Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bill Cochran's Field Reports: Pittsylvania County buck is trophy show winner

Bill Cochran Bill Cochran is a Roanoke Times outdoors columnist.


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A 19-point buck killed the first day of muzzleloading season in Pittsylvania County last year was the top deer of the 2010-11 season at the 72nd annual Virginia Big Game Contest Sunday in Franklin Sunday.

Killed by Thomas G. Johnson of Gretna, the buck measured 239-14/16 under Virginia’s scoring system and 189-3/4 in Boone and Crockett national competition. It is one of the top 20 bucks taken in Virginia, according to state records that date back more than 70 years.

Johnson was on vacation Sunday and missed the excitement of the awards presentation.

“He picked the wrong date to go to the beach,” said his son, Kevin, who accepted the trophy in his behalf.

Johnson shares the same last name as the first winner of the contest, George B. Johnson. In fact, the trophy he received for the biggest deer of the season is called the George B. Johnson award. The contest is sponsored by the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Not far off the pace was a 14-point Southampton County buck entered by Derrick Ledbetter that measured 235-2/16. It took first placed in the modern firearms competition. The best bow buck was a 12-pointer killed in Augusta County by Charles Click. The score was 207-13/16. There were 241 deer entered in competition.

The top attraction at the show this time wasn’t the biggest deer, but a state record bear killed by Clealen Dove in Rockingham County. Dove brought a full mount of his trophy (see Cochran Column).

The star turkey was a Goochland County tom killed by Vance Willis that scored 79-2/16, placing it high in the all-time records. Rassie Wright killed the second and third place birds, both taken in Wythe County.

Mason Wright entered a 14-point Southampton County buck that scored 205-7/16, making him the all-time youth division champion. The youth turkey category was won by Chaz Watkins with a King William County tom that scored 71, and best youth bear (26-13/16) was a Nelson County entry by Hunter Leake.

Check for a complete list of winners. When Johnson gets back from the beach we plan to feature the story of how he killed his contest-winning trophy.


Often we veteran hunters express fear, and rightfully so, about the decline in the number of hunters, especially young hunters coming into the sport. But from the looks of Saturday’s youth deer hunting day, we don’t have all that much to worry about.

The event was a smashing success, with nearly 2,000 deer checked by phone and Internet. Others yet to be tallied were checked at big game stations. The phone/Internet check was nearly double the previous year.

Among the successful hunters were a significant number of girls, including 9-year-old Hunter Wimmer who killed a 5-point buck while hunting with her dad, Chris, in Wythe County.

It can be difficult to determine who has the most fun on youth hunting day, the kids or the adults who guide them. What is certain is that the event has become a smashing success and is introducing newcomers to the sport who will be fans for life.

Wildlife officials estimate that Virginia has upward to 20,000 youth-day hunters, which means a kill of 2,000 deer is an impressive success ratio.

Next up, this Saturday, is opening of the bowhunting season.


James River angler Jason Ball has been catching fish in the Snowden to Monican Park (Amherst County) area that he says show signs of being diseased. During the past month he reported landed smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegills and possibly a Roanoke bass that had lesions.

A picture of one of the fish, a green sunfish, was turned over to Scott Smith a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist. He reported that the fish appeared to have a bacterial infection that is not related to the more serious diseases problems of the past, which have occurred in the spring. Bacterial infections can be found on up to 10 percent of the fish during the heat of summer, he said.

“It happens in most years, and most of these fish survive,” Smith said.

The good news, there has not been widespread problems with diseased fish on the river this year.


Kiekhaefer Mercury announced that its 1972 line of outboard engines would include a 140-horsepower, six-cylinder job, which would be the company’s most powerful production model ever.

A close second in the horsepower race is a 130-h.p. Chrysler Corp. engine. Johnson and Evinrude said its top-of-the-line offering would be the 125-h.p. outboard it introduced the previous fall.


>Kit Shaffer’s memorial service attracted numerous friends and admirers who had been asked to bring a turkey call. The calls were sounded as Kit’s son, Craig, scattered some of Kit’s ashes on a hillside near where Kit lived. When given the signal, there were mouth calls, box calls, slate calls, yelps, gobbles, you name it. Kit would have gotten a kick out of it, but I couldn’t help but remember that he believed in the economy of calling. Around him, you didn’t call much and you stuck to the basics.

>Contestants in Saturday’s Smith Mountain Striper Club Tournament found the fishing to be so challenging that 18 of the 24 teams did not turn in a single fish. The winner was Ron Lorden who weighed a 16.2-pound catch.

>About eight months ago, the International Game Fish Association launched a new category of keeping world records according to length in addition to weight. That opened the door for a new way to get your name in the record book, and fishermen have taken advantage of it. More than 200 length record applications have been submitted by anglers. Five of them have come from Virginia Beach angler Dr. Julie Ball.

>National Hunting and Fishing Day -- Sept. 24 -- went by with little celebration in most places, far less than earlier years when people gathered at special events to laude the contributions of outdoor sportsmen. So it was refreshing that the people at the Orvis Fulfillment Center in Roanoke had their own in-house celebration. My wife, Katherine, and I had the opportunity to participate as representatives of Hunters for the Hungry.

>The tidal James River in Virginia will be site of the June 14-16 B.A.S.S. Northern Open tournament next year with a weigh-in at Richmond.

>The acorn and hickory nut crops in West Virginia are reported to be well below the 41-year average and that will have noticeable effects on the upcoming hunting seasons, wildlife officials say. Beechnuts and walnuts are reported to be well above average. Sportsmen are being encouraged to scout the areas they hunt. Find the food and you likely will find the game .Virginia’s mast report is yet to be completed. Check under “Hunting” for West Virginia information.

>Capt. Herb Gordon, host of “The Weekend Fisherman” aired in Virginia Beach, is giving up the show because the poor economy has cut into its profitability. Gordon, an accomplished inshore fishing guide, was host of the show for 14 years.

>Sylvia Bashline, a prize-winning outdoor writer and photographer who specialized in cooking, died Sept. 20. She was 78. Bashline wrote three books on fish and game cookery and was food editor of both Field & Stream and Outdoor Life Magazines. She lived in State College, Pa., and was married to Jim Bashline, who died in 1995. Both were outdoor writers who traveled widely and wrote hundreds of magazine articles.


The number of marlin releases registered in the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is pressing toward a massive 800 mark. No other species is even close. Red drum are second with 630 releases. There is a new leader in the wahoo category. Here are the standings:

BLACK DRUM: 85 pounds, 12 ounces, Saprina Esham, Bridgville, Del., caught at Quinby Inlet.

BLUELINE TILEFISH: 19 pounds, 8 ounces, Tony Levinson, Poquoson, Norfolk Canyon

COBIA: 101 pounds, Aubrey Williams, Chesapeake, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

CROAKER: 3 pounds, 9 ounces, Jake Didra, Lusby, Md. Rappahannock River

DOLPHIN: 53 pounds, C.W. McCaskill, Jr., Vienna, off Wachapreague.

FLOUNDER: 13 pounds, Mike Firestone, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

GRAY TRIGGERFISH: 4 pounds, 9 ounces, David Yost, Norfolk, Seagull Pier on Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

KING MACKEREL: 45 pounds, 8 ounce, Jarrod Sergi, Virginia Beach, 26 Mile Hill

KINGFISH: 2 pounds, Lori Bowen, Chesapeake, Sandbridge surf,

SEA BASS: 7 pounds, Gerald Walker, Summerville, S.C. Triangle Wrecks

SHEEPSHEAD: 15 pounds, 5 ounces, Byron Farlow, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

SPADEFISH: 11 pounds, 9 ounces, Norong Nhek, Williamsburg Seagull Pier on Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

SPANISH MACKEREL, 6 pounds, 3 ounces, David Nova, Whitestone, Cut Channel Buoy 39-47

SPECKED TROUT: 12 pounds, 9 ounces, Michael Whittaker, Chesapeake, Elizabeth River

STRIPED BASS: 55 pounds, 1 ounce, James Greenwood, Chesapeake, False Cape

SWORDFISH: 196 pounds, Jim Bishop, Ellicott City, Md., off Wachapreague.

TAUTOG: 16 pounds, 1 ounce, Neal Taylor, Virginia Beach, Triangle Wrecks

TUNA (bluefin) 140 pounds, Jesse Bendily, Virginia Beach, The Fingers

TUNA (other) 267 pounds, 8 ounces, Frank Riganto, Virginia Beach, Norfolk Canyon

WAHOO: 83 pounds, Charles Carter, Chincoteague, off Chincoteague.


Virginia Waterfowling Workshop, Sept 30-Oct. 2, 22 classes, Holiday Lake 4-H Center, $130 includes courses, lodging and meals, information and registration.

Early bowhunting season in Virginia, Oct. 1-18

Chesapeake Bay fall striped bass season, Oct. 4-Dec. 31, two fish daily, size limit 18-28 inches, one fish may be larger than 32 inches.

Snipe Season Oct. 6-10; Oct. 22-Jan. 31

Smith Mountain Striper Club meeting, Oct. 7, 7 p.m., Moneta Community Center, program includes swapping equipment, guests welcome. Bring gear you want to swap.

Tri-County Forestry & Wildlife Association program on Virginia’s Quail Management Plan, Oct. 10, presented by Andrew Rosenberger, dinner 6:45 p.m., program 7:30 p.m., guests welcome, Roanoke Moose Lodge, 3233 Catawba Valley Driver, Salem (at the foot of Catawba Mountain on Virginia 311). RSVP for the meal, Rob Guiles, 540-384-6786.

Woodcock season Oct. 29-Nov. 12; Dec. 16-Jan. 14

Fall turkey season in Virginia opens Oct. 29

Grouse season in Virginia Oct. 29-Feb. 11

Smith Mountain Striper Club meeting, Nov. 4, 7 p.m. Moneta Community Center, elect officers.

Rabbit season in Virginia, Nov. 5-Feb. 29

Early muzzleloading season in Virginia, Nov. 5-18

Quail season in Virginia Nov. 12-Jan. 31

Nov. 19 opening of firearm’s deer season in Virginia

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