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TOBER 2012 contents 



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NUCS: A New Game in Town 

by Clarke C. Jones 

Two new events in the dog trials circuit are 
designed for you to hone skills while having fun. 

Reaching Out to American Heroes 

by Ben Swenson 

Hampton Roads kayak fishermen make a splash with 
far-reaching ripples through this tournament. 

Saltwater Fly Fishing Beckons 

by Beth Hester 

Looking for a way to expand your fishing range and 
repertoire? Try this! 

Virginia's Watery Wonderlands 

by Clenda C. Booth 

Why should we care about protecting wetlands? 
They are biological supermarkets. 

O O A Quest For Snakeheads 

by King Montgomery 




The waters of the Potomac watershed are teeming 
with these toothy invaders. Catch one for dinner. 

Habitat, Where the Fish Are At! 

by John Copeland 

Fisheries biologists work statewide to improve lake 
habitat for fish. . . and, of course, you. 

Virginia's Own: Jim Clay 

by Bruce Ingram 

A seasoned turkey hunter and box call maker shares 
a bit of home-grown advice. 

2012-2013 Hunt Guide 

Field biologists share their insights about the 
coming hunting seasons. 


45 Off the Leash • 46 Photo Tips • 47 Dining In 

About the cover: Gobbler hunting. Story on page 28. ©Tommy Kirkiand 

Executive Director 

Recently I was saddened to learn of the passing of longtime out- 
doors columnist Bill Anderson from Birchleaf, Virginia. Bill's 
column was one of the longest-running outdoors columns in the state, 
and he will be sorely missed by sportsmen and women in his beloved 
Southwest. I enjoyed Bill's writings and the occasional telephone chat 
with him. One of the last conversations we had concerned our Depart- 
ment's intent to re-introduce elk to Virginia. Bill was pro elk and he 
fully supported the plan to restore them. In recalling his work, I am 
made mindful of the fraternity of outdoor writers that I have been 
privileged to know and in no small way benefit from. Growing up in 
the New River Valley, I was a faithfiil reader of Bill Cochran's column; 
I still enjoy teasing Bill about the fact I grew up reading his work! In my 
home town of Radford, the first outdoor writer I read was a contribu- 
tor to the newspaper for which I was a carrier, or paperboy — as I think 
we were referred to back then. Jim Rutherford was his name, and I re- 
call he wrote a lot about boating and Claytor Lake. 

Later in my career, I was introduced to other Virginia outdoor 
writers, including the late Bob Gooch, the late Max Ailor, the late Gar- 
vey Winegar, and Bob Hutchinson and Wallace Coffey. All of these in- 
dividuals, whom I consider "old school," were revered by their readers. 
They were great storytellers and educators. They entertained with 
their individual styles and yet they informed folks about issues and im- 
pacts. They supported our Department every chance they could, but 
they also took us to task when we fell short, and rightfijUy so. We are a 
better wildlife agency because of it. 

I think it is fair to say that the newspaper business has changed 
dramatically, and along with it, the outdoor writing game has changed 
to include many more activities: "extreme this" and "extreme that," 
along with mountain biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, kayaking, 
and more. A fresh generation of writers plies their craft in the new 
world of social media and in ways never before imagined. I am told it is 
progress, but I must confess I miss the larger-than-life writers (in some 
cases, characters) who had the look and feel for figures like Robert 
Ruark and Ernest Hemingway and Jack O'Connor and Fred Bear. 
Here's thanking those gifted writers for all they have meant to Vir- 
ginia's wildlife! 

Perhaps I am old school, too, because I still believe in the power of 
print. Sally Mills and staff have done it again with a great line-up of ar- 
ticles in this September-October issue. My spirits soar when the fall 
comes, and reading about field trials and the hunting guide in this 
issue will whet your appetite for going afield. Jim Clay is one of the 
most gifted educators and turkey hunters I know. Heed his advice on 
the "how-to" for turkeys. Snakehead fish fascinate me; the article on 
where and how to locate them is a must for snakehead anglers. Im- 
proving lake habitat, a fishing tournament for wounded warriors, and 
a review of saltwater fly-fishing tackle and methods help round out this 
hefty issue. 

Arrival of the fall season also serves as a fresh reminder of the hon- 
orable mission undertaken by Hunters for the Hungry. Please note the 
artwork featured on page 31, which benefits that fine organization 
(more information available on page 44). 

We look forward to seeing you out there somewhere! 


To manage Virginia's wiidlift- and inland Hsh to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth: To 
provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights 
of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safety for persons and property in 
connection with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appre- 
ciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources 

VOniMh 73 



Bob McDonnell, Governor 


Subsidized tiii.s publication 

Douglas W. Domenech 



Bob Duncan 

Executive Director 


Lisa Caruso, Church Road 
J. Brent Clarke, IIL Great Falls 
Curtis D. Colgate, Virginia Beach 
Ben Davenport, Chatham 
Garry L. Gray, Bowling Green 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria 
Hugh Palmer, Highland Springs 
F. Scott Reed, Jr., Manakin-Sabot 
Leon O. Turner, Fincastle 
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland 


Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Contributing Editors 

Emily Pels, Art Director 

Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 

John Copeland, Mike Fies, Matt Knox, Ben Lewis, 

Gary Norman, Marc Puckett, Jaime Sajecki, 

Staff Contributors 

Printing by Progress Printing Plus, Lynchburg, VA. 

Virginia Wildlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published monthly 
by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 
Send all subscription orders and address changes to Virginia 
Wildlife, P. O. Box 830, Boone, Iowa 50036. Address all 
other communications concerning this publication to Vir- 
ginia Wildlife, P. O. Box 11 104, 4010 West Broad Street, 
Richmond, Virginia 23230-1 104. Subscription rates are 
$12.95 for one year, $23.95 for two years; $4.00 per each 
back issue, subject to availabiliry. Out-of-country rate is 
$24.95 for one year and must be paid in U.S. funds. No re- 
funds for amounts less than $5.00. To subscribe, call toll- 
free (800) 710-9.369. POSTMASTER: Please send all 
address changes to Virginia Wildlife, PC). Box 830, Boone, 
Iowa 50036. Postage for periodicals paid at Richmond, VIr 
ginia and additional entry offices. 

Copyright 2012 by the Virginia Department of Game and 
Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall afford 
to all persons an equal access to Department programs and 
facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national ori- 
gin, disability, sex, or age. If you believe that you have been 
discriminated against in any program, activity or facility, 
please write to: Virginia Department of Game and Inland 
Fisheries, ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broad 
Street.) P O. Box 1 1 104, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1 104. 

This publication is intended for general informational pur 
poses only and every effort has been made to ensure its ac- 
curacy. The information contained herein does not serve as 
a legal representation offish and wildlife laws or reflations. 
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does 
not assume responsibility for any change in dates, regula- 
tions, or information that may occur after publication. 

-''V, 1 





Working as a team, Marlene Sipes directs one of her Labs to another part of the field 

by Clarke C.Jones 


uke and I are sitting obediently 
behind one of those large, round 
hay bales as the bird boy puts 
out three pheasants. I am not allowed to see 
where the birds are being placed in this 10- 
acre field, but I'm hoping Luke will take a 
peek and give me a heads up. Unfortunately 
(for me), a couple of cute little female Nova 
Scotia duck tolling retrievers saunter by and 
he is thoroughly distracted. The scorekeeper 
motions us forward, hands me six 12-gauge 
shells, and asks, "Are you ready?" I glance at 
Luke — who is always ready — and then nod 
in the affirmative. 

Luke is at heel when we arrive at the 
gatepost, which is our starting point. I com- 

mand him to "Hunt 'em up!" and the score- 
keeper starts his stopwatch. Luke takes off like 
a shot. My job is to keep up with him as he 
sniffs the air and ground to track down the 
first of the three pheasants hiding somewhere 
in the grasses. 

Hunting with your dog is fiin but himt- 
ing with a group of about 1 00 people watch- 
ing you is a little uncomfortable. Luke could 
care less. He is in his element and doing what 
he loves to do. I am not worried about how he 
will perform in this new type of field trial (at 
least, new to me), but I do know that if I shoot 
at a pheasant and don't kill it cleanly, it may 
sail for quite a distance. Luke, accustomed to 
my spotty shooting, is used to chasing pheas- 
ants a couple of hundred yards and then 
tracking them down to retrieve to me. In fact, 
he can get darn smug about it when he brings 

them back and often rolls his eyes as if to say, 
"Boy — ^what would you do without me!" 

Chasing and retrieving a pheasant into 
the next county might be impressive on a 
hunt, but there is a stopwatch clicking off 
time and a bird that a dog has to find. If we 
take too long, we lose. Suddenly, Luke is get- 
ting birdy! My hands are getting sweaty. His 
tail is rotating faster than a swizzle stick at a 
bar on Saturday night. He punches his way 
through the tall grass. I rush in, trying to stay 
close. Luke dives into a thick bunch of cover 
and up roars a cock pheasant, cackling his dis- 
pleasure. I bring the gun up and fire. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Dogs participating in one form of competi- 
tion or another most assuredly began before 
the inception of the National Field Trial 


Scorekeeper Bill Crowley prepares to add points for the shot by Richard Sipes and retrieve 
byhisLab, Uno. 

Association Championships in 1896, by 
those who loved bird hunting dogs and feh it 
necessary to try to formalize a way to measure 
a national champion bird dog. Setting a na- 
tional standard for excellence would, it was 
thought, improve the breeding of bird dogs. 
And while it may have proven to some which 
was the best pointer or setter for a particular 
year, it was open only to pointers and setters 
and to those few gentlemen who had the 
means to either train bird dogs or hire some- 
one who could. Field trials for retrievers came 
along much later — in 1 936 — per the Ameri- 
can Kennel Club. According to the American 
Kennel Club's website, the first National Am- 
ateur Championship Stake for retrievers was 
held in 1957. 

As in many sports, the growth of a com- 
petition fuels the intensity of winning and the 

value of possessing a champion canine in- 
creases. More effort is required to meet the 
growing competition, and that usually re- 
quires more resources of both time and 
money. It became increasingly difficult for a 
non-professional to compete in retriever field 
trials, and the tests for a retriever to become 
the National Field Trial Champion seemed 
less and less like normal hunting situations. 
Retriever owners seeking to test their dogs in 
ways they felt were more realistic hunting sit- 
uations started new clubs and organizations 
such as NAHRA, which held its first trial just 
outside of Richmond nearly 30 years ago. ^ 
Out of these organizations, tests for retrievers ^, 
developed into hunt tests because they simu- ± 
late what a dog may be required to do in an 
actual hunting situation. In a similar way, 
bird dog owners have formed various tests for 


Ladies like Donna Gartner from Statesville, NC, 
with English setter Jody participate frequently 
in NUCS trials. 


A scorekeeper records the shot by Marlene Sipes along with her dog's retrieve. 

their dogs, which attempt to measure both the 
pointing and flushing breeds' excellence in the 

Hunt tests and field trials are a means to 
keep your hunting dog sharp and ready for the 
next season, afi:er the current hunting season 
closes. In areas of the country where both 
habitat and quail are still available, that may 
hold true. However, the combination of limit- 
ed wild quail, somewhat difficult access to wa- 
terfowl, and the continual decline of the birds' 
natural habitats means hunting dogs may be 
doing more trialing and less hunting all year 
'round. Running your dog in hunt tests or 
field trials is certainly a worthwhile and 
healthy activity, but it is the dog's skill and in- 
telligence that is measured. The disadvantage 
is that human participation can be relegated to 
more of a trainer/handler position and less of a 

bonded hunting partner with one's dog. As a 
result, other forms of hunt tests or field trials 
have evolved, which attempt to re-establish 
the human and dog hunting partnership that 
began eons ago, developing into trials for 
non-hunting dogs as well. 

In the late 1 970s an organization called 
the National Shoot to Retrieve Association 
was formed to allow pointer and setter own- 
ers to compete against each other in a simu- 
lated hunting situation, where a dog and his 
owner/handler would hunt placed birds in a 
prescribed area. The hunter/dog teams that 
are the most productive within a set time 
frame win the competition. These events 
have become more and more popular over 
the years and the competitions are set up all 
across the United States, culminating in a na- 
tional championship. 

Two events, the National Upland Classic 
Series (NUCS) and the National Bird Dog 
Circuit — open to both pointing dogs and 
flushing dogs, have emerged as the latest hunt- 
ing trials where you and your dog can partici- 
pate as a team. There are individual fields or 
trial areas set up of anywhere from 7 to 1 2 
acres. Flushing dogs work in one field and 
pointing dogs work in a different field. In each 
field has been placed three pheasants or other 
game birds. The hunter is given six shells. 
When the hunter and his dog enter the field, 
they are followed by a scorekeeper who starts a 
stopwatch. The hunter/dog team has a speci- 
fied time limit in the field. The hunter who 
shoots the birds and then has his or her dog re- 
trieve the birds in the shortest amount of time, 
with the least amount of shots fired, wins the 
trial. There is no judging of performance of 




the Open Class is for dogs over 3 years. There 
is also a doubles teams category, where father/ 
son, husband/wife, or you and a friend who 
may not have a dog but loves to hunt can par- 

Richard and Marlene Sipes recently 
hosted the NUCS and Circuit events at Lib- 
erty Corners Farm in Esmont. Dog owners 
lacking a place to hunt their dogs are drawn to 
these events, and because these trials are open 
to any hunting breed, you will see a larger va- 
riety of hunting dogs than at other trials. Ed 
Callendar, from Woodbridge, brought his 
two good-looking Nova Scotia duck tolling 
retrievers (first noticed by Luke) to participate 
n their first trial, and Jason Pittman from 

girlfriends are coming to the tournaments to 
participate or watch — the ladies are enjoying 
the camaraderie and support enthusiastically 
the women competing in the sport." 

Both the National Upland Classic and 
the National Bird Dog Circuit offer a fiin, rel- 
atively inexpensive way to hunt with your dog. 
For the bird hunter, these trials offer a brief 
tune-up for their hunting companion. For 
those who have always wanted to give bird 
hunting a tiy or just see what their hunting 
dog might do if given the chance to hunt real 
game, it offers that opportunity. 

Bob Jones from Goochland County has 
owned bird dogs since 1 962 and entered the 
trial at Liberty Corners for the first time with 

hunter and dog; only a score and timekeeper 
who counts the number of shots and number 
of retrieves. 

While there are a few differences be- 
tween these two trials in scoring methods and 
the class you and your dog may participate in, 
the emphasis is to hunt and shoot with your 
dog — and to have fun doing it. They are de- 
signed to simulate hunting conditions and 
have been formatted to encourage a greater 
number of participants. For instance, in a 
NUCS, if you have never participated before 
you can be placed in the Novice Class. This 
gives every new participant a chance at win- 
ning. But once your dog has placed 1st, 2nd, 
or 3rd in the Novice Class event, you should 
move up to the Amateur or Open Class, de- 
pending upon the age of your dog. The Ama- 
teur Class is for dogs less than 3 years old and 

Contestants travel from all over to participate 
as does Gary Shellman from Maryland, sfiown 

Radiant entered his one-year-old standard 
poodle. Walker. 

"We had a blast and will definitely be 
participating in future events," declared 
Jason. "I think we did okay for our first com- 
petition. Walker found and flushed his first 
bird in five minutes, and 1 knocked the roos- 
ter down with one shot!" 

Marlene Sipes is also an active partici- 
pant in these trials and has traveled aroimd 
the country with her husband competing 
with their Labrador retrievers. "I went to a 
few tournaments with Richard last spring. I 
quickly realized how much fun it is to watch 
the dogs work the field. The tournament 
hunting is exciting and a great fit for me. Now 
my husband and I are working and traveling 
together with the dogs," said Marlene. 

As she pointed out, "More wives and 

Scorekeeper Steve Haynes registers Irving Morel 
and his German shorthaired pointer, Luney, and 
Wes Stigall witfi Engiisfi pointer Molly. 

his seven-year-old English setter, Jasper. "I 
think this is a nice event," Bob remarked. "It 
gives me a chance to walk around. If you are 
82 years old, just getting out is a great thing — 
and to do it with your dog is even better." 

As Bob pointed out, the race is not always 
won by the swift. If you view your prize as just 
spending one more day, no matter how brief 
in the field with your dog — you win! ?f 

Clarke C. Jones spends his spare time with his black 
Labrador retriever, Luke, hunting up good stories. 
You can visit Clarke and Luke on their website at 
www. clarkecjones. com. 


National Bird Dog Circuit 
Richard Sipes 
(434) 962-4049 
Richardlcf (5) 


Reaching Out to t\\^ 

The Tidewater Kayak 

Anglers' Association 

has found a novel way 

to support the 

areas veterans. 


i > •^ •• v 

by Ben Swenson 


■ ames Mac McGee knew hed be 
I hurting. The Iraq War veteran 
I knew that sitting in a kayak all day 
I long would be painful. After all, 
I he'd been through years of surger- 
W ies and rehabilitation to repair the 
^ pelvis he'd broken in three places 
during his wartime service. Despite the cer- 
tainty that pain would come, he says, "I 
wouldn't have missed it for the world." 

