In this edition:

Lots of "Wild Events" Scheduled for Outdoor Enthusiasts

This February 13th edition has a long list of "wild events" coming in February and March that offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. There are both outdoor events and indoor sportsman's shows that feature seminars, exhibits, demonstrations and contests promising fun and exciting new activities for everyone in the family. VDGIF will have exhibits at the upcoming February – March shows and hope you will stop by and say hello. More importantly bring a youngster or a friend that you can introduce to the great outdoors. Join with your fellow sportsmen and support one of the many conservation organizations that support these events. 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, supporting conservation programs and making our wild Virginia a great place to live and seek outdoor adventure.

David Coffman, Editor

General Assembly Legislation of Interest to You

The Virginia General Assembly will convene January 9, 2013, the date of 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 at: www.dgif.virginia.gov/legislation

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.

Where Did They GO?!?

If you're reading this, that's good news! From time to time, email providers implement changes to the way they try to detect which incoming emails are "spam" and which are legitimate messages. Sometimes, real emails—like the one you get twice a month to let you know the latest Outdoor Report has arrived—are flagged mistakenly as spam. If you don't hear from us on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, take a moment to look in your spam or "junk mail" folder, to make sure it hasn't ended up there.

To make sure you receive the Outdoor Report every time, be sure to whitelist our address (OutdoorReport@dgif.virginia.gov) by adding it to your email account or client's "approved senders" list. Taking this action will ensure that your email provider never marks our messages as spam by mistake. If your friends and colleagues have also requested the Outdoor Report, and suddenly stop receiving it, please tell them to also whitelist our address, and re-subscribe if necessary.

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Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

February - March Sportsmans Shows Set Dates and Locations

The four regional outdoor sportsman's shows scheduled for February - March 2013 are great opportunities to "break the cabin fever and beat the winter blues" ! These 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.

Teen Angler Club Hosts Sportsman's Show in Orange February 16-17

The 9th Annual Orange County Fishing and Sportsman Show will be held February 16-17 at the Hornet Sports Center in Orange. This unique show is sponsored by the "Nation's Outstanding Junior B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Chapter", the Orange County High School 4-H and B.A.S.S. Angler's Club. There will be exhibits featuring hunting and fishing guides, gear, artwork, taxidermy, boats and more. There is a trout fishing pond for kids and an official ESPN BASS Casting Kids Competition. The Virginia Trappers Association will be promoting predator control for improved waterfowl and wetland habitat protection. VDGIF and other conservation organizations will be there to provide information on the great fishing and skill building workshop opportunities statewide. VDGIF volunteer Boating Education Instructors will provide boating safety information, seminars and classes for certification. There will be seminars on all kinds of fishing and the VDGIF boater education safety class. Admission is $5 with kids under 10 free. Click here for information on seminar schedule and show features. For more information contact Youth Advisor OCHS Anglers, Becky Gore at (540) 661-4300 ext. 1154.

1st Shenandoah Valley Fishing Expo in Staunton February 16

The first Augusta County Fishing Expo is scheduled for February 16, 2013 9 am-5 pm at the American Legion in Staunton. Tackle dealers and guide services will be on hand or if you just want to rent a table to clean out your tackle box. Tables are only $20 and can be reserved on our website for more information and print off the registration form question please call or email me acbassjons@yahoo.com or call 540-910-0078. One man's fishin' junk is another man's fishin' treasure.

26th Western Virginia Sports Show Features TV Celebs at Augusta Expoland Feb 22-24

Sportsman and outdoor TV programming are becoming more popular every season with many new shows and celebrities to inform, educate and entertain. The common theme of these programs is to responsibly go enjoy the great outdoors with friends and family. This year's 26th Western Virginia Sports Show February 22-24 at Augusta Expoland will feature more celebrity guests than ever before. Jep and Jessica Robertson of Duck Dynasty on the A&E network will be featured at this year's show all day Saturday and Sunday - HAPPY! HAPPY! HAPPY! Have you ever seen a big grizzly bear up close? Welde's Big Bear Show grizzlies who have appeared on live TV shows, commercials, and special events throughout North America, are returning by popular demand featuring 6 different bears. This show features other hunting and fishing celebrities including Stan Potts, host of the new Mathews' Dominant Bucks on Outdoor Channel; and co-hosts North American Whitetail on Sportsman Channel; Jim Zumbo, a 40-year veteran outdoor writer and photographer; Blaine Mengel, pro fishing guide featured on The Backwoods Angler TV and National Champion Turkey Caller and home town favorite, Lance Hanger, will be on hand to demonstrate his winning techniques and give tips on hunting a big gobbler this Spring. Howard and Jason Caldwell will demonstrate Falconry featuring their "Raptors Up Close" program for conservation education of these fascinating birds of prey. Nationally acclaimed wildlife artists including Shenandoah Valley natives Ken Schuler and Lisa Geiman and Pennsylvania Duck Stamp artist Gerry Putt will exhibit their amazing artwork.

Show Founder and Manager,  Mark Hanger proudly notes, "Our show is a truly unique event. We proudly feature more outdoor celebrities, displays, and vendor categories than any event in the region. At our family friendly event, you can view the latest hunting and fishing equipment, arrange a dream hunting or fishing trip, enter contests, catch rainbow trout, participate in the latest interactive activities, enjoy dozens of game displays, shop with over 200 vendors, eat great food, and enjoy a variety of free seminars by well know celebrities and TV personalities. There will be seminars, exhibits, demonstrations and contests promising fun and exciting new activities for everyone in the family. Experienced and novice sportsmen can try the latest in new equipment and learn about new places to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors. The show features activities for kids to spark their interest in outdoor adventures. See the latest in specialized equipment and partnership programs offered by sportsmen's organizations. The VDGIF will have Conservation Police Officers and Hunter Education Safety and Complementary Work Force Volunteers on hand to answer questions and provide information on hunting and fishing opportunities and Agency programs to manage fish and wildlife resources. Visit the show's website for all the details.

10th Annual Woods & Wildlife Conference in Culpeper February 23

The 10th Annual Woods and Wildlife Conference is an all day conference for landowners to meet various natural resource professionals, learn something about taking good care of your woodlands and meet other like-minded landowners. Presentations and workshops are geared to help both new and experienced owners, as well as owners of either small or large acreages become better stewards. The Conference is scheduled for February 23, 2013 from 9 am to 4:30 pm (registration opens at 8:30), Daniel Technology Center, Germanna Community College, Culpeper. Adam K. Downing, Extension Agent, Forestry & Natural Resources - Northern District, notes that space is limited and pre-registration is required. To learn more about this conference content or registration information contact Adam Downing 540/948-6881.

"Herps" topic of Friends of Dyke Marsh March 3

The world of "herps" will be the focus of March 3 meeting of the Friends of Dyke Marsh. Caroline Seitz, Director of Reptiles Alive and a member of the Virginia Herpetology Society, will survey the world of "herps," explain the basics and highlight today's challenges. She will also report on the VHS's herp survey of Dyke Marsh. The meeting is at 2 p.m. It is free and open to the public and will be held at the Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria 22306. About Caroline: "At five feet tall, she is more than capable of handling a giant python, capturing a crocodile or carrying a heavy tortoise," says her website. You can learn all about her online.

Wildlife Center of Virginia Announces "On the Road" Wildlife Rehabilitation Classes

The Wildlife Center of Virginia has announced the upcoming "On the Road" wildlife rehabilitation classes scheduled for February and March:

Saturday, February 23: Roanoke, Virginia [in conjunction with the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center and Wildlife Care Alliance]
Introduction to Raising Orphaned Mammals
Wildlife Capture, Restraint, Handling, and Transportation
Basics of Turtle Rehabilitation Plus
Advanced Small Mammal Care
Introduction to Raising Orphaned Songbirds

Saturday, March 2: Chantilly, Virginia [in conjunction with Wildlife Rescue League]
Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation
Introducing to Raising Orphaned Mammals
Emergency Stabilization

More information, including class descriptions, fees, and locations can be found online.

Food Plot Planting Seminar At Lake Monticello March 2

A Wildlife Food Plot Seminar covering "Huge Results With Small Equipment" will be held Saturday March 2nd 1:00pm till 3:00pm at the Fluvanna 'Bestdoit' Hardware located in Crofton Plaza off route 618at Lake Monticello. Sherwood Londeree, Wildlife Manager for Friends and Family Hunt Club and long time leader for the Central Virginia Chapter of the NWTF will share his 20+ years of experience with participants in enhancing habitat through establishing food plots of all types and sizes. Topics he will be covering are picking a plot location on your property, seed choices for best results year long, step by step directions on processing the plot and the benefits for planting a wildlife plot. Sponsors for this free workshop include: Fluvanna bestdoit Hardware, Central Virginia Chapter NWTF, Pennington seed, and Friends and Family Hunt Club. For more information contact Sherwood Londeree: bo.londeree@yahoo.com.

Potomac Pullers Need Volunteers to Help Control Invasive Species on National Wildlife Refuge

The Potomac Pullers are looking for dedicated volunteers interested in invasive plant control and monitoring at Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Volunteers will map infestations utilizing GPS technology and participate in control efforts to help the refuge respond more efficiently to invasive species. This volunteer group will serve as a way to actively support the Potomac River NWR Complex. The first meeting will be held Saturday, March 9th at 4:00pm at the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Contact Station - 13950 Dawson Beach Road. Woodbridge, VA 22191. For more information, please contact: Chelsea DiAntonio, Wildlife Biologist,chelsea_diantonio@fws.gov, 703-490-4979 ext. 14 OR Patricia Wood, Park Ranger, patricia_wood@fws.gov

VDGIF To Host Archery in the Schools Program State Tournament March 16

VDGIF is conducting the Fifth Annual National Archery in the Schools Program Tournament on Saturday March 16, 2013 at Meadow Event Park, the new State Fairgrounds near Doswell. This tournament is the "culminating event" for Virginia schools participating in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Last year, more than 200,000 Virginia students at more than 550 schools participated in archery instruction during their PE classes throughout the school year. The National Archery in the Schools Program promotes student education and participation in archery. The program's focus is designed to teach International style target archery in 4th through 12th grades as part of the in-school curriculum. Before presenting archery instruction to their students at school, teachers must successfully complete an 8-hour instructor certification training program referred to as BAI, Basic Archery Instructor. Certification is conducted by VDGIF Outdoor Education staff and VDGIF-certified volunteers. Currently over 550 schools, and 1270 teachers have been trained.

For more detailed information, visit the Department's website. For more information and to get your school and teachers involved in NASP, contact VDGIF Outdoor Education Supervisor and Virginia State NASP Coordinator Karen Holson at (804) 367-6355 or Karen.Holson@dgif.virginia.gov. Also, be sure to check out the NASP video and Virginia Wildlife feature article!

Holiday Lake 4-H Center Offers Possibles Bag and Decoy Carving Workshops

The Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center near Appomattox is again offering a variety of popular winter workshops for unique outdoor related skills like Decoy Carving and creating a possible bag! Early registration is encouraged as courses fill quickly and spaces are limited. The Traditional Flintlock Rifle Workshop March 3-8, 2013 announced in the last Outdoor Report is FULL. For details on upcoming workshops contact Heather Benninghove, Program Director, by email: heathern@vt.edu call (434) 248-5444 Fax: (434) 248-6749, or visit the Holiday Lake 4-H website.

Decoy Carving Workshop March 3-7, 2013

Learn to carve your own traditional duck decoy or sharpen your carving skills! Beginners Welcome! Carving experience not needed. First time carvers will carve and paint a Canvasback, one of the most popular of all decoys. Returning students will carve and paint a decoy of their choice. Decoys will be carved from Tupelo, a favored decoy wood. Workshop price is $275 and includes meals, lodging, materials, and instructor fees. Click here for more information. Register by February 15, 2013.

Possibles Bag Workshop - March 24-27, 2013

Learn about period bags, leather tools, and working with leather. Gain the knowledge to complete your own Possibles Bag. Historically a Possibles Bag was a leather bag that men carried items such as patches and balls for a gun, knives, pipes, and other essential items. There are many modern day uses. The cost of the workshop is $200 which includes instruction, by Jimmy Blanks and food and lodging for the whole workshop. Register and get more information online. Registration deadline is March 9, 2013.

Banjo & Mandolin Building Workshop - March 24-29, 2013

Build your very own custom banjo or mandolin. This workshop is for beginners, so no prior knowledge or experience is required. The cost of the workshop is $920, this prices includes your choice of instrument kit, expert instruction, meals and lodging for the entire workshop. For more details about the instruments and the instructor, Don Kawalek, and to register click here. Registration deadline is March 4, 2013.

White Stone Hosts 34th Rappahannock River Waterfowl Art Show March 16-17

The 34th Rappahannock River Waterfowl Show is a unique art festival showcasing all forms of wildfowl art including paintings, sculpture, carvings, prints, decoys, photography, jewelry and taxidermy. On March 16-17, the small town of White Stone, on the Rappahannock River near the Chesapeake Bay will host one of the highest quality art shows, attracting nationally prominent artists from all over the Eastern US. VDGIF retired staff artist, Spike Knuth from Mechanicsville, has been a regular at the Whitestone Show for over 20 years and always has several sought after, new originals and signed limited edition prints for sale. Spike's art is regularly featured in the Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild! column in the Outdoor Report. The VA Waterfowlers Association will also have an exhibit showcasing their youth hunting and habitat conservation projects. VAWFA members will also have VDGIF program materials and information on upcoming events of interest to outdoor enthusiasts including, wildlife watching, boating, fishing and hunting. For more information visit: www.rrws.org.

The Rappahannock Decoy Carvers and Collectors Guild Annual Carving Competition, March 16

The Rappahannock Decoy Carvers and Collectors Guild will have their annual carving competition on Saturday, March 16 next door to the firehouse hosting the Rappahannock River Waterfowl Show . The Decoy Carvers and Collectors Guild will host the 2013 International Wildfowl Carvers Association's (IWCA) World Canvas Decoy Championship and the World Buoy Body Championship. Classes for a wide variety of wildfowl carvings will be offered. Admission to decoy contests only is free of charge. For more information visit: www.rrws.org.

Augusta JAKES Event Offers Hunter Education- Certification Class March 23 & 30

The Augusta County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, along with certified VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries Instructors will be offering a class for Hunter Education Certification. The class is open to both adults and youngsters attending the Chapter's 2013 J.A.K.E.S.'S Event on Saturday, March 23rd at "Shenandale Gun Club", and classroom training at Augusta County Government Center on the following Saturday, March 30th . Participants must attend both days to be eligible for certification. For information and required JAKES event registration contact Lennie Tolley @ 540-248-4564, or Rick & Linda Layser @ 540-886-1761, or E-mail to: LT1958@verizon.net.

People and Partners in the News

Hunter Education Volunteer Service Awards Presented for 5000 Hours

At the January 29 meeting of the Board of Game & Inland Fisheries, two active Virginia Hunter Education instructors were recognized for having contributed over 5000 hours of volunteer effort to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, together training over 11,000 students to be safe, responsible, and knowledgeable hunters. To put in proper perspective, 5000 hours is roughly the equivalent of 2 ½ years of full-time work. To acknowledge the outstanding contributions of these two dedicated volunteers, they were presented with the Director's Volunteer Service Award.

Angie Leigh, from Gloucester County, became a Hunter Education instructor in 1994. Since that time, Angie has given 5069 hours to the Hunter Education Program. She received the William Dixon Morgan Memorial Award, for the instructor considered to have contributed the most to Hunter Education, in 1997. She has been a Master Instructor since 1996. In addition to teaching the basic Hunter Education course, Angie has assisted with the Virginia Hunter Education Challenge for many years. She has also used her knowledge and experience to teach advanced shotgun courses for other instructors.

Monte Brackenridge, of Allegheny County, became an instructor in 1992. He has contributed 5147 hours to the Hunter Education Program. Monte became a Master Instructor in 1995, and received the Morgan Award in 2011. He is a member of the Shotgun training team and assists with the Hunter Education Challenge. Monte has taught Hunter Education in the public school system for many years

George E. (Spud) Almond, Region 2 Director for the Virginia Hunter Education Association, presented each recipient with an additional award. A specially engraved Henry Golden Boy .22 rifle was given to both recipients. The Virginia Hunter Education Association is a non-profit group, composed of volunteer instructors who wished to provide a greater level of assistance to the Department with its Hunter Education efforts.

Wheelin' Sportsmen Host Deer Management Hunt at Rehabilitation Center

On Saturday, December 29th, the Augusta County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, partnered with the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) Police Department to hold their annual Wheelin' Sportsmen Deer Management Hunt, for hunters with disabilities. Volunteers put up camouflage pop-up blinds prior to the hunt. Plywood was also used as flooring for each blind to provide a solid and level base for wheelchair users.

Cold temps and steady snow greeted the numerous volunteers and nine hunters with disabilities as they arrived at the Switzer building by 5:30AM on Saturday. After breakfast and a safety briefing, conducted by WWRC Officer, Douglas Fitzgerald, hunters were matched up with volunteers and transported to their morning stands. Hunters returned at midday to warm up and feast on a delicious pork tenderloin lunch provided by the Chapter volunteers. Hunters and volunteers swapped hunting stories and each hunter was presented with a custom-made turkey box call by the Augusta County Chapter. Once hunters were re-energized and warmed up from the midday break, they were transported back to their stands for the evening hunt.

Augusta County Chapter President Lennie Tolley, commented, " While only two deer were harvested, all of the participants and volunteers had a great time! Our hunters and volunteers look forward to this hunt every year." Volunteers returned to the property early Sunday morning to remove all blinds and return the property back to normal. The Augusta County Chapter and Wheelin' Sportsmen would like to express their sincere appreciation to the W.W.R.C. Police Department Staff, and specifically, Officer Doug Fitzgerald and "Wheelin' Sportsman" coordinator, Robin Clark, for their hard work in organizing this great hunting opportunity.

Outdoor Writer Associations Plan Joint Annual Conference in Staunton March 15-17

The VA Outdoor Writers Association 2013 Annual Meeting will be held March 15-17 as a joint conference with the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association in the Staunton, the "Queen City of the Shenandoah Valley." http://www.staunton.va.us

In a format similar to the outstanding and inspiring meeting we all enjoyed in Hampton, VA, 2009, the meeting will include a break-out Friday of special tours and activities including the Frontier Culture Museum, story opportunities, photography, and an opening dinner all graciously sponsored by the Greater Augusta Regional Tourism Board. Saturday will be a full day of informative workshops highlighted by nationally acclaimed photographers/writers Rob & Ann Simpson, Youth Contest Winners, Annual Meetings for each organization, topped off with our joint Awards Banquet and silent auction. Sunday morning will feature a breakfast and speaker before departure. For early birds who want to arrive Thursday afternoon there will be fly-fishing opportunities. Come meet and get to know MDOWA writers and photographers from PA, MD, NY, NJ, DE, and WVA, and experience wonderful networking opportunities.

This is planned to be a generously sponsored conference with your cost being only your sleeping room and small registration fee. The hotel venue is the beautifully refurbished Stonewall Jackson, where we have secured reduced conference room rates. Get your reservations in as soon as possible. Deadline for reserving rooms at the special conference rate is February 22, 2013. You must mention VOWA/MDOWA when you reserve your room. This conference will be exceptional, don't miss it. Visit www.vowa.org for more details.

Sportsmen and Conservation Organizations Hosting Annual Award and Fund Raising Events

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

Partner Organizations Working Together For Wildlife

In recognition of the yearlong celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR), we are featuring the VDGIF partner organizations that support our Mission. WSFR is one of the most significant and successful partnership approaches to fish and wildlife conservation in U.S. history. The "WSFR 75 - It's Your Nature" celebration brings together federal and state fish and wildlife agencies; the hunting, shooting, angling, and boating industries; and conservation groups to mark a milestone of partnership success that has led quality wildlife-related outdoor opportunities. This also marks the beginning of a new era in wildlife conservation, during which the partners will establish new goals for fostering and maintaining partnerships to continue conservation and outdoor recreation into the next 75 years and beyond.

The VDGIF is pleased and honored to have the support of numerous non-profit conservation organizations, outdoor industries and local businesses 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, outdoor 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."

Fishing Expo Returning to Meadow Event Park in Caroline January 25-27

The Richmond Fishing Expo returned to the Farm Bureau Center at the new Meadow Event Park in Caroline County January 25-27, 2013. The family-oriented show provided a fun and educational experience for all who attended. Whether you are a fly fishing enthusiast, a bass fisher, saltwater, lake or river angler, this show had something for everyone in the family. A special feature added this year was the DMV Direct van where you could conveniently purchase your hunting and fishing licenses, or the new 2013 Virginia Wildlife Calendar, even title a boat or other DMV business. The show featured conservation organizations and an incredible selection of outfitters, fishing charters, boating suppliers, and seminar presenters. VDGIF staff were 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 exhibit featured Fishin' Report contributing reporters and volunteers from the VDGIF Complementary Work Force signed up new subscribers and readers completed surveys to provide feedback on topics of interest they find most valuable. The many organizations and business vendors that participated in the show demonstrated the strength of the partnerships that made being a part of this show successful for all. A special note of appreciation goes to Les Gray Fishing Expo Manager and his staff and the staff of Meadow Event Park for their outstanding and accommodating service to all of us and creating a fun and successful event to celebrate the great fishing and boating opportunities in Virginia.

VDGIF Outreach Manger Lee Walker talks with Tina Shank the Yakatach Tournament Manager and Virginia Chapter Coordinator for Heroes on the Water. HOW provides wounded warriors opportunities to participate in guided kayak fishing adventures. There is no cost to the armed forces members with all equipment, training, meals and transportation provided free of charge. To learn more about how you can support and participate in the healing program contact: kayakfish@verizon.net.

Photos by David Coffman

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

Editor's note... The future of our hunting heritage and traditions is in the hands of the sportsmen that take the time to mentor new hunters- especially children, creating memories and a passion for the sport to continue to a new generation. Family members and friends, hunt clubs, and numerous sportsmen organizations all have a part in this important mission, "It takes a hunter, to make a hunter".

I had a unique opportunity to hunt with a generous group of sportsmen on a centuries old farm along the James River in view of the majestic Varina I 295 bridge east of Richmond the last week of the deer season. My good friend and frequent contributor to the OR Todd Cocker, President of the VA Waterfowlers Association, had been asking me to hunt with him at the Club for several years and I finally got our schedules in sync to enjoy an afternoon hunting together. Since I had had a slow season thus far and wanting to put some more venison in the freezer we headed out on a sunny warm afternoon meeting up with several other club members and coordinating our stand assignments for both safety and coverage of the expansive low grounds.

In the stand 300 yards west of the comfortable box stand where Todd and I set up was Kelly O'Toole in a popup blind overlooking a swampy area where deer frequented during the evening before sunset. It was a great afternoon, we had 4 big gobblers come out and entertain us for 30 minutes then saw a total of 15 deer- more than I had seen all season. I confess I missed a good shot at a 6 pointer about 75 yards along the woodline—I thought I had rushed the shot- yes I still get buck fever... but 20 minutes later I missed a big doe at 60 yards. I thought my scope was good as I had dropped a spike the week before at 85 yards. Fortunately they were clean misses as we went and checked for blood to be sure. While checking on the doe "miss', we heard Kelly shoot at dusk. I looked at Todd and said prophetically, " I hope she got the big doe I missed", as the deer had run off in her direction. WE went to the 4 wheeler and headed towards Kelly and saw her traversing the swamp with her flashlight. She had indeed shot the big doe and sure she had hit it and it ran into the woods. Santa had brought me a new Nitecore super bright flashlight for Christmas and this was the perfect time to try it out. Wow did it light up the dark and following Todd's experienced advice found the doe down at the old fence line 30 yards into the woods. The bright light and Todd's guidance saved us a lot of time searching in the brushy, swampy woods. We loaded the doe and headed for the skinning pole with congrats to Kelly for her marksmanship.

After pictures and recounting of the afternoon adventures with others in the group, Kelly cleaned the doe and told me her story how she didn't start hunting till a few years ago when her boyfriend invited her to go with him – now she's hooked and quite accomplished in her hunting skills. It was a real testament to the importance of getting non-hunters involved in our sport at any age. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet new friends and Todd has already invited me back... Maybe one of those big gobblers will be there in the Spring.

Ps. good news- I checked my scope the next day in good light and found that the vertical cross-hair had broken loose—it was my Dad's original scope on the trusty old 30.06, probably over 40 years old—it was time for a new one with more power as my eyes aren't getting any younger. I've got a birthday coming up, will be checking the optics ads... DC

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.

VDGIF Recognizes Assistance of Hunters in CWD Sample Collections...

One New CWD Positive Reported In Western Frederick County

A single new case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected very close to where CWD-infected deer were harvested in 2009, 2010, and 2011. This 3.5-year-old buck was killed by a hunter on November 17 in western Frederick County, Virginia, very close to the West Virginia border. Given the proximity of this new positive to the previous cases, changes to current management actions or restrictions are not anticipated.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) would like to thank all of the hunters in Frederick and Shenandoah counties for their excellent cooperation during CWD sample collection this past fall. VDGIF plans to continue collecting CWD samples on the first three Saturdays of regular firearms season during future hunting seasons, along with other management options implemented after the initial detection of CWD in 2009. These management actions include: prohibiting the feeding of deer year-round both in and near the Containment Area (CA) prohibiting the movement of deer carcasses and parts out of the CA (with exceptions) restricting the disposal of deer wastes from the CA, prohibiting the rehabilitation of deer in the CA, and maintaining liberal seasons and bag limits on private lands in an attempt to reduce the deer population. The CA is located in western Frederick and Shenandoah counties.

As of January 20, 2013, CWD has been detected in 23 states and two Canadian provinces. The disease is a slow, progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk, and moose in North America. The disease ultimately results in death of the animal. Symptoms exhibited by CWD-infected deer include staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss. There is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans, livestock, or pets. More information on CWD can be found on the VDGIF website. For additional information contact:

Megan Kirchgessner, Wildlife Veterinarian Telephone: 804-367-8944

Nelson Lafon, Deer Project Coordinator Telephone: 540-569-0023

Webpage Developed to Update Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and Virginia Tech's Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation have developed a webpage to host information about the developing Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan (Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan).  Please check the webpage often for information about the planning process, as this webpage will serve as the main source of information regarding the plan.

Update as of January 2013

Since the last update, 13 individuals were extended an invitation, and subsequently all have accepted, to participate on the Wild Turkey Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC).  These individuals represent the spectrum of users and stakes in turkey management, including turkey hunters, other nature enthusiasts, agricultural and/or commodity producers, and representatives of organizations and agencies deemed important to turkey management.  This group will work together to develop policy-level draft goals for inclusion in a new statewide management plan for wild turkeys in Virginia.  Issues raised during a series of focus group meetings held in April and May 2012 will provide a starting point for discussion.  The draft management plan will be available for general public review and comment later this year.  Below a link is provided where a summary of issues raised during the focus groups can be viewed.  Preparation of an educational document that reviews the history, biology, and management of the wild turkey in Virginia currently is nearing completion and will be used to enhance knowledge and understanding of turkeys and turkey management among the public; when completed, this document will be available via the VDGIF web site.  In the coming months, the SAC and the VDGIF Wild Turkey Technical Committee will be very busy working to develop a draft plan.  Please monitor the VDGIF web site for future updates.

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

Editor's note... The future of our hunting heritage and traditions is in the hands of the sportsmen that take the time to mentor new hunters- especially children, creating memories and a passion for the sport to continue to a new generation. Family members and friends, hunt clubs, and numerous sportsmen organizations all have a part in this important mission, "It takes a hunter, to make a hunter". Here is a collection of success stories we have received recently from young hunters that have gotten the passion for hunting due to the time spent with a fellow hunter who took the time to mentor them and instill the passion for our treasured hunting traditions.

Friend Calls in First Goose

Justin Wimmer from Stafford sent this account of his first goose kill. I was using a Benelli 12 gauge on a leased farm in Spotsylvania County. We were hunting over a pond and decoys. Skip, my friend age 18 and aka "The Caller", was calling and the flock of geese circled back around, set their wings and then Skip said "take em!" We flew out the lay down blinds and put 3 shots off. I was out there with 3 of my friends, Dylan , Justin, and Skip. Hunting with friends makes for some great times, I'll remember forever.

Editor's note... I received this nice note following up on a "first deer story" from a proud Dad, Steve Grainer from Kilmarnock. Thanks Steve for the updated story on your sons success and continuing the hunting tradition and heritage to the next generation:

Dear David:

About four years ago you took a photo and my story concerning my older son Brad's first deer harvest in James City County with Diascund Hunt Club and made a wonderful little article about bringing youth into hunting. I was able to take the piece and the photo and make a nice framed piece, copies of which still hang in Brad's Room and at the hunt club bulletin board.

I am pleased and proud to tell you that his younger brother, Christopher has joined the ranks of successful youth hunters too. Although a couple years later than Brad's first success at age 9, Christopher, now 11, did succeed in dropping a buck as opposed to a doe as his brother had done for his first harvest. Needless to say Chris is as proud as his Dad.

Very similar to Brad, Chris was first indoctrinated into the hunting tradition by carrying his Daisy Red Rider with me on hunting outings beginning after his eighth Christmas to learn weapon handling safety and the basics. (Both boys received a Daisy BB gun for their 8th Christmas.) Due to school and sports activities Chris did not spend as many days in the woods as his brother during his first two years, but this year he had more time and was with me almost every Saturday and holiday from school—as did Brad. As this season wore on Chris was beginning to doubt his "luck" as he had not had an opportunity to take aim until the last morning of this year's season. But that morning, things changed immensely. A nice 5-point buck ran up and stopped squarely about 30 yards from the stand, giving Chris time to apply the basic shooting routine I've tried teach both boys—BRASS (Breathe, Relax, Aim, Sight, Squeeze). He carefully took aim and squeezed the trigger as I watched. Amazingly, the deer didn't flinch or jump. He pumped another round into the gun and as the deer started to run, he fired a second time. The deer ran about 100 yards through a creek bed and up a small incline into a second-year cutover patch disappearing from sight. I was stunned and disappointed--But only for a short time. I told Chris, we would wait for the dogs that were chasing the deer to follow through and see what they did, knowing that if the deer continued on very far, other hunters on their stands would be able to "finish" the deal if necessary. But it wasn't necessary. A short time later as the dogs trailed past us on the deer track, they "cut off" about 100 years away in the brush. With that, Chris and I began tracing the deer and dogs' path. Sure enough about 100 yards away in a small clearing in the weeds, we found his first deer—a buck. (I believe the photo accompanying this will show his reaction.)

I should note that Chris "graduated" from the Red Rider to the same .410 single-shot gun that Brad had carried in his first couple years, the one Brad got his first deer with. In 2010, Brad "earned" a .20 gauge Remington 870 Youth Model. But this year, Brad felt confident (and showed good skill) in handling a full .12 gauge shotgun (Remington 870-adult model). So with that, Chris set aside the .410 and moved up to the .20 gauge Remington 870 youth model himself. After a number of "rounds" at the hunt club target range and developing confidence as well as showing proper weapon respect and handling, he was allowed to move up without ever using the .410 for a harvest.

Final note—this year was also successful for Brad. In the early Dove season he bagged his first two dove, one of which was in full flight. (Dad was skunked). Brad also harvested a big doe on the first morning of general firearms season this year, so his year was a success as well, although I must admit, I'm already hearing the "discussion" between them about doe versus buck. But it's all in good-natured "competition." As a Dad, I cannot adequately express my excitement, happiness, and pride in having two sons that are now successful and avid hunting partners. There is clearly a growing rivalry between them that I hope to have years to enjoy.

Thanks for indulging me in this recollection and story. I hope your season was as rewarding as mine and wish many more for you too.

Sincerely, Steve Grainer

Wildlife Conservation Projects Update

Editor's note... In the past two years VDGIF has established restoration programs for bobwhite quail, mussels, elk and other species. Our readers have noted great interest in updates on these programs in particular and other species that are "in the news" and subject to special management considerations by VDGIF staff and partner agencies and organizations. These news items are featured in this section. DC

Quail Restoration Efforts Continue Strong as Quail Supporters Rally After Quail Unlimited Closes

With the announcement February 5 that the national conservation organization, Quail Unlimited (QU) was closing due to longstanding management problems, Marc Puckett – Chair – National Bobwhite Technical Committee and VDGIF Farm Game and Quail Program Co-coordinator, wanted to put this announcement in perspective in regards to the more positive 'big picture' for the ongoing success of quail restoration on several fronts. Marc commented, " We fear the public perception is that if QU folds, quail are in trouble. Many fine people worked very hard for QU for years, but the troubles over the past 5 years were an example of a good effort being negatively impacted by the deeds of a few at the top. In spite of valiant efforts by new leadership to save QU, the problems proved insurmountable. The quail world will roll right along. Our hearts go out to our friends in the QU organization, and we will do all we can to help them stay engaged in quail conservation.

There has never been a time in the history of quail management when more positive things are occurring than now. The glass if ¾ full. We hope and expect the members of QU will continue on in support of one of several NGOs related to quail, and their support is not limited to one.

The 25 state agency led NBCI is a parallel effort not designed to compete with NGOs or agencies, but rather to facilitate at the national level all aspects of quail habitat management and land use policy that impacts quail and so many more early-succession species.

We look forward to many continued years of increasing management and policy effort on behalf of quail and their habitat counterparts."

The following background information and article condensed from the Feature section courtesy of The Outdoor Wire February 5, 2013

Quail Unlimited Folds

With a message from President Bill E. Bowles on its website, Quail Unlimited, the nation's oldest quail advocacy group, has announced its immediate closure-- ceasing all operations. Bowles encouraged members to move their memberships and allegiances to Quail Forever. The announcement closed the book on an organization that, despite its best efforts, could not overcome mismanagement first uncovered nearly three years ago.

When we first reported the story of possible problems with the organization in 2009, there was still hope that the struggling organization could reverse abuses of the organization's finances which had left not only in desperate financial straits, but looking at least one federal investigation involving missing firearms supposedly used in QU fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, Quail Forever and sister organization Pheasants Forever, have rolled out the proverbial welcome mat for former Quail Unlimited members and chapter officers.

In a welcome page automatically linking from the former Quail Unlimited website and closure announcement, Quail Forever is quick to point out a critical difference between QF and QU: a 4-star Charity Navigator rating. That rating puts the organization at the top of the nation's various conservation groups with 91.23 cents of every dollar raised going directly back into conservation work.

The welcome also points out that the 100 Quail Forever chapters and more their than 10,000 members have the responsibility of determining how 100 percent of their locally-raised conservation funds were spent. "As a result," the welcome explains, "chapter volunteers are able to see the fruits of their efforts locally, while belonging to a national organization with a strong voice on federal and state conservation policy."

Despite the warm welcome to QU members, the QF/PF organization points out there was no merger of interests nor is there any linkage between the two organizations.

PF/QF has, however, acquired the membership list, website and logo of the now-defunct Quail Unlimited. And four former QU employees are working under short-term contracts to help reach out to the now-disenfranchised members and chapters.

"Our goal," says QF/PF's Vice President of Marketing Bob St. Pierre, "is to let those state and local volunteers know we welcome their passion into our organization. We want them to join us as individuals or become newly-chartered chapters."

Like Quail Forever, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is saddened by the demise of Quail Unlimited, but director Don McKenzie says they're confident that the grassroots support of the national bobwhite restoration effort will continue to strengthen, despite the failure of the species' oldest advocacy group.

VDOF and VDGIF Announce New Forestry Cost-Share Partnership

The Virginia Quail Team is pleased to announce the launch of a trial program partnership between VDOF and VDGIF to offer forestry related, wildlife friendly best management practice cost-share. These practices apply in the 15 target, or focus quail counties and are aimed at improving early-succession wildlife habitat while simultaneously targeting forest stand improvement. The program will be administered by VDOF and funded primarily by VDGIF via Quail Recovery Initiative funds. Visit the website for details.

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."

Elk Restoration Update

Elk Release in Buchanan County Makes History... Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) biologists brought 11 elk to Virginia from southeastern Kentucky on May 18, 2012. They returned to Kentucky and brought another 7 elk to Virginia on May 24th. Sixteen of these elk had been in quarantine for disease testing since February 7th and two were calves born in quarantine. All received a clean bill of health before coming to the release area near Vansant in Buchanan County. Once in Virginia, the elk were placed in an acclimation corral to calm down before release. All adult elk wore new GPS telemetry collars so that biologists could monitor their movements following release. The Elk Restoration Project is the result of a long term partnership between VDGIF, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Buchanan County. Biologists released the first 11 elk on the night of May 23rd. They released elk in the second group on three different nights due to the birth of two additional calves in the acclimation corral. Two pregnant cows were released on May 29th, a pregnant cow and two cows with calves were released on May 31st, and the last cow and calf were released on June 7th. The telemetry equipment performed well in the rough terrain, providing three locations per elk each day. Following release, all elk remained within a mile of the acclimation corral for several weeks. Elk found plentiful forage due to the reclamation work completed by the mine operators and the abundant rainfall this spring. In July and August, cows with calves had the smallest activity areas, ranging in an area encompassing approximately 1000 acres while the two 2-year old bulls had the largest activity areas, ranging an area over 9,000 acres. Radio collars and trail cameras located at frequented areas have provided detailed information on movements by the herd.

November Update: All elk released in Buchanan County last May are still alive to the best of our knowledge. Most of the released elk have remained in the acclimation corral area following the rut. Staff biologists and volunteers did not confirm the presence of any indigenous elk in the release area during the rut. However, one of the two-year old bulls that we released tended cows and hopefully we have several pregnant cows now.

Three cows and their calves have separated from the main group of elk, but remain within several miles of the release area. All elk are foraging in reclaimed mine or timber harvest areas.

VDGIF staff worked with our Kentucky and Missouri partners to repair the quarantine facility in Kentucky in October. Veterinarians from the three states are making final adjustments to quarantine procedures. Trapping for more elk to bring to Virginia will begin in January.

January 2013 Update: Allen Boynton , VDGIF Terrestrial Wildlife Biologist Manager for Region 3 notes that, "The elk released in Buchanan County last May are doing well. All the elk that we have observed appear to be in very good condition. Most have remained in the release area and are foraging together. One cow and her calf are several miles from the release site. The bulls have on several occasions wandered off singly or in small groups for several days. However, the bulls continue to return to the area frequented by the cows and calves. Preparations are underway in Kentucky to trap and quarantine elk. VDGIF plans to bring another small group of elk to Buchanan County this spring."

Look for exclusive updates in this section of future editions of the Outdoor Report.

For more information on elk restoration in Virginia:

The Wildlife Foundation of VA Launches Quail Restoration Effort on Albemarle Property

The November December 2012 edition of Virginia Wildlife magazine in the Afield and Afloat section features an article by Jenny West, Executive Director of the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia on the Foundation's efforts to improve habitat for bobwhite quail on their 2,000 acre property in southern Albemarle County. As a pilot program TWFVA has released 500 birds at Fulfilment Farms and over the next few months will provide controlled public hunting opportunities, youth hunts and bird dog hunts to help revive this waning sport. Visit the www.vawildlife.org website for more details.

Habitat at Home© DVD 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!

Be Safe... Have Fun!

Are You Prepared for Winter Weather?

The Winter Season is upon us, and that means holidays and more time with friends and family-- but it also brings the possibility of winter hazards such as ice, snow and power outages. Here are a few winter preparedness tips from VDEM: http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/stayinformed/winter.

Preventing Frostbite and Hypothermia

Prolonged exposure to low temperatures, wind or moisture—whether it be on a ski slope or in a stranded car—can result in cold-related illnesses such as frostbite and hypothermia. The National Safety Council offers this information to help you spot and put a halt to these winter hazards.

Frostbite is the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold. Superficial frostbite is characterized by white, waxy, or grayish-yellow patches on the affected areas. The skin feels cold and numb. The skin surface feels stiff but underlying tissue feels soft and pliable when depressed. Treat superficial frostbite by taking the victim inside immediately. Remove any constrictive clothing items that could impair circulation. If you notice signs of frostbite, immediately seek medical attention. Re-warming usually takes 20 to 40 minutes or until tissues soften.

Hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of this condition include change in mental status, uncontrollable shivering, cool abdomen and a low core body temperature. Severe hypothermia may produce rigid muscles, dark and puffy skin, irregular heart and respiratory rates, and unconsciousness.

Treat hypothermia by protecting the victim from further heat loss and calling for immediate medical attention. Get the victim out of the cold. Add insulation such as blankets, pillows, towels or newspapers beneath and around the victim. Be sure to cover the victim's head. Replace wet clothing with dry clothing. Handle the victim gently because rough handling can cause cardiac arrest. Keep the victim in a horizontal (flat) position. Give artificial respiration or CPR (if you are trained) as necessary.

How to prevent cold-related illnesses

Avoid frostbite and hypothermia when you are exposed to cold temperatures by wearing layered clothing, eating a well-balanced diet, and drinking warm, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids to maintain fluid levels. Avoid becoming wet, as wet clothing loses 90 percent of its insulating value.

Permission to reprint granted by the National Safety Council, a membership organization dedicated to protecting life and promoting health.

Stay Safe on the Water - Boat Smart and Sober!

On July 1, 2013, all PWC operators 14 years of age and older as well as motorboat operators age 40 and younger who operate boats with motors of 10 horsepower and greater must have completed a boating safety education course and carry such proof in their possession while operating the vessel.

To learn more about boating laws in Virginia, and about boating safety education courses, visit the Department's website. Remember, everyone wants to have a safe, enjoyable day on the water. Do your part by wearing your life jacket and taking a boating safety education course. Be responsible, be safe, and have fun on the water!

This winter boating season VDGIF reminds fisherman and duck hunters to boat smart, boat sober, and boat safe while out on our waterways. All boaters should:

Remember safety and courtesy are free, share them generously!

"Green Tips" for Outdoor Enthusiasts

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

No Burning Before 4 PM Until April 30

All outdoorsmen are reminded that the "4 PM Burn Law" is in effect from February 15 until April 30 to help prevent forest fires. The law bans all open air burning, including campfires, before 4 PM if your fire is within 300 feet of the woods, brush, or dry grass which can carry the fire to the woods. You are allowed to burn debris or have campfires between 4 PM and midnight, as long as you take proper care and precaution and attend your fire at all times. Read the Virginia Department of Forestry's Frequently Asked Questions: Can I Burn? to learn more.

"This law is one of the most effective tools we have in the prevention of wildfires," advised John Miller, director of resource protection at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). "Each late winter and early spring, downed trees, branches and leaves become 'forest fuels' that increase the danger of a forest fire. By adhering to the law, people are less likely to start a fire that threatens them, their property and the forests of Virginia." A violation of this law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others' property.

In 2012, there were 630 wildfires that burned 6,901 acres of forestland in the Commonwealth. This was a 24 percent decrease in the number of wildland fires compared to the number (829) of fires in 2011. The amount of acreage burned decreased 42 percent when compared to 12,072 acres that burned in 2011.

To learn more about how to protect yourself and your property, visit the VDOF website.

Remember only YOU can prevent forest fires!

Food Plot Planting Seminar At Lake Monticello March 2

A Wildlife Food Plot Seminar covering "Huge Results With Small Equipment" will be held Saturday March 2nd 1:00pm till 3:00pm at the Fluvanna 'Bestdoit' Hardware located in Crofton Plaza off route 618at Lake Monticello. Sherwood Londeree, Wildlife Manager for Friends and Family Hunt Club and long time leader for the Central Virginia Chapter of the NWTF will share his 20+ years of experience with participants in enhancing habitat through establishing food plots of all types and sizes. Topics he will be covering are picking a plot location on your property, seed choices for best results year long, step by step directions on processing the plot and the benefits for planting a wildlife plot. Sponsors for this free workshop include: Fluvanna bestdoit Hardware, Central Virginia Chapter NWTF, Pennington seed, and Friends and Family Hunt Club. For more information contact Sherwood Londeree: bo.londeree@yahoo.com.

Nuisance & Problem Wildlife

Modifications have been completed on the Nuisance and Problem Wildlife Section of VDGIF's website. Angela Weller, Executive Administrative Assistant in the VDGIF Bureau of Wildlife Resources notes that it is much easier to access the nuisance wildlife information. Simply Click on the Wildlife Information Tab from the home page and choose the second link, which is the Nuisance/Problem Wildlife Page. From there you can choose species pages with basic information on laws and regulations right at the top of the page.

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!

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!

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.

Nature Observations from the Virginia Wildlife Calendar

Look at the 2013 Virginia Wildlife Calendar for answers to these wildlife related questions for late February:

Answers to January 23rd edition quiz for nature events for early February...

2013 Virginia Wildlife Calendar Now Available

It's time to purchase the 2013 Virginia Wildlife Calendar! For more than 23 years the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has been publishing one of the most visually stunning and informative wildlife calendars in the country. The 2013 edition highlights many of the most sought after game and fish species in the state. Virginia hunters, anglers, and wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate the rich colors and composition of the 12 monthly photo spreads. Each page is full of useful tidbits for the outdoors lover -- including wildlife behavior, preferred fishing and hunting times, hunting seasons, state fish records, and much more! Life history information is provided for each species featured. Virginia Wildlife Calendars make great holiday gifts and are being offered at the bargain price of only $5 each. Quantities are limited, so order yours now!

Get your copy of the 2013 Virginia Wildlife Calendar here.

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

Concerned Citizen Foils Illegal Waterfowl Hunting... On January 15, Conservation Police Officer Josh Thomas responded to a complaint of illegal waterfowl hunting in Lancaster County. A concerned citizen observed the suspect shooting waterfowl while under power from his boat. Officer Thomas stayed on the phone with the complainant who directed him to the suspect's residence. When Officer Thomas arrived on scene he observed the suspect baiting the area with corn. Upon contacting the suspect, two Canada Geese were discovered in a shed killed earlier in the day. The investigation also revealed that the suspect did not possess a state hunting license, state duck stamp, federal duck stamp or HIP number. Charges are pending.

Spotlighting in Mathews County Doesn't Pay... While working spotlighting in Mathews County n December 29, Conservation Police Officer Dobyns observed a vehicle casting a handheld spotlight into the field. Upon stopping the vehicle and approaching, it was apparent the passenger was attempting to unload the 30-30 rifle. Two spotlights, the rifle and a driver license were seized. The driver was driving on a suspended license. Appropriate charges were made.

Hunter Wounded, Escapes Fatal Hit... Conservation Police Officer Bumgarner completed a hunting incident investigation in King William County where a hunter shooting at a deer in line with another hunter, struck the 2nd hunter with a pellet in the leg. The investigation revealed several pellets in a tree that could have been fatal to the victim if not for the tree.  The shooter was charged with reckless handling of a firearm. The investigation indicates the shooter has never taken a hunter safety course. Also under investigation by CPO Bumgarner, is a young deer killed by a hunter that had a dog collar around its neck. The deer had apparently been in someone's possession this past spring/summer. Upon being released with the collar, the deer had grown and the collar was extremely tight. Hopefully we will have more to report on this at a later time. If anyone has information that would be helpful to this investigation, please contact our Crime-line at 1-800-237-5712 or wildcrime@dgif.virginia.gov.

Boating Under The Influence Results in Split Dock... On Sunday January 20, Conservation Police Sergeant Hickman and Conservation Police Officer Adams responded to a report of a boating incident on the Chickahominy River in New Kent County. Upon arrival at the site early that morning at 0345 hours, the officers found an intoxicated operator on shore with his boat permanently wedged into a dock on the river. The operator had left a restaurant on the river late that night and struck the dock causing extensive damage to his boat and cutting the dock in half. The operator sustained minor rib injuries and was saved from more serious injuries by the boat's T-top framing. Field sobriety tests were conducted on the operator and charges were placed for operating under the influence and reckless operation of a motorboat.

Region II - Southside

HuntFest Presentation... During the weekend of January 25-27, District 22 Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) Frank Neighbors, Joe Williams, Michael Morris, and Sergeant Bryan Young, K-9 Officers Wes Billings and Richard Howald, as well as Hunter Education Specialist Crystal Weidman and numerous volunteer Hunter Ed Instructors, participated in the 2013 Virginia HuntFest festivities at the Roanoke Civic Center. Over 3000 people attended the 3 day event. K-9 officers Billings and Howald presented a well attended seminar on Saturday about the K-9 program and its successes. District 22 CPOs manned an exhibit for the 3-day event and spoke with thousands of outdoor enthusiasts about hunting, fishing, boating, and other outdoor related topics. A 24 foot patrol boat and patrol Tahoe were on display.

Region III - Southwest

Illegally Killed Elk Donated to Needy Families... On November 6, Senior Virginia Conservation Police Officer James Brooks received a complaint of a subject killing an elk in Russell County and failing to check it. Officer Brooks conducted an interview and was able to obtain a confession. The elk was killed in Wise County where the season is closed for elk hunting. On January 17, Officer James Brooks received the disposition involving taking an elk during closed season. The Judge signed an order allowing the elk meat to be distributed immediately to needy families. Officer Brooks coordinated the distribution of the elk meat with a local deer processor in Tazewell County and The Good Samaritan Food Pantry in Richlands. The processor donated his time and equipment to process the elk and package it for distribution. The coordinator of the Good Samaritan Food Pantry will distribute the processed elk to needy families in Russell, Tazewell and Buchanan Counties.

K9 Team Update

Night Time Decoy Operation Nabs Spotlighter... On January 1, the last day of the firearms deer season, Conservation Police Officers Kopelove, Mecadon, and Patrillo established a night time decoy deer operation in Hanover County. Starting at 2100 hours, a vehicle passed the decoys, and spotlighted the deer. The vehicle was stopped, and three charges were placed. Within a short time period, another vehicle came by with a roof mounted spotlight and shined the deer. He too was stopped and charged. After barely getting settled back in, another vehicle came by, shined the decoys, and this time fired a .223 round at the deer. Officer Mecadon, got in behind the vehicle, and activated his emergency equipment. The vehicle stopped, and the passenger fled from the vehicle with a rifle in his possession. Assistance was requested from Senior Officer Spuchesi and his partner "Comet". During the ensuing investigation, the juvenile subject who had fled the scene, surrendered to his parents who had been dispatched to the incident scene. In short order, "Comet" was able to locate the weapon that the suspect had hidden in the woods. This matter is still under investigation, with several additional charges to follow.

K9 "Scout" Finds Evidence to Prove Shooting From the Road... Conservation Police Officer (CPO) Gibson and Sergeant Slaughter worked a shooting from the road complaint. The subject that was seen shooting into a block of hardwoods while standing in the roadway, denied doing so and stuck to his story. Sergeant Slaughter coordinated with K9 Officer Richard Howald to bring his partner Scout to search the scene. K9 Scout found the wadding from the spent shotgun shell, then located the spent shell laying several feet past it. Upon further questioning and being presented with this new evidence, the suspect admitted to picking his shell up after he shot and throwing it into the woods. Sergeant Slaughter and K9 Officer Howald marked the shot path through the block of woods while CPO Gibson took photographs of the scene. The shot path, along with the wadding proved the individual was standing in the center of the roadway as he fired the shotgun. Hunting charges are being obtained for all involved suspects.

The Wildlife Foundation of Virginia has partnered with VDGIF on this special initiative. Your tax-deductible donation to the Wildlife K9 Team will help provide food and veterinary care for these great dogs. Make a Donation to the K9 Team at: www.vawildlife.org/k-9.html.

For more information visit the Law Enforcement section on our website. There is also a feature article in the June 2012 edition of Virginia Wildlife Magazine, "Canines On A Mission", by Clarke C. Jones. Watch for updates in the Outdoor Report on events where you can meet members of the new K9 Team and see demonstrations of their remarkable skills used in enforcement of wildlife laws and search and rescue. Their activities are featured in the K9 Team Update in the Virginia Conservation Police Notebook section of each Outdoor Report.

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 2013 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 2013

Fishing Show Season 2013

It's show season again and time to head out to the nearest expo hall and check out the latest in boats, gear and tackle. Although internet ordering has opened up many opportunities, nothing beats being able to put your hands on that new rod and reel, getting in a boat and opening up the storage lockers or talking to industry experts and pros. They are a great deal too; for much less than the cost of a movie, you and your friends or family can enjoy hours of fun. Be sure to check out a show near you this season!

February 16, Augusta County Fishin' Expo & Flea Market, American Legion, Staunton, VA. Hours: 9-5, booths with fishing tackle, fishing info, guides and pros, activities for the kids and door prizes available. For more information visit the Augusta County Bass-Jons website.

February 16-17, 9th Annual Orange County Sportsman Expo, Orange County High School in Orange, VA. Hours: Sat. 9-5, Sun. 9-4. Admission $5/day or $8 for both days, kids 10 and under are free. Featuring fishing seminars, boating safety class and a fundraising raffle (6 person charter on the Bay). Visit www.ochsanglers.com for more info.

February 22-24, 26th Western Virginia Sports Show, Augusta Expoland, Fishersville Hours: Fri. Noon-9 pm, Sat. 9-5, Sun. Noon -4. Admission $5/day or $8 for both days, kids 10 and under are free. Hours Friday, Noon - 9:00 PM, Saturday, 10 AM - 9:00 PM, Sunday, 12 PM - 5:30 PM . Daily tickets are 12 yrs and older - $9.00 , 5 yrs to 11 yrs - $4.00. There is an increasing number of fishing related vendors and guide services including Blaine Mengel, pro fishing guide featured on The Backwoods Angler TV.

March 2, Rapidan Trout Unlimited Chapter Fishing Show at Fauquier County Fairgrounds, Warrenton Show hours are 9 am-4:30 pm, $5 admission, children under 12 free, and plenty of parking. This is the annual fundraiser for TU Chapter activities: Tristate TU Youth Conservation & Fishing Camp; Heritage Day(Kids Fishing day); Trout in Classroom(11 schools); Rapidan River Cleanup/Picnic/Fishing; Camp Special Love/Cancer Kids; Project Healing Waters/wounded veterans; Casting for Recovery/women's cancer; and conservation projects(i.e. Spout Run). There are 50 tables, 8 seminars, fly-tying demo, with hot food & beverages. Vendors are from PA, MD, DC, VA, & WV. The keynote speaker is Jeff Murray of Murrays Fly Shop/Edinburg on "Mountain Trout Fishing". For details visit: www.rapidantu.org

Virginia Reservoirs Ranked For Largemouth Bass Fishing

VDGIF aquatic biologists spend considerable effort and resources to manage, enhance, and protect largemouth bass populations in Virginia's public fishing reservoirs, lakes, and ponds. Most of these waters are sampled each year, or every few years, to assess current largemouth bass population parameters such as age and growth, spawning success, and size distribution. These population samples are generally collected using daytime, boat electrofishing gear targeting largemouth bass and are conducted in a manner that allows several comparisons to be made concerning fish populations. VDGIF Bureau of Wildlife Resources Aquatic Biologist Dan Michaelson notes, " Since many Virginia anglers target largemouth bass, and fish larger than 15 inches are considered "preferred" nationwide; the following summary contains information about bass over 15 inches (preferred size). View the largemouth bass ranking table!

New Impoundment and Smallmouth Bass River Fishing Forecasts Released on VDGIF Website

Virginia has extremely diverse aquatic ecosystems found over varied geographic regions, from the Lowland Coastal Plain to the rugged topography of the Appalachian Plateau. Over 176,000 acres of public lakes, primarily man-made impoundments, and 28,300 miles of fishable streams (1,000 miles tidal) provide fishing opportunities for more than 600,000 licensed anglers. Virginia's 24 man-made large impoundments (>500 acres) are spread throughout the state and provide the public with over 139,000 acres of quality fishing. These impoundments range in size from 510 to 48,900 acres and were built by various federal, state, or private entities for flood control, water supply, hydroelectric generation, and /or recreation. Additionally, Virginia has over 40,000 miles of streams. This important resource includes approximately 25,000 miles (1,000 miles are tidal) of fishable warmwater streams which support a great diversity of freshwater fish species and provide excellent sport fishing opportunities. Included here is the 2013 fishing forecast for selected large impoundments (>500 acres) and rivers representing all the physiographic regions of the Commonwealth. For more information on Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) managed rivers, streams and impoundments of all sizes, please visit our website.

Boat Landing on the Rappahannock Temporarily Closed to Powerboats

The VDGIF would like boaters to be aware of a problem at Mill Creek Landing in the community of Wake in Middlesex County. The landing has become sanded-in to the extent that only small johnboats, canoes, and kayaks can safely launch. Signs warning boaters have been posted at the landing to alert them of the problem, as well as a notice on the VDGIF website. John Kirk, the Region I Boating Access Maintenance Supervisor for VDGIF, wants boaters to know that the Department will be working to fix the ramp as quickly as possible, but says capital project monies will need to be budgeted for and approved before doing so, and boaters will unfortunately have to use other landings in the interim.

The Fishing Spot

by Chris Dunnavant, VDGIF Angling Education Coordinator

Welcome to The Fishing Spot! Through my role as Angling Education coordinator for the VDGIF, I am able to connect with a variety of anglers across the Commonwealth and this is an opportunity for me to share those experiences and fishing related topics with you. My sincere hope is that you can always come to The Fishing Spot for interesting and educational fishing articles, intriguing interviews with anglers and the latest on fishing in Virginia. Please enjoy!

John Crews – Virginia Pro (Part 1)

There have only been a handful of Virginian's who have made their mark and experienced successful full-time careers as bass fishing professionals: Classic champ Woo Daves, FLW champion David Dudley and young up-and-comer, Jacob Powroznick are a few that immediately come to mind. John Crews is on that list as well. The Salem, Virginia pro has enjoyed a prosperous bass fishing career since graduating college and joining the tour in 2000.

Next week, John will join the other top pros and fish his 7th Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma's Grand Lake. His tournament resume includes 17 top ten finishes including a B.A.S.S. Elite Series victory held at the California Delta. He has earned nearly a million dollars in tournament winnings and is currently ranked 32nd in the Bassfan World Rankings. On top of that he is a lure designer for Spro which features his namesake crankbait, the Little John, and has his own tackle company, Missile Baits, which primarily offers soft plastics.

John was born in Richmond and grew up in Jetersville in Amelia County. His early fishing years were primarily focused on pond fishing where he was able to experiment with different baits and techniques and catch a lot of fish. He was competitive in high school sports pursuing golf and baseball. He also began fishing bass tournaments during that time in team events and as a co-angler in draw tournaments. Crews did not continue in sports during college at Randolph Macon, but quenched his competitive drive by fishing tournaments, but now from the front of the boat. John went right from college to a career as a professional bass angler and has never looked back.

He considers Smith Mountain Lake his home body of water, but also is very familiar with the James River and Buggs Island. He says Smith Mountain is not the easiest fishing, but it is full of fish throughout the lake. He recommends picking an area and learning it; start shallow and work your way out to determine the depth the fish are holding. It is a great place to use different techniques from finesse to power fishing presentations.

In the coming weeks as the days warm and so does the water, John recommends putting a shallow crankbait to work at Smith Mountain. "Look for off-colored water and work the bait around shallow rocks, wood and other cover." He uses a Spro, Little John in the Spring Craw pattern with a 7' medium action rod and a 6.4:1 ratio baitcast reel spooled with 10 or 12 lb. test Vicious co-polymer line. He fishes fluorocarbon for deep diving crankbaits, but feels the suppler co-polymer line gives him longer more accurate casts in the shallows.

Come back to The Fishing Spot in the next edition of The Outdoor Report for more about John Crews and his bait company. In the meantime check out the John Crews and Missile Baits websites.

Be sure to check out the 9th Annual Orange County Sportsman Expo this weekend, February 16-17 at Orange county High School.

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 2012 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

This column is dedicated to the memory of Willard Mayes. Willard passed away in September, but I did not become aware of this until recently.

Every writer has something called a '"voice"; it's made up of word choice, word placement, grammar and something slippery that saturates the work. Willard had an amazing voice. His signature line, "Our man in the boat", was always a sign that a good story was to follow. Self deprecating, good natured and, above all, funny. Many readers have told me that the first thing they did when opening the fishing report, indeed sometimes in the whole newsletter, was to go see what misadventures Willard had had.

He was a natural, with a little training I have no doubt he could have been published. He was also a passionate angler, who knew the trick to being a good fisherman - keep it fun. Even when all he landed a few small crappie and some fingerling bluegill to feed to his cats, he still considered it a good day. This was what made Willard irreplaceable and a good teacher - he made us laugh, while sneaking in a life lesson, the mark of a great writer.

We will miss you Willard; we'll miss the laughs; we will miss your voice.

The Outdoor Report team always looked forward to Willard Mayes (left) showing up at the Richmond Fishing Expo for an afternoon of sharing in his homespun wisdom and wit and country gentleman charm. He liked to point out on the new Virginia Wildlife calendar when he thought his good fishing days and spots would be. Reading his stories each edition was a treat, having him telling them in person was a hoot! We will surely miss Willard and his wonderful stories. We send our deepest sympathies to his family and friends. Also pictured is Steve Moore (center) who has provided excellent reports each edition for fishing the Piedmont and NOVA rivers. Steve will be moving to North Carolina. We will miss his detailed reports, but will maintain a website link for his e-books and fishing tips. David Coffman, Editor

Region 1 - Tidewater

Boat Landing on the Rappahannock Temporarily Closed to Powerboats

The VDGIF would like boaters to be aware of a problem at Mill Creek Landing in the community of Wake in Gloucester County. The landing has become sanded-in to the extent that only small johnboats, canoes, and kayaks can safely launch. Signs warning boaters have been posted at the landing to alert them of the problem, as well as a notice on the VDGIF website. John Kirk, the Region I Boating Access Maintenance Supervisor for VDGIF, wants boaters to know that the Department will be working to fix the ramp as quickly as possible, but says capital project monies will need to be budgeted for and approved before doing so, and boaters will unfortunately have to use other landings in the interim.

Little Creek Reservoir: Contributed by Park Concessionaire Diane Priestley, (757) 566-2277, hhhatlcr@aol.com. No report this edition.

Beaverdam Reservoir: (804) 693-2107. Contributed by Park Supervisor Patti McGrath. Crappie fishing is still picking up off the pier. We still haven't seen any real large ones yet this season. Smaller ones are still being caught, in the 12 to13 inch range. Fisherman have been very successful with medium size minnows. The water is very cloudy due to all the rain and high winds we have had over the past few weeks. Joe S. caught a 4 pound Bass near the old farm house Saturday 2/9/13. Bass Tournament Dates have been determined for the 2013 season. For more information about Beaverdam Park visit our website or call the Ranger Station at (804)6932107.

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

Virginia Beach: Captain Jim Brincefield (443) 336-8756. He has been a licensed Captain since 1985. He has a fleet of 6 boats, used for both fishing and sightseeing. Skip told me there are plenty of catch and release stripers near Plantation Light and of Deltaville. Tautog are at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and will take fiddler crabs and clams. The water is murky and 46 degrees.

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

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Alton Williams says his part of the world is "a ghost town". No anglers means no fish, which means no report. The water is stained and cooling.

Chickahominy Lake: Contributed by Captain Art Conway of Conway's River Rat Guide Service, (804) 746-2475. Chickahominy Lake mid day main lake water temperatures were in the low 40s in the upper lake and in the mid 40s in the lower lake and major creeks on Monday (2/11/2013). The lake level was about a foot above the top of the dam. The water was brown and very slightly cloudy in the lower lake. A few bowfin and blue cats were in deeper channels and deep winter holes (about 18 to 25 foot deep) in the lower main lake and were hitting blade baits and live minnows. Most crappies and white perch appeared to have left the winter holes but had not yet made an appearance in the major creeks. Look for them to start showing up in the next week or so. Bass and pickerel were scattered on mid depth and deep flats in the main lake and were hitting live minnows, bladebaits, and lipless crankbaits. A moderate number of small to medium bass and small yellow perch were in the major creeks and were hitting live minnows and small suspending jerkbaits.

North Landing River and Back Bay: Contributed by Ken Testorff, local blogger. I received an email from Charlie Bruggemann that I didn't figure I'd ever get. When an angler with his track record suffers a skunk, you know it's a bad day. As Charlie put it, "The bass got even with me today."

He decided to launch at Old Pungo Ferry Road today because he could see unstained water across the river in the oxbow yesterday when he stopped there. The water was rising fast today, though, about 4 inches while he was out. As a result, muddy water was pushed into those areas that were clear yesterday.

He was happy with the 44 degree water temp he found when he started and even happier when he found some 54 degree water at the back of some bays by 1400. However, when the day ended, he hadn't even had a tap. His only excitement today was when some jet skiers buzzed him in the oxbow.

"It takes all kinds," said Charlie. "Maybe next week will see things improve."

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Drew Dixon. Drew told me that no one had come in with anything, so he can't say how the fishing is. The water is clear, in the 40s and cooling.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner www.blackwaternottoway.com. Contributed by Riverkeeper Jeff Turner. No report this edition.

Upper James: Contributed by local guide Jared Harker of Confluence Outfitters LLC, (434) 941-9550. Things will continue to pick up from here until the spawn! The largest fish of the season will be caught from now until April. As we get into the prespawn feeding frenzy it will be quantity and quality! Right now it is mostly quality, but well worth the patient bottom fishing ... and hunting. The key to late winter monsters is putting in the time to locate those wintertime chunks. The fish will still be piled up together near a deeper break in the current. Fish deep behind the shelter of this structure. Nothin' beats a live minnow ... well ... except dynamite which we do NOT endorse of course. For other up to date fishing info and reports check out our website or like our page on facebook! We keep our facebook page updated often. Tightlines!

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

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Contributed by Capt. Mike Ostrander, James River Fishing School, Discover the James, (804) 938-2350. No report this edition.

Swift Creek Reservoir: Contributed by local angler Archie Spencer. No report this edition.

Boat Landing on the Rappahannock Temporarily Closed to Powerboats

The VDGIF would like boaters to be aware of a problem at Mill Creek Landing in the community of Wake in Gloucester County. The landing has become sanded-in to the extent that only small johnboats, canoes, and kayaks can safely launch. Signs warning boaters have been posted at the landing to alert them of the problem, as well as a notice on the VDGIF website. John Kirk, the Region I Boating Access Maintenance Supervisor for VDGIF, wants boaters to know that the Department will be working to fix the ramp as quickly as possible, but says capital project monies will need to be budgeted for and approved before doing so, and boaters will unfortunately have to use other landings in the interim.

Region 2 - Southside

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. The James in Scottsville is running at 5.0 ft. and the CFS is 4380. The water temperature is bouncing between 39 and 42 degrees. Fishing should be picking up in a few more weeks-get your gear ready!

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store, (434) 374-8381. Bobby Whitlow says that the bass are moving up and going for jerks and jigs. Crappie fishing has really picked up in the shallows, try minnows and jigs. Some good sized cats have been fooled by cut bait. Stripers are biting jumbo shiners and other live bait in the creeks. The water is stained and in the low to mid 40s.

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane, (434) 385-0200. Tom Riesdorf says that the waters have been too high to fish, but that things should improve soon. The water is clearing up and cold.

James near Lynchburg: Contributed by Jared Harker, owner of Confluence Outfitters, (434) 941-9550. No report this edition.

Lake Gaston: Holly Grove Marina, (434) 636-3455. Holly Grove Marina is closing for the winter and will reopen in February.

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.

Region 3 - Southwest

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

Lower New River: Big Z'S (540) 639-1651. John Zienius told me that his part of the New is unfishable. The water is dangerously high. It should settle down in a week or so, but for now, don't try it. The water is muddy and cooling.

Upper New River: Contributed by Captain Forest Pressnell, (540) 818-5274, New River Charter. Unfortunately there is no fishing report as of late. The river has been flooded for weeks and we are lucky the dams held. On a bright note the river levels are falling to fishable levels and the water color is a milky green so barring any heavy rains it should continue to clear nicely. Walleye fishing is almost upon us as their spawning run is a couple weeks away. Ramp conditions for here are as follows.

Austinville - Open
Upper Foster Falls - Open
Lower Foster Falls - 4 wheel drive
100 - Closed
Blue Cat - Closed

New River: Tangent Outfitters, (540) 257-0415. Shawn Hash says the river is not fishable now, but should be by next week. The water in muddy and cooling.

Top New River: Contributed by local guide Richie Hughes, owner of New River Trips LLC. A little over a week ago, the New got up to the 5th highest level of all time. In a two week period we had 10 inches of rain and 12 inches of snow/sleet/ice, nearly 25% of precipitation for an entire year. The last several inches of rain fell on some unmelted snow in the headwaters of the New, thus causing the high water. The Cox Chapel bridge, a few miles downstream of Mouth of Wilson, had 2 feet of water over it; it is normally about 6 feet above the river. All gauges on the New are still about 50% above average. It is best to wait for the New to drop a bit. The trout streams leading into the New are now in good shape; the local creek is a nice olive green. Cold weather is expected for this weekend. We hope to get some fine late winter/ early spring days on the river sometime in the near future.

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. According to Harry, the smallmouth streams in the Forks of the Shenandoah are giving good fishing just now. Good flies are: Murray's Heavy Hellgrammite, size 4; and Shenk's White Streamer, size 4. The water is 44 degrees, at full pool and a good color.

The stocked and delayed harvest streams in the Valley are great places to land a lunker rainbow. Fish deeply below the ripples and the deep pools. Good flies are: Murray's Betsy Streamer, size 10; and Murray's Dark Stonefly Nymph, size 14.

The mountain streams are just too cold to fish.

Lake Moomaw: Contributed by local angler Bill Uzzell. No report this edition.

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. Consider a gift certificate for a fishing trip to the Highlands or booking a spring gobbler hunt makes for a great gift for any outdoor enthusiasts. Planning a date far in advance gives your party plenty of time to get your gear and group together.

Upper James: Contributed by local guide Jared Harker of Confluence Outfitters LLC, (434) 941-9550. No report this edition.

Attention Trout Anglers - Special Regulation Permit Cards Available Online

VDGIF is pleased to announce that special regulation written landowner permit cards to fish Mossy Creek, Buffalo Creek, and Upper South River are now available online. A link to maps of each of these areas is also new function on the agency website.

Piedmont Rivers: Contributed by Local author Steve Moore (Wade Fishing River Guidebooks covering the: Rappahannock, Rapidan, Upper Potomac, North Branch Potomac; Blog: CatchGuide.com): Sadly, Steve is relocating to North Carolina. I know we will all miss his reports.

Quantico Bay: Contributed by local angler Scott Torgerson. The cold and very blustery weather has kept me and my fishing buddies inside by the fireplace the last couple of weeks. However we did visit the Richmond Fishing Expo during its run, visiting the VDGIF booth, getting some great fishing info from vendors and fishing pros, and of course picking up a few very good deals on gear and tackle. Cabin fever finally got the best of me this weekend though and with the break in the winds, I ventured out on the Occoquan River. Unfortunately I found the waters was very dirty (even muddy) with temps in the lower 40s. I was unable to get any crappie or bass to bite, fishing "low and slow" as they say with small jigs with inch long white swim bodies under docks and larger football head jigs with plastic creature baits. I'm honest enough to say this cold water fishing isn't my favorite...but then again any day out fishing is still a good day! I am looking forward to the March/April timeframe and hopefully a great shad run on the Occoquan River...and ideally to Lunga Reservoir on Quantico Marine Corps Base re-opening sometime this Spring or Summer. Best wishes to all my fellow fishermen and women and good luck on the water.

Potomac and small ponds around Ashburn: Welcome aboard to our new contributor, Tyler Folts. Tyler is a junior at Broad Run High School, where he is Vice President of the fishing club. Tyler is an avid and experienced angler, who has been fishing since he was five. This is his first report:

Fishing has been slow for the past few weeks only getting one or two bites a day. In the small community ponds in Northern VA, largemouth bass are in less than 3 feet of water by inlets that have slightly warmer water coming out of them (35 to 45 degrees). A black and blue jig and pig fished extremely slowly has caught all the fish in that past few weeks including two 4 pounders. As you approach these inlets be careful not to spook the fish as I have scared at least 10 decent sized bass recently. In general the water in the main lakes has been a constant 32-36 degrees with about a foot of visibility due to the recent rains.

The action is hot in the warmer waters of the Potomac River just below the Dickerson Power Plant. The warm water discharge of the plant puts out 45 to 55 degree water which is significantly warmer than the 34 degree water of the rest of the Potomac at this time of year. The fish know this and stack up in these waters during the winter months.

The action is hot in the warmer waters of the Potomac River just below the Dickerson Power Plant. The warm water discharge of the plant puts out 45 to 55 degree water which is significantly warmer than the 34 degree water of the rest of the Potomac at this time of year. The fish know this and stack up in these waters during the winter months.

Occoquan Reservoir: Contributed by local angler Jim Thomas. No report this edition.

Lake Orange: Contributed by Darrell Kennedy of Angler's Landing (540) 672-3997. Angler's Landing will be closed for the winter and will reopen on St. Patrick's Day.

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. Fishing in January was poor due to weather conditions, but with the lake full and a bait kill up, lake fishing will improve dramatically this month. Slower and more vertical presentations of baits will produce more strikes in the colder water under 50s and slow horizontal retrieves will work in warmer water. February is the month to catch big fish and many citations should be recorded this month.

Stripers: Concentrate your efforts on the main lake wherever bait is present. Gulls will guide you to the schools of bait and the stripers will be nearby. Your depth finder will also identify the areas you need to fish by showing large clouds of bait, usually in 15 to 30 feet of water, with the stripers showing up as arches around the bait. There are schools of stripers all over the lake now but the largest concentrations up lake are from Christopher Run up to Tim's and Terry's up to the S turns. Here the fish are feeding primarily on 2 to 3 inch threadfin shad. Below the 208 bridge, good schools can be found from the mouth of Sturgeon over to the power plant, the mouths of major creeks and from the third dike to the dam. These schools have been found in depths of 25 to 40 feet and are easily seen on good depth finders. There is so much bait in the lake the stripers are always full making them difficult to catch, especially with artificial baits. Artificial techniques for catching stripers this month will be to use small baits such as ¾ oz. Hopkins Spoons , Silver Buddies, etc. vertical jigged over pods of bait and fish. Sea Shads , 1/4 and 3/8 oz. Road Runners and Stump Jumpers and 3 in. Sassy Shads cast on light line and counted down with an extremely slow retrieve will also catch fish this month. The multi-rigs will work well all over the lake but rig them with 3 inch swimbaits which match the size of the bait the fish are eating. Down lake, Redfins walked over long points in low light conditions will draw huge Stripers up to explode on the bait, maybe resulting in the fish of a lifetime. Another great bait to throw is a Suspending Jerkbait like Smithwicks Suspending Rogue. Make long casts and use a jerk, jerk, jerk pause retrieve to catch not only stripers but bass as well. As for live bait fisherman, being versatile will be the key this month. Start out pulling points and flats in the low light times of the day with planner boards and free lines and back off to nearby deeper flats as the sun gets high , maybe running downlines at the depth where you see bait and fish on your depth finder. Also, as the sun warms up clay banks up lake and riprap in the afternoons the stripers will move up on the banks and can be caught using planner boards. Use herring or large and jumbo minnows for best results. Outboard motors will spook fish this time of year so be cautious when approaching birds or other fisherman, shut your motors down at least 100 yards away and use your trolling motor to sneak up on the fish.

Bass: Favorite patterns this month will be to fish in clear water with jerks. Suspending baits work best fished on primary and secondary points and flats down lake. Hit as many points as you can, making a dozen casts on a point, if you don't get bit hit the next point. Once you catch a fish, work the point thoroughly with the jerkbait, maybe slow down and throw a grub and if you see stumps or rocks try a jig. The fish are easy to pattern and the larger fish bite this month. Swimbaits work exceptionally well this month making long casts with steady retrieves. There are many points around Dukes Creek with "bowling ball size" rocks on them that hold lunkers. A great way to catch a Citation bass this month is to pull a jumbo minnow 30 yards behind your boat 10 feet under a bobber, keeping your boat in the 15 ft. depth range. Great places also to try are short guts or creeks off the main lake like Hackneys Creek. Many fish structures and brush piles hold bass this time of year. Riprap and boulders heat up in the afternoons and attract schools of fish. Also this month a good "deep bite" takes place . Find schools of bait near the bottom and jig Silver Buddies or spoons to catch these fish.

Crappie: The fish are schooled up now and are on deeper drop offs in the 15 to 25 foot range. Main lake primary points with major breaks are holding nice fish, especially if boulders or rocks are present. Points around Christopher Run and Terry's Run are good as well as the Bridge Pilings in the rivers. The docks in front of Tim's are full of keeper crappie. Large slabs are also hanging on channel breaks and are always nearby schools of threadfin shad. They are easy to locate on a good depth finder, showing up as dozens of small arches grouped tightly together nearby clouds of bait. Dropping small jigs, spoons and small silver buddies will catch limits quickly. Try deeper brush piles also if bait is present.

Don't forget to send me your tips, tricks and recipes for our next edition! Just send them to fishing_report@hotmail.com.

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.

The Outdoor Report is proud to partner with the on-line ODUMagazine™  to give our readers direct access to a great variety of info about fishing around the region, as well as links to hunting and conservation news. ODU Magazine Editor Larry Thornhill and  Assistant Editor Bill Schwarz will be providing updates and links to their website on new features and seasonal information for the fishing enthusiasts. We welcome them and their vast video library and contacts as regular contributors to Sarah White's Notebook in the Fishin' Report.

Editor Larry Thornhill notes, "Since we launched in December 2011, we aspired to provide our growing readership with a quality, entertaining and educational digital fishing magazine, balanced with daily news from our hunting and fishing journals. In the  ODU Fishing News and ODU Hunting News, we cover daily fishing and hunting tips, new product introductions, conservation announcements, legislative issues that outdoorsmen should be alerted to and great catches and hunts from around the world.  ODU Magazine™ is not your typical outdoor website. We don't just provide a link and logo for our advertisers; we provide an advertising campaign on our network of fishing sites. Advertisers get ads in our digital magazines, their products and news in our news journals (fishing or hunting), videos provided are added to our Video Library and all company provided news is released into our extensive social network.  Look for "what's new' in each edition of the Outdoor Report...

Check out the video library...   Anglers now can go to the ODUMagazine™ website, click on the "Video Library" tab choose a species of fish, choose a fishing technique and watch an ODUMagazine™ recommended video, on how to improve your time and success on the water.

This week from Larry Thornhill: Ice fishing is an angling sport that many of us only hear about, because we live where ice fishing is impossible. But, those of us who live where ice fishing happens have a different look at how much fun it can be. Ice fishing for many anglers is the only time they wet a line. One thing is true for all ice fishing anglers. They love their sport, and they love to share it with other anglers. That is one way ODU Magazine looks at our ice magazines, sharing the knowledge of some very well-known and well versed ice fishermen with you.

Here is the line up for this edition of ODU Magazine..Ice Fishing 2013:

Windlass Tip-Up Tactics To Improve Your Game, By Tom Gruenwald   Icing Trout, By Ben Leal   Two Sides To Winter Walleyes, By Matt Straw
Search and Destroy...the quest for pig perch, By Jason Freed  The Secret of the Pike, By Anthony Larson  The Strikes of Winter, By Scott Brauer
Why Leech Lake, By Jason Freed  Lake Simcoe's Premier One Day Ice Fishing Event, By Wil Wegman  Developing a Touch for Bite Detection, Dave Genz 
Ice Fishing River Systems 101, By Robert Booth   5 Ways to Catch More Walleyes, By Nathaniel Myson  Two Best Ice Fishing Presentations, By Steven Johnson
Japan Ice Team Competes in World Championship, By Mike McNet and Munenori Kajiwara  What's Hot on the Ice for 2013, By Anthony Larson
Punching Bluegills, by Jason Mitchell  Cold Out There. . . Warm In Here!!!, By Jay Warren  Save Bristol Bay, Ben Leal  Multi-Species Boat For Ice Fishing?, By Marty Glorvigen 
Searching for Early Ice Gold, By Jason Freed  The Best Ice Anglers in the World, By Brian Gaber – Coach USA Ice Team
Perch on Ice, By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson  Do You Ice Derby?
Click here to read this edition of ODU Magazine or any of the above titles to go directly to that article.

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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email your material to
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Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

With the "cabin fever" of mid-winter in full force, John Peake, a freshman at Virginia Tech from Roanoke, Virginia has vividly expressed a good way to revitalize your mood by heading to the great outdoors- regardless of the conditions. John entered this article in the 2011-12 VOWA Collegiate Outdoor Writing Contest and placed in the top 15. John notes, "I feel fortunate to have grown up in Roanoke; the city is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains with the Appalachian Trail and Jefferson National Forest close by. Being so close to mountains and trails has allowed me to pursue my interests of mountain biking, hiking, backpacking and trail running. For as long as I can remember I have loved being outside. My love of the outdoors is what led me to Virginia Tech to study forestry. My goal in college is to understand the issues that face our environment and do my part to ensure that we use our resources in a sustainable way. I hope to have a career that I enjoy and will allow me to work outside. I have always had a thirst for adventure so I hope to move west to experience bigger mountains and bigger adventures." Reading this story while the snow is falling or bone chilling rain has set in, will help you get through being trapped indoors with anticipation of getting out into the wild soon as conditions improve.

Keeping My Sanity

By John Peake

I can't stare at the computer screen any longer; I see the words on the screen but they don't register. It's been who knows how many hours since I started doing schoolwork; the good news is it's almost 2 o'clock and it's time to go mountain biking. I gather my backpack and gear then fill up my camelback with water. After a short skateboard ride to my car I'm leaving campus and the stress is lifting. Excitement builds as the buzz of thousands of students is replaced by rolling countryside and the smell of grass, cows and horses. I meet Fred at his house, so perfectly positioned at the bottom of the Pandapalas Pond trail network in Blacksburg, Virginia. We go in the barn to grab our bikes, the smell of the damp dirt floor filling our nostrils. The pedals start to spin, a slash on the gravel driveway here, another there, hang a left, pedal to the trail head and we are in the woods at last.

It's my first semester at Virginia Tech yet this routine is so familiar it seems as if it's been years. In addition to all of the standard requirements one must take when deciding where to go to college, I had one very important factor to consider; there had to be mountains and mounting biking. For as long as I can remember the outdoors has been my escape. Some people run away from their problems, I pedal instead. I have been mountain biking for the past ten years and there has never been a ride I wished I hadn't gone on. Sure, some have been more fun than others but at the end of each ride I leave feeling better then I came. Through all of the wrecks, mechanical failures, and arctic winter rides I still head home with a feeling of happiness that few things give me.

My favorite part of mountain biking is ripping down the side of a mountain, skipping off roots and rocks, seizing any opportunity to get into the air. I love the feeling of overcoming fear. Every ride there is at least one moment where you feel that unmistakable tingle of fear shoot from the pit of your stomach all the way up your spine When riding a new jump the feeling creeps into you the second you realize that, "Yes, I am going to ride this". Once the decision has been made you can't escape it. Your sitting above the jump, you start to pedal, the jump is getting closer, you pedal faster, and think to yourself "Am I'm really about to do this?" you are still pedaling so the answer must be yes. The tires leave the ground; you know right from takeoff whether or not it is going to end well. When both tires hit ground the fear is gone, replaced by a rush of adrenaline.

The rush I get from riding my bike isn't the sole reason I love mountain biking. If that were the case there are many adrenaline sports I could choose from. What biking has that a sport like motocross doesn't is the chance to be immersed in nature. You can cover a lot of ground on a bike, and because of this, it is easy to get away from everything else and into nature. There is no engine drowning out the wind in the trees or the chirp of a bird, just the hum of gears turning, and tires digging into dirt. After a long climb to the top of a mountain there is pause before the journey down. After your breathing returns to normal a sense of calm comes and a smile cracks across your face. If there is a view you soak it in, the excitement starts to build because you know it's almost time for the fun part. Everything that goes up must come down and at last it is time to go down. Everyone has a little routine: adjust the helmet straps just so, tighten down your pack, lower the seat, and take a deep breath, it's time to go. Start to pedal, then pick up speed until the trees start to blur and the wind in your ears grows louder. Your eyes scan for any malicious objects that may try to ruin your day. In addition to scanning for danger they also scan for fun, they look for roots and rocks to jump, and any opportunity to get airborne. Occasionally a shoulder brushes a tree, a reminder that one small mistake is all it takes to become more a part of the woods than you ever intended to be. Hoops and hollers echo throughout the forests, there is nothing quite like riding a well made trail, a thin ribbon of dirt can mean so much more to someone then just rocks and dust.

When the ride is over and the post ride banter ends it's time to go home. It's sad leaving the woods, you know what awaits, a small dorm room and more hours of work. Each ride recharges my batteries and the work becomes bearable once again. Scattered on the walls throughout the room are pictures and posters cut out from bike magazines. They serve as reminders that there is a world outside of the computer screen, a world of hoops and hollers echoing through the trees, a world where the only thing that matters is the trail in front of you. After a day or two passes I can't look at the computer screen any longer, the pictures and posters are taunting me, this can only mean one thing, it's time to ride.

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) annually sponsors High School and Collegiate Writing Competitions with the theme of "a memorable outdoor experience or special interest." We encourage students to consider their experiences in the outdoors with wildlife, hunting, fishing, and natural history and enter these contests. The goal of the competition is to reward high school and college students for excellence in communicating their personal experiences in the outdoors. This year's competition deadline was February 7, 2013. Judging is now underway and Winners will be announced and awards presented at the joint Mason Dixon & Virginia Outdoor Writers Association Annual Meeting on March 15 -17 in Staunton.

Bass Pro Shops will again cosponsor the High School contest, and is providing gift cards of $150, $100, and $50 for purchasing merchandise at Bass Pro Shops to the top three winners. Prizes will also include gear from outdoor sports businesses and Supporting Members of VOWA.

The Collegiate winners will receive cash prizes from VOWA. This year a special new cash award that includes publication will be provided by the Cooperative Living Magazine staff for the best Collegiate entry about the Virginia outdoors.

Full competition guidelines/rules for 2012-13 on the VOWA Collegiate Undergraduate and High School Youth Writing Competitions are available on the VOWA website: www.vowa.org.

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for: