In this edition:

Gobblers, Trout, and Outdoor Adventure Perfect for Springtime Family Traditions

This March 13th edition has a long list of "wild events" in March and April that offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. There are 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. And for many sportsmen the much anticipated Spring Gobbler season!! This edition features the special Youth Turkey Hunt Day, April 6. It has been very exciting the last two months to see the growing number of 'sportsmen families' attending the outdoor shows around the state and signing up for the Outdoor Report. Seeing the families out there bodes well for the future of our treasured hunting and fishing heritage and traditions. The stories from our readers confirm the results of recent research that shows a majority of sportsmen are mentoring young people and how important it is to get the young kids outdoors—the younger they start, the more likely their participation will continue as adults and then teach their kids. Trout Heritage Day is also April 6. If you don't have a youngster to take spring gobbler hunting, or trout fishing—find one! Start your own 'family tradition.' Here's an idea—go turkey hunting in the morning, then go trout fishin' in the afternoon!! Make it a family tradition full of treasured memories...

David Coffman, Editor

Ask Your Friends if They are Still Getting Their Outdoor Report

If you are reading this – that's good news! We have just discovered we've lost a random group of subscribers back in December- January. Somehow our 'system' lost or dropped several thousand subscriber emails-- we aren't sure what happened. We have no way of knowing who got dropped. We've gotten a lot of emails from loyal readers letting us know they had not received their January or February editions. Please help us restore our subscriber list by contacting your friends and colleagues and asking if they received this March 13th edition of the Outdoor Report. If not, advise them of this subscriber address glitch and forward them this edition.

Contact your friends and colleagues to check their spam folders... David Murr, VDGIF Webmaster notes that 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 ( 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.

If you ever need to subscribe again, you can do so on our subscription page.

Wild Events You Don't Want to Miss

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 Also, be sure to check out the NASP video and Virginia Wildlife feature article!

Kids Fishing Day at Old Cossey Pond in Fredericksburg March 16

The VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is sponsoring their annual Kids Trout Fishing Day at Old Cossey Pond located off of Kenmore Avenue, in the City of Fredericksburg Saturday March 16 from 9am-3pm. The pond will be closed to anglers on Friday, March 14, 2013 for stocking. Fishing can begin at 9am on Saturday, March 15, 2013 for kids 12 and under. After 3pm the pond will reopen to anglers of all ages. Some rod/reels available, bring your own bait. For information contact the VDGIF Regional Office at (540) 899-4169.

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 banjo making and creating a possible bag! SPACES ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR THESE TWO WORKSHOPS. For details on upcoming workshops contact Heather Benninghove, Program Director, by email: call (434) 248-5444 Fax: (434) 248-6749, or visit the Holiday Lake 4-H website.

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:

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:

Friends of C.F. Phelps WMA Host Meeting March 20

Friends of C.F. Phelps WMA will host their next meeting Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at the Sumerduck Ruritan Hall at 7pm. The program will feature the 150th Anniversary Celebration of Kelly's Ford with Guest Speaker Jim Flanagan doing a power point presentation about the history of the village of Kellysville from 1829. This is when John P. Kelly bought the mills, property, and plantation from Robert Beverly, a prominent miller in this part of Virginia during the early part of the 19th century. He will give the historical reasoning behind why it went from the most productive village anywhere along the river to absolutely nonexistent today. It has unlike Tara, a plantation outside of Atlanta truly "Gone with the Wind". For information contact Patricia Wood , email:

Blaine Short Memorial J.A.K.E.S. Event set for March 23rd in Augusta

The 2013 Blaine Short Memorial JAKES event is scheduled for March 23rd, at Shenandale Gun Club, in Buffalo Gap. The Augusta County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is partnering with Cargill Foods, Shenandale Gun Club, D.G.I.F., "Pecks" B.B.Q. and Pepsi-Cola to put on their annual youth event. Registration and check-in is from 8:00 to 8:30 A.M. and the event ends at 4pm. The event includes lunch, introduction to shotgun, trapping classes, air rifle, skeet shooting, target shooting, and hands on demonstration of turkey callers. The Rockingham Branch of Q.D.M.A. will provide a gun to give- away to a youngster attending. Instead of a covered dish, each person attending is asked to bring a few cans of nonperishable canned food to be donated to a local food pantry. The registration fee is $10 to join the JAKES program, and is the only cost associated with this event, thanks to the great support of our sponsors! For more information about this event, call Eddy or Jan Pitsenbarger at 337-6902, Chuck or Tina Hite at 886-3141, Danny or Melinda Clifton at 290-0978, Lennie or Bonita Tolley at 248-4564, or Jeremiah Major at 943-8773.

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 email to:

Intro to Turkey Hunting Class presented by Virginia Elite Outdoors March 31st at Green Top

Green Top Hunting & Fishing (The Lodge) will be hosting an Intro to Turkey Hunting Class March 31st at their new store location in Ashland from 1-4 pm. This class is intended for beginner or intermediate turkey hunters. Cost for Adults is $95 - Youth/Student: $75. Topics of discussion and hands on practicals will include: Basic Safety, Turkey History & Habits, Scouting, Set-Up, Calls & Calling,  Different Strategies for Hunting, Preparation for the Shot & Shot Placement. Instructors will cover a broad spectrum of turkey topics and have many displays, photos, and videos to assist in the instruction. The class will be taught by the Guides of Virginia Elite Outdoors who have a combined experience of over 100+ years hunting in the woods of Virginia. Visit: for further details or email

Celebrate Trout Heritage Day with the Kids in Madison April 6

The Rapidan Chapter of Trout Unlimited and VDGIF partner with Graves Mountain Lodge the first Saturday in April for Trout Heritage Day and Kid's Fishing Day. Several hundred trout are stocked along a private section of the Rose River, solely for children under the age of 12 to experience the joy of fishing. This popular event is just Saturday again this year. Come join us on April 6 to support Kid's Day and Trout Heritage Day at Graves Mountain Lodge in Madison County adjacent to Shenandoah National Park. Check the vdgif website for details.

Friends of Dyke Marsh to Host Events in April

Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.  In 2012, almost 15,000 volunteers removed 262 tons of trash from 660 sites spread across the Potomac watershed.  Join us at Dyke Marsh for this year's cleanup on Saturday, April 6, 9 a.m. to 12 noon.   Visit for more details. The Friends of Dyke Marsh cleanup is part of a much larger, annual Potomac River (and tributaries) cleanup sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Visit the Foundation's website for information on other cleanup sites in the Region.

Raptor Demonstration.  On Earth Day, see raptors that have been rescued and rehabilitated by the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia and learn more about these fascinating and beautiful birds of prey.  April 20, 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Belle Haven Picnic Area, near the Mount Vernon bike trail.

13th Virginia Fly Fishing Festival Celebrated in Waynesboro April 20-21

Fly anglers from across the country will celebrate the 13th Annual Virginia Fly Fishing Festival on April 20-21, 2013. Held on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro, the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival is the largest outdoor fly fishing event in the country that offers on-stream instruction. Only here can you learn all the latest techniques from the experts and then walk right over to the river and try them for yourself. The festival features small-group casting classes with fly fishing and fly tying experts from across the Mid-Atlantic. Festival volunteers will help children catch native brook trout from an on-site Children 's Catch and Release Tout Pool and then release them into the South River (with the help of their parents). Members of the Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders Club, the largest FFF Club in Virginia, will also provide paid spey casting classes and offer basic fly tying tips to beginners.

The highlight of the weekend is the Festival Foundation Dinner sponsored by Dominion, at which the festival committee presents the 2013 Virginia Fly Angler of the Year Award. This year's festival sponsors include Temple Fork Outfitters, Dominion Resources, Subaru, Orvis, Natural Retreats, Wild River Outfitters DuPont Community Credit Union, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Flymen Fishing Company, Speckled Trout B&B, Eastern Fly Fishing, the City of Waynesboro, Blue Ridge Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Virginia Sportsman, Mid-Valley Press, Virginia Living, Mid-Atlantic Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers, Duck Down Inn, Green Top Sporting Goods, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc.

A variety of classes will be offered which includes fly casting and fly tying for beginners. There will be raffles, live music and fun for the entire family. The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival is a one-of-a-kind event: Monies received from sponsors, vendors, ticket sales, and raffles are used to cover the cost of next year's festival with the remainder going to the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival Foundation, which promotes conservation and stream restoration projects. Daily admission to the festival is $20 per person, and the festival runs from 9 AM-5 PM on Saturday and Sunday. The cost of admission includes free wine tastings for those 21 and older.

