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Getting a Bead on the Saw-whet 

by Gail Brown 

Thanks to the dedication of these volunteers, we 
are learning big things about a little owl. 

Ducks, The Old Way 

by Tee Clarkson 

Come join the author on a nostalgic journey 
exploring the early days of duck hunting. 

You Can't Pray a Bullet Back 
Into a Gun 

by Matt Knox 

An avid hunter and deer biologist reminds 

hunters that safety should always be priority #1 . 

The Water Line on The State Line 

by Charlie Petrocci 

Headed across the state line on the Eastern Shore? 
Check out this angling hotspot. 

Feral Hogs: 

Trouble on the Horizon 

by Aaron Proctor 

Wildlife biologists are working hard to spread the 
word about a 4-legged ecological disaster. 

Welcome Back! 

by Fred Frenzel 

A native furbearer nearly extirpated has made its 
way back to Virginia's landscape. 

A Little Something for Everyone 

by Sally Mills 

Come spend some time at the Mattaponi WMA — 
where wildlife and beauty abound. 

Abrams Creek Wetlands 

by Marie Majarov 

Here in this unassuming Northern Virginia wetland, 
we find a colorful tapestry of rare flora. 

Celebrating Our Successes 

by Cristina Santiestevan 

Protecting wildlife can be hard work. Every so often, 
it's nice to celebrate some wins. 



40 Off The Leash • 41 Photo Tips • 42 Dining In • 43 2012 Index 

About the cover: Mallards in flight. Story on page 10. ©John R. Ford 

Executive Director 

Yes, Virginia, hunting and fishing do matter — in so many dif- 
ferent ways! Back in September, preliminary estimates from 
the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife- 
Associated Recreation were announced and the results were en- 
couraging. Nationally, there was an eleven percent increase in the 
number of anglers since publication of the previous survey in 
2006, and the number of hunters rose by nine percent. In 201 1, 
over ninety million U.S. residents (representing 38 percent of the 
population age 16 or older) enjoyed some form of recreational ac- 
tivity related to fish and wildlife. Over 37 million folks fished or 
hunted, and nearly 72 million engaged in wildlife watching. 
Wildlife translates to big business when you consider that expen- 
ditures related to wildlife recreation totaled $145 billion national- 
ly. That's one percent of the nation's entire gross domestic product! 

While reading these figures back in September, I was eagerly 
waiting for November and December to arrive with opportunities 
for hunting deer and wild turkeys along with other wild game. It's 
a season of great anticipation and participation which can be 
counted on to produce memories that will last you a lifetime! It's 
the time of the year to share the joys of the great outdoors, to intro- 
duce young and new hunters to different aspects of our favorite 
pursuits, and to instill in all who participate an obligation to do so 
ethically and safely. 

On that score, Matt Knox reminds us that we can never be 
too safe and that, once fired, you can't "pray a bullet back into a 
gun." Also inside, magazine editor Sally Mills introduces us to the 
wonderful Mattaponi Wildlife Management Area. Other staff 
members have contributed as well: DGIF biologist Aaron Proctor 
spotlights a growing concern over the spread of feral hogs — an in- 
vasive species of the highest order. And biologist Fred Frenzel up- 
dates us on the return of the fisher to the Virginia family of 
furbearing animals. A feature on jump-shooting ducks takes us 
back in time, while another feature about conservation successes 
heralds a brighter future. 

There's even a dark side to this issue: that of the nighttime 
pursuit of saw-whet owls. Having participated in the quest for the 
capture and banding of saw-whets, I highly commend this piece to 
you. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the folks who 
volunteer long nights of tending to mist nets in order to expand 
our knowledge about these elusive, magnificent creatures. 

Finally, I extend my appreciation to all who have provided 
such positive feedback on this magazine. The editorial team does a 
superb job of crafting a publication that I hope you can be as 
proud to read as we are to produce. See you out thete! 


To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species CO 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 
■ ■pic 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 tor 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 


NUMBER 11/12 


Bob McDonnell, Governor 


Subsidized this publication 

Douglas W. Domenech 



Bob Duncan 

Executive Director 


David Bernhardt, Arlington 
Lisa Caruso, Church Road 
J. Brent Clarke, III, Great Falls 
Curtis D. Colgate, Virginia Beach 
Ben Davenport, Chatham 
Garry L. Gray, Bowling Green 
Vaughn R. Groves, Abingdon 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
Hugh Palmer, Highland Springs 
F. Scott Reed, Jr., Manakin-Sabot 
Leon O. Turner, Fincastle 


Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Contributing Editors 

Emily Pels, Art Director 

Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 

Staff Contributors: Fred Frenzel, Matt Knox, 

Aaron Proctor 

Printing by Progress Printing Plus, Lynchburg, VA. 

Virginia Wildlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published bimonthly 
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 11104, 4010 West Broad Street, 
Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. Subscription rates are 
$12.95 for one year, $23.95 for two years; $4.00 per each 
back issue, subject to availability. Out-of-country rati 
$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) 710-9369. POSTMASTER: Please send all 
address changes to Virginia Wildlife, P.O. Box 830, Boone. 
Iowa 50036. Postage for periodicals paid at Richmond, Vir- 
ginia and additional entry offices. 

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

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

This publication is intended for general informational pur- 
poses only and every effort has been made to ensure il 
curacy. The information contained herein does not set 
a legal representation offish and wildlife laws or 
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. 




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Getting a Bead on the-- 

Kim Cook (L) and Julie Kacmarcik set up mist nets in a wooded area to capture saw-whets. Nets must 
be taken down each night in order to protect the birds. 

Volunteers and 

researchers work 

hard to ensure a 

future for this tiny 

predator of the 

night skies. 

by Go 1 1 Brown 


ts dark. And still. No hunters moon 
tonight. Snow is coming, maybe be- 
fore the saw-whets. Headlamps, like 
JHL eyeshine through the pines, flicker 
high then low. It might seem some shenanigans 
are at play, perhaps some Halloween mischief. 
Yet it is science that disturbs the woods tonight 
as Julie Kacmarcik, Kim Cook, Margaret Ebbs, 
and Sarah Hierholzer — all working under Mas- 
ter Bander Bob Reilly s federal bird banding per- 
mit — get down to the task at hand: capture, 
band, and gather data about migrating North- 
ern saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadicus). To that 
end, 12-meter-long mist nets are set in an "I" 
formation a short distance into a mixed decidu- 
ous-pine forest in the Powhatan Wildlife Man- 
agement Area (PWMA). The two nets at the top 

and bottom of the "I" run east to west; the two 
placed in the center run north to south. All di- 
rections are covered. 

A flip of a switch on an audio lure shatters 
the stillness with a series of three short, edgy 
hoots. Kacmarcik gives Bob Reilly, professor of 
economics and environmental studies at Vir- 
ginia Commonwealth University, a quick call 
to let him know all is set. Reilly, who began 
monitoring saw-whets in 2003 at his Timber 
Creek site in Powhatan, now oversees seven 
sites throughout the state (with six in the Pied- 
mont area), including one at Virginia Com- 
monwealth University's Rice Center which is 
monitored by Kacmarcik and DGIF biologist 
John "J.D." Kleopfer. 

Reilly and his sub-permittees follow 
protocols set by Project Owlnet, an organiza- 
tion founded by David F. Brinker (Maryland 









Above, (Lto R) Julie Kacmarcik, Margaret Ebbs, 
and Kim Cook appreciate the beauty and the 
feisty personality of these tiny owls. Right, a 
numbered band is placed on the lower right 
leg. It must rotate easily so the feathers do not 
get trapped. 

Department of Natural Resources) and dedi- 
cated to research in owl migration. "Project 
Owlnet is a great resource," states Kacmarcik, 
"as is the Richmond Audubon Society. They 
have provided some financial support and 
helped us in so many ways." And Bob Reilly? 
"Bob is on speed-dial! Whatever questions we 
have, he answers right away. He is always there 
to help, and when we think we can't, his faith 
in us shows us we can. None of us would be 
doing this if it weren't for him." 

Kacmarciks team always begins in late 
October and finishes up in early March when 
the owls typically stop coming. Their work is 
straightforward: Captured birds are brought 
to the station, where data is gathered and the 
birds are banded; owls are returned to the 
point of capture within an hour. This back 
and forth routine is repeated as long as the 

©Gail Brown 

saw-whets keep coming, and most nights 
even when they don't. "How do you know," 
raised eyebrows suggest, "unless you stay?" Yet 
experience can be a tough teacher. One sea- 
son, from the fall of 2006 until March 2007, 
not a single bird was captured. Zero. "But we 
came back the next year," states Kacmarcik, 
"and every year since." 

When queried about those results, Cook 
replies: "Bob (Reilly) would say 'no data is still 
data' and it is. We learn something every time, 
but there's still so much we don't understand 
and need to find out." Then came 20 1 0: Kac- 
marcik and Cook worked nonstop through 
the night, banding 13 owls and closing the 
nets as the sun came up. There's just no telling. 

While Northern saw-whet owls 
(NSWO) are inconsistent in their migratory 
patterns from year to year, in the eastern U.S. 
they migrate along a broad front from the At- 
lantic coastline to the Ohio River Valley. Data 
collected show that climate, food sources, and 
habitat destruction appear to affect their mi- 
gration. Yet, if "inconsistent" encapsulates the 
saw-whet's migratory patterns, then "contra- 
dictory" explains the otherworldly appear- 
ance — from saucer-like eyes that sweetly 
threaten "the better to track you with, my 
dear," to the oversized head atop the wide 
chest and short body that suggests a friendly, 

somewhat whimsical, apparition. Don't be 
fooled. That head can swerve 270 degrees to 
lock onto, track, and kill its prey. The tiny bill 
is a dark, hooked weapon that can tear the 
head off deer mice (a favorite food), moles, 
voles, even small rats and birds. If there's a 
sense of conflict about this raptor, it's that it 
pits what our hearts want to believe — this 
fairytale-like creature is tame — against what 
our brains know to be true: This is a wild ani- 
mal with all the attributes of a deadly hunter. 
And what a hunter it is! The smallest 
owls east of the Mississippi, saw-whets have 
binocular vision which allows them to use 
both eyes simultaneously and see objects with 
great depth of field. The saw- whet has no ear 
tufts; sounds penetrate to the ear openings 
(placed asymmetrically on each side of the 
skull) through loose, doily-like feathers that 
cover the facial disc. The right ear-opening is 
lower and points down; the left is higher, 
pointing up. This gives the saw-whet extraor- 
dinary "surround sound" hearing, allowing it 
to lock onto the faintest sounds and hunt in 
almost total darkness. Its powerful hearing 
and vision, combined with almost silent 
flight (the result of the comb-like bone struc- 
ture of its wings), help ensure this tiny raptor's 
survival in a world where both habitat and 
migration corridors are shrinking. 

Studies of the NSWO, which have in- 
creased significantly since the late '90s, have 
yielded considerable information. Data indi- 
cate the average height of a NSWO is 6 to 8 
inches, with females weighing approximate- 
ly 85-125 grams, males 65-85 grams, and 
the wingspan reaching 1 7 to 20 inches. To 
put weight into perspective, a rather hefty 
owl can be thought of as weighing about the 
same as two Hostess' cupcakes! During 
banding, the muscle mass surrounding the 
keel and under the wings is checked for fat 
stores, and tail and bill measurements are 
also recorded. Although sexing protocols are 
still being developed, currently mass and 
wing cord measurements are used to identify 
the sex of the owl. Aging is done through the 
use of a blacklight on the underside of the 
wing: no variation in color indicates a new- 
born, whereas a great variation in the base 
color of primary and secondary feathers indi- 
cates an older owl. Any non-banded owl gets 
a numbered band (on the lower right leg) 
which must rotate easily so the feathers do 
not get trapped. The band number on previ- 
ously banded birds ("recaps") is recorded 
along with current measurements. All data 
are reported to the USGS Bird Banding Lab. 

DGIF's Kleopfer is encouraged. 
"This project has allowed us to get a better 

When the wing is placed under a blacklight, newer feathers appear pink; older feathers look white. 
This information helps determine the age of the bird. 

Kim Cook releases a newly banded bird at the 
point of capture. 



Sarah Hierholzer compares the color of the 
bird's iris to shades on a standardized chart. 
While researchers note the difference, its 
significance is not known at this time. 

understanding of the NSWO in the Pied- 
mont region. Without the assistance of 'citi- 
zen biologists' such as Kacmarcik, our jobs 
would be much more difficult," he maintains. 

Although the Northern saw-whet owl 
can be seen in all parts of the continental U.S., 
its main breeding areas are southern Canada, 
the northern forests of the United States, the 
Appalachians, the Pacific Coast to southern 
Alaska, down the Rocky Mountains and into 
Mexico. Yet, recaptures in southern states sug- 
gest the owls also breed in areas not previously 
considered as permanent habitat. Breeding 
saw-whets have been recorded in the moun- 
tains of Virginia, with the first confirmed 
NSWO nest (holding two eggs) discovered in 
a Northern flying squirrel nest box by DGIF's 
John R. Baker and W Daniel Lovelace in 
1989. Virginia Commonwealth University 
biologist Dr. John F. Pagels identified another 
nest in Locust Springs in 1995. 

If discovered roosting in a thicket during 
daylight, the owl will remain straight and still, 
relying on its ability to remain cryptic even 
after it's too late, a behavior easily misinter- 
preted by humans. Just because this owl does 
not show distress does not mean it should be 
disturbed. These are wild animals protected 
by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. As a 
nongame species, it is illegal to collect, harm, 
or remove them from their natural environ- 

While the NSWO is common across the 
continental U.S., in Virginia the situation is 
different. The Virginia Wildlife Action Plan 

lists four tiers (Tier I being the most sensitive) 
to help identify, according to need, species at 
risk. The NSWO is listed as a Tier II bird 
under the plan and, as such, is described as 
having "very high conservation need, facing 
high risk of extinction or extirpation with im- 
mediate management needed for stabilization 
and recovery." 

To help mitigate these serious concerns, 
the contributions of Reilly and his sub-per- 
mittees take on increasing importance. In 
2003, Reilly was able to band eight saw-whets 
at his Powhatan site. By 201 1, 957 saw-whets 
had been banded at sites operating under his 
federal bird-banding permit. Reilly sums up 
their goals: "Expand the small database of 
wintering records in the state; identify the 
contributing factors in the state to variation in 
wintering density; determine the degree to 
which age affects the migratory and wintering 
strategies; extend our current knowledge of 
molt strategies in older owls through year-to- 
year recaptures of known-age individuals; and 
contribute to Project Owlnet." As Reilly 
states, "Any of the information we gain about 
the saw-whet's migratory habits helps us plan 
accordingly to protect it, as well as other natu- 
ral resources." 

Such was the case when the Powhatan 
County Planning Commission sought Reilly's 

assistance in their efforts to plan for future de- 
velopment, while also protecting their natu- 
ral resources. Because ". . .we now know that 
we have a population of NSWOs over-win- 
tering here, not just passing through, we can 
better plan to meet their habitat require- 
ments," states Reilly, who has strong praise for 
the commission and for the help provided by 
the DGIF's Sergio Harding and Amy Ewing 
during the commission's planning stage. 
"Harding and Ewing did a good job explain- 
ing the needs, not only of birds, but of all 
wildlife, and the county worked to meet 
those needs." 

Yet while protection of our natural re- 
sources depends on the help of people like 
Reilly and Kacmarcik, every year along with 
the saw-whets comes the need for all volun- 
teers to reinvest a considerable amount of 
their time and money in this project. Even as 
nets go up, things must be evaluated, deci- 
sions made, changes considered. Still, no one 
seems willing to turn their backs to the magic 
or stop to reconcile personal finances against 
their passion. Not when the stars are so 
bright, and the woods smell of snow, and the 
saw-whets are coming. ?f 

Gail Brown is a retired teacher and school 

A metric caliper is used to measure the bill, which is dark, hooked, and sharp. Deer mice, voles, 
small rats, and birds are food for this raptor. 


t . 

•*> y 



love Nash Buckingham's hunting stories 
about Horace and him poling through 
the swamps of Mississippi, about "an 
ever-increasing thunder of wing clash, swan 
trumpets and dining goose gabble" when 
"zenith and horizon were awhirl with ducks." 
Those were different times, with old wooden 
boats rounding bends and ducks jumping so 
thick from the cypress swamps it was hard to 
pick a bird to shoot. Of course there must have 
been days like that, but there must have been 
slow ones as well. No one writes about getting 
skunked. The greatest feeling I gather from read- 
ing Nash Buckingham is not awe at the numbers 
of birds, nor excitement at raising a gun to the 
sky and pulling the trigger. It is the importance 
of the moment, the simple importance of just 
being there. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 


©Eric Rutherford 



'■*./>* . 


',.* : 


When we pulled down the road toward the 
river, it was as if we were steering backwards in 
time. On our right was what had been the club- 
house for a duck club more than 1 00 years ago. 
This was a duck club when Nash Buckingham 
hunted the swamps of Mississippi at the turn of 
the 20th century: when men rode the train 
down from Richmond, when there was no elec- 
tricity, when lanterns lit the building warmed by 
a wood stove. This was a club where men were 
connected to this earth, to the tides, to the mi- 
grations, to the importance of just being there. 

I guess we were cheating a little with a 
trolling motor as we eased down the river in a 
small wooden boat to where the first creek left 
the main channel and began its long, lazy slither 
through tidal marsh. Once we hit the creek, we 
switched to paddles and I loaded my gun in the 
front seat. Jump shooting was a different sort of 
hunting than I was used to, but folks have done 
so on these waters for over a century and I 
looked forward to giving it a try. The one thing 
that has always drawn me to duck hunting is the 
activity. I like being able to move around, to talk 
on occasion. I am not one to sit passively in a 
tree for hours waiting for a buck to show, al- 
though I can appreciate the allure of those quiet 
moments too. 

It had felt wrong to meet at nine for a 
morning duck hunt. By mid-December I have 
become accustomed to the alarm waking me in 
the dark, before the hour hand has hit five. This 
hunt was different. Although I had snuck up on 
a few ducks in my life, I had never left the house 
for a duck hunt without decoys and calls; with 
just a box of shells and my gun, wearing jeans 
and boots and a jacket. 

Having once been the primary means of 
harvesting ducks, jump shooting has taken a 
back seat today among duck hunters with 
handheld GPS devices, shaker magnets, and 
mojo ducks. Not that there is anything wrong 
with those. I use them all. But today it was nice 
to be trying a different tactic. 

It was almost ten when we headed out. 
The morning tide was just starting to turn back 
in and there was enough water in the creeks to 
get around. The banks were higher on the low 
tide, allowing us to sneak up closer to the birds 
before they jumped. I readied myself in the 
front as we rounded the first bend. Three mal- 
lards sprang from the water about 20 yards in 
front of the boat. I raised my gun and dropped a 
greenhead with my second shot as it peeled out 
over the reeds with the wind, reminding me of a 
wild pheasant flush from back in the day when 
I pursued upland birds in Nebraska. One 
couldn't script a better start to the hunt. 

The morning continued along the way it 
began. Sometimes we got close enough for a 
good clean shot; other times, the birds jumped 
ahead of us out of range. Within two hours I 
had a limit of four mallards, a gadwall, and a 
green-winged teal. I'll take a limit of ducks any 
way I can get them, within the rules of course. 

I've heard stories about the old days at the 
club, about the men who came here back in 
Nash Buckingham's day (even saw their bird to- 
tals in a logbook from the early 1 900s). And it is 
easy to get caught up in history and envy what it 
must have been like 50 years earlier, 100 years 
earlier. I love thinking about it, but I have to re- 
mind myself that what it really must have been 
like was. . . exactly like this: two men in a boat, 

rounding the bends of these same creeks, 
jumping the ancestors of these same ducks 
whose genetic wiring has been bringing them 
to this marsh year after year since before the 
shotgun, before the arrow, before man set foot 
on this ground or paddled boats in this river. 
Sure, maybe there were more birds on some 
days, but hadn't it been exactly like this — the 
sun rising slowly on the December horizon, the 

rising tide cracking thin ice along the banks, the 
beating wings of jumping mallards cutting the 
crisp morning air, the sharp reports of shotguns 
bellowing over the marsh? Hadn't it always 
been important just being here? ?f 

Tee Clarkson is an English teacher at Deep Run High 
School in Henrico Co. and runs Virginia Fishing 
Adventures, a fishing camp for kids: 



■ ■ 
■ ■ 


by Matt Knox 

wish this article was mandatory read- 
ing for every deer hunter in Virginia 
each and every year. In fact, this en- 
tire article is about wishes. 

For the past two decades, when I write 
my annual deer season forecast and annual let- 
ter to the 900-plus Deer Management Assis- 
tance Cooperators across Virginia, I always 
end with something to the effect: 

Lastly, and most importantly, one last point 
that I think should be the number one priority is 
SAFETY. I am sure you have heard it all before, 
but hunting safety cannot be overemphasized. No 
deer that ever walked across the commonwealth is 
worth someone getting injured or killed over. For 
example, if you allow hunting from tree stands, 
consider having a rule requiring a safety belt. 
Make all ofyour hunters hold a valid hunter safe- 
ty card, regardless of their age. We have an excel- 
lent hunter safety staff and program; take 
advantage of it. Be safe. 

Then, after every season, everyone wants 
to know how many deer were harvested and if 
the deer kill was a new "record," as though 
high deer kill numbers and records indicate a 
successful deer season. It may hurt some feel- 
ings, but I really don't care what the deer kill 
number is— last year, this year, or next year. 
Every year I have the same wish for what I 
would consider the "perfect" deer season, and 
it is based on a number: the number zero. It is a 
wish that no one will get hurt or killed while 
deer hunting in Virginia. Will we ever accom- 
plish it? No, but zero deer hunting-related ac- 
cidents and fatalities has to be our number one 
deer hunting goal. Again, no deer that ever 
walked across the commonwealth is worth some- 
one getting injured or killed over. 

Data collected across the United States 
over the past several decades clearly show that 
feelingsafe is the most important consideration 
for deer hunters going afield, followed closely 
by seeing deer sign, seeing deer, the challenge 
of the hunt, and being close to nature. 

This helps me reconcile the fact that I 
tend to be obsessive about safety. I have used a 




" • ■• 






Wearing blaze orange during all hunting seasons is a "highly-recommended" safety precaution. 

No deer that ever walked across the 

commonwealth is worth someone getting 

injured or killed over. 

climbing tree stand for decades, but I also 
have always used a safety harness because I 
believe in gravity. I cannot see gravity, but I 
believe in it. And if you were to see me walk- 
ing into or out of the deer woods, I would 
have on hunter orange — regardless of the sea- 
son. If it is dark I will have on a head lamp, 
and I might be singing or whistling a tune. 
Hunting purists will tell you that I am scaring 
the deer. But it is not the deer I am concerned 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I have been lucky. I have never been in- 
volved in a hunting accident, but I have a 
brother-in-law who shot his brother during 
a deer drive in New York about 20 years 
ago. The injured man survived, but only by 
the grace of God, good doctors, and time. 

Every year, dozens of Virginia deer 
hunters are injured in deer hunting-related 
accidents. It is the most discouraging part 
of my job, because absolutely none of it has 
to happen. 


Three years ago, the very worst hap- 
pened: A non-hunter was shot and killed by a 
deer hunter. On November 17, 2009 in 
Franklin County while walking with two 
other students working in the field on a biolo- 
gy class project, Ferrum College senior Jessica 
"Jess" Goode was shot and killed by a deer 
hunter who thought he was shooting at a 
deer. The bullet that killed Jess Goode also hit 
one of her fellow students, Regis Boudinott, 
in the arm and hand. 

I had lived in fear of this type of accident 
for nearly twenty years, and it literally made 
me physically ill the afternoon it happened. It 
still evokes a very strong emotion in me to 
this day. I do not think it will ever go away. 
Why? Because on a daily basis I am asked to 
represent Virginias deer hunters. As a deer 
hunter, I readily acknowledge that we all ac- 
cept some level of risk when we go afield. 
Hopefully, that risk is miniscule. Some of us 
do everything we can to minimize it, but if we 
are honest with ourselves, we acknowledge it. 

Climbing 1 to 20 feet in the air and hanging 
off the side of a tree, sitting with a loaded gun, 
has safety implications. Jess Goode and the 
public do not accept — and should not have 
to accept — a risk related to deer hunting. In 
my opinion, it was the "worst case" deer 
hunting accident and fatality scenario. 

I have never met the shooter and will 
never have the chance to meet Jess Goode, 
but I have spent a lot of time thinking about 
Jess and her family, about him and his family, 
and about what he did. Of course, my first re- 
action like most deer hunters was shock and 
anger. Since that time, I have come to realize 
that he made a mistake. He made a very, very 
poor decision, a decision that he will have to 
live with. I do not need to talk to him. I have 
seen him on the news and realize that this 
hunting accident has changed his life and his 
family's life forever. And not for the better. 
Today, I would not wish his situation upon 
my worst enemy. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

So how do you avoid a deer hunting accident? 
Actually, I think it is very simple. First, follow 
the NRA's gun safety rules: 

♦ Always keep the gun pointed in a safe 
direction. This is the primary rule of 
gun safety A safe direction means that 
the gun is pointed so that even if it were 
to go off it would not cause injury or 
damage. The key to this rule is to control 
where the muzzle or front end of the 
barrel is pointed at all times. Common 
sense dictates the safest direction, de- 
pending on each circumstance. 

♦ Always keep your finger ofFthe trigger 
until ready to shoot. 

♦ Always keep the gun unloaded until 
ready to use. 

♦ Know your target and what is beyond. 
Be absolutely sure you have identified 
your target beyond any doubt. Equally 
important, be aware of the area beyond 
your target. This means observing your 
prospective area of fire before you shoot. 


Always know your target (pg. 14) and what is beyond it. Above, wear a safety harness while in a tree stand. 


♦ Never fire in a direction in which there 
are people or any other potential for 
mishap. Think first. Shoot second. 

Second, do not be a game violator or as- 
sociate with game violators. I have never seen 
the study, but I am one hundred percent con- 
vinced that the odds of being involved in a 
serious deer hunting accident increase expo- 
nentially in cases where the deer hunters are 
violating game laws (e.g., hunting out of sea- 
son, trespassing, hunting over bait, hunting 
without a license). 

Why? Because these persons have al- 
ready consciously decided to violate game 
laws, why should they follow basic gun safety 
rules? To break the game laws and then follow 
the NRA's gun safety rules is illogical. On the 
day Jess Goode was killed, for example, the 
shooter was trespassing, carrying a concealed 

weapon without a permit, and hunting with- 
out a license. As I wrote this article, one of our 
conservation police officers in the next office 
was writing a hunting accident report where a 
deer hunter shot his hunting companion 
while standing in an illegal bait pile. Hunting 
with, or around, game violators can get you 

The deer hunter who shot Jess Goode 
was convicted of involuntary manslaughter 
and sentenced to eight years in jail, with 
seven years suspended. He will be on proba- 
tion for three years after he is released. As part 
of the plea agreement, the Goode family re- 
quested that he speak at Department hunter 
safety courses for five years after his release. 

The bottom line is simple. When you go 
deer hunting and pull the trigger on a gun, 
you have made a decision that you are going 
to live with for the rest of your life. If you have 

followed a few, very simple safety rules, you 
will never have to give this decision a second 
thought. However, if you violate these safety 
rules, you may go to prison. And I guess you 
will spend a good part of the rest of your life 
lying awake at night, wishing you could pray 
that bullet back into the gun. 

The bad news is that you cannot pray a 
bullet back into a gun. Like many deer 
hunters, including the person who shot and 
killed Jess Goode, I have tried and failed. 
Please, be safe. ?*• 

Matt Knox serves as one of two deer project 
coordinators for the Department. He resides in 
Bedford County. 

Please, be safe. 


Off the beaten path y 

beautiful Pitts Creek 

offers a tranquil fishing 


by Charlie Petrocci 

The Eastern Shore is loaded with an 
assortment of tidal creeks, mean- 
dering streams, and small guts tra- 
versing both the seaside and bayside portions 
of the peninsula. So there are plenty of places 
to drop a small boat in and explore to your 
heart's content. And many of these small wa- 
terways are easily reached and well defined on 
maps and other information sites. But on the 
northern end of Accomack County there sits 
one small, isolated tidal creek that can only be 
accessed from another river, by a boat ramp 
located off the beaten path, or by a road not 
often taken. That is Pitts Creek — a pretty little 
tidal waterway whose twisting course through 
forest, marsh, and swamp forms the unofficial 
northern boundary between Virginia and 
Maryland on the western side of the Eastern 
Shore. Got all that? 

Pitts Creek claims its beginning just 
northwest of the town of New Church, in an 
area called Beaverdam. As it flows southwest, 
the creek fattens up as it is fed considerable 
amounts of fresh water from Dunn's Swamp, 
an inhospitable area home to inundated cy- 
press trees, brown water snakes, greenbrier, 
ticks, and a dense growth of loblolly pines 
along its upland fringes. As the creek moves 
downstream, upland gives way to marsh. It 
widens and empties into the Pocomoke River, 
a deep dark tannic-stained river, which in 
turn eventually forms Pocomoke Sound in 
the Chesapeake Bay. 

To access Pitts Creek by small boat there 
are only two ways to get in: Plan A is by claw- 
ing your way down the embankment at the 
small bridge that crosses the creek at Route 
705 or Wagram Road (which is best done in 
winter or early spring due to vegetative 
growth, mud, and creepy crawlies); or Plan B, 
which is to wind your way along the tricky 

©Charlie Petrocci 


on i ne state 

back road of Route 709 to Bell Road which 
dead-ends at a Virginia state boat ramp on 
the Pocomoke River. Here you can drop your 
boat in and either paddle or motor the quar- 
ter-mile upriver to the entrance of Pitts 
Creek. I usually opt for Plan B for the sake of 
convenience, with less chance of inflicting 
open wounds. 

Fish of Two Worlds 

Because Pitts Creek is tidal, it hosts an assort- 
ment offish species, including those of both 
fresh and saltwater domains. And as with 
most moving bodies of water, fish found here 
come and go with the seasons and often even 
with the tide. So anglers must plan accord- 

When using my kayak, I like to put in at 
the Route 709 boat ramp during the last of a 
rising tide, preferably during the morning 
hours. This gives me a chance to fish for rock- 
fish, perch, and croaker as the tide eases me 

toward the entrance to Pitts Creek, which in 
itself is a hotspot. I'll then fish my way up 
Pitts, staying until either the fishing action 
wanes or the outgoing tide beckons me back 
downstream. And remember, weather can 
mean everything when fishing a tidal creek. 
So after heavy rains, saltwater fish will "flush" 
out into deeper holes, and during dry spells, 
intruding salt water will push freshwater 
species farther upstream. 

For anglers wanting to fish Pitts Creek 
during the late spring season, the fish of 
choice around the mouth of the creek will in- 
clude stripers, white perch, croaker, and spot. 
There are also shad and herring here, but this 
is a strictly catch-and-release activity. You can 
fish the shorelines by casting leadhead jigs, 
swimming plugs, or live lining minnows 
under an in-line float. Or anchor up and fish 
the bottom using soft crabs, bloodworms, or 
live minnows. Anglers can also catch rockfish, 
spot, and croakers by fishing a baited bottom 

rig from the shoreline around the boat ramp. 

"During the spring and fall seasons, I 
like to anchor my boat just inside the en- 
trance to Pitts Creek and fish for white perch. 
Usually bloodworms fished on the bottom 
does the trick, and can also put a few good 
eating-sized catfish in the cooler as well," says 
Jimmy Inserra of Captains Cove. 

As you move upstream in Pitts Creek, 
salt water gives way to fresh and the game 
plan changes. Here among the deadfall and 
shoreline grasses, largemouth bass, yellow 
perch, catfish, and crappie will now fill the an- 
gler's dance card. Fish will boil as you pass 
through their lair. 

So on any given day, for those taking the 
time to fish their way upstream or paddle 
downstream from the Wagram Road Bridge, 
a variety of game fish can be encountered in 
very close quarters and anglers will virtu- 
ally have the place to them- 
selves. And if you want 




1 , 




Pitts Cr&eJ< L&jacy 

2?ehind every named Virginia river, 
1^ creek, or stream there is usually a 
story of some kind. And many times these 
stories are not only interesting, but have his- 
torical significance as well. This is true of 
Pitts Creek. — 

Pitts Creek, like most Eastern Shore 
rivers, was part of a Native American and 
colonial water highway. Over the centuries, 
explorers, traders, hunters, soldiers, and 
smugglers traveled its watercourse. 

The name Pitts Creek was born in 1665 
when a Lt. Colonel Robert Pitts acquired ap- 
proximately 3,000 acres of land in and 
around the Pocomoke River and along the 
nearby stream that was to bear his name. 
Pitts built a home not far from the present 
boat ramp and called the area Pitts Neck 
Farm. The property included a large work- 
ing farm, tobacco warehouse, and landing 
site used to transport tobacco and trade 
goods down to the Chesapeake Bay and as 
far as the West Indies. In those days this 
area around the Pocomoke River was true 
wilderness, and the Pitts family lived off the 
bounty of the farm and their fish nets. 

Robert Pitts died in 1670, but his family 
carried on, working both the land and the 
rivers for well over 150 years. A larger house 
was built on the farm around the year 1710; 
this structure still stands today. One of its 
distinctive features is its scrolled molded 
doorway, one of only two known to exist in 
Virginia. Pitts Landing also was visited by 
Union troops called "Zouaves" during the 
Civil War, when Union gunboats landed 
them as a reconnaissance force in August of 
1861. It was also a regular stop until the 
1950s for steamship ferries traveling to Bal- 
timore. The Pitts Neck Farm home is now a 
registered Virginia Historic Landmark. 

Small watercraft are all you need to explore and fish Pitts Creek. A reconditioned boat ramp is 
located on the Pocomoke River very near the existing Pitts Neck Farm historic house (left). 

to fish from shore, there are also possibilities 
from the small bridge which crosses the upper 
end of Pitts Creek or along the parking lot of 
the boat ramp as well. 

The boat ramp to access Pitts Creek has 
been recently improved and will easily handle 
getting kayaks, canoes, or small boats into the 
water for a day of fishing or exploring. The 
ramp is actually located on the Pocomoke 
River, just southwest to the entrance to Pitts 
Creek. This area is called Pitts Creek Neck — a 
place of some historic importance. Across the 
Pocomoke River from the boat ramp is Som- 
erset County, Maryland, with the small vil- 
lage of Shelltown visible in the distance. 

"Whenever we make patrols up this 
creek, we rarely ever see anyone else up here. 
It's a pretty underutilized spot," reports veter- 
an officer Grady Ellis with the Virginia Ma- 
rine Resources Commission. 


Because Pitts Creek is influenced by both 
tidal action and a freshwater swamp, the area 
is a hot spot for birding and wildlife observa- 
tion. During late fall, the lower end of the 
creek will host an assortment of waterfowl, 
including buffleheads, mergansers, black 
ducks, gadwall, widgeon, and wood ducks, 
among others. There are also plenty of Cana- 
da geese in the area from October through 

Wading birds will include great blue 
herons, great egrets, little blue herons, and 
black-crowned night herons. Other species 
present include grebes, coots, and rails, along 
with belted kingfishers which will announce 
your presence at every bend in the river. Birds 
of prey include great horned owls, barred 
owls, red-shouldered hawks, and ospreys. 



Located on the Maryland state line, Pitts Creek is part of the tidal turf that Virginia Marine Patrol Officers Grady Ellis and Tom Fitchett periodically 
check. Anglers and waterfowl hunters seasonally use the waterway. 

©Charlie Petrocci 



H^^^. v 



>" <t *^4itflPP99PIMm ^7 


Bring an assortment of lures, since yc 


encounter largemouth bass, pickerel 


perch, striped bass, and even longnose gar. 

Because the Pocomoke is a primary 
winter feeding area for bald eagles, large 
numbers of these magnificent birds utilize 
the waters around Pitts Creek from Decem- 
ber through March. The Pocomoke does 
not freeze, so there are plenty of prey fish in 
the river to support their feeding habits. 
And there are several large bald eagle nests 
along Pitts Creek, supporting a year-round 
population as well. 

Other Pitts Creek residents include the 
brown water snake, black rat snake, and 
stacks of various turtles of every size and 
temperament. Mammal sightings along the 
banks can include deer, otter, raccoon, and 
of course muskrats by the basketful. 

Low tide in the early morning or 
evening is often the best time to catch a 
glimpse of wildlife feeding along the creek. 
And I'm sure there's also the occasional 

arrowhead or spear point that appears from 
the eroded oyster-shell-infused banks. 
Leave them be, so that others might also 
witness the connection to those early native 
hunters who originally utilized this chal- 
lenging land. 

Pitts Creek may not be the easiest wa- 
terway to get to, but you will probably be 
the only boat on the water. And its simple 
beauty makes the trip worth the effort. It is 
a place where the tide line is not the end 
line. And the state line is not the finish line. 
It is a waterway that beckons the intrepid 
paddler or angler to cross the line and take a 
chance on a little "off the beaten path" ad- 
venture. ?f 

Charlie Petrocci is a maritime heritage researcher, 
lecturer, and consultant who specializes in coastal 
traditions such as fisheries, seafood, and communi- 
ty folklije. He has lived on the Shore for 25 years. 


feral Hogs: 

by Aaron Proctor 

You can call them wild hogs, wild 
boars, razorbacks, or even Russian 
boars. Most wildlife biologists refer 
to them collectively as feral hogs or feral pigs. 
Whatever you call them, they pose disastrous 
threats to wildlife habitat wherever they exist 
and are nothing but bad news. But what exact- 
ly is a feral hog? Merriam-Webster defines the 
word feral as "not domesticated or cultivated" 
and "having escaped from domestication and 
become wild." Simply put, its a hog that is sur- 
viving on its own in the wild without owner- 
ship. Feral hogs do not have to possess thick 
and coarse black hair or have long tusks. They 
are known to have different shades and combi- 
nations of black, brown, red, and blonde hair. 
A feral hog can simply be a hog that has es- 
caped a farm operation or has been released to 
the wild; free from the influence of any hu- 
mans, buildings, or fences. 

Currently, feral hogs are known to exist in 
at least 40 states across the country. There are 
an estimated 4 to 6 million nationwide, with 
an estimated 2.5 million in Texas alone. We 
can thank early explorer Hernando DeSoto for 
first introducing swine in the southeastern 

U.S. in the 1500s in present-day Florida. 
Like many other domesticated livestock an- 
imals, hogs seemed an easy choice to bring 
to a new world as a food source. But there 
are some crucial differences between swine 
and other livestock animals. Hogs have the 
ability to thrive in a wild state, can exist in a 
variety of climates, and possess a very high 
reproductive potential. They also disturb 
the ground as they forage and turn up the 
earth (called "rooting"). They have been de- 
scribed as "four-legged ecological disasters." 
That's about as bad as it gets among the 
wildlife community. 

A pair of mature swine can produce 3 
litters of up to 4-8 piglets about every 14 
months. Once piglets reach the juvenile 
size-class, approximately 40 pounds at 
about 6 months of age, there really aren't 
any natural predators on our landscape that 
can control their numbers. Feral hogs are 
the biological equivalent of a military battle 
tank. Their coarse hair, thick skin, and carti- 
laginous plates on their shoulder blades 
evolved for protection from fighting with 
each other. Thousands of years of domesti- 
cation are not enough to suppress these hid- 
den genes. A group of pink and portly 
barnyard hogs left out in the wild can revert 

The spread of feral hogs across the U.S. is nothing but bad news. 

