ALABAMA—THE SPORTSMAN'S PARADISE
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ALABAMA—THE SPORTSMAN'S PARADISE

ALABAMA—THE SPORTSMAN'S PARADISE




      

ALABAMA—THE SPORTSMAN'S PARADISE




By ALFRED E. ROSS AND VIOLET TYLER

ALABAMA has most fittingly been called the sportsman's paradise; the surface of the state being so widely diversified, the climate so mild and pleasant, and the forestlands and undergrowth so luxuriant as to be unusually ht for a variety of wild life. The winters are short, sparing wild creatures from destruction by cold and hunger, and though it frequently snows in the northern portion of the state, and in the central, the snows are so light as to last only a day or two.

The Allegheny Mountains entering at the northwestern part of Alabama are broken into a series of parallel ranges which trend southwestward and which are finally dispersed into sand mountains and low foothills at about the central part of the state. During the hunting season these majestic mountain peaks that tower from five to fifteen hundred feet from the ground level are so subtly tinted by the master hand of Jackie Frost that they blend gracefully with and are lost in the purple and gold mists that hang over them, and over the myriad life of the woods.

The extreme northern part of Alabama is traversed by the Tennessee River, and in that section there are also numerous springs and creeks and brooks. And these streams not only support fish and animal life but they afford excellent camping sites as well. It is there, among the hills and in the heart of deeply gutted country that the hunter may enjoy the most democratic of all sports, which is, namely, fox hunting. In Alabama night is the essential time for fox hunting and preferably when it is bright and cool and still. Because it is then that the dogs can hunt best. Both the red and grey species are to be found in Alabama, but as elsewhere the red variety are the gamiest and most valuable.

An interesting fact about these foxes which is well worth remembering is that they run in pairs. Resting on either side of a mountain one would find them directly opposite each other as if they started from a common point, tail to tail at the summit, and marched a given number of steps perpendicularly down the slopes.

At sunset they begin searching for food and descend towards the base of the highland, but after feeding for a short time they wend their way up again to the very crest, where they met, cross, and continue the same performance of descending. Just how useful these tactics are is difficult to ascertain, but they are obviously defensive moves in times of danger.

In the thickly timbered river bottoms, and in the secluded places of the mountains, and on private preservations, Virginia or white-tailed deer live and thrive, for none save the bucks may be killed and these only between November first and the New Year. And among the bluffs and cliffs where only the few remaining eagles seem to be able to live, wildcats and panthers are still extant and can often be heard screaming into the star-lit night.

Alabama contains seven hundred and ten square miles of water. There is one body, Lake Purdy, which is nestled among the mountains that in itself occupies an area of six or seven hundred acres. But the interesting thing is that these hundreds of square miles of water are literally over-running with such fish as white perch, trout, catfish, sunfish and bass that weigh from four to twelve or fourteen pounds! Because of the abundance of quail found in the briar patches and meadows, Alabama is known as the "premier quail shooting state of the Union." And the desirability of the country, together with its matchless climate has served to make it the field trial center of the world. For it is there, in Lovvndes County, that a number of the oldest field trial clubs of the continent hold their annual contest.

With the advance of civilization and cutting of the virgin forests, most of the big game has been slaughtered and the remnant driven into the well nigh impenetrable langlewoods. For many centuries trapping was allowed promiscuously and as a result many of the furbearers have been trapped to the point of extinction. Fortunately, however, the state recently passed laws prohibiting the taking of these creatures at any time excepting between regular trapping seasons, i. e., November and March, and now, as a good result, all furry-coated things are on the increase.

Among the principal fur bearers found in north Alabama are the black mink, weasel, skunk, muskrat, beaver, fox and otter.

Squirrels, rabbits and opossums are very numerous and can be found throughout the state. Of the squirrels there are four varieties: black, gray, dusky-gray, and fox. There are also two species of rabbits, the common cottontail and the swamp rabbit. Swamp rabbits live in the marshes and in the creek and river bottoms, and they grow to be about twice as large as Bunny CottonTail. It is not an uncommon sight to see one of these fellows scampering about and wearied unto death by the hooting boys and howling dogs which give it chase, for poor Longears has no protection as far as the law goes, and he may be hunted at anytime, either with firearms or as the boys seek him, i. e., with sticks and stones.

Possum hunting is perhaps the most popular sport in the south, and it may be compared to the coon hunting parties of Ohio and New York. In practically every rural community, after the last golden glow has faded from the west, and the great dome of heaven is strewn with stars, groups of men and boys gather for the hunt.

Guns are unnecessary in hunting 'possums for they can be killed with but little difficulty by a stout cudgel or cane. Nor are they vicious when caught, although they can and often do bite when an opportunity presents itself.

Aside from the numerous quails and lesser birds there are also wild turkeys in Alabama. Indeed, these autocrats of the forests can be found in every county of the state, but because of their fear of man and because of their naturally suspicious natures one must push through remote woods and into hidden recesses to find them.

In the marshes that exist in the extreme southern part of the state, along Mobile River and the Bay, wild mallards and Canada Geese brood and breed. And in that section, also, living among the bamboo brakes and in the dense undergrowth, numerous black bears roam about, and ' are annually killed in large numbers. Throughout central Alabama there are quantities of wild doves but only twenty-five of these may be killed in a day. Previously as many as three or four hundred were shot by a single person in one day.

The plant life of Alabama is different from any of the states north of it, and one can begin to see the great changes wrought by climatic conditions. The swamplands are composed of bamboo brakes and tropical undergrowth instead of flags and cattails, while from the branches of the larger trees hangs soft, grey moss. And winding and twining its way through all of this is a vine that bears beautiful, crimson berries. Crowning the mountains are oaks and pines and hickories and walnuts, and great sycamores and spreading chestnuts while along the slopes birches and sweetgums, and persimmons and dog woods may be distinguished from among the elms and cedars and cherries and holly.

The prospective woodsman would find enough to keep him busy during the closed season, for there is always plenty of work in the cotton fields and even in the woods, for that matter, where turpentine is made from the pines. And the prospective hunter and trapper would find in Alabama, heart of the sunny south, like all true hospitable southern states, a hearty welcome!

Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,

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