The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival will kick off its event with a showing of "Where the Yellowstone Flows" in coordination with Trout Headwaters Inc, and the City of Harrisonburg on Friday April 19th at Courts Theater. Admission for the movie is $10 and all proceeds raised will be donated to the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival Foundation.  For more information about the festival, visit

One Day NRA Shooting Camp Planned in Middlesex April 20

The Middlesex Sportsmen's Hunt Club is sponsoring a family oriented shooting sports camp on Saturday April 20th at the club's shooting range on Route #3 (1860 Twiggs Ferry Road) in Hartfield, Virginia. The event is targeted to expose young shooters and their families to the fun of participating in the various shooting sports, while teaching about the safe handling of firearms on the range, in the home, and while hunting. According to camp director Macey White, "The camp is a really fun way to learn about firearm safety and a must for any family with firearms in the home".

Increased interest by gun owners in the fun of organized shooting sports such as Skeet, Trap, and Sporting Clays for shotgun enthusiasts, and target shooting with pistols, rifles and air rifles, is on the rise. Here on the Middle Peninsula the Middlesex Sportsman's Hunt Club operates a shooting facility for local members and the club sponsors educational activities for new shooters including 4-H Club shoots and National Rifle Association events that promote safe handling of firearms and increased participation in the various shooting sports.

The Saturday April 20th NRA Shooting Sports Camp is an all day event. Under the direct supervision of certified firearms instructors, participants will learn to safely handle and fire rifles, pistols, shotguns and muzzleloaders. It is the club's belief that "hands on" experience in a safe and educational environment promotes safety. Participants will learn skills, and practices that will help keep them safe throughout their life. Many people who have attended the camp in the past have discovered that target shooting is a safe and enjoyable hobby that they can participate in for the rest of their life.

As participants arrive on the 20th, teams of several attendees will move "round-robin" style through each of the events so that everyone will get plenty of experience in each of the types of firearms. The camp lasts about 3 hours and all firearms, safety glasses, ear protection, ammunition and targets are provided by the club.

Pre-registration is encouraged. Call or email club secretary, Macey White, at 776-9861, or, to register and to receive your starting time. The cost for the event is $10 per person. Lunch will be available (Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, etc). The range is covered and the event will go forward on the 20st rain or shine.

The camp on April 20 will be a fun filled and educational event for families with hunters and shooters here on the Middle Peninsula. The Club is easy to find. There will be signs to guide you to the event on state route #3 (Twiggs Ferry Road) between the Piankatank River bridge and Route #33 in Hartfield, Virginia. All are welcome, but please leave your own guns at home.

People and Partners in the News

Biologists and Landowners Recognized for Outstanding Conservation Partnerships by SWCD

Recently the Three Rivers Soil and Water Conservation District recognized VDGIF Private Lands Wildlife Biologist David Bryan with their annual Partnership Award. David was recognized for his tireless efforts in promoting wildlife habitat in the District through a variety of programs. These include the Wildlife Best Management Practices the SWCDs and Virginia's Agricultural Cost-Share program graciously partner with the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries in implementing. Additionally, landowner Dr. Robley Bates and manager Kurt Burton were recognized as Wildlife Conservationists of the Year by the District. Their efforts were featured in the January – February issue of Virginia Wildlife Magazine. VDGIF Quail Recovery Initiative Program Manager commented, "We appreciate the recognition by the Three Rivers SWCD of the importance of wildlife habitat to holistic conservation. We appreciate all our conservation partners without which our Quail Recovery Initiative would not be possible."

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 Staunton, the "Queen City of the Shenandoah Valley."

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 for more details.

Virginia Sportsman Shows Supported by VDGIF Volunteers

Complimentary Work Force (CWF) volunteer, Allen Easterly from Bayse has been a volunteer with the CWF program for over 4 years engaged in a number of acvtivities. Allen has recently taken on a new responsibility to assist with the Outdoor Report (OR). He now collects, edits and formats the CPO Notebook Section. This is just one of many valuable activites and programs that could not be done if it were not for the dedicated volunteers. Allen shares more details on the scope of events in which the CWF volunteers participate...

Every year throughout the Commonwealth several outdoor oriented and sportsman shows bring us the latest in hunting and fishing technologies, supplies and equipment, clothing and celebrity experts to help us successfully pursue our favorite outdoor activities. VDGIF is present at most of these events with a booth full of useful information for show-goers. Without the assistance of VDGIF Complimentary Work Force (CWF) volunteers, the Agency would not be able to handle all the information requests and answer the many questions posed at each event. While Conservation Police Officers are present to answer questions about the many technicalities in the law and regulations, the CWF volunteers take care of providing brochures, pamphlets and information sheets on other topics such as scheduled hunter safety classes, boating education requirements and training, and outdoor recreation opportunities to name a few. Volunteers also help sportsmen find answers to their questions on fishing and hunting regulations in the appropriate section of one of the published guides. The CWF volunteers are also the primary promoters of the Outdoor Report , signing up new subscribes and having readers complete survey to gather valuable information from our readers on the content of the OR and ideas for improvement. But most of all, volunteers get to share their own experiences of participation in other CWF activities with those that show an interest in also becoming a volunteer.

Being a CWF volunteer participating at these events has many enjoyable benefits. Getting to talk to so many people, volunteers get the latest scoop on how successful hunters and fishermen are in different areas of the Commonwealth. We hear a lot of great hunting and fishing stories, learn results of a wide variety of hunting and fishing tactics, and listen to some quite entertaining, and sometimes unbelievable stories of those that have experienced unusual things while in the great outdoors. While on break volunteers can visit the vendors to check out their wares and often discuss VDGIF and the CWF programs. One of the most rewarding things for me has been when a visiting celebrity takes the time from their busy schedule to visit the VDGIF booth and thank us for what we do to help keep hunting and fishing alive for everyone. All these benefits make volunteering well worthwhile.

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:

VA Chapters of Ducks Unlimited Schedule Fund Raising Banquets for March

For 76 Years Ducks Unlimited (DU) has conserved over 12 million acres of wetland habitat raising funds through local chapter banquets.    Neal  Roth, Ducks Unlimited Regional Director for West Virginia & Virginia notes that ,"Ducks Need Wetlands - You Need Ducks so volunteer today.  For information on upcoming DU events or opportunities to get involved contact Neal at 304.667.3794, email:    or website

Visit for details on upcoming March DU Chapter Events:

For information on upcoming Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (R.M.E.F.) events visit the VA State Chapter website or contact Kathy Funk, Virginia State Chair, from Greenville  Tel (540) 255-4021, or email:  Events scheduled for March-April:

3rd Annual James River Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society Conservation and Sportsmen's Banquet April 4 in Richmond

Thursday 4 April 2013 at the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club, 1700 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond, VA 23228.  Social Hour and Raffles -- 5:30 PM; Dinner -- 7:15 PM; during the evening live and silent auctions to raise funds for habitat improvement. This fundraising event supports quality habitat for Grouse, American Woodcock and other game and non-game species. Contact: Randall Strawbridge, 804-527-2966 or

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 these partner organizations, highlighting the groups programs and activities that support us in our Mission "working together for wildlife." The Western Virginia Sports Show founded by Mark Hanger, now in its 26th year, is an excellent example of the success of long term partnerships between the outdoor sports business community, guides, outfitters, conservation organizations and VDGIF to produce a family oriented event attracting over 12,000 attendees and promoting our treasured hunting and fishing heritage and traditions.

TV Celebs and Quality Exhibits Attract Record Crowds at 26th Western Virginia Sports Show at Augusta Expoland

Outdoor Sportsman TV programming is 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 drew a record crowd of over 12,000 sportsmen and their families and friends partly by featuring more celebrity guests, conservation organizations, fishing guides and a diverse group of quality vendors than ever before. Headliners that included Jep and Jessica Robertson of Duck Dynasty on the A&E network tirelessly met fans all day Saturday and Sunday making them - HAPPY! HAPPY! HAPPY! The list of unique attractions included Welde's Big Bear Show grizzlies and Howard and Jason Caldwell Falconry demonstration featuring their "Raptors Up Close" program. Popular hunting pros included Stan Potts, Jim Zumbo, Paul Butski, Lance Hanger, and Blaine Mengel, pro fishing guide. Nationally recognized and Virginia based artists and photographers 'decorated' the exhibit halls with their amazing talent.

Show Founder and Manager, Mark Hanger proudly noted, "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." The event is a year-long production with planning for next year's event in progress during this years show.

Mark also noted he focuses on booking vendors and attractions of special interest to kids and families to spark their interest in outdoor adventures, proudly stating, "That is the future of our sport and treasured hunting and fishing heritage and traditions." From the overflowing parking lot all three days and long lines of eager sportsmen of all ages waiting to buy a ticket to get in- a successful event was enjoyed by all. Visit the show's website for photos and more details for celebrities and vendor contacts.

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". The following is a personal story of the importance of getting hunters of any age or experience level to try new experiences to renew their interest and passion for the great outdoors and making new memories with family and friends. David Coffman

Western Virginia Sports Show Expanded to Make Room for Displaced Vendors from Eastern Expo

If you build it, they will come...

Mark Hanger, Founder and Manager for the 26th Western Virginia Sports Show February 22-24 at Augusta Expoland encountered a unique problem/opportunity complicating this year's show planning. In January the largest outdoor show in the US- the ten day long Eastern Sports & Outdoor Exhibition in Harrisburg, PA, held for over 60 years the first week of February attracting 1000 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors, was abruptly cancelled due to a boycott of exhibitors over a capricious ban on the display and sales of certain legal modern sporting rifles by Reed Exhibitions, the show promoters. Mark notes that just 4 weeks before his show date, he suddenly got hundreds of requests from vendors who were dependant on the now cancelled Eastern Show, to find exhibit space at his venue. Reaching out to longtime vendors who were already confirmed for spaces, Mark worked with them to make space for additional regional based vendors and provide a greater variety of attractions for show goers.

Mark noted everybody pitched in and cooperated to help fellow outdoor vendors in a potential financial calamity due to the Eastern Show shutdown.  Sportsmen who annually trekked to Harrisburg for the "Big One", changed plans and came to Augusta Expoland in Fishersville from a four state area.  From the many positive comments by attendees, they were not disappointed with all the added last minute attractions at Augusta Expo.  Mark also noted he focuses on booking vendors and attractions of special interest to kids and families to spark their interest in outdoor adventures, proudly stating, "That is the future of our sport and treasured hunting and fishing heritage and traditions." From the overflowing parking lot all three days and long lines of eager sportsmen of all ages waiting to buy a ticket to get in- a successful event was enjoyed by all. Visit the show's website for photos and more details for celebrities and vendor contacts.

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.

Planning to Take a Youngster on a Spring Gobbler Hunt? Schedule a Hunter Education Class Now!

Now is the time to enroll in a Hunter Education Class for spring gobbler season. Class schedules are available on the VDGIF website. Hunter Education is mandatory for all hunters age 12 and older.

Don't forget about the special Youth Spring Turkey Hunt that will take place on Saturday, April 6, 2013, for youth age 15 and under. Youth hunters between the ages of 12-15 must have appropriate valid hunting licenses. Hunters under the age of 12 are not required to have a license, but must be accompanied by a licensed adult. See the Department's website or Hunting & Trapping in Virginia Regulations and Information digest for more information on Hunter Education requirements. The youth turkey hunt is a great way for an experienced hunter to introduce a youngster to the great outdoors. If you cannot schedule a hunter education class before the season begins, there is the option of getting an Apprentice Hunting License. See article below for details.

Check the UPCOMING EVENTS calendar for numerous hunter training workshops around the state sponsored by youth oriented organizations like NWTF JAKES, 4-H Shooting Sports Clubs, and others dedicated to continuing our rich hunting heritage to a new generation.

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

Remember, only 23 days until the Youth Spring Gobbler Turkey Hunt Day, April 6, 2013! See our website for details.

Wheelin' Sportsmen Schedule Spring Gobbler Hunts and Fishing Events

Virginia Wheelin' Sportsmen has some exciting Spring Gobbler hunts, and awesome fishing events scheduled for this spring, that you won't want to miss! With the addition of a new turkey hunt outside of Farmville, hosted by the High Bridge Chapter, we currently have five spring gobbler hunts planned. We'll also have our regularly scheduled hunts in Bedford, Charlottesville, New Kent and Warsaw. Don't miss out on these great opportunities to bag a trophy longbeard! The application deadline is March 25th!

We also have some exciting fishing events planned. Last year we held our first West Augusta Outdoor Day near Staunton, and we'll return again this year on May 11th. If you weren't there last year, you missed out on our award-winning Best New Event of 2012, as our participants shot skeet, crossbow and reeled in big catfish all day. The Little Switzerland Chapter will re-stock their trout pond with rainbows on May 18th, so head for the mountains of Monterey... and bring your cooler! On Sat. May 25th, the Grace family will host their 7th annual Mossy Creek Trout Rodeo, so don't miss out. The Registration deadline is April 20th!

This year, we have the applications available to you in a fillable pdf format. Simply open the application, fill in your information, save it to your computer, then email it back to us. Of course you can also print out the completed form and mail it in if you prefer. You can the download the Spring Gobbler and Fishing Applications here.

Virginia Upland Classic Quail Hunt Scheduled March 23-24 in Providence Forge

Here in Virginia our first of four scheduled hunts for the 2013 season took place in Keysville, Virginia back in January. The "Southside Quail Hunt" at the FFF Kennels & Hunting preserve January 12-13 was well attended and about forty bird hunters from around the state gathered with their dogs on an unusually foggy and warm January morning to hunt quail in a friendly, fun competition. Ben Norris, VA Upland Classic event coordinator notes, " We have separate events for both Pointing and Flushing breeds and we separate the hunters into fields of older, experienced dogs, (over three years old on January 1st, the start of our season), younger dogs we call "amateurs", and first time participants (novices) and their dogs. Novices are assisted in the field by the scorekeeper as they find the birds and learn the sport. All Virginia bird hunters are welcome to come participate, and we encourage any of you to come out and spend a day in the field with your dog hunting quail. No membership is required to participate, but you will need a Virginia Hunting license and a blaze orange hat."

The next Virginia Upland Classic hunt is scheduled to take place on March 23-24, 2013 a week or so after our NUCS National Championships out in Missouri. This will be about the last chance we will have before it gets too warm to get out and hunt quail without our dogs getting over heated. Spring hunts are a problem as quail typically want to go into molt and lose their flight feathers around this time, but we have made arrangements with a breeder who held off setting his brooding houses for several months last Fall, so the quail we use should be in good flight condition this March. Virginia Upland Classic hunts follow a "shoot and retrieve' format where we hunt for three birds randomly planted out of sight of the participants. We try to use a field of cover large enough to be challenging for the dog and hunter (around 7-10 acres), and send a scorekeeper (not a judge) with each hunter to keep tabs on the dog's finds, the hunter's shooting, full or partial retrieving by the dog, and then awards points for each of these hunting activities as they occur. We try to mimic a safe bird hunt to the extent possible, and the goal of the sport is to hunt with your dog and have a safe and fun experience.

The quail hunt on March 23-24 will be near Richmond at the Hunters Sanctuary on #155 in Providence Forge. Please consider yourself invited and simply contact Joe Owen ( or myself ( to enter your dog and yourself for a great day of bird hunting with a group of like minded dog owners. I can almost guarantee a good time if you are a bird hunter and you love your bird dog. This coming Fall we will have our annual "Pheasant Hunt" close to Thanksgiving near Charlottesville at Liberty Corners Farm (11/9-10) and then our final hunt in December (12/14-15) back at the Sanctuary in Providence Forge. You can find us on Face Book at Virginia Upland Classic.

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.

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.

Update as of March 2013

The Wild Turkey Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) convened for the first time on February 19th, 2013 in Verona. At the meeting the SAC was briefed on their role in the planning process, established the operational rules under which it will work and conduct business, and learned about wild turkey biology, status, and management history in Virginia. Expanding on the results of earlier stakeholder focus group meetings, the SAC identified public issues and concerns related to wild turkey management in Virginia. The SAC will meet again in mid-March, to establish the underlying values behind these issues, which ultimately will provide the basis for wild turkey management goals in Virginia. Please monitor the VDGIF website 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 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... While working the VDGIF exhibit at the 9th Annual OCHS Fishing Expo a dad and daughter came by the booth and I commented to the smiling young girl, "Where did you get that cool shark hat?!" She was sporting a toboggan style gray knit cap that had a big row of white shark teeth and menacing black eyes right on the forehead- sort of matched her big smile. Being at a fishing show, I curiously asked if the dad-daughter duo also hunted. I was a little surprised when the girl smiled even bigger and proudly exclaimed, "We sure do!" "Did you have any luck this season?", I asked. Beaming with pride she exclaimed, "I got a big 6 pointer with my new 'camo-pink' Parker crossbow !" Now there was a story to be told...

I congratulated the young huntress and asked her dad if they would please email her story and a photo for the next Outdoor Report. The dad Stephen Grabeel, introduced himself and his eight year old daughter Erin, noting they were from Orange. I gave them my contact information and asked they email me the story and photo. Stephen said they had sent information to Parker Bows concerning her first bow hunt last November. Here is the story they sent...

TO: "Parker Photo Gallery"
FROM: Stephen & Tricia Grabeel

Hello Parker Crossbows,
We are writing this story with the help of our eight year old daughter who shot her first deer with her new pink camo Parker Challenger crossbow. Erin Grabeel shot this big bodied 6 pointer in Gordonsville, Virginia with her pink Challenger. We purchased this crossbow on 10/20/2012 at Greentop in Ashland, Virginia.

Erin practiced that Sunday and was able to hit the target at 40 yards consistently. On Monday she went hunting with her dad after school. They were sitting on the ground in the woods with a small blind set-up so the deer wouldn't get spooked by her moving around some...hard to keep an 8 year old still. Her buck made its way down the hillside and she waited until she could get a good shot. With dad holding the tripod and telling her to use the 40 yard bead...she took dead aim and with the arrow going clean through. The buck ran 20 yards and well as Erin's jaw dropping. Very excited she wanted to trail after it but they waited 15 minutes and approached the dead deer after finding her Parker arrow covered in blood. She told her dad that she kinda went between the 30 and 40 yard bead...which was probably a good thing as she could have missed high. After getting it loaded into the truck her reply to her dad was..."All I can say is...thank you Dad!"

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

The Virginia Quail Team is on Facebook

The Virginia Quail Team is on Facebook! Like us at . VDGIF Farm Game and Quail Program Co-coordinator Marc Puckett noted, "On this new facebook page you'll be able to meet the Quail Team, stay up-to-date on the latest quail news in Virginia, learn about habitat management techniques and quail ecology, and much more! Help us build a network of individuals dedicated to bringing back the bobwhite in Virginia. Help us spread the word to the next generation of quail enthusiasts. Local landowner interest and leadership is the key to quail recovery in Virginia."

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.

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 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!

Winter is Good Time to Take Required Boating Education Course

All Personal Water Craft (PWC) operators, 14 years of age and older, and all persons age 40 or younger operating a 10-hp or greater motorboat, are reminded they are required to complete a certified Boating Education Course by July 1, 2013. VDGIF Volunteer Boating Safety Education Instructor David Aitken, from Louisa, advises that March-April are great times to take an approved course before the spring warm-up gets boaters anxious to get back out on the water. Instructor Aitken adds, "It's easy to locate courses being offered near you by visiting the Boating Safety website for details and a list of courses being offered throughout the state." For more information on the Boating Education Courses being held throughout the state, visit the Boating Education Section in the sidebar for more information on Boating Education classes statewide.

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!

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.

Be a Sweetheart to Wildlife

You can make a difference by helping to support the management of Virginia's wildlife. When you complete your Virginia state income tax form, you can be a sweetheart to wildlife by simply marking the Nongame Wildlife Program check off box and filling in the amount of your donation. Your contribution will help support essential research and management of native birds, fish, and other nongame wildlife.

VDOF and Partners Conserve More Than 4,000 Acres in Southeastern Virginia During 2012

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), working cooperatively with the USDA Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program, partnered with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), The Nature Conservancy, Isle of Wight County, a private investment company and a paper company to conserve 4,119 acres of land in Southeastern Virginia during 2012. The Forest Legacy funding, applied for by The Nature Conservancy, enabled the purchase of two conservation easements and the creation of a new State Natural Area Preserve to ensure conservation of valuable working forestland and ecologically significant forest habitat in the Nottoway River and Blackwater River watersheds.

A total of 216 acres was conserved along the Nottoway River in Southampton County through the purchase of a conservation easement on property owned by Goodwood Virginia LLC, a subsidiary of Conservation Forestry LLC, a forestland holding company based out of New Hampshire. The property is comprised of floodplain forest that will be protected through the easement and upland pine plantation that will be actively managed by Goodwood Virginia for its forest and wildlife resources.

Along the Blackwater River, VDOF and DCR worked with Isle of Wight County to secure an easement on 2,348 acres of diverse timberland owned by the County. This transaction created the 815-acre Blackwater Sandhills Natural Area Preserve, managed under DCR's Natural Heritage Program, protecting important floodplain habitat along the Blackwater River. The County plans to utilize the property for public recreation for its citizens and Tidewater area residents as well as for income-producing timber management.

The third and largest acquisition project added 2,855 acres to the South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve, located along three miles of the Blackwater River in the City of Suffolk. Forest Legacy funding contributed to the protection of more than 1,500 acres of the property, which contains the largest remaining Longleaf Pine seed trees in the state. The property will protect 23 rare plant species, three rare animal species and also provide critical lowland habitat along the Blackwater River for the rare Atlantic White Cedar, a tree species found only sporadically in southeast Virginia.  From Forestry News VDOF e-newsletter for more information visit the VDOF website.

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!

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 March:

Answers to February 27th edition quiz for nature events for late 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

Illegal Turkey Hunting... On Monday February 18, 2013 Conservation Police Officer Mark Shaw received a call of possible illegal turkey hunting in a remote area of Hanover County. While Officer Shaw was enroute to the location, a Hanover County Deputy located the truck in question and was able to secure the truck until Officer Shaw arrived. During the investigation and search of the vehicle a Remington Model 700 .243 caliber rifle was found on the front seat of the truck. After further searching the vehicle an adult wild turkey gobbler was discovered behind the driver's seat. The turkey had been shot by a high power rife. During the interview the suspect admitted to seeing the turkeys feeding in a field and shot one with the rifle. The rifle and turkey were seized by Officer Shaw for evidence and charges were made.

Convicted Felon Illegally Kills Turkey... On February 20, Senior Conservation Police Officer Ken Williams received information that a male turkey was possibly killed on or about February 19 in Northumberland County. Senior Officer Williams and K9 Officer Frank Spuchesi with his partner Comet interviewed a subject at the location regarding the turkey. The suspect, a convicted felon, first stated he knew nothing about a turkey being killed. His girlfriend then led the officers through the woods to show where she "found" two turkey feet and blamed the killing on unknown hunters. While Officer Williams was interviewing them both, Spuchesi noticed two turkey feet laying in a bucket outside the residence. After much discussion, the male subject finally admitted to killing a turkey with archery equipment and butchering the bird and placing it in the freezer. The packaged meat and the legs were recovered. The suspect provided a written statement to the facts and magistrate summonses were obtained.

Region II - Southside

Snagging "Cats" from the James... On February 23, Conservation Police Officer (CPO) Zach Adams, while on routine patrol in Amherst County, observed two trucks parked alongside the James River. Officer Adams exited his vehicle and was able to find an elevated position to observe five individuals fishing from the bank. Officer Adams watched the subjects reeling in numerous catfish, all of which were hooked in the side, and noticed that none of the fishermen were using any bait. They all had large ½ ounce jig heads and 1 ½ ounce sinkers attached to surf rods. When Officer Adams confronted the individuals one subject stated he thought they could snag fish because that's how they catch Herring. The subjects began to get angry and agitated so Officer Adams contacted fellow CPO's Jake Clark and Rob Shafer who were close by and arrived shortly to provide backup. All five subjects were charged with snagging catfish and one for not having a license.

Region III - Southwest

Officers Conduct Special Operation On Goose Creek... On February 21, 2013, Conservation Police Officers Francis Miano, Mark Brewer, Jay Dowdy and Wes Billings, along with K-9 "Josie" conducted a special operation on Goose Creek in Floyd County. Officers Miano, Dowdy and Brewer positioned themselves in the woods at different vantage points to observe fishermen on the creek which had been stocked with trout earlier in the morning. Officer Billings and K-9 "Josie" stood by for immediate assistance and any possible searches. The fishing was actually rather slow on this particular day. Officer Dowdy observed a male subject in a blue plaid shirt catch two trout and put them on a stringer. This subject appeared to be in a hurry as he would run to a spot on the creek, cast a few times and then go to another location. At approximately 1735 hrs, Officers were ready to conclude the operation when the subject in the "blue plaid shirt" stopped at a bridge being observed by Officer Miano. The subject cast his line into the water and made an abrupt lateral pull to the right and snagged a fish. Officer Miano repositioned himself to get a clearer view and observed the subject continuing to cast a bait free hook into the water in an attempt to snag more fish. While interviewing the subject about the illegal means of taking fish he stated that he only caught two fish until he was questioned about the two fish earlier on the stringer. He then opened the trunk of his vehicle revealing the other 6 trout. The subject was charged with Taking Fish by Illegal Means (Snagging) and Taking Trout after Obtaining the Daily Limit.

First Annual Wild Game Supper in Wises... On February 23, 2013, Conservation Police Officers T.E. Hayes, Jason Honaker and Mark Van Dyke attended the First Annual Wild Game Supper held at Camp Bethel in Wise County. This event was spearheaded by former Game Warden Lieutenant Dennis Mullins. Mullins worked with men from several local churches to organize the event. The event was attended by approximately 250 persons, far exceeding the expectations for attendance. Several informative exhibits were set up for the event. Exhibitors included local taxidermists, the National Wild Turkey Federation, as well as an exhibit manned by the local conservation police officers. The officers were asked many questions ranging from game laws to the new boating law requirements. Officer Hayes gave a short presentation on boating laws to those in attendance. Conservation Police Officer Tosh Barnette was also in attendance as a civilian representing the National Wild Turkey Federation. District Wildlife Biologist Johnny Wills provided an exhibit showcasing the Elk restoration project. Wills presented a power point presentation that provided interesting information to those in attendance concerning the Elk project. Plans are already underway for the same event to be held next year as well.

Region IV - Mountains & Shenandoah Valley – Northern Piedmont

Investigation Leads to Arrest... Conservation Police Officer Paul Inge investigated a complaint of shots being fired after dark near a house in Albemarle County. The caller was able to obtain a vehicle tag number, but could not identify the occupants. Officer Inge interviewed the owner of the vehicle who admitted to driving around with a friend that night. The driver said his friend had brought along two handguns and had shot one of them at a tree. The driver took Officer Inge to the location where the friend shot, but this was not the same location as the original complaint. Officer Inge recovered a 9mm shell casing there and noted that there was a house in the line of fire indicated by the driver. Officer Inge arranged an interview with the shooter who corroborated the story. The shooter had seven pending felony charges from three different jurisdictions and was currently out on bond. Warrants were obtained and served on the shooter for reckless handling of a firearm and shooting from a roadway. A 9mm handgun was seized and the subject was taken to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Jail where he is being held without bond until trial. Additionally, the original location of the complaint was thoroughly searched and a bullet hole was found in a telephone box and bullet fragments were found inside the box. Also, a fence tightening device was broken from what appeared to be gunshot. The line of fire determined from the statements of the caller and the damage noticed was in direct line towards a home. Officer Inge went back and interviewed the driver again. Faced with the evidence, he admitted to shooting a .22 caliber revolver owned by the other shooter at the original complaint location. The revolver was also seized and the driver was charged with shooting from the road.

K9 Team Update

CPO Sgt. Carl Martin, Franklin Co, provided the photo of K9 'Scout' jumping up to commands of partner CPO Richard Howald during a demonstration at the Extreme JAKES Event that took place in Franklin County on September 7th and 8th in 2012. The group of youngsters in the picture is "spell bound" by the demonstration provided by the K9 Officer and his companion. Over 200 young people under the age of 18 participated in the two day event that offered skeet shooting , target shooting, sling shot shooting, archery, fly fishing, trout fishing, canoeing, tree stand safety and many other outdoor attractions. The annual event has received National Awards for "Best in the Nation for 11-17 year olds" for the last three years at the annual NWTF Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Jack Watts.

Don't Challenge Scout's Nose... On February 23, Senior Conservation Police Officer Dewayne Sprinkle along with Senior K9 Officer Richard Howald and his partner Scout attended a" Beast Feast" at Faith Baptist Church in Amherst County. While speaking with different people as they came by, the officers noticed a group of individuals dressed in hunting attire looking at Scout and having a conversation. The group eventually approached the officers and began to ask questions about Scout's abilities. The questioning led to one of the individuals stating that he still had some deer blood in the bed of his truck from November and challenged whether Scout could still detect the three month old blood. Senior K-9 Officer Howald, being confident in his partner's ability, accepted the challenge. The officers along with the growing group of then about 15 people went out to the "challenger's" truck. Officer Howald began to work Scout down one side of the vehicle from front to back until she got to the tailgate. Scout then got so excited she tried to stick her snout through the gap between the tailgate and bumper and jumped up to look into the bed of the truck. She displayed all of the indicators Officer Howald needed to know she had found something, then she actually took him around to the exact corner of the bed where there was a little bit of dried blood. The host of the event closed the program by telling the crowd that if they had learned anything that day it was that they better be honest with the Conservation Police because you can't fool their dog.

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:

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

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

Hercules Landing on Nottoway River Closed Until End of March

The Hercules Landing at Rt. 671 on the Nottoway River is closed until approximately March 26 or 27. The closure was necessary because the ramp at Hercules sat adjacent to a DOT bridge that is being expanded. The expansion will occupy the area where the old ramp was located. The VDGIF has been pursuing options for a new ramp for some time and was able to secure a new site almost adjacent to the current ramp. The new ramp will be much improved and will provide service far into the future. VDGIF Project Managers had hoped to have the new ramp completed before having to close the old ramp, but project delays with the new site meant the old ramp had to be demolished for bridge expansion prior to opening of the new site. In addition to better boating access, the new ramp offers improved safety to vehicles and trailers entering and exiting the facility. We apologize for any inconvenience this closure has caused and hope the new ramp serves the boaters and anglers in that area well. Updated information will be posted on the VDGIF Facility Closures & Alerts page and the Outdoor Report as soon as new information becomes available.

Take a Kid Fishing on the James, Saturday, April 6, 2013, aboard The Floating Fishing School

The James River is a great springtime fishery with so many species to catch: shad, white perch, catfish and stripers are all at their best. Join DGIF, Angling Education and Bass Pro Shops, Pro Staffer, Captain John Garland aboard "The Floating Fishing School," our 26 foot Sun Tracker pontoon boat provided by Tracker Marine, for the Take a Kid Fishing on the James workshop where we fish for whatever is biting. The spring bite is hot on the river, so register today for this fun and educational event, space is limited! Workshop sessions are from 8-Noon or 1-5 pm out of Osborne Turnpike boat landing in Henrico. Bait, tackle, PFD, snacks and drinks are provided. Registration fee is $15 per participant. Each adult (18 and older) must register with at least one child between 8-17 years of age. Freshwater fishing license required for 16 and older. To register and pay, contact Chris Dunnavant at 804-367-6778 or at

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

John Kirk, the Region I Boating Access Maintenance Supervisor for VDGIF, wants boaters to know that the Department will be closing Mill Creek Boat Landing near Wake on the Rappahannock River in Middlesex County for the period February 18 through March 15, 2013 to dredge sand from the area and install sheet piling to inhibit further sand accumulation in the ramp area. VDGIF is working to fix the ramp as quickly as possible, but says boaters will have to use other landings in the interim.  The site is currently open for light boat access only since sand deposits prevent launching of larger boats. Notices will be placed at the boat landing and at the Agency's website. If you have questions or need additional information contact:

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!

Join a Fishing Club

I recently attended a Virginia Angler's Club meeting as a guest. I was greeted warmly by many of the members and quickly found myself engaged in conversation about a variety of fishing topics. The purpose of my visit was multi-purpose, but I quickly became intrigued by what I was seeing and knew I needed to share the benefits of a fishing club membership.

The Virginia Anglers Club was founded in 1961 in Richmond, Virginia by a group of pioneering big game anglers. The club offers tournament competition through multiple venues in both fresh and saltwater. Club membership is not just about tournaments, but an opportunity for anglers to learn and share knowledge about fishing. The club has monthly meetings featuring guest speakers, time to share what's biting and talk with other anglers about fishing techniques. To learn more about the club, visit the website.

The VAC is not the only fishing club around. In fact, I joined a BASS Federation Club at the age of 16. My club membership provided opportunities to fish in bass tournaments at the local level with chances to compete at regional and national levels. I learned so much during my time in the club, it was a great venue to develop and hone my fishing skills as well as make new friends. Tournament competition is what I thrived on which led to a victory in the Federation's state championship, the Mr. Bass Tournament. At 19 years of age I became the youngest angler in the Virginia BASS Federation to win the championship and hold the title of Mr. Bass; certainly a highlight of my fishing career!

Now there are two bass club organizations to consider: The Bass Federation and The Federation Nation. Local, regional and national tournament competition is a major component with plenty of opportunities for conservation, community service and youth outreach. Each of these organizations has high school and college level fishing trails for the youth to get involved. Check out their websites and consider joining a local club.

If fly fishing is your preference there are several organizations in that category. Trout Unlimited is a national organization with a local chapter near you. Chapters are involved in conservation efforts, fly fishing and education. The Fly Fishers of Virginia focus on a wide range of fly fishing in Virginia and have many events and opportunities to learn and get involved. FFV is affiliated with the Federation of Fly Fishers.

There are also independent clubs in your area such as the Bass-Jon's in Hampton Roads or the Augusta County Bass Jon's. Most clubs have their own website and a little internet research can pay dividends. Joining a club can provide you with opportunities to learn and improve your fishing skills, serve in the community and develop friendships that can last a lifetime.

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, 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

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, The water temperature is 43 degrees with a visibility of 14 ft. The water may be cold, but the fish are biting. Bass are being caught on jigs, bladebaits, and suspending jerkbaits. Bass as large as 5 lbs. were caught; some along shelves on deep banks, but the most and largest fish came off windy points, the number one structure on the creek. LOTS of crappie were caught. They have moved into their shallow spots, one stick in 3 ft. of water may hold a mess a fish and the beaver hut may not have a fish on it. I am not saying not to fish the huts, but you have to find where they are and then it is a matter of feeding them small minnows, 1 in. jigs (black/red, red/green, or smoke) all worked well. We saw boats come in with as many as 35 and including some large yellow perch. I had in my hand a 16 inch 2.50 lb.and a 2 lb. crappie and 2 perch at 12 and 13 in. Add in 3 small bass and a bunch of pickerel and you can call it a good day on the creek. I saw a picture of a 18 in. eye, it came off the right side of the dam. Stripers haven't moved into the shallows off the dam yet but should any time now. When they do a blue back minnow or a black back minnow, 4 or 5 inches, will catch them. It is not a long bite but a regular bite Sassy Shad or other swimbaits would be my choice. The Park is located at 180 Lake View Dr. Toano Va. (757) 566- 2277. We are open 7 a.m. Monday to Friday to Sunset and 6 a.m. to Sunset on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. We have bait and tackle, boat rentals, boat launch, and drinks and snacks. Pet Nichols of Richmond caught a 16 in 2.50 lb. crappie and a 2.0 lb. crappie and a 12.50 in yellow perch. Tom Crittion of Williamsburg caught 2 bass a 4.50 and a 4.2 pounder.

Beaverdam Reservoir: (804) 693-2107. Contributed by Park Supervisor Patti McGrath. All the fish have been biting this week! The anglers have had good luck catching crappie in the deeper water along the water access of the Nature Trail. With the warmer temperatures, it has brought out more novice fishermen. Jeff C. and his son Bryant (age 6) only had a few bites on Saturday but they managed a 2 lb. 2oz. crappie. On Sunday, an angler on the 606 side caught his crappie limit of 25! Anglers have also been scouting out the bass for the upcoming tournament. Michael G. wrangled up a 3 lb. bass near the Treatment Plant on Saturday morning. Remember we will host the first Beaverdam Big Bash series tournament on March 16. The water is stained, at full pool and 48 degrees. For more information about Beaverdam Park visit our website or call the Ranger Station at (804)693-2107.

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

Virginia Beach: Contributed by local guide Skip Feller of Rudee Inlet Charters (757) 425-3400. Still the same in the lower bay ... tautog around the bridge, maybe see a change this week with the warmer weather!

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

Chickahominy River: River's Rest (804) 829-2753. Charlie Brown says no anglers have been out his way, except for a few cat hunters, and he doesn't know if they got lucky or not. The water is muddy and 45 degrees.

Chickahominy Lake: Contributed by Captain Art Conway of Conway's River Rat Guide Service, (804) 746-2475. Chickahominy Lake mid day water temperatures were in the mid 40s in the lower lake and high 40s to low 50s in the major creeks on Saturday (3/9/2013). The lake level was about 18 inches above the top of the dam and rising. The water was brown and moderately cloudy in the lower lake. A few blue cats, crappies, and white perch were in a few of the deeper channels and deep winter holes in the lower main lake. A few crappies and some bass were also on brush piles and other wood cover in mid depths, 6 to 12 feet. No crappies were found in the major creeks, but look for them to accumulate in the channels and backs of the creeks during the next week or two if water temperatures continue to rise. Most bass and pickerel were scattered on mid depth and deep flats in the main lake and were hitting live minnows, blade baits, lipless crankbaits, and plastic worms. A few small to medium bass and an occasional small yellow perch or pickerel were in the major creeks and were hitting live minnows and small suspending jerkbaits. Fishing with Capt. Conway, Malcolm Turnbull had 18 crappies, 1 white perch, and 5 blue cats.

North Landing River and Back Bay: Contributed by Ken Testorff, local blogger. If I had been a betting man, I might have wagered that you wouldn't find any bass boat trailers in the West Neck Marina parking lot today, but I would have been wrong. At 5:30 today, there were two trailers in the parking lot. One was a tandem-axle Skeeter trailer, the other another full-size bass-boat trailer, the brand name of which I don't recall.

In any event, a couple anglers or pairs of anglers had launched in that skinny water today. I reckon they figured the worst they could do was just to stir up a little more mud than already is in the water and has been there for weeks now. I didn't look for a fishing report from either because, quite frankly, I couldn't place either rig in the parking lot, so there's no better than a 50-50 chance they'll ever see this blog post and respond to it.

This much I do know: If they weren't doing any better than my friend Mark Ingram was earlier today when I called him, they likely won't have anything to brag about. Mark was fishing the first tourney of the year with his Stateline Bass Anglers Club down at Bob's Fishing Hole. And when I called him around noon, the only thing he had to report was low, muddy water; a trolling-motor battery going dead on him; and an outboard that wasn't running right. Needless to say, I didn't take up much of his time, because I figured he already had enough on his plate.

If I get any "good news" reports from anyone later, be assured I'll post a new item with all the details. I've had about all these "bad news" reports I can stand. C'mon, somebody catch a great big 'un and tell me all about it...complete with pictures.

Norfolk Lakes: Dasheill's Show Room (757) 539-7854. Drew Dixon says that high winds have kept anglers away. The water is somewhat stained and in the low 50s.

Blackwater and Nottoway: By Riverkeeper Jeff Turner Contributed by Riverkeeper Jeff Turner. Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 28th through the 2nd on the Blackwater below Franklin. The water was high at 1.30 ft. on the Franklin USGS gauge, 44 degrees and just a little stained. Air temperatures ranged from 35 to 52 degrees. The fishing on this trip was not great. I talked to a feller that had caught four shad, but he had been there trying a long time. I caught a speckle, 4 yellow perch, 2 small rockfish and 2 largemouth bass of which one weighed about 2 pounds. We are in that kinda transition period right now between winter and spring. The fishing is usually pretty tough through this period and then it just explodes and everything starts biting. By the time you read the bite should be a little better.

Editors Note...

Jeff Turner reports that the VDGIF boat ramp on the Nottoway at Rt. 671 known as the 'Hercules Landing' is now closed. A new ramp is being constructed across the street, but due to weather delays the projected February 25th completion date was not possible. The closure of the old ramp was done earlier than expected due to the DOT bridge expansion project. As of posting time the VDGIF Regional Facilities Manager advised they anticipate a completion date of the new ramp by the end of March. If you want to fish this part of the river you will have to put in at the VDGIF ramp on Rt. 258 and run the 13 miles upriver. Updated information will be posted on the VDGIF Facility Closures & Alerts page and the Outdoor Report as soon as new information becomes available.

Upper James: Contributed by local guide Jared Harker of Confluence Outfitters LLC, (434) 941-9550. The smallmouth bite is definitely picking up. We still need a few more warm days to trigger smallmouths out of their wintering grounds and into their pre spawning areas. With fluctuating water temperatures and levels this time of year they can be hard to pinpoint since they may bounce back and forth. Though they won't begin to spawn until around the 60 degree water temperature mark, they will over the next few weeks change in their feeding habits. They will move from their deeper wintering grounds and into the areas they like to spawn, back and forth depending on the river and weather conditions. Start to make a shift to jerkbaits, swimbaits, and spinners, but if they aren't responding, don't hesitate to move back to deeper cover and fish a tube along the bottom. The most important thing to remember is that the larger fish will make this move first which is why some of the biggest fish of the year are caught between now and early April. Don't expect to have over 50 fish days just yet, but expect when you do connect it could be the fish of a lifetime! Tight-lines! For other up to date fishing info and reports check out and give us a like on Facebook! We keep our Facebook page updated often!

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Local Guide, Captain Mike Hoke, Life's Revenge Guide Service, (804) 357-8518. Captain Mike told me that the bass are biting white spinners in the tidal creeks. Crappie action is quite good in the Barge Pits and the tidal creeks. Use the traditional minnows and jigs. Cats are going for cut eel and cut shad. Both white and yellow perch have shown up and are taking bloodwooms and Silver Buddies. Stripers are in the lower James, below Hopewell, and are attacking rattletraps, bucktails and bloodworms. The water is muddy and in the mid 40s.

Upper and Lower Tidal James: Contributed by Capt. Mike Ostrander, James River Fishing School, Discover the James, (804) 938-2350. Blue catfishing has been pretty good on the main channel of the James River. Big fish this week has been 52 pounds, two weeks ago, our big fish was a 71 pound blue cat. Cats are also being caught in the old river channel, but the main seems to be producing more consistently. Funny thing about fishing, as well all know, but this trend could completely reverse itself overnight and fishing will be better in the old river channels. With that said, be sure to try different depths and notice any patterns when you catch fish. If you find it hard to get any bites, try a new area. Good luck and look for the bite to pick up as we get into the full swing of the late winter and early spring season.

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, (434) 286-3366. As the length of daylight along with the water temperature starting to climb, we all start to get the itch to fish. Although the smallmouth's metabolism is still low they are starting to stir about more than just a few weeks ago. It's at this time of year with the water temperatures in the low to mid 40s that I'll go searching with claw dad patterns. The mouths of tributary's along with spring influxes and /or the sunny side of the river will find the warmer water at this time. Current breaks either submerged or rock gardens with some depth will hold a fish or two. Remember that the smallmouths are still a little sluggish and want to expend as little energy as possible. I'll spend most of my time fishing the wintering holes. Look for some depth that has chunk rock, boulders and/or ledge bottoms. The fish feel secure and looking for that easy meal here. By crawling, hopping or swimming a claw dad pattern in these areas you stand to catch possibly your biggest fish of the year!

Gearing up with at least a 7 weight rod (preferably an 8 weight) is recommended. I go with an 8 to 10 lb. fluorocarbon leader. The river is generally running a little higher and has a stronger current in late winter so a sink tip line may be required along with heavy weighted flies. You want to get down fast to hit the strike zone. Cast past your intended target and bring your offering into the zone as too not spook the fish. The size flies I use at this time range from 1/0 to size 2. Water clarity plays a role in the colors I choose to throw. But most of the time I will start with a dark color. I really like a Black/Blue combo or all black. Another go to color is a Brown/ Chartreuse. As the water warms a little I'll switch up and start throwing olives, tans, brown/orange or an olive/orange combo. The patterns you'll see in my early spring box will have CK Claw Dads, Rhodes' Rattle-n-Claw, and Rhodes' Low Life along with some Trow Tubes. A good searching pattern is a Lead Head Twist & Shout. As the water temperatures rise into the high 40s to low 50s baitfish patterns will come into play-but I'll cover those at another time. The best advice I can give is to throw big flies. You will be amazed at the quality size fish you will net. Besides the smaller fish will be just as willing to gobble up a bigger offering as well.

Kerr Reservoir: Bob Cat's Lake Country Store, (434) 374-8381. Bobby Whitlow Jr. told me that local bass are going for jerkbaits, rattletraps and shallow cranks. Crappie are biting minnows and jigs in the creeks. No word on cats, perch or bluegill. Stripers are in the creeks and will take shad either casting or trolling. The water is a good color and in the mid 40s to low 50s.

James at Lynchburg: Angler's Lane, (434) 385-0200. Tom Riesdorf says that the water has been too cold for good smallie fishing. In the Jackson, rainbows and browns are going for prince nymphs. The brookie bite is good, although there have been no big hatches yet. Try hare's ear nymphs. The water is clear and in the low 40s.

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 is back open, and according to Craig Karpinski the bass bite is "picking up". Fish the deep lake points and use jigs and cranks. Crappie are being coy, but should come around soon. Cat action is good with stinkbait and cut bait. No word on bream. The water is 45 and clear.

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, 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 reports that it's time to get your big bass. Try throwing Alabama Rigs or using swimbaits on the lake. In the river the muskie bite is good with live trout or live suckers. The water has a good color and is in the low to mid 40s.

Upper New River: Contributed by Captain Forest Pressnell, (540) 818-5274, New River Charter. The Upper New River is fishing very well right now. Water conditions have varied with on and off heavy rains but it has been green to dingy which beats the mud we had for awhile. The walleye spawn is starting up a little late as the cold temperatures have kept the water at 37 degrees but clients are landing some nice Citation walleye. Steve Petruzzi from Chesterfield, VA. leads the NRC contest in the walleye division so far with a nice 27 inch, 8 lb. fish. We'll see how that holds up. Jig/shiner is popular with many people but look for the big eyes on jerkbaits. Muskie have been a bit, elusive or maybe I should say finicky about hitting as of late but that is to be expected as their spawn grows near. Be safe and warm on the river, it seems Spring will never get here!

New River: Tangent Outfitters, (540) 257-0415. Shawn Hash told me there has not been much smallie action out his way. The muskies are on the move and are taking big tubes, jigs and big cranks. Walleye are going for jerks. By the time this report reaches you the water should have warmed up to the low 50s.

Top New River: Contributed by local guide Richie Hughes, owner of New River Trips LLC. The trout creeks in the area of the Top New (Mouth of Wilson to Fries) are still the best bet in this area, although a few smallmouth were caught on a recent trip down the New using crankbaits and jerkbaits; also try jigs and tubes. Water levels are dropping after some rain last week; water temp is lower 40s. Early season is a great time to get a very large smallmouth, although numbers will not be plentiful. Check your gear and make sure your fishing license is still valid before you head out for the first time this year.

New River: Contributed by Britt Stoudenmire, 540-921-7438, owner of New River Outdoor Co. and host of The Life Outdoors w/Britt & Leigh. The New River is finally in good shape and has a pea green tint. Water temperatures have been as low as 38 degrees recently with the snow runoff and have begun to warm back into the 40s quickly. Smallmouth action is picking up by the day, and we have been on some very good fish early. March is big smallmouth time. Muskie action is right where it should be, and downsizing is producing the best action as we move quickly towards the March full moon and spawn. For more exciting action from the New River, don't miss The Life. Outdoors w/Britt & Leigh's March episode; "And Then There Was GIANT..." NOW airing at featuring Britt's hunt for one of the New River's baddest smallmouth, GIANT!!

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

Upper James: Contributed by Andrew Fenstermaker, 540-921-7438, Lead Guide for James River Outdoor Co. Water levels have risen over the last few days from the snow runoff while water temperatures have varied from 38 to 42 degrees. Water clarity has also varied from 2 to 4 inches. We have been targeting muskie on both fly and conventional gear with success hitting the big days and fishing through the tougher days as is the norm for this time of year during the last part of the PEAK season for the heaviest muskie. Smallmouth action has begun to pick up, however, the smallmouth have yet to disperse from their winter holes. Hungry smallmouth in their winter holes makes for some exciting action!

North and South Forks of the Shenandoah: Harry Murray (540) 984-4212 Harry says that the smallmouth streams are too cold to fish.

In the Valley, snow runoffs are keeping the water at a good temperature and clear. Fish deeply, using caddis imitators. Good flies are: Murray's Olive Caddis Pupa, size 14; Murray's Brown Caddis Pupa, size 14; Mr. Rapidan Olive Soft Hackle, size 14.

It's too cold to go for the brookies.

Please remember that Harry updates his website twice a month, so you can always get fresh information, it's at

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

Lake Moomaw: Local Guide, Mike Puffenbarger, (540) 468-2682, Check Puff's website and his articles in Woods & Waters Magazine for updates on Lake Moomaw fishing action and opportunities. Winter has made its appearance here in western Virginia with very little snow fall till this last week with several ice storms. Puff notes, "Lot's of activities in the woods with maple syrup producers running sap lines and making ready for another sap season. Seems blaze orange has give way to woolrich plaids and carhartts. With the Highland County Maple Festival just around the corner (March 8-10 & 15-17) spring will be here before you know it." Come up to Bolar to our store and maple syrup making shop at Southernmost Maple to get some great country cookin', local crafts, fresh maple syrup, information on fishing the VA Highlands, spring gobbler hunting and tips on cooking wild game, "From the Kill to the Grill."

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.

Quantico Bay: Contributed by local angler Scott Torgerson. No report this edition.

Potomac and small ponds around Ashburn: Contributed by local angler Tyler Folts. The water is steadily getting warmer and with the warmer water the fish are starting to move up shallow and become more active. Bass are being caught on isolated rocks or brush piles 4 to 8 ft deep on a Texas rigged rage craw. Some bass are also roaming the shallows sunning themselves in the more intense sunlight. Crappie are not schooled up yet but can be caught on 2 inch white curly tail grubs worked slowly along the bottom.

Occoquan Reservoir: Contributed by local angler Jim Thomas. After recent rains the lake is extremely muddy and fishing is nearly non-existent.

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. No report this edition.

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

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

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.

ODU Magazine™ launched its website in December 2011 and followed immediately with our first digital fishing magazine. From the beginning, ODU Magazine™ has 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 our 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.

Open water spring fishing will be hitting all of us soon and for some, ice fishing is still running hard. The February edition of ODU Magazine touches on both sides. Redfish action to all types of bass fishing are covered. As for those anglers into late ice, bluegill and walleye fishing tips are here as well.

Are you looking into a new boat this year? We start off with a "WHY" to "BUY" new boat article in this edition, followed in March with a very comprehensive boat buyers section to look forward to. Bass boats, Jon's, Fish-n-Ski's, Bay's, and more will be included. ODU has been hard at work reviewing the new boats for this year and we have picked out the top boats any of our staff would be very happy in having in their "Boat House".

  1. Redfish In The Marsh, Pg. 8
  2. Looking Ahead To Open Water, Pg. 14
  3. Depth and Speed, Pg. 17
  4. Cranking Up The Spring Bass Bite, Pg. 20
  5. Making the Most Of Mild Winter, Pg. 22
  6. Spring Time Equals Slab Time!, Pg. 26
  7. Out For An Evening Of Fishing, Pg. 29
  8. Heading Off Big Bass At The Spring Pass, Pg. 31
  9. We Used To Catch Fish Here, Pg. 34
  10. The Art Of Finding Fish, Pg. 41
  11. Early Season Walleyes On Jigs, Pg. 42
  12. Angling Ethics, Common Sense Linked, Pg. 45
  13. The Deep Adjustment for Walleyes, Pg. 50
  14. Targeting Drops, Pg. 54
  15. Five Reasons to Buy a Boat this Winter, Pg. 56
  16. Blind Fishing Boat / Feel the Bite!, Pg. 61
  17. Bluegill Secrets Revealed, Pg. 70
  18. Bug Brained Perch at Late Ice, Pg. 76
  19. Winter's Last Silver Flash, Pg. 80

Click here to read this edition of ODU Magazine, or click on any of the above titles to go directly to the story.

And please, enjoy the outdoors,
Larry Thornhill, Editor and Chief,
Bill Schwarz, Assistant Editor,

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

View video about the snakehead

Get your kids hooked on fishing!

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Winning Outdoor Adventure Stories from Young Writers

With spring on horizon, college students are planning 'adventures' for the annual rite of Spring Break. While many take to the sunny warm beaches further south, more adventurous students head to the great outdoors... hiking the Appalachian Trail, rafting down raging rivers, or as one VA Tech Freshman choose, a caving experience in Mexico... Sarah Crowder is a freshman working towards a Bachelor's degree in Geography at Virginia Tech. Though she has lived in Montgomery County, Virginia all her life, her main goal for the future is to work in as many different countries as possible as an environmental activist. In her free time, Sarah enjoys caving, hiking, writing, and hanging out with friends. Other interests include learning new languages and experiencing new cultures or ways of thinking. She hopes to indulge these interests both through the diverse study body at Virginia Tech and through travel opportunities.

Mostly On Rope

By Sarah Crowder

Have you ever repelled a 210 foot drop on a 195 foot rope? I certainly hadn't until I ventured into a Mexican cave called Rio Choy late last December. Believe me, it's really not as bad as it sounds as long as you do it right.

Despite news reports of drug trafficking and violence in Mexico, four of my friends and I piled into a Suburban with all our caving gear and began the 34 hour drive to Cuidad Victoria the day after Christmas. Our plan was to tour the Western half of the country over the course of two weeks to repel some of the biggest open-air pits in the world. Ironically, it was the shortest drop we repelled that truly caught my attention.

After taking a day or two to stretch our legs and adjust to the heat, we left Victoria and made our way to a small quarry outside Taninul. With the permission of the locals, we parked the car, unpacked our caving gear, and began the hike through the mountains to Rio Choy. The glaring sun beat down on our necks as we followed a meandering path overlooking the sugarcane fields far beneath us in the valley below. Lizards skittered on the rocks at our feet, the lush Mexican jungle around us teeming with unseen life. A little more than a mile from the car, we encountered a railroad bridge forging a path over a river that seemed to erupt out of the mountain itself. We had reached our destination.

We turned to climb the side of the steep slope before us, eager to reach the cave ahead. Suddenly the trees gave way to a gaping hole in the face of the rock: the entrance. Some locals stood solemnly to the side of the cavern, but smiled when they saw us coming. They explained in broken English that the cave was sacred, as one of the stalactites had taken the form of the Virgin Mary. Indeed, if you looked out from the small viewing platform carved into the stone, there was a formation that resembled a kind looking woman. We asked if it was a crime to repel the cave. With a smile, one of the men replied "We'll see you at the bottom."

We rigged our rope to a column of rock that reached from the floor to the ceiling and one by one began the 210 foot repel. Before I knew it, it was my turn. My nerves began to jangle; I knew it wouldn't be your average, run-of-the-mill drop. With a few deep breathes, I clipped my repelling equipment into the rope and began the descent. At first, it was not much different than the caves I had done in Virginia. Chilled air seemed to dance with dust as I shown my light on rock swirled with mud and mineral deposits. The darkness was peaceful, a welcome escape from the burning sun, and the sound of the rushing water below gave the repel a dreamlike quality. After about 100 feet, I reached a ledge large enough to stand on. I stopped, gazing out over the magnificent view below me, made suddenly visible by a large skylight in the ceiling of the cave. A beam of sunlight streamed down, illuminating an azure pool of still water beneath me. Several hundred feet to my right, the passage narrowed, forming a swift current over gentle rapids. Three of my friends were smiling up at me as they floated leisurely in the deep, calm portion of the spring.

"Come on, Sarah, it's fun!" they called up to me, and I lowered myself over the ledge to finish the repel and join them at the bottom.

I didn't take me long to repel the length of the rope, but about 15 feet above the water, I stopped short. I was 195 feet down a 210 foot pit, and I had reached the end of the rope.

"Come on guys, did you really have to make it that high?" I asked, my voice tinged with exasperation and excitement as I stared down at the deep water beneath me.

"Just do it, it's fine" they yelled back, amused. I took a deep breath, and let go. For a split second, I was suspended in the air, comically falling while still in repelling position. With a splash, I hit the sparkling blue water beneath me and quickly swam to the surface, laughing before I even emerged. After some excited banter, my three friends floated out of the cave on the current of the river, and I remained behind to ensure the last member of our group got down safely. Once he was down, we took a moment to appreciate the view one last time and swam out the lower entrance of the cave, bats flitting around us to greet the coming night.

We finished the hike back up the mountain towards the upper entrance just in time to see the sun setting over the Mexican countryside. A flock of vibrant, green macaws leapt into the air around us as we gazed silently out into the horizon as if to intensify the majestic scene. The spell faded as the sun disappeared over the edges of the Earth, and we were plunged into darkness. And so, exhausted from our play, we switched on our headlamps and began the walk towards Taninul, food, and the rest of the adventures that lay ahead.

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 has been completed and the 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:

In upcoming editions of the Outdoor Report, look for: