Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bill Cochran's Field Reports: Quail Unlimited calls it quits

Bill Cochran Bill Cochran is a Roanoke Times outdoors columnist.

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Quail Unlimited, the nation’s oldest and largest advocacy group for the struggling bobwhite quail, is calling it quits.

According to my records, Quail Unlimited has had as many as five chapters and 300 members in Virginia, a state that has a major quail action plan underway.

Quail Unlimited has struggled during recent years under financial problems and charges of mismanagement. The result has been a sharp decline in the number of chapters and revenue. The problems simply are too massive to resolve, said Bill E. Bowles, Quail Unlimited president.

“This has been a valiant effort by everyone and we should all be proud,” he said in a statement announcing that the organization was closing its doors immediately.

Patterned after Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited was founded in 1981.

Marc Puckett, who heads the quail management plan for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and is active in multi-state efforts to restore quail, says the demise of Quail Unlimited isn’t an indication that quail restoration work is in trouble.

“The quail world will roll right along,” he is quoted in the DGIF Outdoor Report. “There has never been a time in the history of quail management when more positive things are occurring than now.

“Our hearts go out to our friends in the Quail Unlimited organization, and we will do all we can to help them stay engaged in quail conservation,” he said.

A major effort is underway to transition Quail Unlimited members to another conservation group, Quail Forever, which is reported to have 100 chapters and 10,000 members. Three chapters are located in Virginia.

Quail Forever has the highest charity rating among conservation groups, with 91.23 cents of every dollar raised going directly to restoration work. Money raised locally is spent locally.

If you are a Quail Unlimited member, expect to be contacted by Quail Forever, which purchased the Quail Unlimited membership list. The president of Quail Unlimited has taken a job with Quail Forever.

Virginia chapters are the Colonial Chapter in the Charles City/New Kent area; the Lake Country Chapter, Mecklenburg/Halifax and the Tidewater Chapter, Virginia Beach.

Information on Quail Forever can be found on www.quailforever.org.

Lots to see at outdoor show in Fisherville

My nine-year old granddaughter, Kalei, is fascinated with “Duck Dynasty,” an A&E TV show that features heavily-bearded characters with rollicking, red-neck, ways. When we visit her, most likely we will be invited to watch the latest show, which features Phil Robertson, the leader of a happy band of duckaholics along with sons Willie and Jep.

One day this week, Kalei had her dad drive her to Sportsman’s Warehouse to purchase a Duck Commander call, one of the products that is making the Robertson clan rich. These things cost from $20 to $70.

Kalei tried hers out on the Roanoke River when the temperature was 20 degrees. Next, after school, she and her dad took decoys to the river. She is finding that luring ducks with a call isn’t as easy as it appears on TV.

Two of the Robertson family, son Jep and daughter-in-law Jessica, are scheduled to be featured at the Western Virginia Sport Show, at Augusta Expoland in Fisherville this weekend. You can check details at www.westernvasportshow.com.

This is the show’s 26th year, and it provides the first look at trophy deer taken during the recent season. It also features the biggest crowds and most outdoor celebrities of any show in the state.

Seminar presenters will include Stan Potts, well-known video hunter, and Jim Zumbo, gun/hunting writer and TV show host. Zumbo created an uproar several years ago when he said AR-type rifles had no place in hunting. He lost his job with Outdoor Life for that comment, but now is back on his feet and at a time when the debate among sportsmen on AR rifles is blazing more than ever.     

A free pass to boat show in Roanoke

I have a friend who balks at paying to get into a boat show.

“They should be paying me to come so they can try to sell me a boat,” he has said more than once.

I wouldn’t go that far. Boat shows are expensive to sponsor and participating dealers can use some financial help, especially in a slowdown of the market. Besides, an admission’s fee tends to separate the lookers from the buyers.

Sponsors of the Southwest Virginia Boat Show, which will be moored in the Roanoke Civic Center Friday through Sunday, again this year are offering the best of both worlds. You can get in free Friday; you have to pay $7.50 Saturday and Sunday (children under 12 free). The hours are 1 to 7 Friday; 10 to 7 Saturday and 10 to 5 Sunday.

The show will feature eight dealers from the region, most of them familiar names of past years. Check them out at www.roanokeboatshow.com    

Outdoor briefs

* The Botetourt Longbeards and the Virginia Wheelin’ Sportsmen won major awards at the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention in Nashville last weekend. The Botetourt Longbeards took top honors for the Best Jakes (Youth) Event of 2012 in the category for 76 to 150 participants. The Virginia Wheelin’(handicapped) won the Best Special Event category.

* Bassmaster Classic contender John Crews of Salem named Mike McClelland as a person to beat when the big tournament begins Friday on Grand Lake near Tulsa, Okla. Other pro anglers and observers also are picking McClelland as the odds-on favorite to win. For one thing, he lives about 40 minutes form the lake. He was winner of an Elite series there in 2006 and was in the top 12 a year later. Crews placed 42nd and 46 in those tournaments.

* Monte Brackenridge of Allegheny County and Angie Leigh of Gloucester County recently were honored by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for contributing more than 5,000 volunteer hours as hunter education instructors.

* Fishing for striped bass January and February along the Virginia Coast has been so poor that anglers are happy to have sea bass to fall back on, but not for long. That season closes at the end of the month. The sea bass are being found on offshore wrecks, where limits of fish, some weighing better than 5 pounds, are being caught. Taugs and decent-size bluefish also are being found on wrecks.

Events, seasons, dates

* Southwest Virginia Boat Show, Roanoke Civic Center, Friday through Sunday, free admission Friday, $7.50 adults Sat. and Sun.

* Twenty-sixth annual Western Virginia Sportsman Show, Friday through Sunday, Augusta Expoland, Fisherville, www.westernvasportsmanshow.com.

* Smith River Trout Unlimited meeting, March 7, 6:30 p.m., Ranias Restaurant, Martinsville, program on fly tying, information from Doug Jessie, 540-874-6560, guests welcome.

* Bland County Many Beards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation banquet, April 6, Rocky Gap High School, 123 Eagles Road Bland, contact Lawrance Scott, 540-240-2424, blandcomtnboy@yahoo.com

* Fly fishing basics by Josh Williams will be featured April 8 at a meeting of the Tri-County Forestry & Wildlife Association at Roanoke Moose Lodge 284 located at 3233 Catawba Valley Drive (Virginia 311) in Roanoke County. Social time begins 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:45. Charge for the meal is $10. RSVP required, call Marian McConnell, 540-309-4707.

* Hunters for the Hungry banquet, Sept. 14, Moose Lodge on Virginia 311 in Roanoke County.

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