' Shows Set Dates and Locations

The seven regional outdoor sportsman's shows scheduled for January - April 2012 have set their dates and some have changed locations. These annual "Break the cabin fever and beat the winter blues" events feature seminars from the experts, exhibits, demonstrations, and contests, promising fun and exciting new activities for everyone in the family. Experienced and novice sportsmen can try the latest in new equipment and learn about new places to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors from the pros. All the shows feature activities for kids to spark their interest in outdoor adventures. See the latest in specialized equipment and partnership programs offered by sportsman's organizations. VDGIF staff will be on hand to provide information on hunting and fishing opportunities and agency programs to manage fish and wildlife resources. Each show offers something different, so check each show's website for all the details.

People and Partners in the News

Your Donations Help the VDGIF K-9 Team

by Marika Byrd

In these hard economic times, the VDGIF K-9 Team uses fund raising efforts to help provide food and veterinary care for the three donated Labrador retrievers who serve, search, and protect our wildlife and citizens from those few perpetrators who illegally engage in activities afield or on the water. Just read the Conservation Police Officers Notebook in the Outdoor Report to see what extraordinary feats Jake, Justice, and Scout, along with their CPO handlers, do on our behalf--it can be an eye opener for some of us.

As 2012 begins, we ponder and plan for the gift purchases in the year ahead. Think about those who have everything, or those we wish to honor or memorialize through a financial donation--be it on behalf of that animal lover, boater, Complementary Work Force employee, a fellow employee or co-worker, friend, angler, hunter, or wildlife watcher. VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan says, " The Agency is very excited by the tracking and wildlife detection capabilities of K-9's Scout, Jake and Justice. We believe this Team will be a tremendous benefit to VDGIF and the citizens of the Commonwealth. ....contribution[s] will be used to grow this wildlife resource protection program into the future."

Tax-deductible donation information is found both at Foundation and Department websites. I did my part with a major donation at the October 20 meeting of the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries. Now is the time to consider what amount you wish to contribute towards this worthy protection program throughout 2012 and help endow it into the future.

Marika Byrd is a volunteer with the VDGIF Complementary Work Force and serves as Treasurer of the VA Outdoor Writers Assoc. and is a frequent contributor to VDGIF publications.

VA Outdoor Writers Announce 2011-2012 High School and Collegiate Writing Competitions

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, Inc., (VOWA) announces the opening of its two 2011-2012 writing competitions for high school students and college undergraduates. The VOWA--Bass Pro Shops High School Competition is open to students in grades 9-12 including home-schooled students. The Collegiate Undergraduate Contest is open to any undergraduate student enrolled at a Virginia college or university, including a two-year community college, public, and private post-secondary institutions. The criteria and rules are posted on the left lower side of the VOWA homepage. The submission deadline is February 13, 2012. The theme of both competitions is a non-fiction article about a memorable outdoor experience. The word restrictions and submission forms are included with the rules on the website.

Winners and their families will be recognized, awards made, and prizes given at the 2012 VOWA's Annual Meeting held March 28, at the Doubletree in Charlottesville. The first place articles will be published in a future issue of the VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Virginia Wildlife magazine, and other publications will consider articles as appropriate. The best of the articles submitted will be selected for publication in the bi-monthly VDGIF online newsletter the Outdoor Report and regional supporting member sportsmen publications.

VOWA represents professional writers, editors, photographers, videographers, agency and conservation organization communicators, and outdoor related businesses who strive to improve their craft and increase our knowledge and understanding of the outdoors and its enjoyment. Visit the VOWA website for more information and how to become a member or supporting member.

Conservation Police Association Offers Collectable Knives for Raising Funds

The Virginia Conservation Police Association was formed in 1981 as the Virginia Game Warden Association, with its mission to, "improve the professionalism of the Virginia Game Warden and better serve the citizens of the Commonwealth." Since its conception, the Association has achieved numerous goals such as gaining full police authority under the Code of Virginia, implementing a Police Bill of Rights for officers, mandating training standards, improving retirement benefits, and gaining protection from outside recruitment for promotional opportunities. In 2008 the Virginia Game Warden Association was reorganized and renamed to the Virginia Conservation Police Association. The reorganized Conservation Police Association is comprised of over 100 Conservation Police Officers that provide statewide law enforcement and serve all the citizens in this great Commonwealth.

The collectible knife program was created to assist in fundraising efforts for the Association. These knives have become a yearly collector's item to many across our state and somewhat of a tradition for our Association. During the recent VDGIF Board Meeting, a CPO knife was presented to each member for their support for Law Enforcement and our efforts to promote the wise use of our abundant natural resources. These knives have been produced yearly until 2010. Due to the decline of our current economy, the future of knife sales has led to a business decision to sell stored knives at cost (currently $50.00/$60.00). After the inventory is depleted from 2006 to 2010, it is possible a 2011/2012 CPO knife will be offered. If this attempt is successful the current series will be continued every other year (2013/2014, 2015/2016 etc.) with 350 knives offered on even years 2012, 2014, 2016 etc. To continue knife sales, a commitment from all members will be required. If you're interested in purchasing a Conservation Police knife please email your request to jamesslaughter47@gmail.com. Please indicate what year you're interested in and if you're interested in a set. Please support your Conservation Police Officers and purchase a collectors knife to support our mission. Supplies are limited!

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!

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."

Wheelin' Sportsmen Program Provides Outdoor Opportunities for Disabled People

Wheelin' Sportsmen is a program of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) which provides people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities along with other outdoor enthusiasts and able-bodied outdoor partners and volunteers. Wheelin' Sportsmen and teams of NWTF member volunteers are delivering, and in some cases, re-introducing activities such as hunting, fishing, boating, bird watching and much more to an international audience of people with disabilities.

In 1996, Kirk Thomas created a group he called Wheelin' Sportsmen of America, which would host thousands of people with disabilities at catfish round-ups and similar fishing programs where able-bodied volunteers assisted participants. He did the same with hunting programs. His actions caught the NWTF's attention and in late 2000, Wheelin' Sportsmen became an official program of the Federation and was christened Wheelin' Sportsmen NWTF.

Many NWTF volunteers and chapters nationwide provide access and opportunities for disabled sportsmen and women. The Virginia State Chapter NWTF started its' Wheelin' Sportsmen program in 2002. The program has grown from one or two events annually to more than 30 events statewide for people with disabilities.

To volunteer to help with an event, or to host or sponsor an event contact the Volunteer State Coordinator: Mike Deane wheelin4u@yahoo.com or telephone 434-996-8508. If you have a disability and would like to participate in upcoming events, visit the website and complete the current Application for upcoming seasonal events. Mail or email completed Application to the State Coordinator.

Update on Fall Deer Hunts...

Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen members have enjoyed a tremendously successful season so far this fall. Having completed 16 of their scheduled 18 deer hunts, hunters with disabilities have harvested deer throughout the state. Included in this total are several nice bucks, with numerous hunters taking their first deer, or first buck ever! These hunting opportunities would not be possible without the generosity of private landowners, hunt clubs, the partnerships with VDGIF, VA Dept. of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation & Recreation- State Parks and the dedication of the volunteers from the many National Wild Turkey Federation Chapters in all areas of Virginia.

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...

Apprentice Hunting - 101

Editor's note... When the Apprentice License was introduced four years ago, it was meant to allow persons, both youth and adult, who may be interested in hunting to "test drive" the sport by being mentored by an experienced hunter before investing the time in taking the required Hunter Education Course prior to actually hunting. The program has been very successful with nearly 20,000 Apprentice Licenses sold and new hunters added to our sport. Glenn Carter sent us this great story of the success of the Apprentice License for his grown daughter Amanda and what it meant to both new hunter and mentor in continuing a family tradition with Dad and Daughter. This is a great primer on how to make the most of this program to safely and successfully introduce hunting to a novice. The photo is worth a thousand words, here is the rest of the story of how this proud memory was made.

On Thanksgiving Day 2010 after the big meal was shared by family and friends, the "boys" were sitting around telling their latest hunting stories. It was then that my grown daughter, Amanda, announced, "I want to go hunting".

I was pretty surprised by this statement and responded with, "where have you been all my life"?

I've been hunting and fishing for most of my 63 years and had carried both of my daughters fishing many times, but hunting never was a focus. Let this be a lesson to fathers with daughters; ask them if they want to go hunting.

After the 2010 hunting season was over, Amanda and I spent several spring days in early 2011 handling guns. We covered general gun safety and function and lots of shooting. We started with the trusty .22 rifle and went up to the .50 caliber muzzleloader rifle. I wanted her to become familiar with the increasing noise and recoil as we progressed. I had her shoot an old Ruger Carbine in .44 Mag,, but the recoil from that was a little painful. Amanda really became fond of the 20 gauge Browning Gold Hunter Shotgun and she proved to be a pretty proficient marksman.

I really wanted her to concentrate on the muzzleloader simply because the season corresponds to the best time to be outdoors in Virginia. The weather is usually cool, but warm and the natural deer movement is at a peak since this is the breeding season of the whitetail deer.

With the approaching 2011 Hunting season, I purchased the Apprentice Hunting License for Amanda along with the Muzzleloader and Big Game Licenses.

Opening day of the Muzzleloader Season found us in the newly erected double-wide ladder stand so we could be together. {as required by the Apprentice License} We had quite a morning. The first deer of the day was spotted by Amanda, a nice 3 point buck. I had her get the muzzleloader up and practice getting the deer in the scope. He walked right up to the stand about 20 steps away. I told her she could shoot, but she said she was nervous and declined the shot. When he got down wind and got a whiff of us, he turned inside out getting out of there. This was a teaching moment about the deer's number one defensive mechanism.

She turned down multiple shot opportunities that first day, but the highlight of the day happened at about 11:00 AM when we were quitting for the day. That was when 6 bucks appeared chasing a lone doe. There was a big 6 pointer along with 5 small bucks. We actually witnessed the big boy breed the doe, a first in my many years in the woods. And this was her first day hunting.

The second Saturday of Muzzleloader Season and we were back in the double-wide stand. This was pretty much a repeat of day one, many sightings and more refusals to shoot. I told her that watching deer and not shooting is pretty much the same as "Catch and Release" fishing. My wife said Amanda was much to tender hearted and that she would never shoot a deer, but Amanda said that she would shoot when "she was ready". She admitted that she was nervous about hitting a deer wrong and having a cripple. I told her that any ethical hunter would have the same concern and we do all we can to avoid that, but it is sometimes an unfortunate part of hunting.

The following Saturday, November 19, 2011, was the opening day of the General Firearms Season and we returned to the same stand in Powhatan. It was a slow morning, nothing moving but squirrels. I told Amanda that she was now experiencing a "normal" day of deer hunting. She had been pretty spoiled the two days of Muzzleloader Season as we had seen 24 deer in the two mornings. I had Amanda carry the 20 Gauge Browning Gold Hunter with the full rifle barrel and 3 x 9 Nikon Scope. In the woods setting where we were hunting, this is as good as a center fire rifle with much less recoil.

It was about 9:00 AM and we were eating sunflower seeds and seeing who could spit the hulls the furthest. This is when Amanda spotted the first deer of the morning, a doe moving slowly. When she pointed it out to me and I saw the buck following behind. He was very nice looking. I got excited and told Amanda to get ready, get the gun up, get down on the rail and get him in the scope.

The doe was moving slowly, starting and stopping and the buck was shadowing her a few steps back. They were moving toward a long open shooting lane. I told Amanda that I would try to get the buck to stop in the shooting lane. I also reminded her, "front shoulder"-- "safety off".

When he entered the lane I had to mouth grunt to him three times before he heard me. He stopped perfectly broad side and looked in our direction. I whispered to Amanda, "Shoot, Shoot when you're ready" and I shut up. (Inside I was screaming, SHOOT, SHOOT, HURRY UP AND SHOOT!!).

It seemed like 10 minutes went by before the gun went off, but there was no doubt that she had connected. He lunged forward and kicked and ran a few steps into a thick spot and out of site. The doe cleared the thicket and stopped and looked back. She then continued on her way, but the buck never followed. I hugged Amanda, and told her "good shot", you hit him. She was pretty excited and said she was shaking. I told her that was pretty normal. I was shaking also.

We eased down and found him about 30 steps from where he was hit. And what a buck! I told Amanda right there that this was better than any buck I've ever taken in over 50 years of hunting. He had 8 very long points with outside spread of 18.25 inches weighing 155 pounds. Amanda's shot was at 97 yards using a Federal Barnes Copper bullet. I don't think she realized what a great deer she had right then, but all my buddies have made it pretty clear to her that her first shot at a deer was very special. I know it was for Dad!

Amanda confessed that, "The thought of potentially missing the deer never crossed my mind. I had the deer in my scope and all that kept running through my mind was, 'Shoot him in the right spot!'. It finally registered with me that I could have very easily missed the deer, but after I made the shot and my Dad patted me on the back and said, 'You got him! You got him!' After that, I couldn't stop shaking out of sheer excitement!"

Amanda proudly noted, "I know my Dad holds close to the special memories of hunting with his father when he was younger, so I feel very blessed that I have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps and make these same special memories. After we took pictures of the deer, Dad was joking with his buddies about how this has been the most expensive hunting season of his life - 'Shooting lessons, a double-wide tree stand and now I'll have to get this big guy mounted.' We all laughed and I asked him if it was worth it. He shot me a big smile and replied with, 'Priceless!'"

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

Late Season Reminders...

Vance Shearin at the VDGIF Information Desk in the Richmond Headquarters office has received a number of calls from hunters during last few weeks with two basic questions.

Are Duplicate Deer Harvest Confirmation Numbers OK?

We have run several articles in November where hunters got 2 deer in the same day- which is legal. When these hunters telechecked their kills they noticed they got the same confirmation number and thought it was a mistake . It is not. On page 25 of the Hunting Regulations digest for 2011-12, it states, "Hunters checking two deer on the same day may get the same confirmation number for both animals. This is okay."

Is It Legal To Hunt In The Snow?

The Halloween weekend surprise snowfall caught a lot of folks off guard. The unusual snowstorm prompted several calls from hunters new to Virginia asking if it was legal to hunt big game and small game in the snow. Vance double checked with the VDGIF Law Enforcement Division and Major Mike Clark confirmed that the answer is "yes"! The questions may be from the fact that it is illegal to hunt certain game in the snow in some other states. Also there were a few regulations in years past prohibiting hunting in the snow, but over time all the exceptions have long since been repealed.

Here's an idea if the youngsters are out of school due to snow - take them "hunting" with you. It doesn't have to be with a gun, binoculars or cameras would be good and it's more fun than sitting around the house. There is a vast outdoor classroom awaiting to learn the habits and movements of wildlife in the snow and bonding time that can't be beat. If they need a hunting license, Apprentice licenses are available online, or at area sporting goods retailers. So remember cold weather safety tips, check the regulations to be sure your game is in season and go hunt in the snow and create some great winter memories. See additional information in Young Nature Explorers section.

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.

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.

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.

Fall Turkey Hunting Extended This Year

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. {see Regulations for dates in your area}.

Note that 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, and may assist with calling.

Fall turkey hunting has some unique methods and restrictions:

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

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 purchase the Facility Use Permit. The Permit 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

There is a Second Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day February 4, 2012

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, 2012 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 hosts several workshops throughout the season. Visit the VAWFA website for more information.

A Friendly Hunter's Challenge to Help Hunters for the Hungry

The buddies in my hunt club came up with an interesting challenge... As we make drives on Saturday hunts during the 10 week season to get venison for all the club members, we agreed to donate any extra deer to Hunters for the Hungry. Well, last year several of us admittedly missed several good shots, so rather than do the traditional "cut the shirt tail", I challenged my fellow hunters to donate $5 for every missed shot towards the cost of processing a deer. With all the shooting I hear during some of our hunts we should collect the $40 needed to pay for processing a deer donated to Hunters for the Hungry several times over!

This year with the added drain on food banks from hard economic times, Hunters for the Hungry can use every donation whether it's cash or venison from sportsmen to show that they do positive actions to support their neighbors and communities. If you have a successful hunting season and were fortunate to have harvested more deer than what you need, and you use a 2011 Hunters for the Hungry participating processor, consider setting aside several packages of venison for donating to Hunters for the Hungry. Your donations of venison packages already processed are of no cost to the program. Share and enjoy your harvest with those in need! If you don't have a deer to donate, how about $5 bucks for every one you missed! Last year Friends & Family Hunt Club in Louisa donated $60 to Hunters for the Hungry. And we also built a sighting in bench for our target practice range to use before this season began.

VDGIF CWF Volunteer Patricia Wood Gets Her First Deer

Congratulations to Patricia Wood on her first deer. Patricia shot the deer with her brothers .270 rifle on private land while hunting with VDGIF WMA Supervisor Joe Ferdinandsen. Patricia commented on her first deer, "I was shaking so hard afterwards, but I made the shot." Patricia is a very dedicated VDGIF Complementary Work Force volunteer and specializes in staffing exhibits and doing wildlife education programs. She is also a leader in the Friends of C.F. Phelps WMA group that volunteers to assist VDGIF staff like Joe Ferdinandsen in projects to provide maintenance and improvement of facilities. Not sure when she got time to hunt as she is a dedicated worker, but when she decides to do something- she does it right, on time and always with a big smile.

Choosing A Quality Taxidermist Takes Pre-Planning

Editors note... We have run a series of articles the past 3 years on how to handle skinning your trophy without causing costly damage and what to look for in choosing a taxidermist. Todd and Vickie Rapalee from Goochland have offered these tips advising, "Just as important as scouting for game in the field, is scouting for a taxidermist prior to the season to handle all of your taxidermy needs! The most important thing is to get your trophy to the taxidermist as soon as possible if you plan to have it mounted." Here are links to the archived articles for various species:

A Successful Hunt is More Than You Think

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

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

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

Hunter Finds Arrowhead in Deer Skull

On October 9, 2010 during early bow season, Joe Brewster of Kress Hill Hunt Club in Brunswick County, shot a large 8 point buck with a broadhead arrow. He was certain he hit the buck in the head or neck and searched for hours, but only found minimal blood near the impact spot and could not find a trackable blood trail. More than 2 months later on December 27, Wayne Keefe of Red Oak Hunt Club shot and killed an 8 point buck less than half a mile from where Joe had shot his buck. While cleaning the deer skull in preparation for a European mount, hunting buddy Chris King found the intact broadhead arrow inside the skull just below the left ear behind the jaw! We appreciate Wayne , Chris and hunting buddy Grady Chavis for sharing this most unique skull mount and story with us. The skull has been on display at the Outdoor Report booth at several of the sportsman shows this past fall. This artifact is a testament to the tremendous survival instinct and ability of deer to live even after what should have been a mortal shot.

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Remember: Safe Hunting is NO Accident!

Ultimately, hunters are responsible for identifying their target and beyond before pulling the trigger. Hunting is very safe, but 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. As the season winds down, there is sometimes a tendency to become more intense about taking game. This can lead to taking unnecessary risks. Remember, once a shot is fired, you can never take it back.

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. Remember the tip from last edition to tape shut your battery compartments on flash lights or hands free lights and radios as jarring or dropping them at night can leave you literally in the dark. Be safe, have fun.

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

Get Prepared for Winter Weather NOW!

Last winter, multiple record-breaking snowstorms and cold temperatures affected every part of Virginia. Citizens suffered in the wake of power outages, icy roads and bored school children. Last week was Winter Preparedness Week, to focus on getting ready for possible bad weather. Here's how to start preparing:

Additional information and resources are available online at Ready Virginia.

Make Safety a Part of Christmas Tree and Holiday Decorations

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

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

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

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!

"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.

Create a Holiday Tree for the Kids and the Birds

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Use a Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake?

New Facilities Access Permit Required in 2012

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 Access Permit' 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 Access Permit 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.

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!

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.

Make a Special Bird Treat

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

First, in large bowl, stir together:

  1. 1 part flour
  2. 3 parts yellow corn meal
  3. 1 part bird seed
  4. a handful of raisins
  5. a handful of shelled peanuts

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

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

Snow Cover Offers Best Time to Track Wildlife

Dreaming of a white Christmas?!? With the kids out of school, a winter snow is a great time to get the young nature explorers out to track the movements of wildlife. With frigid temperatures the snow will usually stay around for several days in many areas and offer a rare outdoor classroom for learning the movements, shelter and feeding habits of wild animals under harsh conditions. Here are a few observations and photos we made while deer hunting during last years snows. Next time it snows, dress warmly and head out with your camera and a good wildlife track guide and learn the wonders of nature and how wild animals move about and survive in the snow.

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 January:

Answers to November 22th edition quiz for nature events for December...

Get your copy of the 2012 Virginia Wildlife Calendar here.

Habitat Improvement Tips

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.

Reports from the field officer's notebook...

Region I - Tidewater

American Alligator voluntarily surrendered in Westmoreland County... On December 1, 2011, Conservation Police Sergeant Rich Goszka and Officer Josh Jackson received information that a subject was in possession of an American Alligator. The officers responded to the residence in Westmoreland County and the suspect voluntarily surrendered the 2 ½ ft. alligator, which he kept in a tub in his living room. The suspect advised he purchased the alligator from a vendor in Florida via the internet. The suspect was charged with unlawful possession of an alligator.

Wildlife checkpoints find violations in Essex County... On November 19, 2011, Conservation Police Officers held 2 wildlife checkpoints in Essex County to promote compliance with and detect violations of wildlife and fish laws; to protect wildlife, educate citizens or otherwise provide for the safety of the public. The Hunting Regulation digest and Wildlife Crime line pamphlets were made available to the interested public. The wildlife checkpoints were located on Route 17 Northbound and on Supply Road (Rt. 625) near the county lines of Essex and Caroline. It was estimated that approximately 250 to 300 vehicles were contacted and passed thru the checkpoints with about 1 in 5 being hunters or fisherman. Of the 50 to 60 vehicles that received further inspection, several violations were detected. Charges were placed for; over the limit of striped bass, over the limit of waterfowl, taking deer with a rifle in a shotgun only county, unlawful possession, failure to notch and validate deer tags, and failure to check in deer. There were 3 striped bass, 2 deer, 1 duck and 1 rifle that were seized.

Region III - Southwest

Failure to check in deer leads to Summonses Issued for several violations... On November 17, 2011 Virginia Conservation Police Officer Jason Harris was on patrol in Grayson County when a hunter was observed leaving a pickup that was parked in a field. Officer Harris watched the hunter walk to a blind in the field and when he approached the truck he observed two deer lying next to it. The hunter was approached and a license check was performed which showed a notched tag without a check or confirmation number. The subject said that he had killed a deer and had called it in but had nothing with him to write the confirmation number on the license. Another hunter from this party was located hunting with a Marlin .35 caliber rifle. After speaking with the hunter it was learned that he had killed both deer found next to the pickup with the .35 rifle and was now trying to kill a third. Both hunters were found to be in possession of marijuana and summonses were issued for hunting with a rifle during the closed season, exceeding the daily bag limit on deer, and possession of marijuana.

K9 Teams

K9 Scout sniffs out multiple violations on pair of hunters... On Saturday, November 12, 2011, Senior Conservation Police Officer Gavin Fariss and K9 Senior Officer Richard Howald where on patrol in Buckingham County. At approximately 1630 hours, they observed a vehicle parked in the woods north of Route 56. Preliminary inspection of the vehicle indicated that there were most likely two hunters in the woods. Richard deployed K9 "Scout." After a little more than a quarter mile, and less than ten minutes later, the first suspect was found. This hunter was found on a different tract of land and did not have permission, was hunting without a license and using a .270 caliber rifle during muzzleloader season. Officer Howald conducted an area search around the first subject with Scout. Scout immediately alerted on some blood a short distance away from this violator. This prompted Officer Fariss to inquire about the blood and the suspect admitted to killing a deer earlier that morning. Officer Howald and Scout continued to search and shortly thereafter located the second subject in another section of woods. When Officer Howald spotted him he was attempting to conceal something in the leaves. Officer Howald questioned the individual and later found marijuana on his person and Scout located a metal smoking device buried in the leaves. Both suspects were taken back to the vehicle. A short time later, Officer Whirley and Probationary Officer Gibson showed up to assist. This investigation resulted in a total of 11 charges and numerous warnings. The violations included trespassing, hunting without a license (4 Counts), hunt with illegal weapon (2 Counts), fail to check, hunt over bait, possession of marijuana and kill deer illegally. Scout's assistance was instrumental in this case being concluded so rapidly.

K9 Justice runs several tracks leading to arrests... Conservation Police Officer Harold and Conservation Police Officer Billhimer along with his partner K9 Justice patrolled Highland County. Seven tracks were run from vehicles that were parked to hunt. K9 Justice led the officers to two hunters in a ground blind smoking marijuana. Warrants obtained for possession of marijuana and hunting under the influence of drugs. Conservation Police Officers Harold and Billhimer found a vehicle parked on a National Forest road in Bath County. K9 Justice picked up three separate tracks leaving from the vehicle all going in different directions. All three tracks were run, one by one, by K9 Justice. One hunter was deer hunting with a .17 caliber rifle and failed to wear blaze orange. The other hunter was trespassing on private posted property and deer hunting with a .17 caliber rifle. Summons issued for failing to wear blaze orange, trespassing and deer hunting with a caliber less than a .23.

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.

NEW Facility Access Permit Required in 2012 for Using WMAs and Fishing Lakes...

Hunting and Fishing license holders and registered boaters exempt

Effective January 1, 2012, a Facility Access Permit will be required when using any Department-owned Wildlife Management Area or Fishing Lake. Such permit shall not be required for any person holding a valid hunting, fishing or trapping license or a current certificate of boat registration issued by the Department or persons 16 years of age or younger. The Facility Access Permit requirement does not apply to Department- owned boat ramps or segments of the Appalachian Trail on Department- owned land. The Facility Access Permit fee is $4 for a daily permit or $23 for an annual permit. The Facility Use Permit may be purchased online or at any license agent.

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!

Bob Duncan joins "The Weekend" on Sports Radio 910 WRNL

DGIF has had the great privilege of being a guest on "The Weekend with Anthony Oppermann," a radio program broadcasting on Richmond sports radio station, 910-WRNL- AM. We are into our second month of the show and having a great time talking about fishing trips and techniques. This past week we were excited to welcome DGIF Executive Director, Bob Duncan to the program. It was a great show; Bob shared some of his hunting trips and tips as well as demonstrating a variety of wildlife calls. It is definitely a show you don’t want to miss!

"The Weekend" can be heard on Sports Radio 910 – WRNL –AM, 9-11am Saturday mornings. If you are out of range for the station signal you can listen live online oor find 910 AM on the "I Heart Radio" app on your smart phone. The 15 minute wildlife segment will broadcast about 10:30 each Saturday. If you cannot tune in live, Anthony has created a YouTube channel where podcasts of the segment will be posted following the show. The latest show featuring Bob Duncan aired on Saturday, December 10th. The last show of the year will air on the 17th before taking off for the holidays and then returning for more in 2012.

Learn more about Flying Squirrels Radio and Anthony Oppermann »

5th Annual Bass & Saltwater Fishing Expo Returning to Meadow Event Park January 20-22

The 5th Annual Bass & Saltwater Fishing Expo (formally called the Richmond Fishing Expo) is returning to the Farm Bureau Center at the new Meadow Event Park in Caroline County January 20-22, 2012. The family-oriented show is geared to be a fun and educational experience for all who attend. Whether you are a fly fishing enthusiast, a bass fisher, saltwater, lake or river angler, this show has something for everyone in the family. Again this year, your admission ticket will allow you to return to the Show another day. There will be conservation organizations represented and an incredible selection of outfitters, fishing charters, boating suppliers, and seminar presenters. Numerous nationally-known speakers will hold seminars to teach skills and share some great stories of their adventures and experiences. VDGIF staff will be on hand to answer questions on agency programs, angling education, special training events, and opportunities to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors. The Outdoor Report e-newsletter will also have an exhibit featuring Fishin' Report contributing reporters answering your questions on where to get the latest "how are they bitin'" info on more that 25 primary lakes and rivers statewide. Volunteers from the VDGIF Complementary Work Force will be on hand describing opportunities for volunteers to assist in carrying out a variety of agency programs. For information visit the Show website or view the Show flyer.

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
Buy your fishing license today.

Remember the excitement? The rush? A picture is worth a thousand words, but sharing the memory of catching that first fish with your family or friends is priceless. Why wait? Start your memories today and buy your fishing license.

Go to HuntFishVA.com, call 1-866-721-6911, or visit your nearest license agent.

If you have already purchased your 2011 fishing license, we would like to thank you for helping to support Virginia's wildlife and natural resources.

Don't miss out on a great fishing season.
Your License Dollars Support State Conservation Efforts

Sarah White's Notebook

Many of us have anglers on our Christmas lists this year but, fortunately, there are lots of items that they will really like. Really like, not the way they like the hand knitted orange and purple wool scarf from Aunt Hattie. Another lucky thing is that there are fishing related gifts to fit any budget.

The least expensive items for your fisherman are lures. They tend to be under five dollars and can, of course, be used again and again for years to come. Try to find out what kind of fish and what time of day and weather your angler likes to fish in so that you can get the right one. The internet and your local tackle merchant should be able to help you with this, as will reading the fishing report!

A good rod is always a welcome gift, and they range in price so there are lots of options. Take note, there are rods designed especially for women nowadays. For your little angler or soon to be angler, you have plenty to choose from. There are rod kits that are designed around popular cartoon characters; with Sponge Bob, Spiderman, Toy Story, Cars, Barbie, Disney Princess and Disney Fairies, and Mickey Mouse to name but a few. Some of these are suitable for very young kids. For the older and more serious child angler Ugly Stick and Zebco have rod and lure kits.

But fishing involves more than rods and lures. For example, there are now many soft-sided, durable tackle boxes. When that lure pays off and the fish is brought up, there are many welcome gifts that can help; such as pliers, line clippers and hook removers. Then the angler needs a fish ruler and scale. Scales come in digital and old fashioned spring scales, with digital ones being more costly. If it's a keeper, scale scraper, filet knives and boards and safety gloves come in handy. An emergency hook extractor may also prove invaluable.

For anglers who use live bait, a baitfish net would be gratefully received; as would a good bait bucket.

Safety oriented gifts are also welcome. Everyone who fishes from a boat should have a life jacket. There should also be a first aid kit. The pre-made ones tend to be pricey, and it's often better to get a fanny pack and fill it up with first aid items. Fire extinguishers are an excellent idea as are signal whistle and a good flashlight.

If your angler is a real die hard who fishes every chance he gets, you might want to consider a lifetime license. They are priced according to the age of the recipient, with older ones being less expensive. A recent retiree who now has lots of time to fish would love it.

Another option is hiring a guide for a day on the water. I've seen so many photos of anglers with big smiles, holding up the lunker they just brought to boat with the aid of a good guide. Be sure and contact one of our guide reporters in the Fishin' Report to see about giving a gift of a fishing trip with them for friends or family.

No matter what gift you choose, fishing gifts remind the angler how much you care and they will think of you whenever they use them.

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 water is COLD, 50 degrees with a visibility of 14 ft. because of decomposing vegetation. Some real nice bass were caught off the points last week. These fish were suspended at 15 to 20 ft. along points and humps, your typical winter pattern. Traps, jigs, blade baits and drop shot will catch them. We had fish as large as 5.5 lbs., nice winter time fish. We had stripers over 20 in. the largest 26 in. and a very large Pickerel 24.5 in., 4.35 lbs. Some fine crappie came in last week with keepers over 10 in. Remember the shop is open Saturday and Sunday only. Free seminars on tactics that work on Little Creek are being held, the first one is Sunday, December 17th. Call for info or to suggest a topic.

Beaverdam Reservoir: Contributed by Eddie Hester, (804) 693-2107. Fishing is picking up with the cooler temperatures. Nice size bass are being found in the deeper waters. Most fishermen are using jerk baits. Crappie, up to 2 pounds and pickerel are showing up at the northern end of the lake; however, there remains some small amounts of grass close to the shore. The water is 50 degrees, at full pool and clear. Happy fishing.

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 striper fishing is slow due to fluctuating temperatures, but that things should improve soon. For now try live eels and bucktails around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Tautog are biting around the tubes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and around the inshore wrecks. They are going for crabs and clams. Jim wants to remind you that after December 31st , all stripers landed in the Bay must be released. If you want to keep your striper, you must get them in the ocean. The water is clear and 49 degrees.

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

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. According to Alton Williams, the place is "a ghost town". No anglers means no news. The water is slightly stained and in the upper 40s.

North Landing River and Back Bay: West Neck Marina (757) 426-6735. Dewey Mullins reports that a Northeast wind has blown out most of the water. Some fishing can be done from the bank, but no boats can be launched. The water should be back soon, and when it does come back, look to land big stripers and white perch in the creeks.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Drew Dixon told me that bass action is good with plastics and jigs. Crappie fishing is excellent with the traditional minnows and jigs. Lots of cats are going for cut bait or deer heart. White perch are taking what crappie will. Bluegill have been scarce. Many stripers are being fooled by hard plastic minnows. The water is clear and cooling.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner www.blackwaternottoway.com. Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 8th through the 10thon the Nottoway below Courtland. The river was fast, clear, 50 degrees and 7.7 on the USGS gauge in Sebrell. Air temperatures ranged from 32 to 58 degrees. The fishing on this trip was not too bad. I caught 7 largemouth up to 2 pounds. I'm sure I could have caught a lot more but it took me a day to figure out they wanted that Cordell Ratlin' Shad, one of the finest crank baits ever made. I only caught two bream jigging. No yellow perch yet either. It seems the fish fared better from the fish kill after Irene the further upriver you go. I came across construction work being done on the city of Norfolk's pump house. It looked like they were putting in some sheeting along the river to thwart erosion. I can understand them doing that, but they had the entire river blocked by a giant boom so just be aware of that if you are planning a trip on that part of the river.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, Captain Mike Hoke, Life's Revenge Guide Service, (804) 357-8518. Captain Mike says that the river is too high and full of debris to fish. It should be okay in a week or so. For now the water is muddy, in the low 50s and full of debris.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Contributed by Capt. Mike Ostrander, James River Fishing School, Discover the James, (804) 938-2350. (Report sent on December 1st )Fishing on the tidal James River for blue catfish is pretty good right now. The water temperatures range from the low 50s to high 40s which is a great temperature to fish for trophy blue catfish. Try fishing cut bait like gizzard shad along the channel and hit shallow and deep water at the same time. This past week was great, with the top fish being a 70 pound blue catfish. The group, led by Dave Roberson, also landed a number of other citation sized blue cats over 30 pounds. All fish were caught on gizzard shad.

Region 2 - Southside

Burchett Lake: Contributed by our man in the boat Willard A. Mayes. All the years I have been fishing Ft. Pickett, I have never been able to fish when Burchett Lake has been open, however I managed to get in 2 afternoon fishing trips in for a total of 7 hours. I found the water clear to about 4 feet with a slight greenish tint. I started out fishing the shore line from the ramp to the shallows picking up only one 13 inch crappie. When I got to the shallows in 4 ft. or less water, I started catching hand size blue gill. I caught 19 of them before leaving that part of the lake and fishing from 4 ft. to deeper water and that is where I caught 22 crappie from 9 to 13 inch the first afternoon and 13 the second afternoon along with two bass, 11 and 13 inches. I just caught one bass which was 14 inches. One of the crappie was 8 inches and the rest were between 9 and 13 inches and the most were 10 and 11 inches. Think I will try to make an effort to fish there when the lake is open again.

Lewis Pond: Contributed by our man in the boat Willard A. Mayes. When you wake up in December and the temperature is 62 degrees I know of no work that cannot wait, old blue was still hooked to the boat so we headed to Lewis pond on Ft. Pickett to see if the last trip was not a fluke. I had the boat in the water by 10:30 and since the wind was blowing straight up the lake I thought I would just let the boat drift and fish as I went. I fished the deep water from the dam to the shallows using my favorite 1/32 lead head and 2 inch purple and twin tail chartreuse twister tails. I tried the speckle silver and pumpkin ones but they did not come close to the purple or chartreuse ones. The water had a slight green tint and was clear to about 3 feet. I managed to land 42 eight and nine inch crappie and 14 hand size blue gill along with two bass around 10 inches as well as an 18 inch channel cat. Had the boat back on the trailer by 4:00 pm and headed home. It seems that the lake is very much worth fishing.

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. WOW! The James in Scottsville this morning (12/9) is right at 16 feet. The water has come up into the parking area and close to the railroad tracks. It will be at least 10 days to two weeks before conditions improve. Hopefully by the next report I can give you something more positive!

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store, (434) 374-8381. Brandon Gray says that bass action is "decent" off rocky points. Try cranks and jigs. Crappie are being very cooperative, especially by deep brush piles, and will take minnows and jigs. Cats are attacking cut bait. No word on bluegill or perch. Stripers like live shad. The water is muddy near Clarkesville and clearer in other parts; the temperatures are in the low 50s.

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane, (434) 385-0200. Tom Reisdorf has nothing to tell us about smallmouth. Rainbows and browns in the Jackson are taking small nymphs. Mountain brookies are okay, and are going for pheasant tails and prince nymphs. The water is dingy and cooling.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina, (434) 636-3455. The marina is closed for the season. It will reopen in February. The gas pumps will work with a credit card. Boats are still available for rental, just call ahead and leave a message.

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. No report this edition.

Stripers: Fishing continues to be mixed. Stripers are being caught by anglers using live bait and presenting alewives and gizzard shad on freelines, downlines and shotlines. Many anglers are still using planer boards and floats to spread their lines and get them away from their boats, especially when trying to catch stripers that are in the upper sections of the water column. They are feeding near the surface early and late in the day and when skies are overcast. Stripers are also being caught by anglers trolling artificial lures including paddle tail swimbaits, bucktails with plastic trailers and shad colored crankbaits. Umbrella and three way rigs with Sutton spoons are producing an occasional fish and are good choices for those who like to troll. Deep diving, suspending jerkbaits are another alternative lure that is effective this time of year for stripers. Suspending jerkbaits should be cast, rapidly retrieved to depth and then retrieved using a series of rapid twitching motions followed by periods when the lure is allowed to remain suspended and slowly move from side to side. I suggest testing your suspending jerkbaits with the rod, reel and line you will be using when fishing them, and fine tuning each lure to insure it tracks straight and suspends by bending the front eye, changing the hooks or adding lead stick-on weights (suspend dots). It is critical the lure suspends horizontally and neither sinks or floats to the surface when presented. The suspending jerkbait is a great lure in the spring as well as early winter and they will produce bass and an occasional flathead catfish as well as stripers.

Bass: Fishing has also been mixed over the past month or so and while anglers have been catching good numbers, they have been doing so on a variety of different lures and presentations. Bass continue to be found in the back of guts and creeks where they are keying on schools of shad. Top-water poppers, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are all good choices. Another lure currently being used to catch these bass and bass suspended around docks and other submerged structure is the crankbait. Those that run medium depths in shad and crawfish colors have been working well. Bass are being caught on other lures that imitate shad and baitfish including lipless crankbaits, swimbaits, flukes, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and small flukes and plastics rigged on drop shot rigs. While keying on shad, bass are also being caught on lures that imitate crawfish and other creatures. Plastic worms and craws rigged on lightweight finesse and shaky head jigs are working as are small jigs. Good skirt and plastic trailer colors include a number of different variations of darker greens and cinnamon or brown. Green pumpkin and watermelon colored plastics with red or purple flakes are solid choices at Smith Mountain Lake although there are a number of other variations including black and blue which produce too. Fishing this week should be fairly good, especially in advance of the front that is bringing clearer skies and cooler temperatures mid week.

The first tournament in the Winter Weekend Bass Series was recently held. This is an open tournament series that will be held every Saturday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the State Park boat ramp through the end of January. This past weekend the tournament attracted a strong field of 20 boats. The team of Craig Blankenship and Robert Hoyt won the event with a total weight of 18 lbs. They also claimed big fish honors with an incredible 7 lb. largemouth bass. Second place went to Mark Bradshaw who produced a five fish limit that weighed 14 lbs. 15 oz. Third place in this event went to the team of Rick Tilley and Johnny Wayne Martin who brought a combined weight of 12 lbs. 11 oz. to the scale.

For more information about this series, you can contact Tournament Director Phillip Vanderveer through his email (bassin0125@gmail.com) or by visiting him at his business, Jiffy Automotive Service (540-344-7281) in Vinton, Virginia.

Crappie: Fishing continues to be pretty good, especially for those who locate a crappie laden piece of structure or dock they like. Crappies continue to be caught using small live minnows and selected artificial lures. Crappies were caught in the tops of trees using small minnows rigged on gold, live bait hooks, a split shot and light line. Anglers using lead headed jigs with plastic tailed grubs, tubes and small imitation minnows are also catching crappies when presented vertically and "sling shot" under docks.

The water is clear and 55 to 61 degrees. Tight lines, safe hunting and enjoy the Advent season.

Region 3 - Southwest

Claytor Lake: Contributed by Mike Burchett of Rock House Marina, (540) 980-1488. According to Mike Burchett, recent heavy rains have left the water very muddy. This is good for bass anglers, who are getting lucky with any crawdad patterned crankbait. It is not so good for those looking for perch and stripers, who are not responding. Once the water clears, the striper bite should be on with live shad on planer boards or umbrella rigs. No word on crappie or cats. The water is muddy and in the upper 40s to low 50s. Also from Mike. " We had our 4th annual Championship Tournament November 6th. Jason & Raymond Ferrell had a 5 fish limit weighing 13.41lbs earning them $3000.00. They had 4 smallmouth and 1 spotted bass. They reported catching their fish on the lower end (below the state park to the dam) of the lake using finesse techniques with soft plastics. Scotty Witten and Matt Smythers had a 5 fish limit weighing 12.32lbs earning them $1500.00. They also had a 5.01lb smallmouth netting them another $195.00 for the lunker smallmouth. They reported catching their fish above the Lowmans Ferry Bridge in the river. Bobby & Cody Pagan had a 5 fish limit weighing 11.21 lbs earning them $500.00. They reported catching their fish, 'all over the lake.' Big Largemouth honors were taken by Steve & Tyler Stassin, with a 4.18lb Largemouth earning them $195.00. I have uploaded pictures to the Rock House Marina Facebook page.".

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. John Zienius told me that the water has been very high, making it hard to fish. However, when this report gets to you, it should be okay again. Look for fewer, but bigger fish. For smallies go with a jig & pig. For muskies, try live suckers, trout or chubs. The water is stained and in the low 50s.

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. The Upper New River is starting to turn green and has about 2 feet of visibility since the recent heavy rains muddied it up. Water temp is in the upper 40s so no matter what species you are going for fish "low and slow". New River Charter wishes everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

Top New River: Contributed by local guide Richie Hughes, owner of New River Trips LLC. The smallmouth on the Top New (Mouth of Wilson to Fries) have pretty much hunkered down for the winter. The trout streams in the area are in great shape. Morning lows have not been cold enough yet to ice the creeks up. Temperatures later this week will be pushing the 60 mark; great for mid day and afternoon trout fishing. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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. Harry says that the local smallmouth streams are too cold to fish.

In the stocked streams in the Valley the fishing is still good, particularly for rainbows. Fish deeply in the large pools and in the backs of eddies with streamers and nymphs. Good flies are: Murray's Black Marauder, size 10; Murray's Pearl Marauder, size 10; Casual Dress Nymph, size 10; and Murray's Olive Caddis Pupa, size 14. The water is full, clear and 42 degrees.

The mountain streams are too cold for good fishing.

Harry wants anglers to know that he will be holding 20 workshops in January, February and March. Each one will be different and will focus on things like smallmouth fishing, trout fishing and fly tying. They will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. The cost is $25. You can sign up by phone or on the website.

Lake Moomaw: Contributed by local anger Bill Uzzell. As you might imagine, the majority of anglers in this part of the world have traded in their fishing rods for rifles, bows, and muzzleloaders. For those die hard fishermen that continue to fish, they continue to find success on the waters of Lake Moomaw. Good catches of smallmouth and largemouth bass have rewarded those hardy fishermen and fisherwomen who have found the fish to be quite willing to bite their offerings. The techniques of drop shoting, jigging blade baits and tail spinners continue to account for angler success. Also, as the water temps continue to fall (currently 45 to 47 degrees) a jig and pig will start to show up as a successful technique. A local tournament over the past weekend was won with a five fish limit of over 19 lbs! I do not know how much longer I will have anything to report, it will depend on how cold it gets and how much ice will accumulate. But as long as fish are active and can be caught I will try to let you know. Keep fishing!

Lake Moomaw: Local Guide, Mike Puffenbarger, (540) 468-2682, www.mapletreeoutdoors.com. Puff is busy fishing, and hunting 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) I've packed it in for the year. Fishing has wrapped up and now all I have to keep me going is the promise of next year! I'll be back on the water in late February or early March depending on the weather. Books are available online to order for Christmas or winter reading. I hope to see you at the VA Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo at the Meadow Event Park near Doswell January 20-22, 2012. I will be doing some seminars and hope to met and talk with you then

Lunga Reservoir and Rappahannock River: Contributed by local angler Scott Torgerson. 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.

OCHS Anglers Offering Holiday Greenery for Fundraiser

The Orange County High School Anglers (OCHS) are now taking orders for Holiday greenery as one of their major fundraisers. They offer Centerpieces- $27.50 Wreaths- $27.50 and Sprays -$15.00. These are great prices for the size and quality of each. All of the pieces are made locally and have the reputation of staying fresh long after the holiday season. Our anglers do assist with the preparation of the greens. These fresh evergreens are gathered in West Va., Madison County and Orange County. The materials consist of fresh magnolia, pine, hemlock, blue cedar and some box wood. The wreaths and sprays will have a red velvet bow, and the centerpiece has candles and bows.

We hope you will find the time to send us an order, with a delivery date and place to be delivered. Checks are made out to Orange County High School Anglers. The Anglers are self funding and your order will help us tremendously in getting everyone on the water. We are taking orders up until the 17th of December. You can fax the order to OCHS attention- Anglers, or send it via the OCPS mail or call Advisor Becky Gore at 540-223-0193 my cell or at school 540-661-4300 – ext. 1154 We appreciate your support and hope you have an enjoyable and restful holiday season.

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

Get your kids hooked on fishing!

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Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

Brandon Fair was a sophomore at Virginia Tech University, and a Fisheries Science major in the College of Natural Resources when he entered his essay in the VOWA Collegiate Outdoor Writing Contest in 2011. He was selected as the Second Place winner among 20 plus entries from a dozen different colleges and universities throughout Virginia. In the future he plans to pursue a career as a freshwater fish biologist either in the U.S. or in another country. He notes, "I am extremely interested in any aspect of the outdoors, especially aquatic ecosystems, and enjoy hiking, camping, and exploring nature as well. In addition to my love for nature, I am involved in several Christian organizations on campus, and lead a freshmen bible study in my dorm. Playing the guitar, sports, and spending time with family and friends are some of the many other hobbies that I enjoy. This outdoor writing contest was the perfect opportunity for me to write about something that I truly love and that has shaped my decision to pursue a career in the outdoors.

Canadian Pinholes

By Brandon Lee Fair

Virginia Tech University

The steady hum of our loaded-down Ford Explorer went silent as we came to a stop by a small cabin on the shore of Lake Opeongo. Excited chatter filled the air as our Boy Scout troop jockeyed for position in the line forming to rent canoes. I was getting butterflies again, the same butterflies that riddled my stomach every time I faced a new challenge. Tall tree shadows danced as we waited for what seemed like forever, fantasizing about what we would see, catch, and discover. A long wait and a few dollars later we were grabbing worn canoes and racing for the crystal clear water. My mind was glued to how smoothly our paddles broke through the glassy surface; I could already taste the oil-battered Northern Pike that surely swam beneath.

The first thing I noticed was that I was out of shape. My muscles were screaming for relief as my dad and I slipped across the endless expanse of blue. Faintly on the horizon, land poked up like distant mountains. This must have been how Columbus felt when he spotted America for the first time. Clouds were beginning to thicken and darken as we finally made landfall, stepping out of our canoes like conquerors onto foreign soil. Picking the closest spot to make camp, I barely pulled my tent out of its bag before the heavens split in half. Mini water bombs began to hit our campsite and we all scattered, jumping and dodging trying to find shelter. Thunder shook our small island throughout the night, but the source of my sleepless night was found in the ghostly shadows dancing across the ceiling of our tent whenever lightning lit up the sky. I curled up in my sleeping bag and waited for morning to arrive.

Silky fog, sizzling bacon, and the call of a distant loon crashed head on into my senses when I emerged from our drenched tent. There's nothing like a beautiful view and a hearty meal to restore any dashed hopes after an infrequent deluge. Leaving our island behind I thought to myself, if only every morning could start out like this. It wasn't very long before we were truly in the wilderness, and I began to welcome the lack of houses, businesses, and cars. An array of animals, including moose, black bears, and deer, stared inquisitively from the safety of the shore wondering what these strange new creatures were and what we wanted there. I whispered back from the front seat, "we just want the memories, something to hold on to." Rounding one final peninsula, we stumbled upon our next destination - a small cluster of islands settled in a sheltered cove. Being still early in the day, we relaxed by casting some lines out and exploring our new home away from home. Miniature islands covered in blueberries and evergreen forests were everywhere, and my friends and I wasted no time collecting its bounty. There would be fish and blueberry cobbler tonight.

The sun was getting low in the sky, and we headed back to our campsite to begin preparations for our banquet. Occupying myself with the strenuous task of cleaning the day's catch, I was completely oblivious to the scene unfolding behind me. My dad tapped me on the shoulder and turning my head, all I could do was freeze. I could hear my heart beat, a chill scurried its way down my spine, and I unknowingly let the knife slip from my grasp. During my busyness, the sky had turned into an ocean of fire. The most brilliant orange we had ever seen filled the entire expanse and the lake was like glass, reflecting every color and detail with perfect precision. Jolting out of my shocked state, I grabbed for my camera; I could not miss this moment. My dad snapped a shot of my silhouette leaning back with a fishing pole like I had just hooked the big one. I jokingly commented that maybe one day the picture would make its way into an outdoor magazine.

The sky was filled with all colors of the spectrum; red, yellow, pink, purple, and finally black, as the sun waved goodbye to us as we sat eating our meals by the water. Just when I thought the show was over, tiny pinholes began to appear as if someone was shining a light on a black canvas and poking holes in it with a needle. Ten, fifty, hundreds, thousands of pin pricks dotted the sky, and I found myself actually gazing upon the Milky Way, more beautiful than any of my science books could ever depict. It filled my eyes, and if not for my father telling me that I should come inside and get some rest, I would have fallen asleep right there. Lightly standing to my feet, I took my time heading back to the tent, not wanting to leave this once and a lifetime experience. I never wanted it to end. The events of this night were a reminder of what sparks my love for the outdoors. It's not just the recreational activities, time with friends, or wildlife sighted, but also the indescribable beauty that constantly waits under every rock, around every tree, and over every mountain.

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) annually sponsors a High School and Collegiate Writing Competition with the theme of "a memorable outdoor experience." The contests are now accepting stories with a deadline of February 13, 2012. We encourage you to write your most memorable hunting, fishing or other outdoor adventure story and enter the contest. For information on the VOWA Collegiate or High School Youth Writing Competitions visit the VOWA website: www.vowa.org.

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for: