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Alabama Wildlife Management Areas offer opportunities for hunters, anglers, birders, campers, hikers and others who take advantage of the public lands. The WMAs are managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. (Photo: ADCNR)

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) will host a series of Wildlife Management Area (WMA) listening sessions across the state this winter. The listening sessions will focus on the history of Alabama’s WMA system, how it is funded, habitat management efforts, future plans and ongoing research. WFF staff will also answer attendees’ questions.

“It’s important for hunters and others who utilize the state WMA system to understand how our WMAs operate and our management objectives,” said Keith Gauldin, WFF Wildlife Section Chief. “It is equally important for us to listen to the ideas and concerns of those hunters.”

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Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes migrate through north Alabama each winter and stop at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge holds a festival each January to celebrate these cool birds and other wildlife. (Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service)

DECATUR, Ala. — More than14,000 Sandhill Cranes along with several pairs of Whooping Cranes spend the winter each year at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, a major stopping point on the birds’ migration route.

To celebrate these birds and other wildlife viewing opportunities, the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association hosts a two day event bringing together experienced birders and those who would like to learn more about birding and other wildlife that call the refuge home. Sponsored by Toray, the fourth annual Festival of the Cranes is set for Jan. 14-15, 2017, at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Along with offering two days of nature walks, concerts, live raptors and special programs, there are additional nature-inspired exhibitions and activities taking place throughout the city before, during and after the festival.

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This is the artwork used on the current 2016-17 Alabama waterfowl stamp.

Waterfowl hunters throughout the country must have what is commonly known as a federal duck stamp, a general term for the federal waterfowl stamp required to hunt the migratory birds.

The federal stamp has been around for more than 80 years. It raises money for migratory bird projects and land acquisitions. It is one of the most successful, consistent and, despite a few detractors, embraced models of conservation in history.

Some hunters buy a couple of extra stamps each year, in part to chip in for conservation and also if they happen to lose theirs. You can buy them online or at U.S. Post Office locations. Smart thinking, for sure. Federal stamps are required to be signed in ink across the face so they cannot be transferred to another hunter. And some folks collect the stamps, working to get every one of them back to the original created by Ding Darling.

Many states have their own waterfowl stamps, too. Alabama is one of those and each year holds a contest for artists. I was honored to be a judge for the contest about 20 years ago and it’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, interest has dwindled and the number of entries has fallen off in recent years.

Artists who know this is an annual event prepare for it ahead of time. If you’re an artist with an interest but didn’t know, you may consider prepping for the 2018 event unless you can whip up something in a few weeks. It would be cool to see this contest regain strength in interest and entries.

Waterfowl hunters must have in possession while hunting a federal stamp and many states require a separate state stamp. Money from the stamps is used for conservation efforts.

Here is the press release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources about the contest and entry specifics:

Alabama artists are invited to enter the 2017 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest, which opens January 1, 2017. The winning artwork will be featured as the design of the 2018-19 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp, which is required along with the Federal Waterfowl Stamp when hunting migratory waterfowl in Alabama. Like the federal waterfowl stamp, revenues from the sale of Alabama stamps are used to purchase, establish or improve migratory waterfowl habitat.

Entries will be accepted from January 1 to February 15, 2017. The competition is open to resident Alabama artists only.

Only original horizontal artworks depicting a species of North American migratory duck or goose will be eligible. The Mallard, American Wigeon, and Canada Goose — depicted in the winning artwork of the three previous year’s contests — are not eligible as the subject for the 2018-19 waterfowl stamp.

All eligible entries will be on display March 11, 2017, at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Decatur, Ala. Following the showing, three judges from the fields of art, ornithology and wildlife conservation will select the winning waterfowl art. The public is invited to attend the judging.

The judging criteria will emphasize uncluttered design suitable for printing as a stamp, anatomical accuracy of the illustrated species, and artistic rendering. Close attention must be given to tone and detail, since those aspects are prerequisites for printing artwork as a stamp. Wing and feather construction must be particularly well defined. Entries may be drawn or painted in any medium. Entries cannot exceed 9 by 12 inches (15 by 18 inches matted).

For contest information and entry forms, contact Seth Maddox, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 234 County Rd. 141, Hollywood, Ala., 35752, by email seth.maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or call 256-437-2788.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.  To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Anything fishing related will be on display and up for grabs when the River City Antique Tackle Show comes to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Decatur Riverfront Sept. 23-24, 2016.

Now in its 21st year, the River City Antique Tackle Show attracts collectors from across the southeastern United States and beyond who bring thousands of antique fishing items dating back to the mid 1800s to display and sell.

nflccThe River City Antique Tackle Show is a chance to meet with collectors and buy a variety of vintage fishing tackle including rods, reels, lures, fish scales, old minnow buckets, and tackle boxes.

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The HudsonAlpha Foundation has received a $100,000 gift from Loretta Spencer to support the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine. To recognize Spencer’s generous gift, the clinic’s triage room (a room where our doctor meets with and evaluates new patients) is named in her honor.

spencer donationLoretta Spencer served as the mayor of Huntsville, Alabama from 1996 to 2008 and is actively involved in many local nonprofit organizations, including HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Spencer was the mayor when HudsonAlpha broke ground in 2005 and she has supported the Institute from the beginning.

With her donation, she is expanding her support to include the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine, the first clinic in the world to use whole genome sequencing exclusively to diagnose rare, undiagnosed and misdiagnosed disease.

“HudsonAlpha means so much to me because I developed Research Park West when I was the chair of the Huntsville Planning Commission in the 1980s,” Spencer said. “I got research companies to come here, but establishing HudsonAlpha was the crowning glory that put biomedical on the Research Park map.”

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The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) is pleased to unveil the new North Alabama Craft Beer Trail and the North Alabama Craft Beer Passport. The Trail Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 4.54.09 PMinvites craft beer enthusiasts on a self-guided tour of eight North Alabama microbreweries offering hundreds of unique flavors custom to the region.

Available on www.northalabama.org, the self-guided tour features eight microbreweries and tasting rooms located in Florence, Huntsville, Madison, Cullman, Guntersville and Gadsden.

“Designed for residents and visitors to enjoy, the North Alabama Craft Beer Trail is a unique attraction highlighting Alabama-made beer while providing a boost to the North Alabama economy,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist. “The Trail spotlights fresh, locally-brewed beer and is another opportunity to give visitors a unique destination experience that can only be enjoyed in North Alabama.”

To see all the breweries, click below:

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On a ridge in the Freedom Hills of Northwest Alabama, in a clearing among century-old oaks and “piney” woods, one may visit the graves of more than 300 coon hounds, all tried and true. For most of the year one hears only the peaceful sounds of nature.

On Labor Day, however, the quiet is broken when folks gather for the annual Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day Celebration. They come to have a good time and to pay tribute to the dogs and to those who loved them, especially the cemetery’s founder, Mr. Key Underwood, and the first dog buried here.

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