Trouble a 

back to this wild-looking state in only a few 
generations. They are also a filthy species. 
Feral hogs are known to carry at least 45 dif- 
ferent diseases and parasites that can be infec- 
tious or harmful to livestock, pets, native 
wildlife, and humans. 

In Virginia, the only long-term or histor- 
ical population of feral hogs exists in the ex- 
treme southeastern Virginia Beach area, in 
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and in 
False Cape State Park. Estimated to fluctuate 
between 200 and 500 individuals, this popu- 
lation is the result of subsistence farmers 
abandoning their homesteads in the 1920s- 
1 930s and leaving their livestock behind. The 
fact that a breeding population of hogs has ex- 
isted in this rather harsh and sandy environ- 
ment for nearly 100 years is a testament to 
their heartiness and ability to survive in a 
multitude of habitats. Throughout the years, 
this population has been hunted through 
controlled programs and other collection ef- 
forts and is greatly undesired on both the fed- 
eral and state lands they occupy. Yet they still 
exist, proving that hunting alone does not 
control population numbers. 

A look at range maps from 1988 and 
2009 (pg. 21) paints a grim picture. Feral 
hogs are spreading like wildfire across the 
country, and they don't pop up in new areas 
without help. Pigs are not migratory animals. 
More and more suspect populations of feral 
hogs are appearing across the common- 
wealth, where wildlife biologists for both the 
Department (DGIF) and the U.S. Depart- 
ment of Agriculture, Wildlife Services specu- 
late that intentional releases are occurring by 
those who wish to get feral hogs established 
for hunting purposes. 

Decades of wild hog hunting in many 
states, often without bag limits under a "nui- 
sance species" declaration, has done nothing 
to stop their spread. In fact, it is most likely 
making it worse. The popularization of hog 
hunting is growing, so it follows that the de- 
sire by some to transport and stock feral swine 


June 201 2 Feral Hog (Ses scrota) Locations in Virginia 

• CY20I2 O CY20IO 

• CY 20 1 I • 1 993-2009 


Feral hogs are known to carry at least 45 different diseases 
and parasites that can be infectious or harmful to livestock, 
pets, native wildlife, and humans. 

Among other concerns, feral hogs cause tremendous damage to the landscape. 

in new places is growing as well. But feral hogs 
are not "fun and games." What may seem like 
an innocent sport where one can harvest hogs 
as a nuisance species actually poses a tremen- 
dous threat to our native wildlife and habitat 
across the commonwealth. 

Last year the Department formed a feral 
hog committee along with partner agencies 
and is beginning to focus on the feral hog prob- 
lem in Virginia. We hope that landowners, 
hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts alike will all 
band together to understand and support the 
idea that there's no place for these hogs in the 
wild. If you see or suspect that feral hogs are on 
your property, please notify your nearest DGIF 
office. For more information on feral swine 
and control methods, please visit the following 
web pages: and 

■^ Aaron Proctor serves as the Department's district 
biologist in the southeastern region of the state. 




by Fred Frenzel 



hat in the world was 
that thing?" This ques- 
tion has been heard 
more frequently in northwestern Virginia 
lately, as outdoorsmen have spotted an elusive 
and unusual animal in the local forest. 

Some called it a "black fox." Others had 
no idea what to call it. Then, in the fall of 
2008 a deer hunter in western Frederick 
County was fortunate enough to have his 

brand new video camera with him when he 
encountered this strange creature in a tree near 
his deer stand. He had no idea what it was, but 
after some quick on-the-job training with the 
new camera, he was able to capture it on film. 
He contacted Department personnel, who 
then viewed what would turn out to be the 
first known video of a live fisher (Martes pen- 
nanti) in the wilds of the commonwealth. 
Later, photographs of live fishers were cap- 
tured in Page County — first by a hunters trail 
camera in 2009 and then by a county animal 
control officer in 20 1 1 . A fisher also showed 


up in trail camera photos from Shenandoah 
County during that winter. 

The fisher is not a new animal to Virginia. 
They once roamed the Appalachian Moun- 
tains at least as far south as North Carolina and 
Tennessee. However, they are believed to have 
been extirpated from Virginia and West Vir- 
ginia by the early 1900s, long before the days 
of video technology. Likely reasons for their 
disappearance from large portions or their na- 
tive range include loss of habitat, as well as the 
unregulated trapping that took place before 
the establishment of state wildlife agencies. 

What is a fisher? 

The fisher is a large member of the weasel fam- 
ily (Mustelidae) . They are about the size of a 
fox, with average weights of 5 pounds for fe- 
males and 1 pounds for males. Lengths range 
from 29 inches for a small female to 47 inches 
for a large male. Their fur is dark brown to 
black, with occasional white patches on the 
throat or chest. Female fishers give birth once a 
year. An average litter size is three young, called 
kits. Fishers have retractable claws, like a cat, 
and are excellent climbers. They will take to 

the trees if necessary to escape danger or to 
search for a meal, but fishers actually spend 
most of their time on the ground. 

Like their relatives, fishers are efficient 
predators and will take small animals such as 
rabbits, mice, squirrels, and birds. They will 
also eat carrion and have been known to scav- 
enge deer carcasses. This trait has probably 
added to their reputation as fierce predators. 
In some cases, people wrongly assumed that a 
fisher actually killed deer, which, in reality, 
died from other causes. In addition to the car- 
nivore's standard diet of meat, fishers have 


- * 




The fisher is a member of the weasel family. It is about the size of a fox, with dark brown fur, and is 
an excellent climber. 

also been known to eat some fruit when it is 
abundant. Perhaps the most unusual item on 
the fisher's menu, however, is the porcupine 
(Erethizon dorsatum). 

In areas where their ranges overlap, the 
fisher is the most common and most effective 
predator of the porcupine! While most preda- 
tors are deterred by the porcupine's covering of 
sharp, barbed quills, the fisher has developed a 
technique to overcome them. A fisher finding 
a porcupine in the open will circle it, repeated- 
ly biting it on its face, and leap back before the 
porcupine can turn and use its defenses. The 
porcupine eventually succumbs to the attack 
and the fisher feeds on it through its unpro- 
tected chest and stomach area. If the porcu- 
pine is able to protect its face by using a crevice 
in a tree or rock, the fisher cannot penetrate its 
defenses and must seek other prey. 

How did they get here? 

The reappearance of the fisher in Virginia can 
likely be traced to expansion from populations 
in nearby West Virginia. Fishers disappeared 
from the Mountain State about the same time 
that they vanished from the Old Dominion. 

However, in 1969 West Virginia game man- 
agers traded wild turkeys to the state of New 
Hampshire for 25 fishers. One pair was kept 
at French Creek Game Farm in Upshur 
County and the rest were released into the 
wilds of Tucker and Pocahontas counties. The 
fishers did well and in the early 1 970s, a limit- 
ed harvest of one fisher per season (taken ei- 
ther by trapping or hunting) was allowed. The 
total harvest in West Virginia rose from a 
handful of fishers in the early years to a high of 
108 fishers taken during the 2007-08 season. 
Fishers (likely from the WV populations) also 
have reappeared in nearby western Maryland, 
where hunters and trappers may now take two 
per season. The total fisher harvest in Mary- 
land for the 20 1 0-1 1 season was 45. 

What if I see one? 

If you see a fisher in the wild, you should con- 
sider yourself lucky to have had this rare en- 
counter. By all means take a picture or video 
of it if possible, but do not harm it. While 
fishers are classified as furbearers in West Vir- 
ginia and Maryland and may be legally har- 
vested in those states, no harvest is allowed in 


This image from a trail camera in Shenandoah 
County helped confirm the fisher's presence 
in Virginia. 

Virginia at this time. Our Department is 
very interested in documented occurrences 
of fishers in Virginia. If you snap a picture of 
a fisher or find a dead fisher in your area, 
please contact furbearer biologist Mike Fies, 
at or (540) 
248-9360. Please help us welcome this 
piece of our natural history back to the Old 
Dominion, fa- 

Fred Frenzel has workedfor DGIF for 23 years and 
is currendy a wildlife biologist covering five counties 
in northwestern Virginia. 


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Akaiiaponi Wildlife /({miagcmmt Area ||*f§l 

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The wildlife management area borders over six miles of the upper Mattaponi River, protecting 
prime habitat for a variety of species. 

by Sally Mills 

Sitting on the bank of the upper Mat- 
taponi as it fans out just south of 
Bowling Green, it feels natural to 
close your eyes and imagine an early morning 
scene many, many decades ago. Perhaps a 
woman from the Mattaponi or Pamunkey 
tribe quietly gathering berries along the rivers 
edge, the silence broken only by the smack of 
a beaver's tail upon the water's surface. 

Here in the upper reaches of the river, 
where it passes beneath the bridge at Paige 
Road, it might appear that not much has 
changed since Virginias indigenous people 
moved across this landscape. But the distant 
hum of 18-wheelers along the bypass to 
Route 30 1 would snap you out of that mis- 
guided daydream. In fact, the Mattaponi and 

its tributary, the South River, meander in dra- 
matic fashion amid one of the fastest growing 
pockets of Northern Virginia — Caroline and 
the adjacent counties just south of Fredericks- 

Flowing unimpeded through several 
thousand acres of mixed bottomland hard- 
woods, pine meadows, lowland marsh, and 
upland ridges dotted with vernal pools, the 
river and its floodplain are a wildlife haven — a 
sportsmen's and wildlife watcher's dream. To 
find such a large swath of land still intact in 
this part of the state is nothing short of re- 
markable. To be able to protect that land for 
public benefit and wildlife conservation, hard 
to believe. 

But it happened. The land was recently 
acquired by the Department for a wildlife 
management area (WMA), something made 

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Virginia Herpetological Society members dip-netted for tadpoles and frogs during their annual 
"HerpBlitz," which was held in June throughout the Mattaponi WMA. 

possible with the help of key partners — Ducks 
Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, The 
Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Department of 
Defense, and Fort A.P Hill — all of whom rec- 
ognized the intrinsic value of what they could 
envision within their grasp. 

Phil Lownes, who directs Capital Pro- 
grams at the Department (DGIF), recognized 
it "as a rare opportunity to provide an oasis of 
wildlife habitat in rapidly developing North- 
ern Virginia." He added that diversity of habi- 
tat was key to the decision to move forward. 

Deb VanDuzee works in real estate serv- 
ices for DGIF and was closely involved in the 
project. She notes that the property is just a 
couple hours' drive from the major population 
centers in the state and situated in an area 
where more wildlife-related recreation is sorely 
needed. VanDuzee describes the place as magi- 
cal, remembering the call of a bobwhite when 
she stepped out of her car during an early visit. 

It is a place that offers a little something 
for everyone, she maintains. And with the rich 
variety of flora and fauna, it does indeed. 
Oaks, sweet gum, and tulip poplar are among 
the hardwood sentinels of the forested hill- 
sides, while river birch, alders, and high-bush 
blueberry grow at lower elevations. Through- 
out the property, sloughs from smaller 
creeks — which periodically flood — are alive 
with arrow arum, duck potato, and lizard tail. 

Staff with the Division of Natural Her- 
itage, Department of Conservation and 
Recreation (DCR), visited the property before 
its purchase and noted the presence of ancient 
oxbow lakes of a size not seen today anywhere 
in the state. Totaling 80 acres, the two water 
bodies are something quite rare to find accord- 
ing to Gary Fleming and Karen Panerson of 
DCR. Not only do they provide important 
habitat for dragonflies, skimmers, and a host 
of other insects, they offer clues to the ancient 
riverbed and associated land changes over 

Management Plans 

Today, management of the 2540-acre WMA is 
going through a transition. The property had 
been timbered and mined in years past by pre- 
vious owners, but is being cared for in a more 
holistic manner now — for both game and 
nongame species — according to Ron Hughes, 
who oversees lands and facilities for the De- 
partment's northern region. While timbering 
will continue, it is now performed with specif- 
ic focus on benefitting a wide range of wildlife. 
As part of that approach, forests will be man- 
aged at various age classes to create diversity for 
animals with differing needs. 


Creating more habitat diversity takes vi- 
sion, time, and resource dollars. But some 
changes are already apparent and cost very lit- 
tle to accomplish: old borrow pits left from 
gravel mining operations are becoming ver- 
nal pools — a simple practice that reaps bene- 
fits for a long list of amphibians and insects, 
and mammals in search of water. Future wet- 
lands development is underway with Fort 
A.R Hill, one of the partners involved — and 
will multiply the aquatic resources and bene- 
fits to waterfowl and other species. 

With the sportsman in mind, the De- 
partment will invest in a water control system 
at the mouth of one of the large oxbows to 
manage water levels. Doing so will help con- 
trol vegetation for both waterfowl hunting 
and fishing. Freshwater fish in this stretch in- 
clude bowfin, bass, yellow perch, and sunfish. 

As for popular game species, deer, 
turkey, rabbit, otter, mink, and raccoon are 
present. Wood ducks and assorted puddle 
ducks abound. A robust quail population 
lives here, too, and Canada geese nest on site. 
The American woodcock is another, targeted 
focus of management efforts. 

Other management tools have been em- 
ployed: maintaining current openings 
through woodlands for wildlife passage and 
limiting human access to targeted locations 
where unique, or in some cases threatened, 
wildlife resources have been identified. A 
controlled burn is scheduled for a 200-acre 
parcel as early as this winter. The result will 
open up areas in the forest for new, emergent 
vegetation so important to quail and turkeys 
and other upland species. 

inventory Stage 

At this early stage, wildlife biologists are fo- 
cused on gathering as much information as 
possible about the various ecosystems — and 
specific inhabitants — on the WMA. Biolo- 
gists J. D. Kleopfer and Ryan Niccoli conduct- 
ed an informal, baseline survey last spring. 
Thus far, the team has identified 1 3 species of 
amphibians and reptiles, including the spotted 
salamander and river cooter. And they have 
collected a healthy assortment of aquatic 
species, including tiny cricket frogs (about the 
size of a quarter). Kleopfer also was excited to 
discover the carpenter frog — a Tier III species 
of great conservation need cited in the Virginia 
Wildlife Action Plan (www.bewildvirginia. 
org), found in the Mattaponi watershed. 

During early summer, volunteers with 
the Virginia Herpetological Society conduct- 
ed surveys and identified a long list of other 
critters. A handful were newly confirmed for 
occurring here: the green treefrog, the North- 
ern brownsnake, the six-lined racerunner 
among them, according to DGIF biologist 
Susan Watson. That information, along with 
data collected by DGIF staff, will be fed into 
the Fish & Wildlife Service database and 
added to over time. 

Hughes looks forward to the results of 
more complete surveys on the birds, amphib- 
ians, and plant communities on site before 
making long-term management decisions. 
Sportsmen and other visitors are asked to help 
fill in our knowledge gap by recording wildlife 
seen while at the management area via survey 
forms at the access gates (see photo inset). 

Several species of frogs, such as the cricket 
frog, inhabit the area; they are good indicators 
of a healthy environment. 

Wide Appeal for Recreation 

Throughout the management area, roads of 
easy to moderate grade invite hunters and 
birders and hikers alike. Vehicle access is limit- 
ed to designated parking areas, so visitors ven- 
ture forth by foot and hunters must carry 
their harvested game out. At this time, horse- 
back riding is not allowed. 

Plans for river access by small boats, ca- 
noes, and kayaks are underway via a put-in at 
the WMA and a take-out approximately four 
to five miles downstream. 

The expansive scale of the property adds 
to the tranquility of the experience and great 
birding opportunities — prairie warblers and 
yellow-breasted chats in cutover areas, to 
ovenbirds and prothonotary warblers in bot- 
tomlands, to wood thrush and tanagers (both 
summer and scarlet) in the upland pine-hard- 
wood forest, for example. It also helps the visi- 
tor imagine this land during another era, to 
form a mental image — however fleeting — of 
what native Virginians encountered as they 
moved their encampments from coastal vil- 
lages to the wooded uplands where the 
Coastal Plain and Piedmont co-exist. In the 
quiet, with evidence of wild animals all about, 
you may develop a renewed apprecia- 
tion for the intertwining of Virginias 
rich cultural and natural history. ?f 

Magazine editor Sally Mills enjoys any 
opportunity to visit the Department's 
wildlife management areas. 


DGIF herpetologist J.D. Kleopfer and field technician Ryan Niccoli 
check traps during a recent amphibian survey. 


Directions , Map, Access Permit 











W£tf Prairies and 
Calcareous Muck Fens! 



et ready for some intriguing natural 
history. "Wet prairies" and "calcareous 
muck fens" — both extremely rare wet- 
land habitats — are being studied, preserved, and 
protected right here in Northern Virginia. 

The work is taking place on 50 acres in an ex- 
ceptional one-mile strip of land situated half in 
Frederick County and half in the City of Win- 
chester near the headwaters of Abrams Creek. 
Abrams is a small stream that flows for a mere 1 1 
miles across farmland, next to a railroad track, 
past suburban homes, and through the City of 
Winchester proper, before meandering across the 
Shenandoah University (SU) Campus and enter- 
ing Opequon Creek and, eventually, the Po- 

Long known to local naturalists as excep- 
tional, and to birders as a hot spot, this property 
was to most area residents simply "the field by the 
railroad tracks." In 1980 the Division of Natural 
Heritage of the Virginia Department of Conser- 
vation and Recreation (Heritage), as part of its 
mission to conserve Virginia's biodiversity, began 
examining the ecological communities located in 
this most inauspicious place. They found it to be 
one of the most biologically rich sites in Virginia! 
Muskrats, mink, fox, deer, otters, herons, 
ducks, songbirds, turtles, salamanders, fish, and 
butterflies are among the diverse fauna calling 
these wetlands home. Local naturalist Jim Smith 
has recorded over 1 80 bird species, both migrants 
and residents. There are 18 state-rare plants 
known from the Abrams Creek watershed and 1 2 
more are on the watch list. 

Two species, the delicate July-blooming 
hooded skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) and 
profuse fall-blooming willowleaf asters (Aster 
praeltus), are found nowhere else in the state. 
After a 1993 visit, Heritage recommended that 
further studies be undertaken to increase our un- 
derstanding and to aid in the preservation of this 
distinctive wedand. 

% An environmental studies student in the tall 
f wetland grasses works on a plants inventory. 

Above, Abrams Creek wetlands are the only location 
where hooded skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) is 
found in Virginia. Right, willowleaf asters ^srer 
praeltus) light up a marsh with pale purple flowers. 


r **4 











Natural History 

Wetlands are swamps, marshes, bogs, fens, and 
shallow ponds where surface water collects or 
ground water, via springs and seeps, rises to the 
surface. These ecologically invaluable environ- 
ments support a rich variety of specialized plant 
life that can trap sediment and break down harm- 
ful substances. Acting like super sponges, wet- 
lands are capable of holding up to 360,000 
gallons of water per acre during a foot-deep 
flood — preventing, or at least reducing, erosion 
and flooding impacts to nearby streams. During 
droughts, this water is slowly released and helps 
replenish waterways. 

Most important, wetlands provide essential 
food and habitat for a wide range of native fauna. 
Estimates are that nearly half of all federally 
threatened and endangered species depend upon 
them for feeding, nesting, breeding, or rearing 
their young. 

The Abrams Creek wetlands, in particular, 
are a remarkable place of survival and refuge. 
Some scientists speculate that between 8,500 and 
4,000 years ago, during periods of great drought 
referred to as the "hypsithermal interval," plants 
from the wetter parts of our vast midwestern 
prairies moved eastward across the Mississippi 
into the Appalachian Mountains. Remnant as- 
semblages of these plants continue to live and 




• ■**». 

* #' 

\f> * 


thrive at Abrams Creek. They form communi- 
ties very similar to contemporary "wet prairies" 
of the Midwest, with species such as willowleaf 
asters, big bluestem and Indian grasses taller 
than people at full height, and Torrey's rush. 

While not so beautiful sounding, calcare- 
ous muck fens covering much of the Abrams 
Creek wetlands are actually lovely, calcium-rich 
marshes having a specialized, neutral soil (most 
wetland habitats are acidic) resulting from a 
combination of decaying plant material and 
buffering minerals from underlying limestone 
formations. Fed by cold springs and seeps, these 
fens were perfect for northern plant refugees 
escaping southward after the last glacier advance 
1 6,000 years ago. Examples include water horse- 
tail, hooded skullcap, and spotted Joe- Pye weed. 

At one time, according to ecologist Gary 
Fleming with Heritage, the Abrams Creek wet- 
lands were probably part of a much larger com- 
plex of calcareous Shenandoah Valley wetlands. 
Agriculture and urban development in the val- 
ley's fertile, level landscape have wiped out most 
of this complex, leaving only a few scattered 
fragments which we are in serious danger of los- 
ing altogether. 

Research and Preservation 

Pivotal to the step-by-step conservation efforts 
to save these special wetlands was the arrival of 
environmental studies professor Woodward 
Bousquet to Shenandoah University. On an in- 
troductory walk with Smith, Bousquet recog- 
nized the enormous ecological and educational 
value of the wetlands and embarked upon as- 
sembling a dynamic partnership for saving 
them. The partnership includes the University's 
Blue Ridge Institute for Environmental Studies 
(BRIES), Heritage, The Opequon Watershed, 
Winchester Green Circle Committee, local nat- 
uralists, city and county officials and agencies, 
the Virginia Native Plant Society, area develop- 
ers, and this Department (DGIF). 

Believing in "hands-on education and serv- 
ice-learning," Bousquet took his students afield 
to learn ecological research skills and to make 
practical contributions with plant and water 
quality surveys. Under his watchful eye, stu- 
dents learned to prepare the releves (REL-e- 
vays) that Heritage uses for inventorying 
vegetation of natural areas. Releves are sampling 
plots for garnering detailed observations and 
data about topography, bedrock, moisture, soil, 
and human disturbances, and for describing the 
vegetation's composition. 

Dr. Bousquet (R) and environmental studies students lay out a releve. Bousquet and students hope 
to publish a full survey of the wetlands plants in 2014. 

Bousquet has a special flair for inspiring 
passion in his students, who respond with 
hard work and creative ideas. A 150-page re- 
port (cited here) was widely distributed; find- 
ings were added to the Heritage database; 
presentations were made to Winchester City 
Council, Frederick County Board of Supervi- 
sors, and the Virginia Academy of Science. 
Students hosted more than 90 people on an 
interpretive nature walk. 

With the data increasingly demonstrat- 
ing the property's unique ecological value, de- 
velopers soon took action and donated 25 
Winchester acres to the city for permanent 
preservation. Formally named the Abrams 
Creek Wetland Preserve in 2003, the proper- 
ty with a walking path became the first mile 
included in the Winchester Green Circle. 

A Problem Solved 

While much was coming together for the 
conservation of the preserve, nature was 
crafting a major obstruction — and a poten- 
tial ending — for these wedands. Through the 
natural process of succession, native syca- 
more, green ash, Eastern cottonwood, and 
silky dogwood were invading vigorously and 
turning sunny marshes into shady swamps! 

Fire, the naturally occurring element 
keeping the vast midwestern prairies from 
succeeding to forests, was not a feasible con- 
trol method in this urban setting. Grazing 
cattle presented drawbacks, too. Pesticides, 
herbicides, and the pulling out of trees would 
devastate these habitats. 

The DGIF played an advisory role, as it 

National park-style interpretive signs have been put into place across the wetlands to educate 
visitors about their value and biodiversity. 


management areas and national wildlife 
refuges." These wetlands will provide essential 
opportunities for youth and people of all ages to 
learn about and take in the beauty of nature for 
many years to come. 

However, the most significant contribu- 
tion in the Abrams Creek wetlands conserva- 
tion effort might well be the talented students 
who are being launched into vital careers to be- 
come our future environmental stewards. ?f 

Virginia Master Naturalist Marie Majarov 
( lives in Winchester with husband 
Milan. Both nature enthusiasts are active in the 
Virginia and the Mason-Dixon outdoor writers assoc. 

The ACWP includes the first mile on the Winchester Green Circle, a walking path and bridge 
strategically placed for low environmental impact. 

often does in such projects. Department wet- 
lands specialist David Norris and biologist 
Fred Frenzel prescribed an ongoing method of 
cutting down the offending trees, followed by 
an environmentally safe treatment to the 
stumps to prevent further growth, and regular 
follow-up removal of sprouting suckers. 

In 2007 after years of study, Bousquet 
and management team finalized their recom- 
mendations. A plan was approved to guide the 
Winchester Parks and Recreation Department 
in managing the preserve. In Frederick Coun- 
ty, developers proffered protective buffer zones 
to conserve that portion of the property. 

Education and the Future 

Researchers at the SU Environmental Studies 
Department and BRIES continue their con- 
servation efforts both on the SU campus, 
which is part of the Abrams Creek watershed, 
and at the preserve. Subsequent classes of SU 
Environmental Studies students contribute 
their time, sweat equity, and creative ideas, 
while field and laboratory research continue to 
contribute, update, and replicate data. 

Recognizing the need to increase aware- 
ness and to make information about local nat- 
ural places available to the public, the students 
undertook supplemental projects. In 2006, a 
booklet, Taking Care of the Abrams Creek Wet- 
lands: Tips for Homeowners, Landscapes and 
Businesses, was published. It covers such topics 
as handling stormwater runoff, soil erosion, 
use of pesticides, invasive species, and building 
home rain gardens. 

A website ( was 
created to make accessible information about 
the preserve, area watersheds, research proj- 
ects, natural places, environmental resources, 
and SU efforts to reduce their own environ- 
mental footprint. Here you can find details of 
the research, student reports, the Winchester 
Green Circle, and contributions of area devel- 
opers noted in this feature, as well as direc- 
tions to the preserve. 

The ongoing conservation of the Abrams 
Creek wetlands under the caring attention of 
Dr. Bousquet and his students, along with 
outstanding partners, is an amazing accom- 
plishment. Dr. Bousquet feels strongly that 
"getting close to nature can and needs to hap- 
pen in our local communities, neighbor- 
hoods, and parks as well as in wildlife 



• Department of Conservation and 
Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage: 
mission. shtml 

• Shenandoah University's Blue Ridge 
Institute for Environmental Studies: 

• A Study of Abrams Creek-White's Pond 
Wetlands, Winchester and Frederick 
County, Virginia by W.S. Bouquet, K.R. 
Barnes, G.J. Baruffi, K.B. Bryant, J. P. Keffer, 
and S.M. Vogel. Published by Blue Ridge 
Institute for Environmental Studies, 
Environmental Studies Program, 
Shenandoah University, Winchester VA, 

• Virginia Native Plant Society: 

.&' • ■'"" 



ft M 







r i 


I J 




k^ ' „#T" 

Torrey's rush (Juncus torrey) is one of the 
18 Virginia rare-listed plants found at the 

Naturalist Jim Smith leads regular spring and fall 
walks at ACWP, which is also a site for the 
Audubon Christmas Bird Count. 


: Mills 



Our Successes Cj 

Habitat loss. Pollution. 
A changing climate. 
The threats sometimes 

seem too much to 

overcome. But, some 

species do. Some species 

recover from 

near-extinction, often 

with the help of state and 

federal wildlife agencies 

and biologists. 

by Cristina Santiestevan 

/ t may be difficult to imagine today, 
/ but the state of Virginia was once 
entirely without white-tailed deer. 
It's true. Also beaver. And, probably, wild 
turkey. All three species were common when 
settlers first established Jamestown on the 
shores of the James River. And, in the follow- 
ing centuries, all three species were driven to 
the point of extinction or near-extinction 
within the state. Yet, today, these species are 
widespread across the entire commonwealth. 

Deer and beaver and turkey are not 
alone. Across the globe, wild species decline 
for numerous reasons: habitat loss and de- 
struction, chemical contamination, pollu- 
tion, over-collection, competition or 
predation from introduced species, rising 
seas, the loss of important prey species, and 
more. Sometimes, these species never recover. 
But, sometimes, they do. 

While the causes for decline are numer- 
ous, the reasons for recovery are often more 
limited in scope. According to Chris Burkett, 
Wildlife Action Plan coordinator with the 
Department (DGIF), wild species recover 
from population declines when their imme- 
diate threat is removed or reduced, and they 

have access to suitable habitat, have not al- 
ready declined to the point where inbreeding 
would be an issue, and are fairly adaptable in 
their needs and habits. Of these require- 
ments, Burkett believes habitat is the most 
important. "You can have all the breeding in- 
dividuals you want, but if you don't have any- 
where for them to live, then all you have is a 
zoo," he maintains. 

Habitat, adaptability, and a suitably 
large breeding population: These three ingre- 
dients may not address every conservation 
need for every vulnerable species, but they 
represent an essential start. "Generally speak- 
ing," says Burkett, "if you have habitat, you 
have opportunity for the species. And, if 
you've got a breeding population, you have 

Haliaeetus leucocephalus 

Historical status in Virginia: Nearly extinct. 
Current status in Virginia: Recovered. 
The threat: Declining water quality affected 
habitat and food supplies. Widespread use of 
DDT significantly reduced breeding success. 


Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild! 

The solution: Federal designation as endan- 
gered on the Endangered Species List. Habi- 
tat improvement, supported by the Clean 
Water Act. Federal ban on the use of DDT. 

In Virginia and across the United 
States, the bald eagle's decline and re- 
covery is closely tied with the rise 
and fall of DDT use. The chemical 

— once used widely in the United 
States as an agricultural pesticide 

— caused eagles and other birds to 
lay eggs with thin and brittle 
shells. These eggshells were so thin 
that the weight of the incubating 
parent could crush the egg, killing 
the developing chick. Prior to the 

use of DDT, bald eagles typically raised 
and fledged 1.6 nestlings each year. After 
DDT use became widespread, this success 
rate dropped to just 0.2 surviving chicks for 
each nesting attempt. DDT was banned in 
1 972, and bald eagles were listed as an endan- 
gered species in 1973. Today, bald eagles 
enjoy a rate of nesting success that matches 
historic levels; in 2005, bald eagles successful- 
ly fledged an average of 1 .59 chicks per nest. 

Those success rates translated into real 
population growth. The Center for Conser- 
vation Biology at the College of William and 
Mary estimates that Virginia had just 30 
breeding pairs of bald eagles in the early 
1970s. Since then, the population has re- 
bounded dramatically. Today, more than 730 
eagle pairs nest in the state. 

The bald eagle is a remarkable success 
story in Virginia and the bird will be officially 
removed from the state list of threatened and 
endangered species on January 1, 2013. 
"They're showing up in places we never would 
have expected," says Burkett, who is enthusi- 
astic about the bald eagle's recovery. "We've 
got bald eagles showing up in the western part 
of Virginia. Historically, they would have 
been more restricted to the big rivers of east- 
ern Virginia, so to find them using reservoir 
habitats in western Virginia is exciting. All 
they needed was a little bit of habitat and a 
little bit of help." 


Castor canadensis 

Historical status in Virginia: Extinct. 

Current status in Virginia: Recovered. 

The threat: Over-trapping for pelts. 

The solution: Reintroduction of beavers 

from other states. Management as a game 


"We just couldn't ship enough beaver pelts to 
Europe," says Burkett, who explains that 
beaver pelts were an important part of the 
export economy for the colonies and early 
United States. "A lot of trappers would just 
move into a watershed and remove every 
beaver there, and then move on." 

The last beaver was trapped and killed in 
Virginia sometime between 1885 and 1911. 
Then, until 1932, there were simply no 
beaver in the entire state. That changed in 
1 932, when the Virginia Game Commission 
— now the Virginia Department of Game 
and Inland Fisheries — began purchasing live 
beavers from states with wild populations. In 
total, the state acquired 35 beavers from 
Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New 
York, and Pennsylvania and released them 
into nine Virginia counties: Augusta, Ches- 
terfield, Craig, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, 

Giles, Goochland, Montgomery, and Prince 

By 1943, the original 35 beavers had 
established large enough populations to per- 
mit restocking elsewhere in the state. Then, 
in 1953, the state determined the beaver 
population had recovered enough to support 
a limited trapping season. That year, 30 
beaver were trapped in five counties. Today, 
the species has spread to every county in the 
state, and continues to be managed by DGIF 
as a furbearing game species. 



Ursus americantis 

Historical status in Virginia: Nearly extinct. 
Current status in Virginia: Recovered. 
The threat: Habitat loss and over-hunting 
for food and pelts. 

The solution: Habitat restoration, including 
federal- and state-funded reforestation proj- 
ects. Management as a game species. 

In 1607 when settlers first colonized 
Jamestown, black bears were common and 
widespread throughout Virginia. But, cen- 
turies of deforestation and unregulated hunt- 

(cont. pg. 35) 



Want to help protect and restore wild species in Virginia? Here are three simple ways to get involved. 

I . Read the label. Over-application of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers contributes to water 
pollution and negative impacts to species and their habitats. Burkett urges Virginia residents to read labels 
carefully, and to time their application so that it does not immediately precede a rainstorm, which increases 
the risk of dangerous runoff. 

2. Volunteer. The statewide Virginia Master Naturalist program offers many opportunities for state residents 
to contribute to habitat restoration projects, public education efforts, and more. 
Visit for more information. 

3. Support DGIF. Many statewide conservation 
efforts are managed through the Department. 
Your donations— whether made directly to DGIF 
or through the purchase of a fishing or hunting 
license— support habitat restoration and wildlife 
conservation efforts statewide. For more information 

ing took a toll on the species. By 1900, black 
bears had nearly disappeared from the state; 
remnant populations in the western moun- 
tains and the Dismal Swamp were all that re- 

"Before there was a fish and game de- 
partment, you could shoot anything you saw. 
And people did," says Burkett, who credits 
state wildlife agencies with many conserva- 
tion successes over the years, including the re- 
covery of the black bear in Virginia. "I found 
one interesting reference in Linzey's Mammals 
of Virginia where he talks about hundreds of 
black bears being taken out of the Dismal 
Swamp every year. You think, 'that cant be 
right.' But, apparently, it was." 

Shordy after the turn of the last century, 
conditions began to improve for black bears 
here. In 1 9 1 1 , Virginia established its first 
national forest near Mt. Rogers in the south- 
western corner of the state. This was followed 
by the creation of the Natural Bridge Nation- 
al Forest, the Jefferson National Forest, and 
the Shenandoah National Forest, now known 
as the George Washington National Forest. 
Then, in 1930, black bears were listed as a 
game species and statewide hunting was re- 
stricted to a set season. Today, thanks to the 
combination of increased habitat and proper 
harvest management, black bears have re- 
claimed much of their historic range. 

Falco peregrin us 

As with bald eagles, the greatest threat to 
peregrine falcons was the widespread use of 
DDT. Although the adult birds could breed 
and lay eggs, they could not successfully hatch 
chicks; the eggshells were too brittle and 
would break during the course of incubation. 
And, like bald eagles, peregrine falcons have 
recovered dramatically since DDT was 
banned in 1972. By 1997, the eastern popula- 
tion numbered 174 breeding pairs. In 1999, 
peregrine falcons were removed from the 
Endangered Species List. 

Despite their overall recovery in the Unit- 
ed States, peregrine falcons remain listed as a 
threatened species under the Virginia En- 
dangered Species Act. The state launched its 
peregrine falcon restoration project in 1978, 

The solution: Reintroduction of wild 
turkeys from other states. Habitat restora- 
tion. Management as a game species. 

"In the mid-part of the 20 th century, the 
agency decided we wanted to have turkeys 
back," says Burkett, who explains that wild 
turkeys were originally extirpated from the 
state through a combination of unregulated 
hunting and habitat loss. "So, we went out 
and went to other states, acquired turkeys, 
and worked to restore habitat. We closely 
monitored and managed the population, and 
now we have turkeys throughout the state." 

Wild turkeys were an important food 
and income source for early Virginia settlers 
and through the 1 9 th century. The birds were 

Historical status in Virginia: Likely extinct. 
Current status in Virginia: Threatened, but 

The threat: Widespread use of DDT signifi- 
cantly reduced breeding success. Over-collec- 
tion for falconry. 

The solution: Federal designation as endan- 
gered on the Endangered Species List. Federal 
ban on the use of DDT. Captive breeding and 
reintroduction into the wild. 

Although their historic range extends 
throughout North America, peregrine falcons 
have never been common. Prior to World 
War II, approximately 400 breeding pairs 
nested in the eastern half of the United States. 
Then, during the following decades, the pere- 
grine falcon population dropped precipitous- 
ly. By 1 964, there was not a single nesting pair 
of peregrines in the eastern population. Pere- 
grine falcons were listed as an endangered 
species in 1970. 

when biologists released five chicks on Cobb 
Island in Northampton County. Since then, 
the state's breeding population has increased to 
approximately 25 pairs, almost all of which are 
nesting in coastal habitats. State biologists are 
now focused on maintaining a stable breeding 
population in the coastal region, while simul- 
taneously reestablishing a breeding population 
in the western mountains. 


Meleagris gallopavo 

Historical status in Virginia: Nearly extinct. 
Current status in Virginia: Recovered. 
The threat: Habitat loss and over-hunting. 

heavily hunted until they nearly disappeared 
from the state around the beginning of the 
20 lh century. Habitat loss contributed to the 
birds' decline. Turkeys are forest dwellers and 
declined throughout the state as forests were 
cleared to make way for farms. 

The recovery of wild turkeys in Virginia 
mirrors the recovery of black bears. Both 
species readily repopulated areas as forests re- 
turned to protected lands and abandoned 
farmsteads. Today, wild turkeys are found 
throughout the state and are managed as a 
popular game species, if 

Crist! na Santiestevan writes about wildlife and the 
environment from her home in Virginia's Blue Ridge 


the Walls 




With the beautiful 2013 

Virginia Wildlife Calendar. 

Pick up one for yourself and 

others on your holiday gift list. 

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a deal, at only $ 10 each? 

The 201 3 calendar features stunning 
photographs and information about 
hunting seasons, favorable fishing 
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Send your check payable to 
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P.O. Box 11104 
Richmond, VA 23230-1104 

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L X 





Meditations On Hunting 

Jose Ortega y Gasset 

Wilderness Adventures Press, Inc. 
Hard cover. $39.95 
Illustrated by Brett James Smith; 866-400-20 1 2 

"Natural selection has directly created the most 
subtle and delicate aspects of thought, passion, 
and art. We have gradually accepted human 
hands and legs as those of the hunter. Now we 
are ready to find in our heads the mind of the 
hunter: the development of human memory as 
a connecting transformer between time and 
space, derived from the movement of hunter 
and gatherer through a landscape. " 

-Introduction: Paul Shepard, 

Visiting Professor of Environmental 

Perception, Dartmouth College 

As we enter the winter season of contempla- 
tion, bidding farewell to 2012, I want to 
close out the year with a true classic, a book 
that examines the regions of philosophy, his- 
tory, and human nature to explore the ques- 
tion: Why do we hunt? 

Why do you hunt? Ask five or six of 
your hunting or fishing friends this ques- 
tion, and you're likely to get five or six differ- 
ent combinations of answers: a reverence for 
hunting and the desire to pass on the knowl- 
edge, family tradition, the desire to prepare 
and eat healthy meals from wild game, the 
joy of working in tandem with a well-trained 
hunting dog, or perhaps the longing to leave 
the mundane behind to bond with the natu- 
ral world. 

Why is the hunting experience differ- 
ent from other outdoor endeavors? It's about 
deliberate and purposeful engagement with 

wilderness and the places where game are 
found. To Ortega's mind, hunting is a funda- 
mental instinct rooted in our innermost na- 

Jose Ortega y Gasset was born in 
Madrid in 1883, and became one of Spain's 
leading philosophers. A man of deep curiosi- 
ty and wide-ranging intellect, he was also a 
writer and publisher and critical thinker 
weighing in on the important social, politi- 
cal, and cultural issues of his day. Meditations 
on Hunting is widely quoted in sporting lit- 
erature; yet I wonder how many hunters ac- 
tually own this touchstone volume. 

Ortega's meditations resonate today. 
Take the topic of outdoor ethics for example: 
The Department's statewide Hunter Educa- 
tion curriculum has an extensive chapter de- 
voted to ethics, and many of our volunteer 
hunter education instructors describe per- 
sonal ethics as "the way you behave when 
you think no one is looking." In other words, 
doing the right thing must first originate 
from sincerity of heart and mind — not from 
a fear of getting caught. 

With this in mind, I'll close with an ex- 
cerpt which I hope will persuade you to seek 
out this book in 20 1 3. An enduring treasure, 
it will reward the reader with countless pleas- 
ant hours of reflection. 

"A good hunters way of hunting is a hard 
job which demands much from man: he must 
keep himself fit, face extreme fatigues, accept 
danger. It involves a complete code of ethics of 
the most distinguished design; the hunter who 
accepts the sporting code of ethics keeps his com- 
mandments in the greatest solitude, with no 
witnesses or audience other than the sharp 
peaks of the mountain, the roaming cloud, the 
stern oak, the trembling juniper, and the pass- 
ing animal. " 

Annual Budget 
for Fiscal Year 2013: 

Detailed information about the 

Department's annual budget may be 

viewed here: 





Don't become a couch potato this season. 
Grab your camera and get outdoors! You 
only have three months left to capture 
that award-winning photograph you plan 
to submit to the annual photography 

As a reminder, the contest deadline 
is February 1, 2013 and the showcase of 
winners will be published in the July- 
August 2013 issue. Go to: www.dgif. and click on 
"Photography Contest Guidelines" for 
everything you need to know to enter. 

Good luck! 


Keeping the Fire Lit 

Quail season opens in a few weeks, but for most 
quail hunters it's not cause for a lot of anticipa- 
tion. Bird numbers are at historic lows, and as 
many of you know, the Department's Quail Ac- 
tion Plan is a serious effort to address the popu- 
lation decline head-on. The Wildlife 
Foundation of Virginia is working with the De- 
partment on our 2,000-acre property in Albe- 
marle County to implement land management 
practices that establish good quail habitat. 
We've planted lespedeza, partridge pea, and na- 
tive warm-season grasses to provide food and 
cover. We are managing hardwood and pine 
stands with a regime of improvement cuts and 
fire to provide savannah habitat that favors 
small game. When the birds come back, we'll be 
ready for them. 

But, will the folks who love to work be- 
hind their dogs and watch a covey rise with gun 
in hand be there to enjoy the fruits of these ef- 
forts? A component of the action plan is to 
make sure the quail hunting population re- 
mains viable over the near term, as projects to 
bring the birds back are implemented. This fall 
and winter, The Wildlife Foundation of 
Virginia will try to play a role. 

As a pilot program, we've released 500 
birds at Fulfillment Farms. Over the next few 
months, we're going to provide controlled pub- 
lic hunting opportunities. We are doing this to 
allow quail hunters an opportunity to hunt the 
bird in a natural environment, and to keep their 
fire lit. We're also doing it to light some new 
fires. We'll be hosting youth hunts to introduce 
kids to this remarkable sport. And, we're doing 
it for the bird dogs that need a place to stretch 
their legs, sharpen their noses, and have success 
in the field. If we can retain a few folks who 
might otherwise have retired their favorite dog, 
or if we can recruit a few new hunters who will 
carry the quail hunting torch for a while, then, 
when the birds are back, we'll be ready for them. 

Jenny West 

Executive Director 

The Wildlife Foundation ofVirginia 

United States Postal Service 

Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation 

Publication Title: Virginia Wildlife 

Publication Number: 0042-6792 

Filing Date: 09-25-2012 

Issue Frequency: Monthly 

Number of Issues Published Annually: 12 

Annual Subscription Price: $12.95 

Complete Mailing Address: 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230 

Contact Person: Sally Mills, Editor, Telephone 804-367-0486 

Full Names of Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, and Editor: Sally Mills: Virginia Wildlife, 4010 West Broad Street, 

Richmond, VA 23230. 

Owner: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230 

Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Security Holders Owning or Holding 1 percent or More of Total Amount 

of Bonds, Mortgages or Other Securities: None 

Tax Status: Has Not Changed During Preceding 12 Months 

Publication Title: Virginia Wildlife 

Issue Data for Circulation Data Below: September/October 2012 

Extent and Nature Of Circulation 

Avg No. Copies Each Issue No. Copies of Single Issue 

During Preceding 12 Months Published Nearest to Filing Date 

Total Number of Copies 

Mailed Outside-County Paid Subscriptions 

Stated on PS Form 3541 

Mailed In-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541 

Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, 

Counter Sales, and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution 

Paid Distribution by Other Classes Through USPS 

Total Paid Distribution 

Free or Nominal Rate Outside-County Included on 

PS Form 3541 

Free or Nominal Rate In-County Included on 

PS Form 3541 

Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at 

Other Classes Through USPS 

Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail 

Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution 

Total Distribution 

Copies Not Distributed 


Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation 




















2012 I 

Kids *N FxsUtKg j 
Photo CoKtesfc 

First place, Ages 6-1 - Madison, Age 6 First place, Ages 1 -5 - Josiah, Age 4 

Aww... congratulations to the winners of the 2012 Contest! 




Don't let the cold weather stifle your 
creativity! Grab your laptop or a piece of 
paper and get to work. The Virginia Out- 
door Writers Association annually sponsors 
two writing competitions for Virginia high 
school students (grades 9-12) and under- 
graduate students attending a Virginia 
college or university. Awards of gift certifi- 
cates, outdoors gear, and cash are offered 
for winning entries. 

Go to for contest 
guidelines and other details. But hurry! 
The deadline is February 7, 2013. 

Buy Your Lifetime License 


Once again it is time to acknowledge and thank 
DGIF staff from all corners of the state who help 
us bring this magazine to our readers. Your fea- 
ture contributions, reviews, and edits -often 
under tight deadlines - are very much appreciat- 
ed by the entire magazine staff. Thank you ! 

-Sally Mills, Editor 

Virginia Wildlife 
Bound Editions 2011 

A Great Holiday Gift at just $26.75. 
Call (804) 367-0486 for details 

Outdoor Catalog 



2012 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife Collector's Knife 

Our customized 2012 Collector's Knife is a Model 192 Special Buck knife which features 
a bull elk. The handle is made from rosewood with a nickel silver guard and butt. Knives 
and boxes, made in USA. 

♦♦Available for purchase beginning December 1st.** 

Item rVW-412 SI 00.00 (plus S7.25 S&Hi 

Virginia Wildlife Leash 

Our Virginia Wildlife 6' long, high tensile, black and tan nylon 
webbing leash features a sturdy nickel-plated snap hook. 

Item rVW-137 


DGIF and Virginia Wildlife Hats 

Our brand new DGIF and Virginia Wildlife high pro- 
file hats are available in 100% cotton and are size 

Item :VW-1 38 i DGIF hat) SI 1.95 

Item = VW-1 39 (Virginia Wildlife hat! $1 1 .95 

(plusS7.25 S&HI 

To Order visit the Department's website at: 
or call (804) 367-2569. Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. 


Congratulations go to Henry Craig of Edinburg for his 
unusual photograph of a wild beehive spotted out in 
the open behind his house. It was located approxi- 
mately 25 feet up and taken with a Panasonic DMC- 
TZ5 Lumix digital camera last January. Henry captured 
this image at these settings: ISO 125, l/125th, f/4.9. A 
honey of a shot, Henry! Thanks for sharing! 

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 files on a disk and include a self-ad- 
dressed, stamped envelope or other shipping 
method for return. Also, please include 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. 


It is around 9 o'clock, Sunday morning. 
There's a knock on my door and 01' Jones 
tells me he is headed north across the James and 
wants to know if I would like to tag along. Now 
if there is one thing I love as much as retrieving it 
is a ride in Ol' Jones's truck. He has got the in- 
side looking the way the interior of a pickup 
should look. A quarter-inch coating of road dust 
covers the dashboard, the smell of wet dog is sat- 
urated into the upholstery, and empty Vienna 
sausage tins stuffed with discarded nab wrappers 
rolling around on the floor give our truck a cer- 
tain 'panache' that says we are men of the open 

It turns out that Ol' Jones has gotten tired 
of squirrels robbing his bird feeders and stealing 
cherries off his cherry trees and has decided to 
transport them to another piece of property he 
owns in the country where they will not inter- 
rupt the tranquility of his feathered friends. 

As I sit in the extended cab, I see Of Jones 
hurriedly coming to the truck, tossing from one 
hand to the other what looks like a chicken wire 
cage in the shape of a ball. Inside the cage is an 
obviously angry squirrel that is just itching to 
latch onto one of Of Jones's fingers — explain- 
ing the reason for the juggling act. 

"What kind of trap is that?" I ask. 

"Made it myself," says Of Jones proudly. 
"Cost next to nothing but I can see a couple of 
design flaws that need to be worked out." 

With that, Of Jones places the cage con- 
taining the highly agitated squirrel on the floor 
in front of the passenger seat. Already I can see 
that having a squirrel rolling around in a cage 
shaped like a ball doesn't do anything for its per- 

As we head west down Route 60, Of Jones 
pops in one of what he calls his "travl'n CDs." 
These are a mix of recordings by Jerry Jeff Walk- 
er, Dwight Yoakum, and Delbert McClinton. 
Jones also has thrown in a little Andrew Lloyd 
Weber and Puccini just to mess with people 
who think they can stereotype him. He likes to 
watch their reaction after McClinton finishes 

"Same Kind of Crazy as Me" and Puccini's 
"Nessun Dorma" kicks in. 

Ironically, it was in the middle of 
Yoakum's "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me 
Loose" that the squirrel — unbeknown to us — 
was working on an escape plan with his sharp, 
shell-cracking teeth and busted free. I feel some 
warm furry thing brush past by my hindquar- 
ters and then see it scamper to the fold-up back 
seat and run alongside the top of it a few times, 
looking for a way out. 

Now I don't know if you have been 
around dogs and squirrels at the same time, but 
there is something about a squirrel on the loose 
that will make even a Pomeranian pup go crazy. 
I start lurching back and forth frantically, trying 
to retrieve the hairy rodent. Of Jones doesn't 
have a clue we have an escaped prisoner on our 
hands until it scoots under the driver's seat, 
jumps on the passenger seat, then hops to the 
top of the dashboard where it runs back and 
forth from right to left, then left to right — like 
some kind of interior windshield wiper. There is 
no place for us to pull over and while Of Jones 
is driving with one hand, he is trying to restrain 
a 95-pound Labrador from leaping across the 
center console. 

When the squirrel leaps to the steering 
wheel, Ol' Jones makes a grab to protect his dig- 
its and I make my move to grab the squirrel. 
When I came flying through, I must of 
bumped OF Jones pretty hard because we sud- 
denly veer into the entrance of a fast food place. 
Fortunately it is one that is never open on Sun- 

I just about have the rascal cornered 
around the gas pedal when the squirrel spots an 
avenue of escape and heads north up Of Jones's 
pants leg. Of Jones lets out a remarkably high- 
pitched "WHOOOPU!" and slams his feet on 
both the brake and the gas pedal at the same 
time. We circle the drive-through three times, 
leaving a trail of tire smoke like those burn-outs 
you see the NASCAR boys do when they have 
won a race. 

It is about this time — when Jerry Jeff 
breaks into "I Ant Living Long Like This" — 
that the squittel reaches a dead-end at Jones's 
belt buckle, makes a U-Turn and heads south 
down the other pants leg, comes out, spots me 
waiting for him, and reverses direction — seek- 
ing safety up Of Jones's pants leg again. Of 
Jones lets out another a cappella "WHOOOP" 
and calls upon every higher powered deity he 
can think of to deliver him from this sharp 
clawed beast doing a Riverdance impression up 
and down the inside of his trousers. 

While Of Jones is having his own im- 
promptu tent revival, screaming all sons of ac- 
clamations and promises of where he will be 
next Sunday if he can just be freed from this un- 
holy situation, I have zeroed in on the moving 
bulge on Jones's right thigh. Of Jones sees I am 
about to take drastic action, skids to a stop, and 
bails out of the truck, taking the squirrel with 
him. While unbuckling his pants, Of Jones si- 
multaneously does what looks like a combina- 
tion Irish jig and chicken dance. As Of Jones's 
pants fall to his ankles, the squirrel sees freedom, 
leaps off of Jones's leg, and scampers up a tele- 
phone pole. He leaves Of Jones standing there 
taking a bodily inventory and looking at his 
bloodied legs, which appear to have been run 
through a dull paper shredder. 

Of Jones is in need of some medical atten- 
tion, but there are some things you just don't 
share with your family doctor. We turn the 
truck east and head home, listening to the last 
refrain of Dwight Yoakum's "Inside the Pocket 
of a Clown." 

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. 

-*.•>! v&ii A- 

"We got that old buck now. 
He's hiding behind that tree." 


Photo Tips 

by Lynda Richardson 

Happy Holiday Gift Ideas For Photographers 

As the holidays draw near, we all start 
thinking about the gifts we will be 
gathering up for our loved ones. Here are a 
few photography-related ideas for everyone 
on your list! 

Richmond Camera has offered camera 
equipment and lab services at various loca- 
tions around the commonwealth for years. 
Not only can you buy the latest digital cam- 
era, you will find a wide assortment of 
photo-related gifts as well. On their website, 
www., I found pho- 
tobooks, ($29.99-39.99), calendars, 
($6-20), ceramic tiles ($6-10), mouse pad 
($8), ornaments, ($5-10), travel mugs 
($15), iphone 4/4s covers ($16), photo 
blankets (fleece $50, velveteen $70), and 
much more. These items allow you to per- 
sonalize your gift with a favorite photo- 
graph. You can order directly from a 
Richmond Camera location or online. (I 
can't wait to get my iPhone cover!) 

Another cool idea would be to buy an 
iTunes (for iPhones) or Google Play (for An- 
droid) gift card that the recipient could use 
to purchase phone apps. As you may re- 
member, in recent Photo Tips columns I 
spoke of photography-related apps such as 
ToonCamera, ProHDR, and the Audubon 
Field Guide series. I just love my ToonCam- 
era app, and the Audubon Field Guides are 
awesome for on-the-spot identification of 
birds, insects, flowers, and more. Apps range 
from $0.99 to $50; most of them are at the 
lower end of the scale and some are free. 

Speaking of gift cards, with all the new 
photography books coming out on Photo- 
shop, nature, landscape and portrait pho- 
tography, HDR techniques, and special 
photographer's projects, everyone could use 
a gift card to a bookstore! I recently ogled the 
latest book by Anup Shah, Serengeti Spy, 
showing his use of a camouflaged camera 
placed in the path of various African animals 
that he triggered remotely. (I love remote 
camera work!) Images show the bellies and 
hooves of stampeding zebra and inquisitive 

If you want to keep your head above water, or snow, plan ahead and get your gifts for the holidays 
now! Don't forget to look for great photographs to capture. 

faces of cheetah, baboons, and lions. Awe- 

Want to buy a game for the entire fami- 
ly? How about Photo Opolyi This more per- 
sonalized version of an old favorite, 
Monopoly, is a do-it-yourself game that uses 
22 photographs, titles, and categories that 
you provide! Great for parties and family re- 
unions, and you can change it to fit any occa- 
sion. Barnes & Noble and Amazon earn' this 
for around $20-40. 

For more great gift ideas, check out the 
Photojojo Store at www. 
They have a hilarious assortment of crazy 
items, from ceramic camera lens shot glasses, 
to lens bracelets, to camera cookie cutters, to 
stop watches. 

I hope these ideas will help you on your 
hunt for the best holiday gifts ever! And amid 
all the husde and bustle, be sure to take some 
time to get out and photograph. Happy 


The waterfowl migration 
will be in full swing, so grab 

your long lenses and head 

to Chincoteague National 
Wildlife Refuge for snow and 

Canada geese as well as a 
variety of ducks. 


x EJini 

ning In 

by Ken and Maria Perrotte 

Swift Fox's Slow Cooker Venison 

Retired Virginia Army National Guard Col. John Fortune 
has been bringing the feast to family and friends for 
decades. Fortune's warrior heritage clearly means a lot to him and 
aligns with his Native American heritage as a member of Virginia's 
Rappahannock Tribe. 

Fortune's Indian name is "Swift Fox" and he and his wife 
Wanda "Singing Wind" have spent decades sharing their cultural 
ancestry at many special events. Part of that includes sharing 
cuisine. Swift Fox and Singing Wind graciously donned their 
Rappahannock regalia and cooked some of the staple offerings. 
John's Army Guard friends have vainly tried to extract the recipe 
from him for years, but as he explained, "No two batches ever 
come out just the same and it has involved a lot of experimenta- 

He grew up in Central Point of Caroline County, where the 
family was self-reliant. 

"We raised everything, almost never had to go to the store, 
except to get sugar, coffee, pepper and salt, and we'd often trade 
eggs for that," he said. "I used to watch mom cook. They didn't 
have a lot of the ingredients and tools we have today and she used 
mosdy venison, onion, salt and pepper — it was always good." 
His recipe here carries on his mother's venison tradition. 


1 pound boned venison 
1 cup of table salt 
1 cup self-rising flour 
1 tbsp. black pepper 
¥z cup cooking oil (canola) 
1 tsp. garlic salt 

3 large onions 

4 strips bacon 

Vi cup Worcestershire sauce 

Vi cup Texas Pete (or similar) hot sauce 

Preparation (the day before): 

Ensure the meat is impeccably trimmed, removing all mem- 
brane, fat, and silver skin. Brine meat for 24 hours in a bowl of 
water mixed with 1 cup of salt. Remove and let drain for 1 5 

Day of cooking: 

Cut meat into 1- to 2-inch cubes. Mix flour, 1 teaspoon of 
pepper, and garlic salt in a large, ziplock plastic bag. Add 
venison, close bag, and shake thoroughly. Peel onions and cut 
into 6 sections. Place cooking oil in slow cooker. Add 2 of the 
onions. Empty bag of venison into pot. Add remaining onion 
on top. Add Texas Pete (hot sauce) and Worcestershire sauce. 
Cover slow cooker and cook on low temperature setting for 
4-6 hours. Seasonings can be added to taste before serving, 
although the hot sauce gives the dish a nice "zip." 

Side dish: 

Traditional succotash goes well and is very easy to make. Simply 
add equal parts frozen or fresh kernel corn and lima beans and a 
can or two (depending on amount of beans and corn) of Ro-Tel 
tomatoes to a pot and cook until tender. Or, you can get squash, 
cut into cubes or strips, and steam it with a little bacon fat, 
onion salt, and pepper. 


While John was trimming the venison shoulder and Wanda was 
cutting up an onion, he smiled at Wanda and said, "You know, 
in the old days, my part of this would've ended once I brought 
home the deer. The cutting up and cooking would've been your 
job." She gave him her best, "Yes, dear!" smile. 


Index to Virginia Wildlife 

2012 Volume 73, Numbers 1-12 


All Too Often, Guess May, p. 33 

Dude, You're Fixing to Run Aground, Guess Jul/Aug, p. 41 

Things That Make You Wonder, Guess Jun, p. 33 


A Little Something for Everyone, Mills Nov/Dec, p. 25 

A Voice for the Rivers, Shank May, p. 16 

Abrams Creek Wetlands, Majarov Nov/Dec, p. 28 

Accommodating Wildlife at Fort Belvoir, Wiedeman May, p. 30 

Bringing Back A River, Ingram Jan, p. 22 

"It's Your Nature," Shepherd Jul/Aug, p. 5 

Paradise Creek Nature Park, Hester Jun, p. 22 

Protecting the Wild, Majarov Apr, p. 22 

Room Enough for All, Funk May, p. 20 

Savage Neck Dunes, Badger Jul/Aug, p. 26 

The View From On High, Mills Feb, p. 20 

Virginia's Watery Wonderlands, Booth Sept/Oct, p. 18 

Volunteer for Wildlife, Santiestevan Jul/Aug, p. 30 


2011 Angler Hall of Fame & Anglers of the Year Jul/Aug, p. 38 

A Quest For Snakeheads, Montgomery Sept/Oct, p. 22 

An Undiscovered Treasure, Beasley Apr, p. 26 

Bass Fishing's Next Generation, Hart May, p. 10 

Casting for Recovery ... Literally, Ingram Jun, p. 25 

Fishing Through Rivers of History, Petrocci May, p. 5 

Habitat, Where the Fish Are At!, Copeland Sept/Oct, p. 25 

Hot Fishing Action for Hot Weather, Fike Jul/Aug, p. 18 

Late Winter Smallmouths, Hart Feb, p. 12 

Reaching Out to American Heroes, Swenson Sept/Oct, p. 10 

Saltwater Fly Fishing Beckons, Hester Sept/Oct, p. 14 

The New South River, Clarkson Apr, p. 5 

The Water Line on The State Line, Petrocci Nov/Dec, p. 16 


2012-2013 Hunt Guide, Sept/Oct, p. 31 

A Bugle In The Night, Petrocci Jan, p. 24 

Ducks, The Old Way, Clarkson Nov/Dec, p. 10 

Fake Out A Gobbler This Spring, Hart Apr, p. 10 

Hunting on The Wing, Majarov Jan, p. 16 

Making Hunting Memories, Messina Feb, p. 9 

NUCS: A New Game in Town, Jones Sept/Oct, p. 5 

The New Faces of Trapping, Perrotte Jan, p. 5 

Unleash The Hounds, Perrotte Feb, p. 16 

Virginia's Own: Jim Clay, Ingram Sept/Oct, p. 28 

Where There's a Will, There's a Way, Ingram May, p. 24 

You Can't Pray a Bullet Back Into a Gun, Knox Nov/Dec, p.12 


A Different Kind of Class, Clarkson Feb, p. 5 

Annual Photography Contest Showcase March 

Canines On a Mission, Jones Jun, p. 5 

New Access Fee to Visit Wildlife Management Areas, 

Montgomery Jul/Aug, p. 34 

Off The Leash, Jones Jan, Feb, Apr, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec 

Pack to Survive, Brown May, p. 13 

Standing Tall, Lemmert Feb, p. 24 

Whitetail Biology, Summer=Season of the Fawns, Knox . . . Jun, p. 30 
Whitetail Biology, Springtime of Plenty and Birth 

of the Fawns, Knox May, p. 28 

Whitetail Biology, Winter=The Season of Survival, Knox . . . Jan, p. 30 


Another Year of Possibilities!, Richardson Jan, p. 33 

Give Yourself a Photography Assignment: Practice!, 

Richardson May, p. 32 

Happy Holiday Gift Ideas for Photographers, 

Richardson Nov/Dec, p. 41 

Macro, Micro "Tulip" Photography— A Closer Look, 

Richardson Sept/Oct, p. 46 

Making The Most of Cold Weather with Photoshop CS5, 

Richardson Feb, p. 33 

There's An App ForThat!, Richardson Jun, p. 32 

There is Something Phoney About Cameras These Days, 

Richardson Jul/Aug, p. 40 

Using Metering Modes for Better Exposures, Richardson . . Apr, p. 33 
Water is Life, Montgomery Feb, p. 30 


A Not So Wild Goose Chase, Badger Jan, p. 10 

Celebrating Our Successes, Santiestevan Nov/Dec, p. 32 

Deer Management 101, Hart Jul/Aug, p. 13 

Feral Hogs: Trouble on the Horizon, Proctor Nov/Dec, p. 20 

Fish Mysteries, Booth Jun, p. 18 

Getting a Bead on the Saw-whet, Brown Nov/Dec, p. 5 

Invaders in Virginia, Santiestevan Apr, p. 18 

Silver Bullets Rebound, Montgomery Apr, p. 14 

Tiny Aquatic Treasures, Majarov Jun, p. 14 

Welcome Back!, Frenzel Nov/Dec, p. 22 

Wild Rebound: ATale of Golden Eagles, 

Katzner& Cooper Jul/Aug, p. 22 

Winged Invasion, Davis Jun, p. 10 


Bass with Angel Hair Pasta and Citrus Cream Sauce, 

Perrotte Jul/Aug, p. 42 

Duck With Mushrooms and Wine, Perrotte Sept/Oct, p. 47 

Fish Tajitas, Perrotte May, p. 34 

Oven Barbecued Bear, Perrotte Jun, p. 34 

Rabbits Make for Classic Winter Meals, Perrotte Feb, p. 34 

Sugar on Snows: Snow Goose Skillet, Perrotte Jan, p. 34 

Swift Fox's Slow Cooker Venison, Perotte Nov/Dec, p. 42 

Venison Red Curry with Jasmine Rice, Perrotte Apr, p. 34 

Download the FREE DGIF Hunt Fish VA iPhone® App 
Available on the App Store SM Visit 

Virginia Department ot 
Game and Inland Fisheries 
4010 West Broad Street 
Richmond, VA 23230 

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

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

©Dwight Dyke 


This Holiday Season 

( ' Give The Gift That Will V& Enjoyed Ail Vear Long 

Virginia Wildlife Magazine 

For a limited time only, you can give an annual subscription 
to Virginia Wildlife as a gift to your family and friends for only 
$10. That's a savings of almost 60% off the regular cover 
price! This special holiday offer expires January 31 , 201 3. 

Simply send us the full name and address of the person 
or persons to whom you would like to send a subscription. 

All orders must mention code # U12C4 and be prepaid by 
check, payable to Treasurer of Virginia. Mail to Virginia 
Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230- 
1 1 04. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. 

Remember, a subscription to Virginia Wildlife makes a 
great gift that will be enjoyed all year long!