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Trails in cities or "out there" offer great getaways for anyone.

In celebration of National Trails Day on June 5, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced 10 new national recreation trails in eight states, adding more than 160 miles to the National Trails System. The newly designated trails join a network of more than 1,300 existing national recreation trails, which can be found in every U.S. state.

“As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and our nation takes a collective and cautious sigh of relief, we need recreational resources now more than ever to strengthen physical, social and mental health across our country,” Haaland said. “National recreation trails boost local economies and provide communities with safe, equitable access to the outdoors. This National Trails Day, I hope everyone finds time to enjoy the great outdoors.”

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Breeze Airways, the newest airline at Huntsville International Airport, will offer non-stop service and low fares to three Southeast destination cities starting in July 2021.

The airport announced the addition of the new budget airline. Breeze will fly non-stop from Huntsville to New Orleans, Tampa, and Charleston. Service begins July to Charleston and New Orleans, and July 22 to Tampa. Passengers can book flights on http://www.flybreeze.com or the Breeze app.

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Sig Sauer’s Custom Works division continues to turn out unique offerings, with the latest being the Custom Works 1911 Equinox in .45 ACP.

Only 500 of these models will be produced. The Custom Works 1911 Equinox pistol features a stainless steel frame and a Nitron stainless steel slide. It has custom machined sides to achieve the unique Equinox two-tone finish.

This pistol is equipped with SIGLITE Night Sights, and Hogue classic contour SL G-10 grips. Exclusive Sig Custom Works features includes logo engraving on the slide, a premium Negrini Sig Custom Works case, Custom Works challenge coin, and an official Sig Custom Works Certificate of Authenticity.

Find out more about it here, along with a local dealer.

Phil Strader with Sig Sauer gives an overview of the Custom Works 1911 Equinox in this video:

More than 20 years ago when our children were toddlers, a Zebco sales representaive named Lawson Richards and I were talking at a local fishing tackle shop. He asked about them and their ages, said I needed to get them into fishing catching bream with crickets, and we moved on to other discussion about the latest Zebco fishing products.

A couple of weeks later, a pink and blue Zebco mini-fishing rod and reel showed up on our doorstep. The blue had our son’s name on it and the pink, our daughter’s. Totally unexpected. A wonderful surprise. I still have them in our garage, decades later, as a reminder of fun times and Richards’s generosity. That kind of touch is what made him, and Oklahoma-based Zebco, the best in the industry for grassroots fishing touchstones and memories.

Ask any angler today about their first fishing rod and reel. Chances are good they’ll say it was a Zebco 202 or 33. The reels were easy to use, didn’t backlash, were almost bulletproof and lasted for years with proper care. I still have some of my wife’s late grandfather’s old reels. They are at least 50 years old, if not older, and yet I suspect I could have them cleaned, reconditioned and put into useable form.

It wasn’t a giant surprise, to be honest, to learn of the news Wednesday morning of Rather Outdoors buying Zebco Brands, including Quantum and the European division heavily engaged in match and carp fishing. Zebco has been in finanicial straights the last couple of years, according to industry friends I’ve spoken with. Zebco shed its high-profile pro fishing team staff members and scaled back its Quantum line, billed for decades as the best. Company officials said it intstead would focus on grassroots. It made a splash in 2019 at the ICAST Show with an updated version of the 33 reel and the renewed focus on grassroots. Clearly, that didn’t take firm hold. We know what happened in 2020, which may have given the company a bump since everyone and their brother was looking for fishing gear despite supply chain issues and “sold out” signs for crickets, worms and tackle.

The purchase by Rather Outdoors, which owns Lew’s reels and rods and Strike King, among others, makes sense. The company now has a grassroots division with a legendary history. Rather can pump some money into the good, shed whatever needs to be shed, and focus on its future. Lew’s will be the higher-profile bell cow in the United States. Strike King’s myriad offerings of lures will be critical, as will its pro staff of high-profile anglers who can help hammer home the importants of going fishing for fun with crickets, worms and bobbers.

Those who decry the “conglomerates are buying everything!” should consider this: Zebco could’ve died on the vine, clinging by 2-pound test that had been sitting in the sun too long. Instead, the legendary company gets renewed life and a chance at a second act at a time when the country’s interest in fishing and the outdoors is surging.

Here’s the press release from Rather Outdoors:

Rather Outdoors (“Rather”), a global leader in the fishing industry, has acquired Zebco Brands (“Zebco”), the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based manufacturer of fishing rods, reels and accessories.

Zebco is a preeminent marketer of fishing tackle and outdoor gear. Operational since 1949, it is now one of the oldest companies in the Rather Outdoors portfolio of brands and is indisputably one of the most important names in the fishing industry.

Ken Eubanks, CEO of Rather, said, “We are thrilled to welcome Zebco to the Rather family of brands. From a company perspective, this business represents robust growth potential for Rather Outdoors and enables us to continue building a complementary offering for our most important partner, our consumers in the fishing community.”

The fishing equipment space has seen a consistent upward trajectory in consumer participation in the sport. In the last year, consumer interest has grown substantially, particularly in the segments of youth anglers and new anglers, areas where the Zebco brands have excelled.

“This bold acquisition positions Rather Outdoors to take full advantage of the sport’s growth and momentum,” Eubanks said. A key component of the Zebco acquisition is the strong Europe portfolio, which includes Telford, England-based Preston Innovations (“Preston”), and Zebco Europe, located in Tostedt, Germany. Preston, a leading UK match fishing brand, has an established presence in coarse, carp and bait segments of the European market. Zebco Europe distributes the namesake Zebco brand, but also has a strong share of Europe’s predator fishing with Quantum, which originally launched in the United States in 1984, and is well-established in the lexicon of American and European angling. Together, the acquisition of Zebco Brands solidifies Rather’s goal of attaining a leading global position in the fishing tackle space.

Eubanks added, “What the Zebco acquisition means for our retail partners is of utmost importance to Rather. A strong partnership between Rather and our retailers is in this company’s DNA. We believe this deal will enhance consumer engagement and provide retail customers witha full complement to our heritage brands.”

Steve Smits, President and Chief Operating Officer of Zebco offered, “The team here at Zebco is proud of our past and the strong traditions of our brands.We believe that the leadership of Rather Outdoors remains committed to delivering the highest quality products to the loyal consumers of Zebco Brands.”

About Rather OutdoorsRather Outdoors is a global Outdoors corporation uniting some of the most recognizable names in the fishing space.With historic and iconic brands such as Lew’s, Strike King, Salmo, and Fox, Rather Outdoors provides a wide assortment of fishing products worldwide in an effort to enhance anglers’ success and the enjoyment of outdoor pursuits.To learn more about the Rather Outdoors brands, visit www.ratheroutdoors.com.

Paxton Spencer of Columbia, Mo., with his new rifle and gear. (Photo: Spencer family via Warne Scope Mounts)

Good news in the firearms industry often gets overlooked but this story is too good to be ignored.

Multiple companies in the industry heartily chipped in with top-flight equipment after learning about the plight of Paxton Spencer of Columbia, Missouri. Spencer was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, meaning he had about half a heart and one functioning lung.

According to a press release sent by Warne Scope Mounts, children with this condition rarely survive the first hours after birth. Spencer has had 17 surgical procedures. His severely compromised immune system keeps him indoors in winter, when viruses are more prevalent. Of course, 2020 and the COVID-19 situation only made things more complex for the lad and his family.

Spencer’s father, Freddy, is a close friend of Ken Flood, Vice President of Sales for Warne Scope Mounts. He asked Flood for advice about how to be able to hunt and shoot from their home, which is situated on enough rural property to allow for those activities.

“Paxton is stuck at home and fortunately, the family lives in the country allowing Paxton to be able shoot on their property,” Flood said. “When Freddy asked me about what type of rifle Paxton could use to shoot long range and also hunt whitetails, I had an idea. I believed that we could get our industry partners together to provide not only a rifle, but all of the accessories needed for Paxton to be successful shooting long range. The response was amazing.”

Warne was able to orchestrate a solution with donations from the following generous companies:

“When we surprised Paxton with these items he was blown away. I can’t thank the shooting industry enough for this amazing gift for my son,” said Freddy Spencer. “He will enjoy this rifle and gear for many years to come.”

Who knows? Maybe young Paxton will become a world-class long-range shooter, thanks to the generosity of these companies.

Audubon Christmas Bird Counts will be held throughout Alabama and the rest of the nation in the coming weeks, an annual event almost 120 years old that helps with research data-gathering and getting folks oudoors.

The bird counts began as part of an effort to tally and watch trends during a time of heavy commercial hunting. Due to demands for meat in restaurants and plumage for women’s apparel — most of both coming from the biggest cities of the nation — commercial hunting was wild and untamed.

sandhill-crane-fws

Sandhill cranes are among the most popular species spotted at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in north Alabama during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. These stately birds migrate each year and are growing in number thanks to conservation efforts. (Photo: USFWS)

Between a great conservation movement of many people, the formation of state wildlife agencies, federal bird treaties and other events including the Audubon bird counts, regulations, limits and controls were imposed. The tides shifted and today one part of the conservation success story of the 1900s still continues.

In Alabama, you can find several Audubon bird counts throughout the state. One of the most popular, and one I’ve attended, is on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. It’s based at the refuge visitor’s center in Decatur but volunteer counters visit property on the refuge, Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area and other sites.

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Stokes Alabama Alligator

Amanda Stokes and her party (John Stokes, Savanah, Kevin and Parker Jenkins) from Thomaston, AL hauled in this 15 foot, 1011.5-pound gator from the waters near Millers Ferry Saturday morning, August 16, 2014. This is the largest gator to come out of Alabama during a regulated alligator hunt. (Photo distributed by ADCNR)

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will open online registration for the state’s 12th annual regulated alligator hunts June 2 at 8 a.m.

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Southeastern Bat
This southeastern bat was confirmed to have white-nose syndrome. (Photo: Dottie Brown.)

Biologists have confirmed white-nose syndrome (WNS) in the southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius) for the first time. The species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease. 

The diseased bat was found in Shelby County, Alabama, at Lake Purdy Corkscrew Cave by surveyors from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Nongame Program; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Alabama Ecological Services Field Office; Ecological Solutions, Inc.; and the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.

The cave is owned by the Birmingham Water Works and managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. The conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting cave and karst environments across the Southeast through conservation, education and recreation. 

WNS in the southeastern bat was confirmed in the laboratory by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Very cool golf news out of Alabama!

Miguel Angel Jimenez has committed to play in the PGA Tour Champions 2017 Regions Tradition at Greystone Golf & Country Club. The club, located in Hoover south of Birmingham, was the original home to the tournament, which at the time was known as the Bruno’s Memorial Classic.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 1.14.29 PM.pngGreystone is a gorgeous facility with a challenging layout. The tournament also has been held at Ross Bridge, an RTJ Trail course, and Shoal Creek Golf Club, which will play host to the USGA’s 2017 US Women’s Open.

The Bruno’s Memorial Classic began in 1991 as a way to bring fun, competitive golf with well-known albeit older PGA Tour players. That first event had Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Chi Chi Rodriguez as guests, and was won by George Archer. Other winners over the years include Jim Dent, Alabama native Hubert Green, Hale Irwin and Andy Bean.

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flw-tour-champion-john-cox-and-stephanie-hutchinson-with-a-pair-of-bienville-giants

FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup champion John Cox and Stephanie Hutchinson with a couple of awesome @BienvillePlantation largemouth bass.

It’s been a few years since I was able to enjoy the fishing at Bienville Plantation, but the memories remain and always will. It’s a fantastic place. From the sounds of the news coming out of this legendary Florida outdoors getaway, more memories will be made soon by anglers and hunters.

Bienville Plantation has gotten a facelift on its awesome cabins and facilities, including expansion of the shooting sports complex. Along with the super lakes that offer bass fishermen untold opportunities for techniques — everything from topwaters and pitching plastics to crankbaits and swim jigs — the new owners have opened more lakes.

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