McGee was one of about twenty 
wounded warriors out for a day of fishing last 
September at an event in eastern Virginia 
growing in popularity every year: the Kayak 
Fish for Charity Tournament, put on by the 
Tidewater Kayak Anglers' Association 

Kayak fishermen like McGee have 
found themselves in good company in recent 
years, their craft buoyed by resources devoted 

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to making this pastime more accessible. Tes- 
tament to the sport's reputation is the grow- 
ing esteem TKAA's tournament is garnering 
among anglers. When the tournament began 
in 2005, a couple of dozen folks showed up. 
Seven years later, the number of entrants has 
swelled dramatically: In 20 11 , there were 240 
anglers. The 8th annual tournament will take 
place in September 2012 and organizers are 
expecting at least that many attendees. 

Entrants in TKAA's one-day tourna- 
ment start fishing at sunrise and may put in 
their kayaks at any public landing in the 
greater Hampton Roads area. The tourna- 
ment is catch-and-release; anglers must pho- 
tograph each fish on a TKAA-supplled ruler 
they've acquired the night before. Tourna- 
ment judges verify winning fish by looking 
over an angler's digital photo card. The day's 
timing is key, and competitors must take care 
to be in the check-in line by 4:00 P.M. A prize- 
winning fish didn't make the cut several years 
ago because the person who landed it made 


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an ill-fated decision to pick up a Slurpee after a 
hard day fishing. He was a few minutes late 
and didn't make the cut. 

There are divisions and prizes for the 
largest of targeted species: striped bass, floun- 
der, red drum, speckled trout, and a so-called 
"slam," or combination of the latter three. 
There's a freshwater division, one for females, 
and another for youth. The first, second, and 
third-place prizes awarded in each of these cat- 
egories come from the largesse of dozens of 
businesses and individuals. First-place winners 
in each division often take home a new kayak! 
Between the prizes awarded for catching re- 
markable fish and the raffle for the hundreds 
of other donated kayak fishing accessories, 
most anglers leave the tournament wdth some- 
thing to show for their efforts. Of course, that's 
not why most folks attend. 

"We're here for the prizes. We're here for 
the fishing. We're here for the camaraderie. 
But most of all, we're here for the heroes," says 
Tom VanderHeiden, addressing the mixed 
crowd of weary and windblown anglers, gath- 
ered in a hotel ballroom at the end of a long 
day. VanderHeiden is coordinator of the Tide- 
water chapter of Heroes on the Water, or 
HOW, one of the beneficiaries of the tourna- 
ment's proceeds. HOW uses kayak fishing to 

Tournament participant Marcos Rivera familiarizes himself with kayaking before dropping a line. 
Below, kayaks outfitted by Heroes on the Water and Project Healing Waters sit ready to make a 
day of fishing possible for wounded warriors. 

©Susan & Bobby Boiling Photography 



^ f^^^ 

-■ i 



help members of the military who've been in- 
jured during the course of their service. The 
act of kayak fishing speeds along their reha- 
bilitation and reintegration back into society. 

While most tournament entrants were 
far adrift, wetting lines in the hopes of land- 
ing a lunker, VanderHeiden and a handful of 
volunteers escorted a group of wounded war- 
riors out for a day of pleasure fishing in Vir- 
ginia Beach's Rudee Inlet. It was an eclectic 
gathering of veterans; most still active in their 
service, others long since retired. All seemed 
eager to take to the water. 

Israel Ramirez, a 22-year-old lance cor- 
poral in the Marines, had never been fishing 
before, much less from a kayak, but he'd never 
been one to shy away from a challenge, so 
when how's liaison at Portsmouth Naval 
Hospital asked him if he'd like to go out, 
Ramirez jumped at the opportunity. 
Ramirez thought it would be a nice diversion 
from the days he was spending recuperating 
from an injury he sustained while serving 
aboard the USS Bataan. 

"I wasn't nervous, but I knew it would be 
a little difficult with my hand being broken," 
says Ramirez, a sofi:-spoken, courteous Cali- 
fornia native. Once on the water, however, 
Ramirez overcame any physical limitation 
quickly. Call it what you will — persistence, 
beginner's luck — but Ramirez (who'd never 
been fishing, mind you) landed four nice fish: 
three spot and a pinfish. 

It wasn't a bad haul for Ramirez and fel- 
low service members, but hooking up was 
really just the icing on the cake for otherwise 
active men and women who happen to be 
sidelined by injury. "Fishing is something 
that isn't too stressful, doesn't require too 
much of people," says Ramirez. "I think most 
important is that it gets people out of their 
beds or hospital rooms or wherever they hap- 
pen to be stuck." 

It's a sentiment that McGee, who served 
with the Marines and then the Army during 
his military career, knows well, and a reason 
he was so eager to join other service members 

Tournament volunteer and blogger Rob Choi 
helps ready a lure. Right, volunteer Dave 
Bolster (L) looks over a fish reeled in by 
participant James "Mac" McGee. 


on the water. "When I was on active duty, and 
operating a crane, I could see progress. I'd 
look at a wall at the end of the day and think 'I 
did that, I accomplished something,'" he says. 

But the weeks of protracted, painstaking 
recuperation and therapy don't offer the same 
sense of usefulness and gratification, McGee 
explains. "You feel trapped in your own body. 
It becomes a daily grind: the doctor, the bed, 
the pain. And when the fishing comes along, 
it's a way to take your mind off it, even if it's 
only for the day." 

McGee was sponsored that day by an- 
other charity. Project Healing Waters Fly 
Fishing, which, like HOW, coordinates fish- 
ing trips for wounded veterans, but uses 
strictly fly fishing as a method of tackle. These 
charities rely on donations, like those provid- 
ed by TBCAA's annual tournament, and vol- 
unteers, who see to the myriad tasks necessary 
to get veterans on the water: gathering rods 
and reels, transporting kayaks, and cutting 
bait, for instance. 

One such unassuming volunteer who 
worked methodically on the blustery morn- 
ing of the tournament was 33-year-old Rob 
Choi, an illustrator from Richmond. Choi is 
passionate about fishing; he's the author of 
the blog Angling-Addict (www.angling- Last year was his first time as a 
volunteer with HOW, although he'd fished in 

the tournament before that. He says that a 
number of things compelled him to turn 
from tournament prize-seeker to tournament 

"It was the perfect opportunity for me to 
really help someone by sharing the passion I 
have for this sport," wrote Choi in a blog post 
a couple of days after the tournament. "And 
not just anyone, but someone who has put 
his coimtry before himself., someone who 
did what our country as a whole needed him 
to do and now he's stuck in a hospital. I know 
if I was in his shoes, I'd love it if someone took 
me fishing." 

Choi was paired with Lance Corporal 
Ramirez on the water the day of the tourna- 
ment, each in his own kayak. Choi provided 
knowledge from his wealth of fishing experi- 
ence when Ramirez needed a little guidance, 
and let the Marine float and fish on his own 
when he seemed to have the hang of it. "We 
worked some on casting and some other 
techniques," says Choi, "but really I was just 
more of a chaperone." Throughout the day, 
Choi occasionally paddled up to Ramirez to 
offer a tip or two, then let the current take 
him away, leaving Ramirez to fish on his own. 

That type of experience is the essence of 
both Heroes on the Water and Project Heal- 
ing Waters. These charities encourage the 
wounded warriors to do as they wish on the 

water. If the veterans choose to fish hard for 
six hours, great. If on the other hand, they 
drift along all day, enjoying the freedom and 
the novelty of the water, and barely drop a 
line — ^well that's perfectly fine too. "We give 
basic safety and fishing instructions and that's 
more or less it," says HOW's VanderHeiden. 
"We don't have an agenda. The whole pur- 
pose is for the veterans to get out of it what 
they want to get out of it. " 

The veterans who arrived at an early-for- 
a-Saturday 7 o'clock on the morning of the 
tournament weren't quite sure what to make 
of their impending fishing experience. A 
handful raised their hands when VanderHei- 
den asked who'd never been in a kayak before. 
But after some basic instructions, the veterans 
and their volunteers managed to fan out into 
all the coves and creeks of Rudee Inlet. 

Initial wariness faded quickly, and soon 
the veterans seemed more confident and 
comfortable on the water. The hours passed 
quickly, and everyone met back on shore for 
lunch. As they dined on donated pizza, there 
were already more than a few stories to tell, 
more than a litde bragging about fish they'd 
caught and, importantly, more than enough 
laughter to fill the air over Rudee Inlet. ?f 

Ben Swenson is a freelance writer and columnist. 
He lives in Williamsburg with his wife and two sons. 



Saltwater Fly I| 

New environs, new skills, new adventures. 

by Beth Hester 

I roll-cast a small, sparsely dressed Clouser 
Minnow across die brackish waters of the 
canal and begin a slow, steady strip, paus- 
ing here and there so the fly can descend inter- 
mittently toward the sandy bottom. As my fly 
edges close to the piling at the far end of the 
dock, I feel a sharp take, followed by the telltale 
circular wrangling that tells me I have a floun- 
der on the line. I net the keeper flounder, dis- 
patch it quickly, dredge the fillets lightly in 
seasoned cornmeal, and let the peanut oil sizzle. 
I bask in an uncharacteristically smuggish glow. 

Admittedly, the fly on which the fish was 
taken was not particularly complex, but the 
white and tan combo with wisps of copper 
flash was my own creation. New to fly fishing, I 
reeled in dinner — fi-esh fi-om local waters. The 
time from net to skillet: less than 20 minutes. 
There's still so much to learn, but that's part of 
the adventure, and fly fishing in salt continues 
to present me with new and increasingly satis- 
fying fishing oppormnities and challenges. 

But then rare is the angler who wouldn't 
jump at the oppormnity to expand his or her 
fishing range and repertoire, and the experience 
of fly fishing Virginia's coastal waters can be j ust 
the ticket. There is the anticipation of exploring 
new environs and the gratification of mastering 
new fly patterns and utilizing new fly-tying ma- 
terials. For anglers accustomed to the intimacy 
of small streams and bijou trout, the exhilara- 
tion of plying Virginia's vast, briny waters can 
exponentially increase fishing enjoyment. 

Our commonwealth has thousands of 
miles of tantalizing shoreline: tidal bays, ocean, 
inland bays, and lagoons. The shoreline of the 
tidal portions of Chesapeake Bay and its tribu- 
taries alone stretches 7,213 miles. Accordingly, 
we'd be remiss not to encourage anglers to reach ^ 
beyond inland waters from time to time, and 
it's helpfiil for the beginning coastal fly angler 
to seek direction from local subject-matter 

experts. There are several, well-established 
saltwater angling organizations in Virginia, 
and many of their members fly fish, but the 
Virginia Coastal Fly Anglers (VCFA) saltwa- 
ter fly fishing organization established in 1997 
has a single-minded vision: "To encourage the 
development of saltwater fly fishing in the lower 
Chesapeake Bay and adjacent waters. " 

The VCFA fosters a collective learning 
environment. They have established a news- 
letter, speaker's programs, skill development 
"schools" (knot tying, rigging, info on places 
to fish, fly tying, casting, etc.), mentoring pro- 
grams, and monthly fly-tying instruaion. Its 
members are actively involved in local river 
and Chesapeake Bay-wide stewardship initia- 
tives and also serve the community by devel- 
oping youth-targeted programs. So with 
helpfiil observations fi^om longtime members 
Ron Russell, Kevin DuBois, Mike Buss, and 
Kendall Osborne, we're encouraging readers 
to cast outside their comfort zones and experi- 
ence fly fishing along Virginia's coasdine. 


There are rods and reels specifically designed 
to withstand the rigors of angling in salt, and 
line and leader configurations intended to 

Lett, "fish blrrig " Here, an 8-weight comboiSe 
great all-around choice for a variety of saltwater 
fish species. 




help anglers cast larger flies with power and ac- 
curacy in conditions where winds and waves can 
pose a challenge. In general, weight-forward, 
floating lines are appropriate for wade fishing 
and many inshore situations, but here are some 
general guidelines. 

Kevin DuBois has a few suggestions: "In- 
shore, rods from 6 to 9 weights will do the trick. 
For larger striped bass, big red, and black drum, 
and the occasional crevalle jack or false albacore, 
1 to 11 -weight rods are best. Just about any reel 
is sufficient for inshore action. But big fish will 
test tackle so bring top-notch gear when chasing 
larger fish or heading offshore. Because of the 
variety of depths providing fishing opportunity, 
it's best to have both a fast sinking and an inter- 
mediate sinking line handy (on interchangeable 
spools). Floating lines can be used, but an inter- 
mediate line will cover the same fishing situa- 
tions effectively and provide greater versatility." 

Wade-fishing advocate Mike Buss suggests 
a floating or intermediate weight-forward line, 
or for versatility, any one of the multi-tip lines 
that connect with a series of loops. In addition, 
when wade fishing or casting from the surf, an 
ergonomically correct stripping basket can help 
control line and avoid snarls. 

Offshore rods are more often in the 1 0- to 
12-weight range, with sturdy fighting butts, and 
the reels need to be beefier, with drags designed 
to handle robust, hard-fighting fish, and arbors 
large enough to hold at least 200 yards of back- 
ing and the line. Mid- and larger arbor reels can 
help optimize line retrieval. 

Leaders don't have to be complicated af- 
fairs. Many saltwater species aren't particularly 
spooked by leaders. Kevin explains: "Most of the 
time I have a 12" butt section of 20lb test con- 
nected to a 5- to 6-foot section of 8lb test — not a 
whole lot of tapering with a multitude of differ- 
ent tests and diameters. There are only a few 

Tricia Neill with black drum caught around 
Chesapeak Bay Bridge-Tunnel. 

special circumstances when you need to devi- 
ate from a simple leader formula." 

Bottom line: Your gear selections needn't 
break the bank, and your lines and leaders 
need not be painfully intricate. However, all 
components — reel, reel seats, and guides — 
should be corrosion-resistant. Some specialty 
fly lines are designed to cast consistently well 
in the hot, semi-tropical heat of the summer 
coast, other models are designed for colder wa- 
ters or for specific quarry such as striper. The 
most trusted and well-known purveyors of fly- 
fishing equipment have quality equipment at 
various price points. Purchasing your gear 
from local shops means on-the-spot expert ad- 
vice and the ability to cast before you buy. 

The Flies 

You need only a handfiil of saltwater flies to 
get started, and if you begin by learning to tie 
only one fly, the Clouser Minnow in a few dif- 
ferent sizes and color variations, you'll have 
yourself a fly that will cover a host of applica- 
tions. Tying materials for salty flies are fiin and 
easy to handle, with color combinations rang- 
ing from the understated to the unbelievably 
gaudy. Once a few basic patterns are mastered, 
it's enjoyable to create Velcro dot crabs. De- 
ceivers, squid, shrimp, and various baitfish im- 
itations. The only limit is your imagination 
and the requirements of your targeted quarry. 
In the two-volume set. Flies of the Chesa- 
peake, VCFA past-president Larry Clemmons 
and member JefFDuBinok collected and com- 
piled step-by-step, fly-tying instructions for 
classic, inshore, and specialty flies for use on 
the lower Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries, and 

surrounding Atlantic coast. These flies are de- 
signed to target the most commonly encoun- 
tered species. This set is a labor of love, and 
details may be accessed on their website, at 

Knots: Keeping It Simple 

Mike Buss on knots: "Try to keep things sim- 
ple as far as knots go. I do a lot of fishing at 
night and want to keep my knots so simple 
that I can tie them with my eyes closed since I 
will be fishing with limited visibility. I use a 
double surgeon's knot to make my loops and a 
non-slip loop knot to tie my fly to my leader. I 
have a loop in the end of my fly line and I con- 
nect my leader to my fly line with a loop-to- 
loop connection. As a result, I only need two 
knots for my connections. 


"I love to fish because of the tranquility I expe- 
rience," says Mike Buss. "When I am wade- 
fishing, I become a part of nature, blending in 
and becoming a part of the fish's environ- 
ment." Favorite wading locations as cited by 
VCFA members include: 

♦ The Lynnhaven River on the Pleasure 
House Road property and the slough be- 
tween that property and the marsh is- 
land to the sea; 

♦ The Lynnhaven Inlet by the Lessner 

♦ In Norfolk, also in the autumn, good 
fishing with easy access around the 
breakwaters of East Ocean View (24th- 
28th streets); 

A coastal angler's arsenal. 

An ergonomically correct stripping basket 
controls line, nninimizing snarls. 

♦ Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern 
Shore, an excellent place to fish from 
shore early in the morning and at dusk; 

♦ The shore in front of the Cape Henry 

Saltv\/ater Quarry Through 
The Seasons 

Although anglers can fish coastal Virginia 
throughout the year, some months are better 
than others due in part to water temperatures 
and migration patterns. Here, Ron Russell 
passes on information about the quarry that 
can be found during prime fishing months. 

♦ MAY gets serious with flounder, croaker, 
and school-sized stripers showing up 
around structure and inlets. Good fishing 
this time of year is inside Lynnhaven 
Inlet, Rudee Inlet, Hampton Roads 
Bridge Tunnel, seaside of the Eastern 
Shore, and mouths of any river coming 
into the bay. Late May sees an influx of 
red drum, black drum, and good-sized 
striped bass about the time that the blue 
crabs are in their first shedding (first full 
moon of the month). 

♦ JUNE is the time for most all species 
(stripers, bluefish, drum, speckled trout, 
flounder, croaker, and cobia) to be in the 
lower reaches of the bay. The Chesapeake 
Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) is a fish mag- 
net most of the warm months, with the 
inlets seeing smaller fish of all species. 
Offshore species can begin to show with 
tuna, cobia, and bluefish. 

♦ JULY and AUGUST are stable mondis 
for what arrived in June, except for a rare 
opportunity to catch a tarpon on the sea- 
side of the Eastern Shore. There is a 
chance you may find Spanish mackerel in 
the current rips of the CBBT and around 

>, the Cape Henry point. 

I ♦ SEPTEMBER finds species congregating 
in the lower bay migrating south or east. 
The beginning of migration means heav- 
ier concentrations of fish in all areas. 
Speckled trout can be found in the inlets 
and shorelines that have marshy waters of 

I 4 to 8 feet in depth. Small bluefish are 
abundant, small-class striped bass are 
massing up around the CBBT, cobia are 
on the run south, stopping at channel 
markers to eat, big drum are moving out 
of the bay, and flounder are headed east. 

16 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.conn 

X* ■ 


Kevin Dubois with fly-caught striper off Virginia Beach. 

♦ OCTOBER finds the migration in Rill 
swing, and the lower bay is alive with ac- 
tivity of speckled trout. Bluefish, school 
stripers, speckled trout, flounder, spot, 
croaker, and smaller drum are getting 
ready for the journey south. 

striped bass months, with fish feeding 
on schools of bait scattered in the lower 
bay and around the CBBT. 

Experience the Excitement 

So whether you're surf casting along the 
beach, fishing the lower bay and its tributaries 
in kayaks or other small craft, wade-fishing. 

or scheduling a once-in-a-lifetime offshore 
charter for bigger game fish, all saltwater fly 
fishing in Virginia has its charms. 

Kendall Osborne explains why he rel- 
ishes the excitement of saltwater fly fishing: 
"I grew up catching bass and bluegills and 
have caught freshwater trout on fly, but salt- 
water fish have power and mass that cannot 
be appreciated until experienced. I love to 
freshwater fish, but the reality is the saltwater 
fish are more powerftil by far — even a one- 
pound croaker blasts a one-pound large- 

It's easy for Virginia anglers to experi- 
ence this power and excitement for them- 

selves; all it takes is a saltwater fishing li- 
cense, moderately-priced tackle, a handful 
of flies, the curiosity to scope out new terri- 
tory, and an openness to learning new skills. 
Take good care of your equipment, and 
only keep legal-sized fish. Why not join a 
saltwater fly-fishing club, attend a casting 
clinic, or seek out a mentor? You might 
make a few new angling friends in the 
process. ?f 

Beth Hester is a writer and freelance photographer 
from Portsmouth. Her passions include reading, 
shooting, kayaking, fishing, tyingsaltwater flies, 
and tending her herb garden. 


©Bill Lea 


by GlendaC. Booth 

^k ^f # hen Colonel William 
^k#m^ Byrd II surveyed east- 

▼ W em Virginia in 1728, 

he named the then one-million-acre wedand 
near today's Suffolk the Dismal Swamp, 
which signified an alliance with Satan. He 
wrote, "The foul damps ascent without ceas- 
ing, corrupt the air, and render it unfit for res- 
piration." In the 1 800s, the freshwater tidal 
wetland just south of Alexandria, today's 
Dyke Marsh, was called Hell Hole. 

For many years, wedands were the un- 
wanted stepchild of nature, seen as murky, in- 
hospitable, mosquito-ridden wastelands, 
stagnant holes of muck permeated by dense, 
dank air. Viewed as "useless" to humans, they 
often became dumps, sewage lagoons, or 
places to fill, drain, or "reclaim." 

A wetland can be called a marsh, 
swamp, bog, fen, pocosin, vernal pool, or 
mudflat, among other terms. Wedands are a 
transition zone between water and land and 
are often, but not always, wet. "In some cases, 
it will not be immediately obvious that a wet- 
land exists," states the Virginia Department 
of Environmental Quality (DEQ) website. 
Here is DEQ's definition: 

'Wedand' means those areas that are in- 
undated or saturated by surface or ground 
water at a frequency and duration sufficient 
to support, and that under normal circum- 
stances do support, a prevalence of vegetation 
typically adapted for life in saturated soil con- 
ditions. An area is considered a wedand in 
Virginia if it exhibits wetland hydrology, hy- 
dric soils, and a prevalence of wedand vegeta- 

Each wetland type is a combination of 
soil, hydrology, vegetation, and other charac- 

teristics. These "biological supermarkets" are 
among the most productive habitats on 
Earth. "In an area roughly the size of an aver- 
age desk top, there can be as many as 8,300 
animals," says Kirk Havens, who directs the 
Coastal Watersheds Program at the Virginia 
Insdtute of Marine Science (VIMS). 

And from the Virginia Marine Re- 
sources Commission (VMRC): "Marine re- 
sources are finite, provide many valuable 
services and products, and are delicately bal- 
anced in an intricate web of biological and 
physical interactions. Permanent loss of these 
resources and unnecessary alterations jeop- 
ardize this delicate ecological balance." 

Wetlands cover around five percent of 
the country's land surface but are home to 31 
percent of plant species and more than one- 
third of threatened and endangered species. 
Of Virginia's wedands, about 75 percent are 
nontidal, found primarily in bottomlands 





"Wetlands are at a tipping point," U.S. 
Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar 
has said. "While we have made great strides in 
conserving and restoring wetlands since the 
1950s, when we were losing an area equal to 
half the size of Rhode Island each year, we re- 
main on a downward trend that is alarming." 

A 2009 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service re- 
port reveals an annual loss of 59,000 acres of 
wedands in the coastal watersheds of the At- 
lantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes from 
1998 to 2004. An estimated 18 percent of 
these losses occurred in tidal salt marshes, and 
the remaining 82 percent occurred in upland 
marshes and forested wedands of the water- 
sheds. These numbers "... underscore the im- 
portance of moving quickly to protect, 
conserve, and restore these vital coastal areas 
before they are lost forever," stresses Salazar. 

Wedand loss is concentrated in coastal 
watersheds due to the large ntmiber of people 
living in and moving to coastal areas. More 
than half of the American population now 
lives in coastal counties at densities approxi- 
mately five times greater than inland counties, 
according to the Fish & Wildlife Service. 

Threats to Wetlands 

Land-use practices, chiefly development of 
many kinds, represent a major threat to wet- 
lands. "Himian activities cause wetland degra- 
dation and loss by changing water quality, 
quantity, and flow rates, increasing pollutant 

and the floodplains along stream channels. 
By contrast, tidal wetlands are distributed 
along the state's 5,000 miles of shoreline, 
lined with marshes, beaches, and mudflats. 
Around 75 percent of all wetlands in the state 
are privately owned. 

Free Ecological Services 

Wedands provide many ecological services — 
for free. Called "nature's kidneys," they en- 
hance water quality by filtering out 
pollutants. They also help stabilize shorelines, 
attenuate ddal energy, stem erosion, and con- 
trol flooding by trapping and slowly releasing 
water like a sponge. And, well known by out- 
doorsmen, wedands ofi^er aesthetic and recre- 
ational opportunities — from waterfowl 
hunting to frog watching. 

"Wedands are critical waterfowl habi- 
tat," notes the website of Ducks Unlimited. 
"Every species of duck, goose, and swan in 

North America depends on wetland habitat 
throughout their life cycle." 

Many fish raise their young here. "Wet- 
lands provide an essential link in the life cycle 
of 75 percent of the fish and shellfish com- 
mercially harvested in the U.S., and up to 90 
percent of the recreational fish catch," reports 
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
(EPA). Because of these myriad natural serv- 
ices, wetlands have tremendous economic 
value, with one estimate by the EPA at $ 1 4.9 
trillion worldwide. 

Wetlands Lost 

Since colonial times, the contiguous United 
States has lost around 53 percent of its wet- 
lands, having dropped from 221 million 
acres in the early 1600s to just over 110 mil- 
lion in 2009, the most recent data available. 
Around 40 to 45 percent of Virginia's wet- 
lands have vanished during that period. 

Yellow perch are among the many fish that 
thrive when wetlands, and water quality, are 


inputs; and changing species composition as a 
result of disturbance and the introduction of 
nonnative species," states EPA's website. Com- 
mon activities that can harm wetlands include 
depositing fill, draining for development or 
farming, channelizing streams, diking, 
damming, and expanding impervious sur- 
faces, which increase pollution. 

Another threat, nonnative plants like pur- 
ple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and phrag- 
mites (Phragmites australis) introduced to these 
ecosystems oft:en out-compete and destroy na- 
tive wetland plants and thereby lower biodiver- 

Carl Hershner, director of the Center for 
Coastal Resources Management at VIMS, pre- 
dicts that sea level rise will be between one and 
two feet over the next 50 years along Virginias 
coast. That matches a similar estimate by the 
2009 Virginia Commission on Climate 
Change of a 2.3 to 5.2 feet rise per century. At 
that rate, the state could lose between 50 and 
80 percent of its tidal wetlands, cautions Skip 
Stiles of Wetlands Watch, a commissioner. 
The commissions predicted rate of rise "is a 
death sentence to the low-lying shorelines, 
dunes, and wetlands found within a few feet of 
sea level," says Stiles. 

"A healthy tidal wetland accumulates 
enough plant material and sediment to move 
vertically, but our wetlands are under stress, 
limiting their elevation. With a two-foot-plus 
rise, wetlands that can't keep up must retreat 
into upland areas. And when those upland 
areas are built out, bulkheaded, or hardened, 
that retreat is blocked and the wetlands will 
drown in place," he maintains. 

The commission urged that the state de- 
velop a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy and 
recommended that local governments in 
coastal areas include climate change impacts — 


Wetlands Functions and Values: 
Wetlands and Stream Protection: 
Conserving Habitat for Waterfowl: 
Living Shorelines: / 


'Wetlands Regulation and Advocacy: 

especially sea level rise and storm surge — in 
land-use plans, ordinances, and shoreline 
management plans. 

Wetlands Permits 

Virginia issues permits for certain activities in 
wetlands through two programs: the Virginia 
Water Protection Program, administered by 
DEQ, and the Tidal Wetlands Program, 
managed by VMRC and local wetlands 
boards. Generally, in Virginia, a permit is re- 
quired for wedand-dismrbing activities like 
dredging, filling, or altering. 

To stabilize ddal shorelines, Virginia's 
policies are increasingly discouraging the use 
of hard structures like riprap revetments (of 
rock), bulkheads, and sea walls in wedands 
and instead encouraging what are called "liv- 
ing shorelines" where they can be effective. 
Living shorelines are non-structural ap- 
proaches that include plants, stone, sand fill, 
and bioengineered materials. Such methods 
seek to support natural processes and not 
sever the connections between uplands and 
aquatic areas. Living shorelines aim to main- 
tain the benefits to wildlife and water quality 
that a natural shoreline provides. 



wi )ve indicate a healthy freshwater wetland. 

restoring 6,000 new acres of wetlands within 
the Chesapeake Bay watershed by June 2010, 
as part of the 2000 Chesapeake Bay Agree- 
ment. While not quite there, the good news is 
that DEQ has tracked a net gain of 7, 1 9 1 
acres of nontidal wetlands and a net gain of 
1 ,473 new acres of tidal and nontidal wet- 
lands between 200 1 and 20 11 , according to 
Dave Davis, director of DEQ's Office of 
Wetlands and Stream Protection. In the 
Chesapeake Bay watershed, Virginia has re- 
stored 1,564 acres since 1998, reports the 
Chesapeake Bay Program. This is important 
because about half of the state is drained by 
Chesapeake Bay rivers. The DEQ numbers 
do not reflect all wetlands created or restored 
in Virginia, Davis cautions. 

Significant wetland areas have been im- 
proved through funds provided by Duck 
Stamp sales; others have been protected by 
this Department through the acquisition of 
wildlife management areas (WMAs). Recent 
examples include the 2,500-acre Mattaponi 
WMA in Caroline County and the 300-acre 
Merrimac Farm WMA in Prince William 
County. And through a generous grant from 
the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation 

Grant Program and partnership with the City 
of Virginia Beach, DGIF holds a conserva- 
tion easement at Pleasure House Point over- 
looking Lynnhaven Bay. More than 80 acres 
of tidal wedands and maritime forest impor- 
tant to the ecological productivity of the 
Lynnhaven River system are now protected 
from future development. 

Think Positively 

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur 
Conan Doyle called the wetland where the 
villain met his fate a "dark, quivering mire" of 
"miasmatic vapor" and "slimy water plants." 
Today, thankfully, wetlands have a new 

If you think wetlands, think Monet's 
water lilies, delicately swirling dragonflies, 
shimmering minnows, or newborn wood 
ducks catapulting into a wetland for the first 
time. Indeed, wetlands are rich biological lab- 
oratories of life. ?f 

Glenda C Booth, a freelance writer, grew up in 
Southwest Virginia and has lived in Northern 
Virginia over 30 years, where she is active in 
conservation efforts. 

In a progressive move in 201 1, Virginia 
declared as policy that the state prefers living 
shorelines to stabilize shoreline erosion in 
tidal wetlands. VMRC is implemendng this 
law and local governments are required to in- 
clude coastal resources management in their 
comprehensive plans. VIMS is currently 
preparing guidance for Tidewater localities 
that will offer an ecosystem-based approach 
to managing coastal resources. 

Wetlands Compensation 
and Mitigation 

The commonwealth has committed to "no 
net loss" of wetlands. DEQ's website states 
that " . . .wetlands that are lost or destroyed by 
development activities, such as building, 
must be replaced so that the overall amount 
of wetland acreage does not decline." The per- 
son causing the impact may be required to 
create, restore, or enhance wetlands through 
what is called compensatory mitigation. This 
generally can be accomplished through 
restoration, creation, purchase of mitigation 
bank credits, or contribution of an in-lieu fee. 
Virginia committed to a net gain of 
10,000 acres of wetlands by 2010 and to 

This grassy marsh along the lower James River attracts a host of ducks and small mammals, and is 
an important nursery area for fish and birds. 


i^j * 



' ^'^, ^^^""^ 


^^^ > 






by King Montgomery 

The May 8, 2012 Washington Post 
headline with accompanying pho- 
tograph caught my eye as I took 
another sip of early morning coffee: "N. Va. 
Angler snags a snakefish — and maybe a 
record," by J. Freedom du Lac. 

A sport fisherman named Juan Duran 
caught an 1 8-pound, almost 4-ounce North- 
ern snakehead (NSH) while bass fishing in 
the Occoquan River, a Virginia tributary of 

the tidal Potomac River. The current world 
record is a 17-pound, 4-ounce NSH caught 
in Japan. Duran hooked his fish on a Kinky 
Beaver lure, a 4.2-inch soft plastic flipping 
bait. The fish probably won't qualify for an 
International Game Fish Association (IGFA) 
record because measuring and witnessing 
protocols were not followed. 

Duran, naturally, was thrilled with his 
unexpected catch. While bass fishing he'd 
landed five other smaller snakeheads that 
ended up on dinner plates. The writer quoted 
Duran on his impression of snakeheads: 

"...they look really cool. They're like rat- 
tlesnakes with fins." 

About five weeks after Duran's enviable 
catch, the Post's Daryl Fears followed up with 
"Setting out after snakeheads," an article 
about a two-day NSH tournament staged 
from Maryland's Smallwood State Park on 
Mattawoman Creek, another tributary of the 
Potomac just across the river from Virginia's 
Leesylvania State Park. 

The event drew 1 1 participants and 
netted just over 1 ,400 pounds of snakeheads. 
What made the event unique: The fish were 



taken using bows and crossbows, mostly at 
night with lights from the boat to spot the 
fish in the shallows. The winning team 
nabbed 25 fish for 230 pounds, earning the 
five men a $ 1 ,500 first-place prize. A team of 
youngsters, none over 1 6 years, captured sec- 
ond place for $585, reported Fears. 

In Virginia waters, "Bow and arrow may 
be used to take common carp, northern 
snakehead, and gar (fishing license required) 
during day and night hours (24 hrs.), except 
from waters stocked with trout. Spearguns 
and poisoned arrows are prohibited. Snake- 
heads must be immediately killed and report- 
ed to VDGIF." (From the Department's 
freshwater fishing regulations.) 

Taking Snakeheads 

It seems fishing for Northern snakeheads 
with bass fishing tackle and bows or cross- 
bows is getting more popular. Their numbers 
continue to rise from that initial encounter 
with the exotic species in 2004 when a bass 
fisherman hooked one in the back of Vir- 
ginia's Little Fiunting Creek. The fact that 
snakeheads taste darn good might help with 
removing at least some of the population. 

"Get that dang trash fish off my lure," I 
joked with Captain Mike Starrett, a long- 
time Potomac River fishing guide and friend. 
We were on Mattawomen Creek late in the 
day and the nearly 4-pound largemouth bass 
had exploded on my black surface frog pat- 
tern. This evening I wanted to catch some 
NSH, but the bass kept getting in the way. 

Suddenly the light dimmed and clouds 
moved in as darkness approached. It would 
have been a great time for NSH (and bass) 
fishing since both species seem to get active at 
night. But off in the distance over the main 
stem of the Potomac in Virginia, lightning 
began streaking the skies and it was time to 
get off the water. (Even if lightning is a long 
way off, if you are in a boat it's time to leave, 
particularly when you're waving a graphite 
rod around. It is an efficient lightning rod and 
seriously could light up your life and end it if 
the supercharged electricity hits it.) 

Capt. Steve Chaconas (L) and DGIF fisheries biologist John Odenkirk (also shown on pg. 22) cast the 
shoreline of Little Hunting Creek for snakeheads. 

NSH are found in the same habitat as 
largemouth bass. From spring through fall 
many fish are in the backs of tributary rivers 
and creeks, and in shallow bays out of the 
main current as the tide ebbs and flows four 
times a day. And both species are active at 
night and during other periods of limited vis- 

Both species spawn in the spring de- 
pending on water temperatures, and the 
NSH is known to reproduce more than once 
a year if conditions are good. I don't like to 

fish bass on the spawning redds, but snakes are 
another matter. NSH are good parents and 
protect their spawn from predators for several 
weeks after the baby snakeheads hatch. This is 
a good time to catch NSH because they are ag- 
gressive toward intruders that mess with their 
young, and will hit lures or flies more easily. 
Still, they are not an easy fish to catch. 

NSH and bass are active predators that 
eat much the same things: smaller fishes, am- 
phibians and reptiles, crustaceans, insects, 
and, yes, each other. And NSH and bass will 

If you land a snakehead, use a Boga-Grip or look-alike to firmly hold the fish's lower jaw and keep 
your hand away from the teeth. 


Top, banded killifish are the meal 
of choice for most snakeheads 
that underwent stomach content 
analysis. Middle, report tagged 
NSH to the phone nunlber on the 
dorsal tag. Bottom, a young NSH 
shocked up in 2011. The fish are 
prolific breeders, ' 

feed on the young of their own species. Bass 
tournament anglers catch their share of 
snakeheads and, interestingly, report that 
largemouth bass sometimes regurgitate baby 
NSH when brought into the boat. As of now, 
stomach content analysis of NSH shows less 
than one percent of their diet is largemouth 
bass, but more conclusive data are needed. 

Since fish seem to be the main ingredi- 
ent on the snakehead s menu, it stands to rea- 
son that a good lure or fly that mimics those 
fishes are a good bet for enticing the fish to 
bite. Here, I'm talking about Rapalas and 
other shallow jerkbaits and shallow diving 
crankbaits. Spinnerbaits and plastic worms 
and grubs work, too. 

Standard river largemouth bass tackle in 
spinning, casting, and fly is just fine for 
NSH. Don't go too light because snakeheads 
hang out around submersed and emergent 
aquatic vegetation as well as man-made 
structure such as boat docks and bridge pil- 
ings. Fly fishers need a sturdy 8- or even a 9- 
weight rod with a weight forward floating 
line. Use a 7- to 9-foot-long leader and either 
add a 20- or 30-pound test bite tippet, or tie 
on a 6-inch piece of wire that easily can be 
tied to the leader. I use TyGer Wire and high- 
ly recommend it for these toothsome critters. 

Where to Fish 

NSH are in the main stem of the Potomac 
River, particularly in the shallower areas 
where hydrilla and/or milfoil abound. But 
that's a lot of water to cover, and anglers are 
better offfishing the creeks where it's easier to 
concentrate effort; you can also get by with a 
smaller boat such as a canoe or kayak with or 
without an electric trolling motor. 

Some of the creeks and rivers that hold 
NSH in large numbers are Little Hunting 
Creek, Dogue Creek, Pohick Bay, and the 
Occoquan and Aquia rivers. There are vari- 
ous county, state, and federal boat launch 
ramps in this stretch of the Potomac. 

You will need a boat because land access 
to the river and tributaries is very difficult. 
Those who opt for canoes and kayaks should 
stay in the creeks and not venture out onto 
the main river. There are times when the tides 
pull harder than you can row or paddle. 

Cast a lure or fly — and I'm sure legal live 
or cut bait would work as well — along the 
clusters of spatterdock that line most of the 
creeks. At higher tides, the fish are back in the 
pads, and they move out with a dropping 

tide. Frog lures that ride with two hooks fac- 
ing up along a plastic body are great for this 

Respected bass fishing guide Captain 
Steve Chaconas of Capital Bass Guide Service 
takes a number of clients out for snakeheads 
and the floating frog lures seem to work best, 
particularly since they can skim along the top 
of grassbeds that grow near the surface as 
summer progresses. Many of his clients get 
into snakeheads and virtually all catch large- 
mouth bass, and that's a pretty good deal. 

Once you land a snakehead, kill it for 
dinner. Call the Snakehead Hotline at (804) 
367-2925 to report the catch and your pos- 
session of it. If the fish has a tag sticking out of 
its back near the dorsal fin, report the number 
and location information as well. 

In Maryland waters, you must kill the 
fish and either dispose of the carcass or fillet it 
on the boat or take the fish home. Remember, 
it is against federal and state laws to transport 
live snakeheads anywhere. ?f 

Outdoors/travel writer & photographer King 
Montgomery is a former captain who guided light 
tackle and fly anglers on the tidal Potomac River. 
Contact him at Kinganglerl @aol. com. 


Before you fish, check out: 

• DepartmentofGameand Inland Fisheries 
Fishing Regulations 

• Maryland Department of Natural 
Resources Regulations 

• Ifyoufishin Washington, DC waters 
(roughly from Woodrow Wilson Bridge to 
Little Falls), see 

• Ken Penrod's Potomac River Bible, 
Volume II, (301) 937-0010, 

These guides target snakeheads: 

• Capt. Steve Chaconas, (703) 380-7119, 

• Capt. Dave Kerrigan, (301) 252-5322, 

• Capt. Mike Starrett, (301)203-0961, 

• Rob Snowhite, (703) 401-6429, 




enhance lakes 
across Virginia 
for angling success. 


^F^^^r ave you ever fished a Virginia 
^^/f^ l^c ^nd wondered, "Where are 
W w the fish?" Depanment fisheries 
biologists in all corners of the common- 
wealth work to develop habitat that provides 
fish with cover and concentrates them for an- 
glers. Many Virginia lakes were cleared dur- 
ing construction and never had good habitat, 
so adding it brings good results. Other lakes 
are old, and old habitat needs refreshing. 
While fish populations are controlled by big- 
ger factors than just habitat — like available 
nutrients, protective regulations, consistent 
spawning, proper predator and prey bal- 
ance — adding habitat may help anglers catch 
fish consistently. 

Governing Fish Habitat Worl^ 

Navigable waterways are governed by the U.S. 
Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Other wa- 
Smith Mountain Lake, Lake Anna, 



South Holston Lake, and Claytor Lake, to 
name a few — are controlled by private compa- 
nies or government agencies that produce elec- 
tricity. Permits are required to perform fish 
habitat projects in order to prevent navigation- 
al hazards, and the Corps issues such permits 
for the work coordinated by Department 
(DGIF) biologists. 

Eastern Virginia 

Eastern Virginia is dotted with small lakes. 
DGIF fisheries biologist Chad Boyce worked 
with Girl Scouts at Oak Grove Lake in Chesa- 
peake to install 60 "spider blocks" at four fish 
reef sites. The spider blocks resemble small, im- 
derwater bushes and offer hiding places for 
bass, crappie, and sunfish. They are easily made 
from individual concrete blocks, with 3- to 5- 
foot sections of 1 - to 2-inch-diameter polyeth- 
ylene pipe cemented into the open areas of the 
blocks. Boyce also completed a similar project 
with the Suffolk Parks and Recreation Depart- 
ment and local Boy Scouts at the Lone Star 
Lakes in Suffolk. 

Northern Virginia 

Fredericksburg biologists John 
Odenkirk and Steve Owens 
oversee one of the longest- 
running fish habitat proj- 
ects in the commonwealth 
at Lake Anna, building 
upon work by colleague Ed 
Steinkoenig in the late 1990s. 


y\l\\ere the Fis 

The multiple, deepwater sites developed at 
Lake Anna were largely due to the efforts of 
Chris McCotter (McCotter's Guide Service), 
who organized donations to purchase Berkley 
"Fish-Habs®" and volunteers to assemble 
them. The 4' x 4' Fish-Habs® cubes are assem- 
bled on land (avoiding extreme air tempera- 
tures), then sunk into areas with little fish 
cover at 12- to 26-foot depths. Sites are 
marked with buoys and their GPS locations 
are available on the Department's Lake Anna 
web page. 

One unique aspect of this project is the 
use of SCUBA to evaluate fish. The top species 
using Fish-Habs® were largemouth bass, black 
crappie, and bluegill. Odenkirk and Owens 
found that bass, crappie, redear sunfish, white 
catfish, and channel catfish preferred horizon- 
tal slat alignments, while bluegill used either 
horizontal or vertical ones. Slats were therefore 
aligned either horizontally or vertically. One 
lesson learned by Odenkirk is that the more 
complex sites covering the largest area hold the 
most fish. Odenkirk confirmed what many 
anglers know intuitively: jumbled messes that 
mimic natural habitat are better for fish. 

Western Virginia 

At Smith Mountain Lake, Lynchburg biolo- 
gist Dan Wilson told me a new habitat project 
has been developed through the federal 

relicensing process for the lake's hydropower 
dam. Appalachian Power Company is creat- 
ing a streamlined permit process to allow 
conservation groups and landowners to per- 
form fish habitat work that had not been pre- 
viously allowed. Until recently, in fact, one 
county at Smith Mountain Lake required 
landowners to remove shoreline and in-water 
trees during dock construction and shoreline 
stabilization. Appalachian Power Company 
and DGIF worked with the county to change 
this practice by highlighting the importance 
of natural shorelines and the contributions of 
trees and habitat to the lake. Now, new shore- 
line development and stabilization projects 
oft:en bundle the trees and woody materials 
removed from the shoreline and sink them in 
these construction areas. 

A similar project at Lake Moomaw was 
reported by Verona biologist Paul Bugas. In 
2007, working with the U.S. Forest Service 
and the Highlands Bass Club, tree stumps 
were stockpiled and then used to create 
shoreline habitat for largemouth and small- 
mouth bass. The stumps were secured using 
steel cable and duckbill anchors to hold them 
in place. Bugas also mentioned a project back 
in the early 1 990s, creating log cribs as over- 
head cover. These cribs were later "brushed 
up" with hardwood brush cuttings to make 
them more attractive for bass and other fish. 

DGIF fisheries technician Cliff Kirk cables a 
hinge tree to its stump, keeping it close to the 

A Claytor Lake State Park volunteer cements pieces of polyethylene pipe into concrete blocks to 
construct spider block fish habitat. 

Southwest Virginia 

At South Holston Lake and Flannagan Reser- 
voir, biologist Tom Hampton's efforts result- 
ed in multiple, long-lasting fish habitats. 
Hampton pointed out that successes at these 
lakes resulted from work by fisheries techni- 
cian Cliff Kirk and fisheries biologist George 
Palmer, noting that fish habitat work is all 
about what "we" accomplished. 

One example is the partnership Hamp- 
ton created with the Tennessee Wildlife Re- 
sources Agency, the Washington Bass Club, 
and local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. For 
more than ten years, this team installed at 
least 500 recycled Christmas trees in the bar- 
ren drawdown areas of South Holston Lake, 
culminating in the installation of 1,500 trees 
by Venture Crew 71 of Abingdon in January, 
201 1 . Hampton also coordinated fish habitat 
site development at Flannagan Reservoir in 
cooperation with the Dickenson County 
Bass Clubs and the Corps using a combina- 
tion of hinge trees — where shoreline trees are 
felled, then cabled back to the snimp — and 
hardwood brush piles. Hampton and his 
crew thought like beavers and worked just as 
hard, creating habitat that will benefit many 

Claytor Lake, where 1 work, has seen a 
number of fish habitat improvements. In 
:§ 200 1 , in cooperation with Claytor Lake State 
Park and local angler Jim Fields, we created 
three deepwater fish reef sites in 10 to 14 feet 

26 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HunfFishVA.conn 

DGIF fisheries biologist Scott Herrmann and a volunteer deploy a double-stack Berkely Fish-Hab'* 
at a reef site at Lake Anna with guidance from fisheries biologist Steve Owens. 

of water. Since that time, some 200 spider 
blocks and many Christmas trees have been 
added to these sites, resulting in places where 
anglers can fill dieir live-wells widi the bass, 
bluegill, and crappie drawn there. 

Past Claytor Lake work involved a part- 
nership with the Virginia Bass Federation 
Nation, Claytor Lake State Park, and a group 

of young women participating in the Vir- 
ginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps. 
In recent years, collaboration between Ap- 
palachian Power Company, Friends of Clay- 
tor Lake, Claytor Lake State Park, and our 
Department has produced fish habitat at 
multiple sites using shoreline tree felling and 

More Bites per Cast! 

Department biologists create fish habitat in 
lakes all over the commonwealth to produce 
'more bites per cast' — a phrase coined by for- 
mer DGIF Fisheries Chief Jack Hoffman. 
The habitat work is made possible by Federal 
Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act funding. 
Mentioned in recent issues of Virginia 
Wildlife, the Act funnels excise tax dollars on 
the sale of fishing tackle and equipment and 
motorboat fuels to our Department for these 
conservation initiatives. Fish habitat initia- 
tives give us the opporttmity to work with 
multiple partners on projects that benefit 

So the next time you launch at a public 
fishing lake, look for clues like buoys and 
signs indicating such work has been complet- 
ed. When you find the habitat, the fish will be 
there. The rest is up to you! ?f 

John Copeland is a Department fisheries biobgist 
doingfisheries management projects on Claytor 
Lake, the New River, and other waters in the 
New River Valley. 


Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: 



Cliff Kirk works with DCR Youth Conservation Corps members installing spider block fish habitats in Claytor Lake. 



The legendary turkey hunter and call maker shares a hit of turkey wisdom. 

-^ m 

.>— j*-6L>'-^ 

by Bruce Ingram 

, n 1986 when I was an up-and- 
^ / coming outdoor writer and a 
>^ rookie turkey hunter, friends 
suggested that I call Winchesters Jim Clay 
to ask if he would take me on my maiden 
turkey hunt. Clay, along with his business 
partner at the time, Tom Duvall, had estab- 
lished one of the first companies devoted 
specifically to the sport— Perfection 
Turkey Calls— and had become nationally 
known for his calling and hunting skills. 

In true rookie form, the fall outing 
consisted of such low points as my sho\ving 
up without camouflaged gloves or face- 
mask, whispering to Jim that the sounds of 
a distant dog barking were those of a 
turkey, and the ultimate humiliation: my 
shooting at and missing (!) three jakes. 
Clay bore all of my snafus with a dose of pa- 
ternal patience, and ever since, Jim has 
been one of my turkey hunting mentors. 

It's easy to understand why the now- 
65-year-old sportsman has attained such 
high stature in the turkey hunting realm, 
for besides his hunting and calling prowess, 

] he was one of the first Virginians to pursue 
turkeys in the spring. 

"When spring gobbler hunting began in 
Virginia and West Virginia in the early to 
mid-1960s, it was very controversial," recalls 
the Winchester sportsman. "Many old 
timers who thought the fall season was the 
only respectable time to hunt turkeys 
claimed that we would wipe out the states 
flock b}' going after them in the spring, that 
the gobblers would be too easy to Icill. 

"Others claimed that all the hunters in 
the woods would totally disrupt the turkeys' 
% reproduction and few of the hens would be 
'£ bred. But one of the biggest challenges we 
3 faced was there simply wasn't much infor- 
0) mation about how to hunt birds in the 
spring. And the guys who did know some- 
thing about spring gobblers refused to share 
their information." 

Building His 
Knowledge Base 4 

Thus, Clay sought out books by 
southern sage Archibald Rutledge, 
who had penned a number of tomes 
about hunting spring gobblers in the 
Deep South — where seasons had been es- 
tablished earlier — as well as articles by Dave 
Harbour who was popularizing the pastime 
in national outdoor magazines. 

Along with a lack of information was a 
lack of turkeys. The Department was in the 
beginning stages of its trap and transfer pro- 
gram (led by biologist Kit Shaflfer) with what 
is today the Gathright Wildlife Management 
Area in Bath County being the focal point of 
much of its efforts. Given the mountainous 
domain's reputation as a turkey sanctuary, 
Jim would drive hours to reach Gathright 
and then spend the night in his car in order 
to hunt early the next morning. 

Yet another challenge \vas finding came 
and calls, especially quality diaphragms. 

"There was no camouflage except the 
kind manufactured for the military," contin- 

ues Clay "I had been hunting turkeys in the 
fall since I was a kid, so I showed up for my 
first spring hunt wearing what I usually 
wore: a brown bird hunter's coat and a pair 
of gray work pants. 

"I could only find a few tspes of mouth 
calls at the local sporting goods store, and I 
would take them out of their boxes, pop 
them in my mouth, and try them out right 
there in the store. One diaphragm had a 
lead frame and even then I was afraid to put 
something like that in my mouth. Another 
had an aluminum frame with what looked 
like part of a balloon stretched across it. 
Every time I used that call, it tore up the top 
of my mouth." 

Sensing a void in the call industry, Clay 
and Duvall would use their spare time dur- 
ing lunch at Winchester's James Wood High 


ih ■' 

4L h 

Jim Clay is one of the nation's best known makers of box calls. He works from his home in Winchester. 



Clay estimates he has stretched some 8 million 

School to stretch reeds for their calls, later 
selling them to local hunters and stores. Word 
spread and Dave Harbour wrote a few maga- 
zine articles about their diaphragms. In 1978, 
the duo decided to relinquish their teaching 
positions and work full-time at their compa- 
ny. Perfection Turkey Calls. 

"I remember the superintendent telling 
Tommy and me we were making a huge mis- 
take," laughs Jim. "But the first day after we 
quit, we received an order for twelve thousand 
dollars, which was about what we were mak- 
ing a year as teachers." 

Perfection is credited with creating the 
first multiple reed diaphragms, and even 
today mouth calls remain a staple of the com- 
pany's business, even though high-quality 
box, slate, glass, and other calls became part of 
the company's lineup. Diaphragms such as 
the Raspy D, Super Double D, and the 3-D- 
Omega (hands-down the best diaphragm I 
have ever used) are well known in the turkey 
hunting community. 

Indeed, Clay estimates that he has 
"stretched" some eight million diaphragms 
and to this day will not share precisely how he 
does so, stating that he has seen only one 
other person create mouth calls exactly as he 

Turkey Hunting 

Given Jim Clay's vast amount of experience in 
the autumn and spring woods, I asked him to 
share with me his best turkey hunting wis- 

"If someone could figure out how to 
manufacture patience and give turkey 
hunters a dose of it, most people would be- 
come better turkey hunters," he maintains. 


"So much of both spring and fall hunting is 
sitting, watching, and listening for long peri- 
ods of time. Hunters often worry that the rea- 
son a turkey isn't coming in to their position 
is because they are making some sort of mis- 
take either with their calling or setting up." 

Chances are, though, that the reason 
folks aren't witnessing birds venture toward 
their positions is because the creatures are on 
"turkey time." That is, the birds are feeding, 
watching for danger, and "just being turkeys." 
A second skill involves being in tune with the 
outdoor world. 

"In the woods, almost every sound 
means something," Jim explains. "For exam- 
ple, if a squirrel suddenly starts barking, it 
could mean that a turkey has just shown up. If 
a bunch of crows start cawing, it could mean 
that they are harassing a gobbler. Learn what 
the various animals' normal and alarm 
sounds are, and you are well on your way to 
becoming a better turkey hunter." 

Woodsmanship is another skill that 
hunters should master. Clay points out that 
many of Virginia's old timey fall turkey 
hunters were consummate woodsmen, 
knowing how to age turkey droppings and 
scratchings, able to identify all the foods that 
turkeys consumed, and adept at venturing 
deep into the state's forests and returning 
without aid of a compass or 
GPS unit. Possessing such 
skills will make people bet 
ter spring hunters as well. 

Finally, Clay emphasizes that calling 
skills are a major component of success. 

"Some spring and fall days, you don't 
have to be a great caller to kill a bird," Jim ex- 
plains. "But the individual who knows how 
to make extremely realistic sounds when the 
birds are balky is the person who will loll 
turkeys that other people can't." 

Over a quarter-century has passed since 
Jim Clay took me hunting on my first outing. 
Today, I give seminars on how to turkey hunt 
and write numerous turkey hunting stories 
every year And I owe much of my good for- 
tune to him and to other folks who have 
mentored me through the years. ^ 

Bruce Ingram has authored many guide books. 
For more information on Bruce Ingram 's river 
fishing hooks: www. bruceingramoutdoors. com. 


Perfection Turkey Calls: 

Ingram book information and 
weekly outdoors blog: 









• ■e 




It has been several years 
since the Department has 
published a comprehen- 
sive report, or forecast, in antici- 
pation of the approaching 
hunting seasons. This year, we 
asked several of our field biolo- 
gists who oversee a targeted 
wildlife program to report in and 
tell us, in their words, what they 
are seeing in their travels across 
the state. 

In each case, they have pro- 
vided historical context for their 
findings and, when comfortable 
doing so, offered up a general 
forecast for the coming season 
based upon their observations 
and recent harvest trends. 


;, » .■<..j*u-\- 

' \. 

The artwork here, "David's Buck," was 
painted in memory of the founder of 
Hunters for the Hungry, David Home, 
and created to honor his legacy of 
helping others. The print is a limited 
edition of just 750. Each one is signed 
and numbered by the artist. Randy 
Battaglia. All proceeds go to feed the 
hungry in Virginia. For ordering 
information and a view of the full 
image, visit 
Learn more about Hunters for the 
Hungry on page 44. 

White-Tailed Deer 

A Look Back at 
Deer Activity 

During the past deer season 
233,104 deer were report- 
ed harvested by hunters in Vir- 
ginia. This total included 98,874 
antlered bucks, 21,008 button 
bucks, and 113,106 does (or, 
48.5%) and 116 unknown deer 
The 2011 deer kill total was higher 
(up 5%) than the 222,074 deer re- 
ported taken in 2010. It is in line 
with the last 10-year average of 

Deer kill levels were down 
slightly in Tidewater (down 2%) 

but were up in all other regions, 
including the Southern Piedmont 
(up 7%), Northern Piedmont (up 
8%), Southern Mountains (up 
13%), and Northern Mountains 
(up 3%). 

Archers, not including cross- 
bow hunters, took 17,338 deer 
The bow kill comprised 7 percent 
of the total, while crossbows re- 
sulted in a kill of 11,001 deer, or 5 
percent of the total kill. Muzzle- 
loader hunters harvested 55,420 
deer, or 24 percent of the total kill. 
Over 167,500 deer (72%) were 
checked using the Department's 
telephone and internet checking 
systems. The youth deer hunting 
day on the last Saturday in Sep- 
tember resulted in a reported 
deer kill of 1,864 animals. 

Because the Department 
changes deer regulations every 
other year and just did so during 
the fall of 2011, there are no 
major changes for the fall 2012 
season other than the fact that 
several new areas have been 
added to the special urban 
archery season(s). See the hunt- 
ing digest for details. 


The Tidewater deer kill was down 
just slightly (2%) from 2010. This is 
good news for a region where the 
Department has been trying to 
stabilize or reduce deer herds for 
the past decade. Over that 10- 

year period, deer herds over 
much of the region have exhibit- 
ed significant population increas- 
es. To address these increasing 
populations, the Department has 
now put into effect full season ei- 
ther-sex deer seasons in all but 
three Tidewater counties. 


The Piedmont represents a very 
mixed bag of deer management 
issues and results. After a decade 
of effort, deer herds in a couple of 
far northern Piedmont counties 
are finally showing signs of reduc- 
tion (e.g., Fauquier and Loudoun). 

Fairfax County deer kill data 
Is not comparable to other 

2011 Private Land Relative Deer Population Abundance by Management Unit 

Index is based on a 3-year average of antlered bucks killed per square mile of estimated deer habitat. 

Counties in the Southern Pied- 
mont have recovered from a de- 
cline from about 10 years ago. 
Deer populations in most coun- 
ties throughout the Piedmont 
have remained fairly stable over 
that time. 


The biggest challenge in deer 
management in Virginia over the 
past decade has been the decline 
in deer hunting and resulting 
deer kill on public lands in the 
mountains. Since the mid-1990s, 
the deer harvest on public lands 
west of the Blue Ridge has de- 
clined by approximately 60 per- 

Our staff believe there are a 
number of factors involved in this 
decline, including but not limited 
to: deteriorating habitat quality 
for deer on national forest lands, 
significantly declining hunter 
numbers and pressure on public 
lands, predators, and liberal ei- 
ther-sex deer hunting day regula- 
tions that have been enacted on 
adjacent private lands over the 
past decade. An additional issue 
identified by concerned public 
land deer hunters is a potential 
over-harvest of antlerless deer on 
these public properties. 

The potential over-harvest 
of antlerless deer on public lands 
is an issue that has already been 




addressed by significant reduc- 
tions in the number of public land 
either-sex deer hunting days. The 
objective of these reductions was 
to cut the female deer kill level on 
such lands by 50 percent or more, 
and these changes have been suc- 
cessful. It remains to be seen, 
however, if these changes will 
also be successful in bringing back 
the public land deer herd(s). 


The best way to compare deer 
populations and hunting poten- 
tial among different areas is 
through the deer kill per square 
mile of habitat. The map on page 
32 shows the relative differences 
among counties in the kill per 
square mile of deer (antlered 
bucks) on private land based on 
an average of the past three hunt- 
ing seasons. Kill per square mile of 
habitat is a good index of the rela- 
tive densities of deer on private 
lands among counties in Virginia. 

The Department's deer 
management efforts over the 
past several years to increase the 
female deer kill over much of the 
state, especially on private lands, 
has been very successful. Female 
deer harvest numbers have 
reached record levels for the past 
six consecutive deer seasons. 
These high and sustained female 
deer kill levels were intended to 
eventually lead to a decrease in 
the statewide deer herd and a de- 
cline in total deer kill numbers. 

It should be noted, however, 
that the Department is currently 
actively managing to increase 
deer populations in the Cumber- 
land Plateau counties of 
Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise, 
in the Allegheny Highland coun- 
ties of Alleghany, Bath, and High- 
land, and on national forest lands 
west of the Blue Ridge Moun- 
tains, where hunting pressure has 
resulted in population declines 
overthe past ten years. 

This deer report was contributed by 
Deer Project Leader Matt Knox, 
wtio worl<s outofttie Forest office. S 
You may reach Matt at = @ 

Mild weather during the 
2011-2012 season left 
many waterfowl hunters frustrat- 
ed and disappointed. While we 
cannot predict the weather for 
the upcoming season, reports 
from the breeding grounds pro- 
vide an indication of waterfowl 
populations this coming yean The 
forecasts below are based upon 
preliminary reports of surveys 
conducted throughout the pri- 
mary breeding areas of waterfowl 
that winter in the mid-Atlantic. 

Duck Production 

Early habitat conditions in the 
prairie pothole region this year 
were reported as being poor to 
fair Snow and rainfall amounts 
were down throughout the re- 
gion and many grassland nesting 
areas were lost to cropland con- 
version. Luckily, much of the re- 
gion benefitted from spring 
rainfalls, which created tempo- 
rary wetlands important for wa- 
terfowl broods. In the heart of 
the prairie, that rain improved 
conditions to good overall. In the 
Northeast, conditions appear to 
be good to occasionally excellent 
throughout Atlantic Canada, On- 
tario, and Quebec, despite de- 
layed spring thaws. The majority 
of waterfowl wintering in Vir- 
ginia, especially black ducks and 
mallards, breed in this eastern re- 
gion. In both regions, breeding 
waterfowl numbers appear to be 
higher, likely benefitting from 
above average 2011 production 
and a mild winter last year, which 
allowed birds to return to their 
breeding grounds in favorable 
physical condition. 

Local Breeding 

Although Virginia may be more 
notable as an important winter- 
ing area, waterfowl (primarily 
wood ducks, mallards, black 
ducks, and Canada geese) also 
utilize the state as a breeding 
zone. Each year a survey is con- 
ducted to provide breeding pair 
and population estimates of 
breeding waterfowl. These esti- 
mates are used to monitor trends 
in local populations and to set wa- 
terfowl hunting regulations both 
in Virginia and throughout the At- 
lantic Fly way. The survey consists 
of aerial or ground monitoring of 
165 individual one-square-kilo- 
meter plots, which were random- 
ly selected in the different 
physiographic zones of the state. 
The plots are surveyed by Depart- 
ment staff and other cooperators 
during the months of April and 
May. All waterfowl on these plots 
are identified and counted, and 
their breeding status (paired, sin- 
gle, flocked) is recorded. The data 
are combined with data from 
other Atlantic coast states to esti- 
mate breeding waterfowl popula- 
tions in the Atlantic Flyway. 


The 21 ^Century 
"Bird Hunter" 

Habitat conditions in Virginia 
during the spring of 2012 were 
fair to good. Dry wetland condi- 
tions during the early season 
were alleviated by significant pre- 
cipitation during the middle and 
latter portions of the nesting peri- 
od. Duck and goose nest initiation 
was one to two weeks earlier than 
average, which increased oppor- 
tunities for re-nesting attempts if 
the first attempt was unsuccess- 
ful. Preliminary breeding pair esti- 
mates for black ducks and Canada 
geese are slightly below average, 
while pair estimates for mallards 
are significantly higher than aver- 

Over the past four years the 
breeding wood duck population 
in Virginia has become a manage- 
ment concern for DGIF staff. Pairs 
of breeding wood duck dropped 
from an estimated 20,000 in 2007 
to 15,000 in 2008. In 2009 esti- 
mates again declined, to 10,000 
breeding pairs. The population re- 
mained around 10,000 in 2010 
and 2011. Preliminary estimates 
for this breeding season will likely 
number around 13,000 pairs, an 
increase from years past but still 
well below the long-term average 
of 23,000 breeding pairs. DGIF bi- 
ologists are increasing monitoring 
efforts to better understand the 
factors that may be contributing 
to this decline. 

Due to above average pro- 
duction in 2011 and last year's mild 
winter, waterfowl production in 
the breeding areas should be aver- 
age to above average. Local water- 
fowl production is also expected to 
be average or above average. All fi- 
nalized numbers, from both local 
and primary production area sur- 
veys, can be found in the "Status of 
Waterfowl Fact Sheet" updated 
annually on the DGIF website at 

Whether hunting conditions 
improve over the 2011-2012 sea- 
son is something that only time 
will tell. One thing Virginia water- 
fowlers can count on is an opportu- 
nity for a quality hunt by applying 
for any of the seven DGIF water- 
fowl hunts offered through the Vir- 
ginia Quota Hunts Program. These 
managed hunts provide unique 
opportunities to pursue waterfowl 
and other species on public lands 
that may otherwise be closed to 
hunting. In addition to the quota 
hunts lottery, wildlife manage- 
ment areas such as the Chicka- 
hominy. Game Farm Marsh, 
Mattaponi, Mockhorn Island, and 
Saxis all offer quality waterfowl 
hunting experiences. 

This waterfowl report was con- 
tributed by Waterfowl Biologist Ben 
Lewis, who is stationed in the east- 
ern regional office. You may reach 
Ben at Ben.Lewis@dgif.virginia.go\i. 

6 6 r^ ird hunter?" you say, 
13 "What the heck does 
that mean?" It means an upland 
game bird hunter of quail, grouse, 
pheasant, and woodcock, primari- 
ly. They have become so rare that 
very few know what is meant by 
the term "bird hunter" anymore. 
But there was a time when most 
folks would have understood this 

Only 40 short years ago 
hunters were more numerous 
both in Virginia and nationally. In 
1973, there were 143,000 quail 
hunters in the state; today, they 
number barely 8,000. 

Why the dramatic drop? 
Much of it can be attributed to de- 
clines in the populations of fa- 
vored game birds. Bobwhite quail 
have declined markedly across 
most of the commonwealth, in 
places by more than 80 percent. 

Notes on the Quail Recovery 
Initiative Underway 

♦ Six quail focus areas have been identified (incorporating 15 
counties) across the state. 

♦ Five private lands wildlife biologists were hired 2.5 years ago. 

♦ Biologists have made over 1,150 site visits to 892 different 
landowners, and in so doing, written 650 habitat management 

♦ Biologists have participated in, planned, or hosted 82 public 

♦ 10,457 acres of habitat have been created or maintained. These 
acres include: 547 acres of field borders, 448 acres of idle crop 
lands, 201 acres of idle tobacco lands, 425 acres of conservation 
cover, 442 acres of tree and shrub establishment, 43 acres of 
brush management, and 3,099 acres of prescribed burning. 

♦ Habitat demonstration areas are being developed on Amelia 
and Powhatan Wildlife Management Areas and at the New Kent 
Forestry Center. 

♦ Habitat management DVDs have been widely distributed. 

♦ New monitoring programs have been established in the target- 
ed counties. 

♦ A new promotional DVD was developed, "Answering the Call: 
Virginia's Quail Recovery Initiative, which is available upon re- 
quest by sending an email to Marc Puckett (email address, pg. 
35) with your name and address. 

♦ The Virginia Quail Council, developed to facilitate partnerships, 
currently includes 22 participating conservation organizations. 



But the number of quail hunters 
has declined even more than the 
species itself— which means 
there are fewer bird hunters left 
to pass the tradition on to 
younger hunters. Perhaps more 
than any other form of hunting, 
newcomers to upland bird hunt- 
ing need a mentor, an "old hand," 
to guide them through associated 
challenges like bird dog training, 
or being able to see and under- 
stand "birdy" cover, or finding 
places to hunt. 

In addition to falling popula- 
tions of game birds, land-use pat- 
terns have changed: posted land 
is more common, and competi- 
tion among hunters for the re- 
maining lands has intensified. 
Unlike other forms of hunting, 
upland bird hunting requires larg- 
er acreages to allow fast-hunting 
pointing dogs enough room to 
run and to provide enough cover 
for the birds. While only a few 
acres are adequate for deer or 
squirrel hunting, several hundred 
acres is often considered a mini- 
mum for upland bird hunting. 

So, is upland bird hunting 
dead? I would argue that with a 
change in mindset and tactics, it is 

still possible to enjoy upland bird 
hunting in Zl^'-century Virginia. 

One of the first things a new- 
comer to bird hunting must real- 
ize is having a heavy game bag is 
not the primary indicator of suc- 
cess. The "good old days" of find- 
ing 12 coveys of quail in a day may 
be over in most of our state, but 
there are still places where 4 to 6 
coveys can be found in a day (and 
we hope to increase those num- 
bers through our Quail Recovery 
Initiative). The key to finding 
hunting coverts is to learn to iden- 
tify quail cover, to regularly scout, 
to lookfor larger tracts of cut-over 
lands— mainly in "pine country" 
and as close to farm lands as pos- 
sible, to get to know the landown- 
ers and offer suggestions (and 
on-the-ground help) for manag- 
ing those cut-overs, and to con- 
sider joining hunt clubs to gain 
access. Yes, it takes work, but 
those willing to do this can put to- 
gether a fine "portfolio" of hunt- 
ing coverts. 

The second recommenda- 
tion is to think outside the prover- 
bial "box." It will be hard to make 
it as a bird hunter, pursuing only a 
single favorite species or even 

two. The woodcock season length 
was recently increased in Virginia 
from 30 to 45 days. That's two ad- 
ditional weeks of opportunity. 
Quite often, woodcock and quail 
can be found in close proximity. 
They both favor some form of 
early-successional cover, with 
woodcock preferring wetter 
areas. I recall with great clarity 
several quail hunts where 1 or 2 
coveys of quail were supplement- 
ed by 8 to 10 woodcock finds- 
turning an otherwise slow day 
into one filled with action. 

Beyond that proverbial box, 
maybe thinking outside the octa- 
gon is required. Don't exclude 
mourning dove as a quarry wor- 
thy of upland style hunting. While 
the traditional method of dove 
hunting is actually called a 
"shoot" and centers around 
doves flying into planted fields, 
they can also be hunted with 
dogs. I spent much time in my im- 
patient youth "walking up" doves 
when the fly-in shooting was 
slow. Upon numerous occasions 
when the seasons overlapped, I 
took dove while hunting other 
upland game birds. 

Further, many variations 

exist today on releasing pen- 
raised quail. While studies have 
shown releasing pen-raised quail 
will not restore wild quail popula- 
tions, newer pre-season release 
methods using high-quality pen- 
raised quail can provide fun hunt- 
ing throughout the season. Typical 
methods include first creating ex- 
cellent quail cover, then employ- 
ing pre-season release systems in 
late-September through October 
to establish "coveys" for the hunt- 
ing season. This may not be for 
everyone, but information on how 
to do it is available on request. 

And let's not forget our 
shooting preserves. Many offer 
excellent packages for a variety of 
upland game birds. By combining 
the above strategies, with some 
shooting preserve hunts and the 
occasional trip "out west" to hunt 
the best remaining expanses of 
America's wild bird cover, one can 
become a satisfied 21"-century 
bird hunter. 

This upland bird report was con- 
tributed by Small Game Project 
Leader Marc Puckett, who works 
out of the Farmville office. You may 
reach Marc at Marc. Puckett@ 



Historical Harvest 

The hunting and trapping of 
furbearing aninnals played 
an innportant role in the explo- 
ration and settlement of colonial 
Virginia. As early as 1546, a 
French sailing ship traded with 
Native Americans in the Chesa- 
peake Bay region for fur pelts. 
The wilderness of Virginia was 
rich in wildlife resources and fur 
was one the most valuable com- 
modities available for export. 
Great demand for beaver pelts 
and other furs by Europeans fu- 
eled a burgeoning industry with 
a seemingly endless supply of 
animals to trap. Between 1699 
and 1715, almost a quarter-mil- 
lion pelts from 13 species were 
exported from Virginia to Eng- 

Eventually, however, in- 
tense commercial demand cou- 
pled with unregulated and 
unsustainable harvest, gradually 
reduced the population of some 
furbearer species to the brink of 
extinction. Protection, enhance- 
ment, and reestablishment of 
Virginia's furbearer populations 
did not occur until almost 200 
years later when this Depart- 
ment was formed and modern 
wildlife management practices 
were instituted. Today, popula- 

tions of most furbearer species 
are flourishing and trapping re- 
mains a viable and enjoyable out- 
door pursuit. 

Current Pelt Harvest 

The number of pelts purchased 
or brokered by permitted fur 
dealers serves as a useful index of 
furbearer harvest effort. In Vir- 
ginia, the number of pelts pur- 
chased or brokered by 34 fur 
dealers increased from 16,369 in 
2009-2010 to 32,834 in 
2010-2011 (-H 100.6%). Fur deal- 
er pelt transactions increased for 
all furbearers (Table, pg. 37), par- 
ticularly the terrestrial species 
(bobcat, coyote, opossum, rac- 
coon, and skunk) that had trap- 
ping success negatively impacted 
the previous season by heavy 
snows and cold temperatures. In- 
creases in harvest for aquatic 
furbearer species were signifi- 
cant, but not as large as those for 
terrestrial species. Demand for 
otter pelts increased during 
2010-2011 and pelt sales in- 

creased 129.7 percent com- 
pared to the previous season. 
Bobcat pelt transactions more 
than doubled in 2010-2011 
(+109.6%) and exceeded the 46- 
year average reported by fur 
dealers from 1964-2010 by 
137.3 percent. 

Fur pelts purchased or bro- 
kered by Virginia fur dealers 
were valued at approximately 
$324,843 during the 2010-2011 
fur harvest season. The total 
value of fur purchased during 
2010-2011 was 95.2 percent 
greater (2010 dollar equivalent) 
than the previous reporting year 
($166,424), but represents only 
2.6 percent of the record value 
($12,564,118) of fur pelts report- 
ed purchased during the 
1980-1981 fur harvest season 
(2010 dollar equivalent). Al- 
though the total value of the fur 
harvest nearly doubled last sea- 
son, the overall average pelt 
price was very similar to the pre- 
vious year. The average price 
paid per fur pelt was $9.89 dur- 
ing the 2010-2011 season, a de- 

crease of 2.8 percent compared 
to the average price paid 
($10.17) during the 2009-2010 
season (Table 1). Average pelt 
prices increased for bobcat 
(+23.4%), gray fox (+22.1%), red 
fox (+12.0%), mink (+21.4%), 
opossum ( + 11.5%), otter 
(+30.5%), and skunk (+21.9%). 
Average pelt prices decreased for 
beaver (-29.3%), coyote (-16.6%), 
and muskrat (-5.1%). The average 
pelt price paid for raccoon was 
unchanged (0.7%). 

Trapping license sales are 
usually correlated with fur pelt 
prices. Total statewide trapping 
license sales increased 14.3 per- 
cent from 1,227 during the 
2009-2010 trapping season to 
1,403 during the 2010-2011 sea- 
son. Total trapping license sales 
for the 2010-2011 season were 
73 percent less than the record 
high of 5,293 trapping licenses 
sold during the 1979-1980 trap- 
ping season and 98 percent 
greater than the record low of 
709 licenses sold during the 
1993-1994 trapping season. 


201 0-201 1 Virginia Fur Dealer 

Transactions and Average 

Pelt Value 


# Pelts Sold 


or Brokered 

Pelt Price 



$ 11.29 







Fox, Gray 



Fox, Red 





















Bobcat Harvest 

A total of 1,669 bobcats were har- 
vested during the 2010-2011 sea- 
son, representing an increase of 
31.4 percent from the previous 
year Of this total, 658 bobcats 
(39.4%) were trapped and 1,011 
(60.6%) were killed by hunters. 
The overall increase in bobcat 
harvest was most affected by the 
number of bobcats trapped (up 
103.1 percent from the previous 
season). Heavy snows and cold 
temperatures hampered trapping 
success in 2009-2010. Trapping 
conditions were much improved 
in 2010-2011 and trappers 
caught more than twice as many 
bobcats as they did the season 

Hunter harvest of bobcats 
was up slightly from the previous 
season ( + 6.9%). Since most 
hunter-killed bobcats were har- 
vested opportunistically while 
hunting other animals, a variety 
of different weapons were used. 
Most hunter-killed bobcats were 
harvested using a rifle (49.9%), 

followed by a muzzleloader 
(20.4%), or shotgun (18.8%). 
Other weapons included a bow 
(7.5%), crossbow (2.8%), or pistol 
(0.6%). The overall sex ratio for 
harvested bobcats was 1.25 fe- 
males per male and appeared to 
differ by harvest method. Hunters 
seemed to harvest a higher pro- 
portion of female bobcats than 
did trappers. Most likely, many 
hunters misidentified the sex of 
young male bobcats that lacked 
obvious male genitalia and re- 
ported them as females. 

Regionally, more bobcats 
were taken from the South 
Mountain (595) and South Pied- 
mont (539) counties than from 
other portions of the state. Fewer 
bobcats were taken from the 
North Mountain (211), North 
Piedmont (145), and Tidewater 
(179) areas. Bobcat harvest in- 
creased in all regions of the state, 
except for the North Piedmont 
where harvest was stable 
(+1.4%). Harvest density (per 100 
square miles of forested habitat) 
was highest in the South Moun- 

tain, South Piedmont, and North 
Mountain regions. It was lowest 
in the Tidewater and North Pied- 
mont areas. 

River Otter Harvest 

Trappers harvested 826 river ot- 
ters during the 2010-2011 trap- 
ping season. This total was 37.9 
percent higher than the 2009- 
2010 harvest of 599 otters but 
17.6 percent lower than the pre- 
vious 10-year average harvest of 
1,003 river otter pelts. Prior to the 
2010-2011 season, otter harvest 
declined each of the previous 
four years, following plummeting 
prices of $112 in 2004-2005 to 
$36 in 2005-2006. Average pelt 
prices for otter increased in 
2010-2011 and late fur auction 
prices approached those realized 
in 2006. Higher pelt prices result- 
ed in renewed interest among 
trappers who were not targeting 
otters when fur prices were 
down. Harvest in the Tidewater 
region increased by 21.5 percent 
and accounted for 395 (47.8%) of 
the total river otters trapped. Har- 

vest increased in all other regions 
except the North Mountain coun- 
ties, where it remained stable (0% 
change). Otter harvest density 
(number tagged per 100 miles of 
river habitat) was highest in the 
Tidewater region and lowest in the 
North Mountain area. 

Coyote Study 

Beginning in 2011, a three-year re- 
search project was initiated to ob- 
tain information on the ecology of 
the Eastern coyote in Virginia. 
Study areas are focused on public 
lands (national forest) in the west- 
ern mountains where deer popula- 
tions have reportedly declined. 
Specifically, the objectives of the 
study are to: 

♦ Estimate population demo- 
graphic parameters such as 
abundance, density, recruit- 
ment, and mortality rates; 

♦ Assess coyote diet over sea- 
sons and compare diets of coy- 
ote and black bears, especially 
with respect to prevalence of 
white-tailed deer; and 


Black Bear 

♦ Determine home range sizes, 
assess iiabitat selection, and 
examine movement behav- 
ior in relation to landscape 
features and season. 
This project is being contract- 
ed with Virginia Tech; two gradu- 
ate students are conducting the 
field research. Cooperators in- 
clude the US Forest Service, USDA 
Wildlife Services, and The Nature 

As of mid-May 2012, twelve 
coyotes (6 males, 6 females) were 
captured and fitted with satellite 
radio collars. Of the 6 coyotes cap- 
tured during 2011, 3 were shot 
and 2 were killed by trappers 
(caught in snares). Since the 
spring of 2011, hundreds of coy- 
ote and bear scat samples have 
been collected, including collec- 
tions during the peak fawning 
season in May and June. Scat sam- 
ples are being collected monthly 
throughout the entire year 

Preliminary DNA results sug- 
gest that field identification of 

scats is problematic and misidenti- 
fication is common. Only scat con- 
firmed by DNA analyses to be 
coyote and bear will be used in the 
study (possibly bobcat, also). Deer 
density in both study areas is being 
estimated seasonally by conduct- 
ing road surveys with infrared de- 
tectors and spotlights. Trail 
cameras are being used to deter- 
mine the presence of mid-sized 
coyote prey species on the study 
areas. Small mammal trapping grid 
locations have been identified for 
determining abundance and den- 
sity of small mammal prey species. 
Habitat measurements also will be 
collected at camera locations and 
trap grid sites. Field work for the 
study is scheduled for completion 
in 2013, with final results available 
in 2014. 

Thisfurbearer report was con- 
tributed by Furbearer Project Leader 
Mike Fies, who is stationed in the 
Verona regional office. You may 
reach Mike at Mike.Fies@dgif. 
Virginia. gov. 

Black bears capture human 
admiration and interest 
like few other wildlife species. As 
a reflection of strength, images of 
bears are often used as icons for 
countries and athletic teams. Be- 
cause of their intelligence and in- 
genuity, bears are perceived to 
have human-like emotional quali- 
ties. Black bears are recognized as 
indicators of ecological health 
and symbols of the American 
wilderness. Many citizens simply 
value bears because they exist in 
their native ecosystem and they 
take pleasure in watching, hunt- 
ing, or photographing this fasci- 
nating mammal. 

The Hunting 

As early as 1910, regulated hunt- 
ing and trapping have been used 
to manage wildlife populations 
and foster the wise use of wildlife 
resources for food, fur, and other 
utilitarian purposes. Specific pop- 
S ulation levels can be achieved by 
= adjusting the length and timing of 
© the hunting season, as well as the 

legal methods of take to manipu- 
late the number of animals and 
sex and age composition of the 
harvest. Specifically, wildlife man- 
agers collect information from 
hunting harvest (hunting effort, 
success rates, age/sex structure, 
for example) to determine if they 
are meeting black bear popula- 
tion objectives (such as stabilizing 
growth) and in turn modify hunt- 
ing regulations to meet manage- 
ment goals. 

Hunting is the major factor 
controlling most bear popula- 
tions. Depending on harvest lev- 
els, black bear populations can 
increase, decrease, or remain the 
same in the presence of hunting. 
A recent survey of 23 states with 
black bear hunting indicated that 
57 percent were experiencing in- 
creasing populations and the re- 
maining states had stable 

Black bear populations may 
decrease with heavy hunting 
pressure. Because female bears 
produce only a few cubs every 
other year, depleted populations 
are slow to recover Thus, black 
bear hunting seasons should be 
conservative unless population 
reduction is the objective. Bear 
populations will grow when the 
number of juvenile bears that 
reach adulthood (called recruit- 
ment) exceeds the number of 
bears that die (hunting and non- 
hunting mortality) that year Pop- 
ulations are stabilized when 
annual deaths equal annual re- 

Black bear populations can 
withstand regulated hunting on 
an annual basis, and historically, 
managed hunting has been an ef- 
fective system for protecting bear 
numbers because it has enlisted 
those interested in the continued 
abundance of the resource. 

Adjusting the hunting sea- 
son structure to coincide with 
bear damage periods or to en- 
hance hunter effort may provide 
greater opportunities to remove 
animals involved in human-bear 



conflict from the population. The 
establishnnent of a September 
black bear hunting season in Wis- 
consin, for example, increased 
the harvest of black bears that 
were causing damage and de- 
creased the average number of 
nuisance black bears destroyed 
per year using kill permits from 
110 to 19. Similarly, a season ex- 
tension in Pennsylvania to allow 
concurrent bear and deer hunting 
seasons resulted in increased har- 
vest rates of bears involved in 
human-bear conflicts. 

The regulated harvest of 
black bear populations is occa- 
sionally a controversial social 
issue. Perhaps the most con- 
tentious issues involve fair chase 
and the ethics of certain methods 
of harvest, especially trapping of 
bears, hunting bears over bait, 
hunting with dogs, or hunting in 
the spring. The potential physical 
effects on black bears from hunt- 
ing and the expense of regulating 
various hunting methods also 
have been questioned by critics. 
Of additional concern, regulated 
hunting by certain methods may 
not be socially acceptable or fea- 
sible near urban areas. 

Regulated hunting provides 
economic benefits in the form of 
hunting-related expenditures 
(food, lodging, equipment, and 
transportation) and may have a 
significant economic impact upon 
rural communities. However, the 
economic benefits of regulated 
black bear hunting are not limited 
to hunting expenditures. A com- 
plete economic evaluation of 
bear hunting should also include 
added damage costs (agricultural 
losses and more vehicle colli- 
sions) that would be incurred 
with a growing bear population in 
the absence of hunting. Addition- 
ally, by purchasing licenses to 
hunt bears, hunters pay to pro- 
vide a public service (population 
control) and generate revenue 
that supports wildlife conserva- 
tion and management. 

Black Bear 
Management in 

Bears were plentiful and wide- 
spread when Jamestown was set- 
tled in 1607. By 1900, habitat 
changes and the over-harvest of 
bears for food and hides had near- 
ly extirpated the species but for 
small, isolated populations in re- 
mote areas. Bear populations have 
risen in Virginia and throughout 
the eastern United States during 
the past century. Harvest manage- 
ment, reforestation, public land 
purchases, oak forest maturation, 
bear restoration efforts, and natu- 
ral range expansions have all con- 
tributed to this trend. Although a 
growing population has been wel- 
comed by many people, the abun- 
dance of bears can also create 
concerns for others. With the re- 
sulting increase in populations, 
bear management objectives have 
shifted from restoring to stabilizing 
populations over much of the 
commonwealth. Active manage- 
ment is necessary to maintain bear 
populations at optimum levels. 

Since 2001, Virginia's Black 
Bear Management Plan (BBMP) 
has provided the blueprint for 
black bear management to 
meet the Department's mission 
of managing "wildlife.. .to main- 
tain optimum populations. 
serve the needs of the Com- 
monwealth." The BBMP reflects 
the values of a diverse public 
about what should be accom- 
plished with bear management 
here. The goals of the BBMP 
were drafted by Virginia citizens 
to meet their needs and repre- 
sent the interests of diverse 
groups, including landowners, 
homeowners, hunters (bear and 
non-bear), wildlife watchers, 
farmers, environmental organi- 
zations, resource management 
agencies, and animal welfare in- 

Especially for population, 
recreation, and human-bear 
conflict management, Virginia's 
bear hunting seasons specifical- 
ly address the public values re- 
flected by the BBMP goal 
directions. A key population di- 
rection is to meet the cultural 

carrying capacity (CCC) for 
bears— which translates to the 
maximum number of bears in an 
area that is acceptable to the 
human population. The CCC is a 
function of the human tolerance 
to bears and the benefits that 
people derive from bears. Ulti- 
mately, CCC involves a combina- 
tion of social, economic, political, 
and biological perspectives. Bear 
hunting seasons are designed to 
meet specific population objec- 
tives to achieve CCC and balance 
the positive demands of recre- 
ation with the negative concerns 
over bear damage. 

Due to its efficacy, cost-ef- 
fectiveness, tradition, and recre- 
ational value, regulated hunting 
has been and will be the pre- 
ferred bear population manage- 
ment option. Regulated hunting 
is highly effective for controlling 
and managing bear populations 
(stabilizing or decreasing). While 
providing recreational and nui- 
sance management benefits, 
conservative hunting seasons are 
also compatible with objectives 
to increase bear populations. 


Ruffed Grouse 

Bear Hunting 
Trends and Hunter 

Mirroring the downward trend of 
all hunting participation in Vir- 
ginia, the number of bear hunters 
and hunting effort have declined 
since the 1970s, although both 
the number of bear hunters and 
bear hunter effort have remained 
relatively stable since the 1990s. 
The dynamics affecting hunter 
participation are the result of a 
complex array of factors involving 
changes in social values, demo- 
graphics, economics, leisure time, 
and other recreational opportuni- 
ties. The effect that recreational 
hunting and bear management 
programs can have on hunter par- 
ticipation is unknown (for exam- 
ple, sociological conditions may 
have the greatest influence on 
hunting trends). 

Black bears in Virginia have 
expanded their range well be- 

yond the areas that have been 
traditionally hunted. This growing 
bear population provides new op- 
portunities for hunting recreation 
that are consistent with all popu- 
lation objectives, and bear popu- 
lations may continue to increase 
as recreational hunting is careful- 
ly implemented. Additional recre- 
ational hunting programs in parts 
of the state with expanding popu- 
lations will generate more infor- 
mation on population status and 
may provide some necessary re- 
lief to growing nuisance concerns. 
When population control eventu- 
ally becomes necessary, estab- 
lished hunting programs will 
already be in place as a popula- 
tion management option. 

Individuals hunt for many 
reasons which make up a set of 
distinct pleasures, such as: com- 
panionship, seeing bears, being 
close to nature, testing their skills, 
the challenge of pursuit, obtain- 
ing meat, and working with dogs. 
Yet, specific information on bear 

hunter satisfaction is limited, es- 
pecially in Virginia. Recreational 
benefits would be enhanced by a 
better understanding of hunter 
satisfaction and by tailoring hunt- 
ing opportunities accordingly. Ad- 
ditionally, a better understanding 
of constraints (such as access, 
free time, cost) could help explain 
changes in hunter effort and 
would benefit the design of hunt- 
ing programs that maximize 
recreational satisfaction, mini- 
mize constraints to hunting par- 
ticipation, and achieve partici- 
pation objectives. 

To view the Black Bear Man- 
agement Plan, go to: www.dgif 

This black bear report was 
contributed by Bear Project 
Leader Jaime Sajecki, wlio is 
stationed in tiie Forest regional 
office. You may reach Jaime at 

Ecology and 

66\A/ here Have All the 
w W Flowers Gone?"— 
the title of a folk song penned by 
Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson in 
1960— could easily be modified 
by today's hunter to ask, "Where 
Have All the Ruffed Grouse 
Gone?" Many of us old-timers 
can remember the good old days 
when a bad day was about 20 
flushes and on good days you 
moved 30 birds. My best day was 
near 40. Many hunters today re- 
port flushing only a few birds per 

As coordinator for the De- 
partment's ruffed grouse hunter 
survey, I oftentimes get asked the 
question, "Where have all the 
ruffed grouse gone?" The Depart- 
ment annually monitors flushing 
rates from a select group of avid 
grouse hunters. Currently, hunter 
satisfaction is low and flushing 
rates and recent flushing are 
among the lowest of the survey's 
history. It's therefore no mystery 
we're losing grouse hunters. 
While I still grouse hunt with my 
older setter, I have come to real- 
ize that my satisfaction these 
days is working with my dog 
rather than recounting the good 
times of the past. 

40 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.conn 

Many theories about the 
grouse decline have been offered 
by hunters, outdoor writers, and 
biologists. Popular and prominent 
outdoor writer and author George 
Bird Evans was a tireless advocate 
of shorter grouse seasons. Hefirm- 
ly believed late season hunting 
was the root cause of the decline. 

The grouse decline has chal- 
lenged the very core of wildlife 
management, the principle that 
hunters only harvest the "doomed 
surplus" of hunted populations. 
This characterization from Dr Paul 
Errington, a prominent ecologist 
from Iowa, has been easy for me to 
remember and understand. 

So are we being good stew- 
ards of ruffed grouse and other 
species needing young forests? 
Many researchers and managers 
have addressed this question for 
grouse inhabiting the core of 
grouse range, but little is known 
about the ecology of ruffed grouse 
populations in the Appalachians. 
Dn Roy Kirkpatrick of Virginia Tech 
has summed it up, "There is no an- 
imal studied more, yet still known 
very little about." 

Northern vs. 
Grouse Populations 

Unlike their northern counter- 
parts, Appalachian grouse do not 
follow a predictable 10-year popu- 
lation cycle. The northern cycle is 
somewhat complex, but Dr. Lloyd 
Keith of the University of Minneso- 
ta believed it involved the popula- 
tion dynamics of ruffed grouse, 
snowshoe hares, and goshawks. 
Briefly, snowshoe hare popula- 
tions can grow rapidly; they can 
produce as many as 4 litters with 3 
to 8 young per year However, with 
such potential growth rates, hare 
populations can grow so quickly 
they outpace the growth of their 
food supply and their numbers 
crash. Goshawks enjoy the over- 
abundance of snowshoes. But 
snowshoe hares eventually dip 
and goshawks shift their diets to 

grouse. With high predation from 
the abundant goshawk popula- 
tion, grouse populations decline. 
By then, snowshoe habitat has re- 
covered and the cycle is repeated. 

Southern grouse popula- 
tions have unpredictable good 
and bad years but do not experi- 
ence this 10-year cycle. Annual 
fluctuations may be the result of 
environmental conditions. Young 
birds are vulnerable to extended 
cold and wet weather. The De- 
partment conducts annual sur- 
veys of drumming males. The bad 
news is that our drumming rates 
are very low. On the positive side, 
the rate we hear grouse drum- 
ming has been stable over the 
past several years. 

Concern for the status of 
ruffed grouse led our Department 
to sponsor research on factors 
contributing to regional declines 
in numbers. I believe many avid 
grouse hunters and some biolo- 
gists were second-guessing the 
concern Mr. Evans raised about 
late season hunting. Because of 

the regional concern for grouse 
and broad implications for grouse 
season lengths, eight states decid- 
ed to work together to answer the 
questions and address our con- 
cerns about grouse populations. A 
cooperative project entitled the 
"Appalachian Cooperative Grouse 
Research Project" (ACGRP) was 
begun in 1996 with the goal of 
identifying the cause of the de- 
cline. The 6-year project resulted 
in one of the largest wildlife stud- 
ies ever conducted on ruffed 
grouse. The collaborative effort in- 
volved coordination of 17 gradu- 
ate students at 8 universities. We 
captured and radio-collared 3,118 
grouse. We tracked these birds to 
determine the cause of death, 
home range, reproduction, and a 
host of other variables. Finally, 
and perhaps most importantly, we 
closed hunting on 3 areas during 
the last 3 years of the study to 
evaluate the impacts of hunting 
on survival. If hunting was affect- 
ing populations, the closure ought 
to result in a significant improve- 

ment in survival and subsequent 
population densities. 

Surprisingly, survival rates of 
Appalachian grouse (42%) were 
higher than northern populations 
(25-30%). Avian predation was 
the leading cause of grouse mor- 
tality of Appalachian birds. The 
timing of grouse mortalities was 
correlated with the migration of 
Cooper's and other woodland 
hawks. Hunters only accounted 
for 12 percent of the mortalities 
observed. During our test of hunt- 
ing effects, we found grouse pop- 
ulations increased in both control 
and experimental areas in the 3 
years where hunting was closed. 
Because the closed area did not 
increase more than the control 
area, we concluded that current 
hunting levels are not having an 
effect on populations. 

So if Appalachian grouse sur- 
vival rates are better than the 
northern populations, why aren't 
our populations doing better? 
The answer is more chicks survive 
in northern populations. Only 22 
percent of Appalachian chicks 
survive to 35 days, compared to 
50 percent in northern popula- 
tions. Weather, predation, and 
hen condition take their toll on 
Appalachian grouse chicks. 

Wildlife managers can help 
grouse populations by providing 
cover and food for grouse chicks. 
After hatching, grouse chicks feed 
almost exclusively on insects; 
later, they shift to fruits and plant 
material. Grouse populations 
need good brood habitat that 
provides both cover and insects. 
In most woodland situations, 
grouse habitat can be improved 
by thinning or shelterwood cuts 
that allow more light on the forest 
floor. That light encourages 
herbaceous plant growth. 

The job of helping restore 
grouse populations is being en- 
hanced in Virginia by the Ruffed 
Grouse Society (RGS). The socie- 
ty's role in conservation of wildlife 
habitat is to enhance the environ- 
ment for the ruffed grouse, Amer- 
ican woodcock, and other forest 



Wild Turkeys 

wildlife that require or utilize thick, 
young forests. Virginia has three 
active RGS chapters. RGS chapters 
have been working to create new 
and maintain existing grouse habi- 
tats on public lands. Most impor- 
tantly, they have been active in 
planning efforts on the George 
Washington National Forest. Every 
10 years the Forest Service creates 
a guide (Plan) to manage 1.2 mil- 
lion acres of public lands. RGS has 
been actively representing grouse, 
woodcock, and other wildlife that 
need young forests. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Pete Seeger's lyrics continue with 
the question, "When will they ever 
learn?" That question is appropri- 
ate, as our conservation efforts for 
grouse and other threatened 
species have failed and stand to 
worsen until we shift gears and be- 
come seriously interested in ap- 
plying sound wildlife research and 
management to the problem. 

This grouse report was contributed 
by Turl<ey/G rouse Project Leader 
Gary W. Norman, who is stationed in 
the Verona regional office. You may 
reach Gary at Gary.Norman@dgif 
Virginia. gov. 

Development of 
Management Plan 

Now that turkeys have been 
restored and are thriving 
throughout the state, the Depart- 
ment has begun work to develop 
a formal Wild Turkey Manage- 
ment Plan. The plan will provide 
guidance on how to address the 
complex management challenges 
and issues related to desirable 
population levels, recreation (in- 

cluding hunting), human-turkey 
conflicts, and habitat conserva- 

To effectively manage wild 
turkeys over the next decade, we 
are using a process that affords 
multiple opportunities for public 
input as a means to incorporate 
the diverse values of different 
stakeholders. Technical guidance 
from wildlife professionals also 
will be incorporated to develop 
planning goals, objectives, and 
strategies. Toward that end, DGIF 
has partnered with the Depart- 
ment of Fish and Wildlife Conser- 
vation at Virginia Tech, which has 
a long history of providing ex- 
pertise in conservation planning 
and public involvement. 

Focus group meetings were 
held across Virginia this past April 
and May with representatives of 
specific interest groups (fall 
turkey hunters, spring turkey 
hunters, agricultural producers). 
Participants responded to ques- 
tions designed to identify impor- 
tant issues and their current 
satisfaction with wild turkey 
management. Similar questions 
in a questionnaire were sent to 
non-consumptive users and agri- 
cultural producers who were un- 
able to attend these meetings. 

Youth Fair 
Turkey Hunt Day 
October 20, 20t 

\ Youth Spring 
TMrkey Hii|it Day 
/^ril 1^,2013 

A stakeholder advisory com- 
mittee (SAC) composed of 10-12 
representatives from key stake- 
holder groups (including public 
landowners, sporting interests, 
non-consumptive interests, and 
agricultural producers) will now 
develop draft goals that reflect 
those public values to guide wild 
turkey management. 

A technical committee com- 
posed of wildlife biologists with 
expertise in wild turkey manage- 
ment will provide scientific infor- 
mation and technical feedback to 
the SAC. General steps in the 
planning process will include: 

♦ Stakeholder Advisory Com- 
mittee Meetings. Represent- 
ing a cross-section of all 
Virginians, the 10- to 12- 
member SAC will meet in a 
series of facilitated meetings 
to draft a plan that includes 
proposed goals, objectives, 
and strategy options for wild 
turkey management over 
the next 10 years. 

♦ Build a Sound Biological 
Base. Relying upon the latest 
available research and man- 
agement information, the 
Technical Committee will 
provide the scientific foun- 
dation for SAC discussions, 
goal development, and man- 
agement approaches. 

♦ Public Review & DGIF Board 
Endorsement. All citizens 
will have the opportunity to 
review the draft plan (ex- 
pected to be posted during 
spring or summer of 2013 on 
the DGIF website) and pro- 
vide comments for consider- 
ation by the SAC. A final plan 
will be drafted and present- 
ed to the DGIF Board of Di- 
rectors in the fall of 2013 for 
consideration and ultimate 

This turl(ey report was contributed 
by Turl<ey/Grouse Project Leader 
Gary W. Norman, of the Verona 
regional office, and by Holly Morris, 
graduate research assistant at 
Virginia Tech. 



.- - •Nil 

^ Field Guide 

-^-^F Outdoor 


A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes From 
Maine to Texas 

by Val Kells and Kent Carpenter 

201 1 , The Johns Hopkins University Press 

448 pages 

1 ,006 species descriptions 

1 ,079 full color illustrations 

"If you are a fisherman, diver, student, scientist, 
naturalist, or fish enthusiast, then this book is for 
you. If you've ever seen or caught a fish anywhere 
along the coast from Maine to Texas, from shal- 
low inshore bays to offshore depths of about 660 
feet, it is most likely identified here. " 

-The authors 

In the calm that followed a particularly ener- 
getic hurricane, I dropped a bottom rig 
tipped with small bits of shrimp-impregnated 
bait into a canal situated between the Adantic 
Ocean and the Pamlico Sound. After a sharp 
tug on my line, I pulled up a tropically tinted 
specimen with unusual vermiculations and 
an unfamiliar fin configuration. Returning 
the fish to the water, I headed to my 'EZ' lam- 
inated coastal fish identifier to see if I could 
put a name to the lovely little creature. No 
deal. I then searched through one of the bet- 
ter mid-Atlantic guides, to no avail. I figured 
the fish was a stray, arriving at my dock in the 
post-storm disorder. Later research uncov- 
ered that the fish was a member of the Wrasse 
species. Where, I asked myself, could I obtain 
a truly comprehensive, yet portable guide to 
coastal fishes, not one that just highlighted 
the usual suspects. There seemed to be a void. 
Little did I know that two widely recog- 
nized Virginians — Marine Science Illustrator 

Val Kells, and Ichthyologist and Professor in 
Biological Science at Old Dominion Univer- 
sity, Kent Carpenter — were already hard at 
work filling that void. Their new book, A 
Field Guide to Coastal Fishes From Maine to 
Texas, is a compact and wide-ranging re- 
source; tridy, a labor of love. The product of 
over 15 years of research from conception to 
publication, it is the first comprehensive field 
guide to the fish of the marine and brackish 
waters of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to be 
published in more than 25 years. The book is 
lavishly illustrated with Kells's painstakingly 
detailed watercolor and gouache illustrations, 
and great care was taken to 'accurately portray 
the correct placement and proportion of 
anatomical features.' An engaging introduc- 
tion gives a brief overview of the evolution, 
diversity, and features of fish, as well as fish 
conservation. Subsequent sections are organ- 
ized by family and species. Each profile con- 
tains a helpful, condensed summary of range 
and habitat, a short biological rundown, and 
approximate maximum recorded depth. The 
book also contains a short but solid glossary 
and a list of additional educational resources. 
Priced from $16.95 to $25.00, depend- 
ing on available discount, this easy-to-use 
volume is a steal. It is also ideally sized to fit 
into a rucksack, tote bag, or tackle box. I 
highly recommend this book. 



"Ever since Hank taught his dog to 
speak ail they do is argue." 


To retired game warden Willard W "George" 
Conley, who implemented a canine program 
with Augusta K-9 Services back in 1 997. 

You may recall the feature in the Jime 
2012 issue about the Department's new, 
statewide K-9 program. Please add this foot- 
note to the historical record: 

In April 1 997, Mr. Conley was certified 
as a Master Instructor and Trainer by the 
West Virginia Police K-9 Association. His 
dog, Alpha, completed academy training and 
became certified as well, and helped train two 
other dogs for wildlife detection and track- 
ing. The Department supported this initia- 
tive, even issuing a K-9 unit Ford Expedition 
and special uniforms. 

Although Mr. Conley's territory covered 
primarily Tazewell County, he worked the far 
reaches of southwest Virginia to assist officers 
in the field. Mr. Conley was very instrumen- 
tal in demonstrating the value of such dogs in 
wildlife work to other officers, to upper man- 
agement, and to state leaders — including the 
governor — and gave seminars about the pro- 
gram to other state wildlife agencies in West 
Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio. 

Thanks to Mr. Conley for bringing this 
important slice of history to the attention of 
magazine staff. 



VnoiniA Wildlife Nagazii!E 

A dog-gone good deal! 

Oa\cY Online 

With just the click of a mouse you can order Virginia Wildlife magazine online 
using your VISA or MasterCard, and have it delivered to your home for just $12.95 
a year— an incredible savings off the cover price! While you're there, don't forget 
to check out the Virginia Wildlife Outdoor Catalog for a unique and special gift. 

You Can Make a Difference 



Hunters for the Hungry receives donated deer from successful hunters and funds to cover 
the costs of processing, so that venison may be distributed to those in need across the 
state. Each $40 tax-deductible contribution allows another deer to be accepted. Hunters do- 
nating an entire deer are not required to pay any part of the processing fee. 

The David Home Hunger Relief Bill gives hunters the opportunity to donate $2 or more 
to the program when purchasing a hunting license. One hundred percent of each donation 
goes to providing venison to the hungry. For additional information or to make a donation, 
visit or call 1-800-352-HUNT (4868). Each of us can make a difference. 

Doni Forget! 

Mandatory Duck 
Stamps & HIP 

2012 Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conserva- 
tion Stamp. Artwork by John Obolewicz. 

'4 ^1 hunters who plan to hunt doves, 
waterfowl, rails, woodcock, snipe, 
coots, gallinules, or moorhens in Virginia 
must be registered with the Virginia Har- 
vest Information Program (HIP). HIP is 
required each year and a new registra- 
tion number is needed for the 
2012-2013 hunting season. To obtain a 
new HIP number, register online at 
wTi'\*.V:\HII».c()ni or call 1-888-788-9772. 
In addition, to hunt waterfowl in 
Virginia hunters must obtain a Federal 
Duck Stamp and the Virginia Migratory 
Waterfowl Conservation Stamp. The an- 
nual Migratory Waterfowl Conservation 
Stamp can be purchased for $10.00 (res- 
ident or nonresident) from DGIF license 
agents or from the Department's web- 
site. To request collector stamps and 
prints, contact Mike Hinton by email at 


Congratulations go to Erin Haynes of Pennington Gap for 
this gorgeous photograph of a snowberry clearwing hum- 
mingbird moth feeding on bee balm. Erin captured this 
image using a Canon EOS 60D digital SLR camera at ISO 
1600, 1/lOOOth, f/4.0. Beautiful image, Erin! 

You are invited to submit one to five of your best photographs 
to "Image of the Month," Virginia Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 
11104, 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. 
Send original slides, super high-quality prints, or high-res jpeg, 
tiff, or raw hies on a disk and include a self-addressed, stamped 
envelope or other shipping method for return. Also, please in- 
clude any pertinent information regarding how and where you 
captured the image and what camera and settings you used, 
along with your phone number. We look forward to seeing and 
sharing your work with our readers. 



Dear Luke, 

I live on a farm that has three quail coveys 

that I protect in earnest. My Lab does not 

point quail as I have heard some Labs do. 

He will, however, point a snake when we 

are walking around the farm. Do you 


Wallace M., St. Stephens Church 

Dear Wallace, 

I realize you may think a dog that will let you 
know there is a snake nearby is far more valu- 
able than one that points only at birds. How- 
ever, for me, the key is to get the bird you shot 
back to you quickly, not just waste time 
pointing at something, which is basically say- 
ing, in effect, "Hey boss, birds are in here 
somewhere. . .or they used to be. . .or I think 
they were." That is why a dog that retrieves is 
much better than one that is just pointing. 
Besides, it is impolite to point. 

Dear Luke, 

We just moved to the coimtry and yester- 
day I saw a snake on our back terrace. Do 
you think it might be poisonous? 

Debbie C, Dinwiddie 

Dear Debbie, 

According to "A Guide to the Snakes in Vir- 
ginia, " which you can obtain from the Vir- 
ginia Department of Game and Inland 
Fisheries, there are 30 species of snakes native 
to Virginia. Out of those 30, only three are 
poisonous. Some non-poisonous snakes are 
docile and may not bite, but Of Jones's theo- 
ry regarding snakes is the same as doing elec- 
trical work or handling high explosives: If you 
know only a little bit about it, leave it alone! 

Dear Luke, 

You always talk about hunting. Do you 

and or Jones ever do any fly fishing? 

Clayton P., Ennis, Montana 

Dear Clayton, 

I retrieved a fish once — and I can tell you — I 
won't pull that stunt again. Of Jones, on the 
other hand, will try it every now and then, 
when his memory and ego have faded from 
his last fly-fishing experience. 

Most people who have fished with Of 
Jones call his technique "River Slapping," 
"Fly Whipping," or "Leaf Lassoing." I call it, 
"How quickly can a man fall in a cold moun- 
tain stream in early spring and fill his waders 
afi:er getting up at 4 A.M. and driving 3 hours 
to be the first one on the river? " 

It is a long name for fly fishing, but Of 
Jones probably holds the record. I think 
Jones's time of 2 Vi minutes from stepping 
into a stream and falling into said stream, to 
stepping out of said stream (with most of it 
still in his waders) and starting the car for an 
uncomfortable trip back to Midlothian is a 
national record. 

Dear Luke, 

I am contemplating getting married and I 
must admit that having a woman like your 
Mrs. Lucky would be ideal. How do you 
find a woman like that? 

Ed C, Warsaw 

Dear Ed, 

It's a lot like finding a good bird dog or re- 

First, you have to decide, "Do you want 
one that is already trained, or do you want to 
train it yourself?" Although puppies are really 
cute and cuddly, over time they grow out of 
that stage and you are left: with the results of 
how much training you put into their early 
lives. You also need to examine what traits in 
their pedigree you find attractive and search 
for one that has the qualifications you think 
work best with your desires or goals. Of Jones 
spent a lot of time around cooking and me- 
chanical engineering schools and found one 

that was strong in both areas. Knowing your 
mate's educational proclivities helps when it 
is time to reward your mate with a treat for a 
job well done. For instance, just the other day, 
Of Jones noticed the fence needed painting 
and instead of handing Mrs. Lucky a brush 
and a bucket of paint, he went out and pur- 
chased a paint sprayer. Mrs. Lucky was able to 
finish the job in days instead of weeks and this 
prevented a bad case of sun poisoning, to 
which the fair-skinned Mrs. Lucky is prone. 

A word of caution — if your new spouse 
is anything like Mrs. Lucky, when buying her 
contractor supplies, don't go cheap. Buy con- 
tractor grade equipment! She knows the dif- 
ference and will appreciate the extra thought 
you put into her gift. 

Keep in mind, just because your mate 
may have had some training does not mean 
she will not need continued training. OF 
Jones subscribes to the "Busy Hands are 
Happy Hands " theory and does his best to 
keep Mrs. Lucky's hands happy by staying up 
late at night writing out the "To Do " list for 
each day. This explains why he needs to spend 
most of his daylight hours napping. 

Keep those letters coming and always re- 

Keep a leg up, 

Luke is a black Labrador retriever who spends his 
spare time hunting up good stories with his best 
friend Clarke C. Jones. You can contact Luke and 
Clarke at www. clarkecjones. com. 

National Hunting and 
Fishing Day 

September 2Z, 



Photo Tips 

by Lynda Richardson 

Macro, Micro "Tulip" Photography -A Closer Look 

There appears to be a little confusion re- 
garding what true macro photography 
really is. Nearly all digital cameras ofFer a so- 
called "macro" (Canon) or "micro" (Nikon) 
feature, normally located on the camera's 
main mode dial. Also referred to as the close- 
up mode, you might recognize it as the sym- 
bol of a tulip, but don't let the allure of this 
setting fool you. It is not a real macro feature! 
True macro photography is defined by the 
ability to obtain one-to-one magnification of 
a subject. For example, when photographing 
a 1 -inch-long insect at 1 : 1 , it will be exactly 1 - 
inch long in the photograph taken. 

What the tulip/macro/micro mode does 
has nothing to do with getting true macro 
photographs. The mode is set up to automat- 
ically select a higher shutter speed and, thus, a 
lower/wider aperture or f/stop setting. One 
reason it is programmed to choose the high- 
est shutter speed possible is that folks shoot- 
ing close-ups normally handhold their 
cameras, so camera shake is a big concern. 

As you can imagine, if shutter speed is 
the priority in the exposure, you won't get 
much in the depth-of-field department since 
wide f/stops are selected automatically to 
counter high shutter speeds. TKis can actually 
be helpful since minimal depth-of-field 
means blurry or soft backgrounds, and that 
can help your subject stand out from the 

But does the "tulip" mode really get you 
any closer? With point and shoot cameras it 
appears to, but in reality, all it does is allow the 
lens to focus at its closest point. With digital 
SLR cameras, no matter which lens you 
use — other than a true macro — you can only 
focus as close as the lens you're using allows, 
tulip mode or not. 

To get authentic macro photographs, 
you need a macro lens. A true macro lens is 
different from other lenses in two ways. First, 
the lens barrel will have extra settings parallel 
to the focus distance (feet or meters) indicat- 
ing 1:1, 1:2, 1:5, and so on. Second, you se- 

lect your magnification and then focus the 
lens by moving it toward and away from your 
subject. The reason you have to focus this way 
is that if you try to automatically or manually 
focus the lens in the normal manner, it will 
change your aspect ratio. Your 1 : 1 will sud- 
denly become 1:5 if you're not careful. This is 
why many macro photographers use focusing 
rails or long, quick-release plates to help them 
focus on a subject. 

Some lenses offer macro/micro features 
on the lens barrel, but unless you see the 1 : 1 
adjustment somewhere it is not a true macro 

Macro lenses come in several different 
millimeter lengths, but in truth, they all offer 
the same 1 : 1 and other standard magnifica- 
tion ratios. The difference is not in the 
amount of magnification but in the distance 
away from your subject. A 50mm macro lens 
will have you pretty "up close and personal" 
to a subject, whereas a 100mm macro will 
allow you to be twice as far away. The 1 80mm 
macro will allow even twice more distance 
than the 100mm macro. So, before deciding 
on which macro lens would be best for you, 
decide what you will be shooting: easily ap- 
proachable mushrooms or skittish snakes.'' 

I hope this explanation helps you better 
understand the difference between true 
macro and "tulip" photography. Happy 

A Day in the Garden at Lewis Ginter 
Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia 

Join photographers from all over the region 

for a day of photography, fun, workshops, 

demonstrations and more on Saturday, 

October 20 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

For more information please go to 


Using a Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L macro lens, I was able to comfortably photograph this green anole 
at the magnification I wanted without having to get too close. If I'd used a 50mm macro lens, 
I would have had to be so close that I know the lizard wouldn't tolerate my presence. Choose the 
right macro lens for the job! © Lynda Richardson. 

Correction to June Caption : 
The caption accompanying the photograpti in the 
June issue should have read, "yellow-throated 
warblers," not common yellowthroats. The editor 
regrets the error! 


ning In 

by Ken and Mario Perrotte 

Duck With Mushrooms and Wine (Canard au Vin) 

Whether you're retrieving that last plucked mallard or 
black duck from the back corner of your freezer or 
anticipating the new waterfowl season that begins in just a 
couple of months, here is a French-styled dish that screams 
haughty sophistication. Don't tell your dining partners it really 
isn't that tough to whip together! 

Big puddle ducks seem to work best with this dish, although 
smaller ducks such as wood ducks and even teal would taste every 
bit as fine. With the exception of canvasbacks, it is not recom- 
mended for most of the diving duck species. 

Do not overcook the duck breasts! Medium-rare to medium 
is perfect. 


1 large duck, impeccably cleaned, plucked and quartered 

V4 teaspoon herbs de Provence 

V4 cup all-purpose flour 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

'/2 cup chopped onions 

% cup mushrooms, quartered (basic white mushrooms work fine, 

or try a blend with crimini, shiitake or oyster 

mushrooms to add more flavors) 
V4 cup dry red wine 
% cup chicken stock or broth 
Vs teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional 
Salt and pepper to taste 
Rice or egg noodles (2 cups cooked) 


Cut away the leg and thigh sections of the duck, then bone out 
the breasts and cut them in half Rinse and pat dry the duck 
pieces. Sprinkle with the herbs and dredge in flour. Heat the oil 
in a Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat. Add the duck, 
skin side down, and cook until browned. Flip and brown the 
other side. The duck should render its fat at this point. Remove 
the breast pieces, which should still be rare inside. If the duck 
has litde or no fat, a small amount of buner can be added. Add 
the onions and mushrooms and cook until tender, reducing the 
heat to medium-low. Add the wine, broth, and cayenne pepper. 
Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer until the 
duck legs are thoroughly cooked and tender, about 30 to 45 
minutes. Remove the skin fi-om the breast pieces and add to the 
pan. Cook until breast pieces are warm. Add salt and pepper to 
taste and serve over rice or noodles. If you don't mind introduc- 
ing a "finger food" component to this meal, add the cooked 
thigh and leg portions, as well. Serves two. 

For a side dish, consider a basic vegetable pairing, such as carrots 
with pearl onions and peas. Some traditional "coq au vin " 
recipes, upon which this duck recipe is based, also incorporate 
carrots into the main dish. 

Most red wines will go well with this dish, but we suggest 
avoiding the big "steak" wines as well as anything that's over-the- 
top fruity and opting for a more subde pinot noir or zinfandel. 


Virginia Department of 
Game and Inland Fisheries 
401 West Broad Street 
Richmond, VA 23230 

Magazine subscription-related calls only 1-800-710-9369 ♦ Annual subscription for just $12.95 

All other colls to (804) 367-1000; (804) 367-1 278 HY 

©Jack Mills 

the Walls 

With the beautiful 2013 

Virginia Wildlife Calendar. 

Pick up one for yourself and 

others on your holiday gift list 

Where else can you get such 

a deal, at only $10 each? 

I he 201 i cafendar teattiries sfurrffHng 
photographs and information about 
hunting seasons, favorable fishing 
dates and state records, wildlife 
behavior, and more! 

Send your check payable to 
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