Local Alabama NWTF Chapter makes service a priority

NWTF Alabama chapter, the Choccolocco Valley Longbeards, planted 10 acres of wildlife openings in the Ivory Mountain Walk-in Turkey Hunting Area (IMWTH) in Cleburne County, Alabama. 

“For the past several years, avid turkey hunters have approached both the NWTF and the USDA Forest Service to provide supplemental food sources and ideal hunting in the area,” said Brandon Bobo, NWTF district biologist. 

The Forest Service provided equipment and funds to purchase lime, seed and fertilizer, and the NWTF’s Choccolocco Valley Longbeards matched the Forest Service’s contributions with in-kind time applying the fertilizer and planting.  

Prior to seeding, the area required improvements as the soil was acidic and the openings were fallow with woody and invasive species such as sweetgum, loblolly and Virginia pine. Bobo worked with biologists from the Talladega National Forest to determine ideal areas to clear and improve. Once a decision was made, Bobo coordinated with the Forest Service, and they cleared the land.  

“The openings needed to be cleared with a large dozer and then disced under with a hydraulic disc,” said Bobo. “The pH is also generally low in the northwest end of the Upper Piedmont and also has transitional areas of ridge and valley ecoregions, so the soil tends to be more acidic.”

The Choccolocco Valley Longbeards arrived for liming, seeding, and fertilizing not long after the openings were cleared by the Forest Service, but the Choccolocco Valley Longbeards started their day with a little fun before a laborious 10 hours working on the wildlife opening; that is, they went hunting for some gobblers.

“We did have a turkey hunt that morning, but no luck, just some photos of folks falling asleep at the bases of trees,” said Bobo as he laughed. 

Empty-handed and rested, the Choccolocco Valley Longbeards headed to the planting site with gobblers on their minds, traveling multiple miles with UTVs, ATV’s and tractors. 

The NWTF chapter applied lime to combat the acidic soil and increase its pH, and they applied a fertilizer to enhance the soil’s fertility. After the soil products were spread, the NWTF volunteers seeded with red, white and crimson clover.

“Because rain was largely in the forecast, we knew that the rain would set the seed deep enough,” said Bobo. 

Hoping the next time they were in the wildlife opening would be to harvest a fall gobbler, the local NWTF chapter left the worksite full of barbecue turkey sandwiches and a sense of accomplishment.  

The Choccolocco Valley Longbeards are instrumental in recruiting and making hunting accessible for the community and recruiting new hunters. 

“This local chapter has held successful mentored deer and dove hunts annually for the past 5 years, with excellent success, and the chapter has introduced about 25 new hunters through deer hunts, with successful first-time harvests for multiple new hunters every single year,” said Bobo.

The Choccolocco Valley Long Beards also help the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries and the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers’ Association with mentored hunts that have exceeded 200 participants. 

“The chapter has always placed its priority in reaching the surrounding community to get outdoors, as this area around the Talladega National Forest has an abundance of equal opportunity for public hunting and recreation,” said Bobo.

– David Gladkowski

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