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October 6, 2017 - The Oct. 15 deadline to enter the Big Time Texas Hunts contest is just around the corner.

Run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, BTTH is a lotto-style program that offers hunters the opportunity to buy chances to win premium hunting packages in as many as nine different categories for a variety of game animals and birds including white-tailed deer, mule deer, alligator, exotics, waterfowl, bighorn sheep, dove, turkey and quail.

The guided hunts take place on some of Texas' top private ranches and wildlife management areas, and many of them are all inclusive with lodging, food and other amenities. Many of the hunts allow the winner to bring a hunting guest.

Chances are sold for $10 by mail, through license retailers and $9 online (tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/btth/). There is no limit on the amount of times you can enter and it isn't necessary to have a current hunting license to purchase chances. However, if selected, you must be licensed when the hunt takes place. All winners will be selected by random computer draw and notified within two weeks following the Oct. 15 entry deadline.

While the BTTH program provides hunters the opportunity to enjoy extremely high quality hunts they might not otherwise be able to afford, it also has proven be a lucrative cash cow for TPWD.

TPWD public hunting program specialist Kelly Edmiston says there were 79,000 BTTH entries sold in 2016 that generated about $737,000. Edmiston said the funds are used to support public hunting opportunities and wildlife observation projects all around the state.

For a full list and descriptions of BTTH's on tap for 2017-18, check out pwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/btth/index.phtmlp.

Combs grabs win on Mille Lacs

Huntington's Keith Combs finished out the 2017 Elite Series season with an impressive wire-to-wire win in the Toyota Angler of the Year Championship on Mille Lacs Lake in Onamia, Minn. The personable Ranger pro weighed in 72 pounds, 5 ounces of thick-shouldered smallmouth to top second-place finisher James Elam by more than a pound.

The victory is Combs' second Elite Series win since joining the top level circuit in 2011 and his 21st Top 10 finish through 78 events. A six-time 'Classic qualifier, Combs has racked up $901,635 winnings in Bassmaster events.
He ended the season ninth in the AOY points race.

Fishing gaining popularity nationwide

Participation in recreational fishing has increased nearly 20 percent over the last 10 years and fishing-related expenditures have jumped 2.4 percent over the last five years, according to results of the 2016 National Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife survey conducted by the U.S. Wildlife Service and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Conducted every five years, the survey shows that fishing participation has increased 8.2 percent among individuals 16-65 years old, the highest level of participation since 1991. Additionally, the survey shows that revenue generated by fishing has increased from $45 billion to $46.1 billion.

Castledine grabs third AOY title

Nacogdoches bass pro Todd Castledine notched a 20th place finish in the final Costa FLW Series event of the season on Lake Texoma to grab the 2017 Costa Southwestern Division Angler of the Year title with 722 points.

Castledine's season included a win on Sam Rayburn and a 10th-place finish on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. He also won the AOY title in 2011 and 2014.

Russell Cecil of Willis finished second in the AOY standings with 705 points. Both pros along with the Top 40 pro and co-angler qualifiers from four other divisions will compete in the Costa FLW Series Championship on Nov. 2-4 on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn.

Lampasas County man indicted in deaths of bald eagles
From TPWD Reports

A Lampasas County grand jury has returned an indictment against a Bend, Texas, man on two counts of killing bald eagles, a protected non-game animal. Jackie Brister, 82, also faces additional charges alleging he captured and killed numerous other non-game birds, including black vultures and turkey vultures.

Texas game wardens launched an initial investigation after responding to a call regarding a wounded bald eagle discovered near Bend on Jan. 11, 2017; the bird did not survive. Working in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wardens determined the eagle had been shot by a rifle. Further investigation uncovered evidence of additional taking of protected non-game animals.

With help from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Criminal Investigations Division and the Lampasas County Sheriff’s Office, cases were made and filed with the Lampasas County District Attorney’s Office.

In addition to citations for the taking of a state threatened species and non-game birds, Class C misdemeanors punishable by fines of $25-$500 for each case, Brister also faces a Class A misdemeanor violation for hunting without landowner consent. That charge carries a possible fine of $500-$4,000 and/or up to a one year state jail term. Brister could also face civil restitution for the eagles in an amount to be determined exceeding $10,000 each.

Pipeline and power line right-of-ways are good places to situate deer stands and food plots. (Photo by Matt Williams)October 6, 2017 - Just about any serious deer hunter will be quick to agree that getting ready for a full season of chasing whitetails can add up to a considerable amount of work. The really hardcore junkies might call it a labor of love, one that is marked by an long chain of sweaty chores that are typically carried out long before the dawn of opening day.

To wit:

The smart hunter is sure to have shooting lanes trimmed or mowed by now. He's already secured new stands and made any needed repairs to old ones. Corn feeders are full and any new feeding stations have been up and running for the better part of month, possibly longer in order to give inherently wary whitetails plenty of time to adjust ahead of the Nov. 4 general season opener.

Another pre-season chore frequently carried out on deer leases and hunting clubs across Texas this time of year involves planting fall food plots utilizing any number blends and mixes that do well in cool weather.

Once established, fall and winter cover crops like gulf rye, oats, clover, wheat, Austrian winter peas, cowpeas, etc…. perform double duty by benefitting hunters as well as deer and other wildlife.

For starters, food plots boost the odds of luring deer into the open for evaluation and possible harvest, especially late in the season after their natural food supplies have been exhausted. More importantly, they provide great sources of critical nutrition to carry animals through the harshest part of winter and early spring, when other food supplies are hard to come by.

There's an art to planting food plots, and much of it revolves around timing. Some land managers like to get a jump on things and do their planting in early September, often around the Labor Day holiday.

That might be alright for small leases involving just a couple plots or during years when there is sufficient ground moisture jump start the germination process. Just be aware that planting early can be financially risky business if you're sowing a lot of seed, mainly because cereal grains and legumes don't come cheap.

Plant too early and there's a good chance the weather could turn off oppressively hot and dry. This could kill young, immature plants before they have the opportunity to become established, or prevent them from germinating altogether.

For that reason, some wildlife managers around eastern Texas have told me that it's a good idea to wait until until late September or early October to put seed in the ground. That way the risk of crop failure is greatly reduced.

Dr. Billy Higginbotham knows a thing or two about planting fall and winter food plots. Higginbotham is a professor emeritus with the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton. He's been working closely with landowners and land managers around eastern Texas in all areas of wildlife and fisheries management for decades.

According to Higginbotham, the first order business to be tackled before planting any cool season food plot is make sure the soil contains the proper goodies to spur optimum growth. That means having the soil tested to determine the existing pH level.

Soil tests can be performed at a minimal cost through soil labs at SFA and Texas A&M universities. Local county extension offices can point you in the right direction to get it done.

"Soil tests are necessary to determine if agricultural lime is needed to correct low pH levels and to allow landowners to customize fertilizer applications based on the varieties of plants established," says Higginbotham. "This simple step can mean the difference in abundant forage production or food plots that fail to justify establishment costs."

Ideally, soil testing should be performed prior to the planting date to allow time to make any amendments to the soil content that may be needed, Higginbotham added.

The next step is prepping the ground. While some cereal grains like rye and oats will germinate on top of the ground given sufficient moisture, you will achieve much better results by breaking up the ground by tilling or discing, then dragging lightly to cover the seed with a thin layer of soil.

The Best Mix

Some deer managers prefer to take the easy street and plant some sort of cereal grain like oats or rye because they are simple to distribute and fairly easy to get established with a little moisture. But if your objective is to do deer and other wildlife some good over the long term, offer them a nutritional buffet as opposed to one main course.

Higginbotham is a big fan of offering deer some variety. One his favorite combinations is a generous blend of iron and clay cowpeas at seeding rate of about 40 pounds per acre, a winter hardy oat variety at 40 pounds per acre and arrowleaf clover at a rate of about 10 pounds per acre.

The biologist said it is important to note that cowpeas and clover are legumes. The seeds must be inoculated using the proper inoculate. The inoculate helps the plant develop nodules, which in turn produce the nitrogen that spurs plant growth and helps achieve maximum production throughout the growth period.

"If all three varieties are utilized, it is important to plant the oats and peas first, covering them to a depth of about one inch," Higginbotham said. "The clover seed can then be distributed and lightly dragged in just deep enough to cover the seed. Planting seed too deep has led to many food plot failures."

Once the seeds are in the ground, Higginbotham said cowpeas are usually the first to begin showing signs of life.

"Within a week of planting, the cowpeas will literally jump out of the ground and serve to hold the deer until the oats can germinate and grow," he said. "While the peas will disappear under heavy use or with the first freeze, the oats will provide forage up until the spring green-up, at which time the arrowleaf clover comes on strong and remains available well into June."

Another combination Higginbotham likes in East Texas is a combination of chicory seeded at about 10 pounds per acre and winter hardy oats seeded at 100 pounds per acre. He recommends seeding and covering the oats about one inch deep, then overseeding and lightly covering the chicory.

Fertilization

Cereal grains and legumes will germinate and grow without fertilization, but not near as good as they will when peppered with a good fertilizer containing the proper percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Soil testing will determine the proper fertilization rate. A rate of 200-300 pounds per acre is fairly common. It's hard to go wrong with a 13-13-13 fertilizer.

The Right Size, Shape

As a rule, its best to have several small food plots scattered around the property as opposed to one or two big ones. The best food plots are those that are long and linear in shape. Roads, pipeline and power line crossings are ideal.

Of course, not all leases have the luxury of having access to pipeline and powerline crossings. In such a case, old log sets, open fields bordering timber stands and logging road intersections make good locations for food plots so long as ample sunlight can reach the ground. It's also a good idea to make sure food plots are fairly centralized, well away from fence boundaries.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

October 4, 2017 - The Center Roughriders Varsity Football Team broke into the win column at the right time by beating the Bullard Panthers 39-35, during each team’s first District 9 4A-1 game, last Friday. The Roughriders are now 1-4 overall and have a 1-0 conference mark. They will next host the Palestine Wildcats on Friday, October 6, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. at Roughriders Stadium. Palestine is 2-3, 0-1 and lost to the Kilgore Bulldogs 31-21 last week.

The Joaquin Rams won their Homecoming, and their fourth straight game, by defeating the Hawkins Hawks 56-0. The Rams are now 4-1 on the season and will head to District 11 2A-1 play when they face the Alto Yellowjackets, in Alto, on Friday, October 13, 2017. Alto is 1-4( 0-0) and they lost at home to the Rusk Eagles last week by a 43-21 score.

The Shelbyville Dragons are 0-4 and lost last week to the Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs by a 26-14 score at home. The Dragons have one more non-conference game. They face the All Saints Episcopal Trojans in Tyler. Kick off will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday October 6, 2017. The Trojans are 3-2. They lost to Frankston by a 62-14 score last Friday.

The Tenaha Tigers are ranked among the top of 2A Division II schools and they boast a 4-0 record. They had a bye last week. The Tigers beat the Clarksville Tigers by a 62-6 score two weeks ago. They will next face the 1-4 West Sabine Tigers, at West Sabine High School on Friday, October 6, 2017. Kickoff for the non-district game is at 7:30 p.m.

The Timpson Bears are on a bye week and will next play the Wortham Bulldogs at Wortham Bulldogs Stadium, on October 13, 2017. Both teams are starting District 11 2A-2 play, and have an identical 4-1 record. Timpson beat the Lovelady Lions 20-14 last week on the road. Wortham suffered a tough loss at Granger High School 41-34.

Pictured from left: Carson Bush, Dallas McFadden, Nick Hodges, Brendan Shelley, Roland Ramirez, Caleb Thornton, T.J. Belin, Braylin Umbrell, Andres Tovar, Aiden Bonacci.

October 3, 2017 - Texas Dynasty 11u Select Baseball Team participated in the Beisbol Classic in Sulphur Springs, TX this weekend and won 1st place. 

Joaquin Rams’ Stadium. September 29, 2017 –

(Photo Album) The Joaquin Rams’ Varsity Football Team walked away with a convincing 56-0 Homecoming win, over the Hawkins Hawks, at Rams Stadium, last Friday night. The win moved Joaquin High School’s record to 4-1 for the season. Hawkins fell to 0-5 for the year.

The Rams capped a 43-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper by quarterback Tray Wilkerson with 8:51 left in the first quarter. The extra point attempt failed and JHS led 6-0.

Rams defender Zack Bell recovered a Hawkins fumble with six and a half minutes left in the opening stanza.  Moments later Conner Bragg got Joaquin on the board again with 5:29 remaining on a 20-yard touchdown run. Hunter Gates added a 2-point conversion run to extend the Rams’ lead to 14-0.

With 3:33 left in the opening frame, Kase Yates scored on a6-yard touchdown run. Jesus Bravo added an extra point kick to give JHS a 21-0 lead.

The final score of the first period came on another Yates touchdown scamper with just 50 seconds left.  The extra point conversion attempt failed and Joaquin took a 27-0 lead into the second period of play.

Yates scored on a 41-yard run down the sideline with 8:20 left in the second quarter to give the Rams a 35-0 advantage, midway through the third period, after Bragg added a 2-point conversion run.

He added another 36-yard score with just second remaining before the teams went to the locker-rooms for the midway break at halftime. Joaquin enjoyed a 42-0 lead when they came out for the second half of play.

JHS added a touchdown with less than seven minutes left in the third period, and another on a 12-yard touchdown run by Tre Burns which gave Joaquin the final 56-0 advantage with just over five minutes left in the contest.

Joaquin rushed for 437 yards. They were 0-2 passing. They fumbled twice. Hawkins threw two interceptions and had a fumble.  They had only 69 yards of offense, all on the ground. They went 0-2 passing with two interceptions. Joaquin held a 13-3 advantage in attaining first downs.

The Rams have a bye week for October 6. They will travel to Alto for their first Region III District 11 Class 2A conference game with the Yellowjackets which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 13, 2017. Alto is 1-4 and lost to Class 4A Rusk (4-1) by a 43-21 score on the road last Friday.

Rams Head Football Coach Wade Lawson stated after the game, “During the bye week will look at the Joaquin Rams. We will look at film and see what we can improve on and get better at. We compete in the toughest district in Class 2A, with two Top 12 ranked teams, and we need to keep getting better and improving what we can. Our kids like to work hard and they play hard for each other.”

Cooling water temps, changing seasons put bass in the mood to chomp

Bass can be caught a variety of ways using any number of baits during fall. One of the best for numbers when fishing away from the bank is a spoon or a spin bait like the Mann's Little George. (Photo by Matt Williams)

September 30, 2017 - You can always tell when fall hunting seasons begin inching closer in eastern Texas. One of the tell-tale signs is a obvious reduction in traffic around boat ramps at area bass lakes. Even the best lakes tend to see see fewer customers during fall as armies of bass anglers begin swapping their flipping' sticks and topwater outfits for scatterguns, deer rifles and archery gear.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, particularly for die-hard bass guys like my good friend Billy Rogers.

At 84, Billy Rogers always gets excited when deer season rolls around because it usually means less competition on his favorite fishing holes. (Photo by Matt Williams)Rogers is an 84-year-old bass nut from Nacogdoches who has never been one to get excited about a whole lot. But make one mention of deer season and you'll see a sudden twinkle in his eye, sort of like a kid who has been offered free rein in a candy store.

That's interesting, because Rogers hasn't taken a seat in a deer blind in years. To hear him tell it, he stays way too busy chasing thick-shouldered bass during fall to waste time fooling around with unpredictable whitetail bucks.

"I love it when deer season rolls around," Rogers said with an impish grin. "A lot of the guys who bass fish start thinking about deer hunting during the fall. Some of them give it up altogether and may not go back to the lake or wet a hook until next spring. That's fine by me."

The way Rogers sees it, the less boat traffic there is on the lake the fewer the hooks that will be in the water. That means more unmolested bass for him to catch.

"I've seen quite a few days during fall when my truck was the only one in the parking lot," he said.

Highs and Lows of Fall

Rogers' attraction to autumn bass fishing is based on much more than a lack of company on the water.

Fall, which officially got underway on Sept. 22, is the harbinger of shorter days, longer nights and frequent cold fronts that typically increase with intensity each time a weather system comes rolling in. This results in a gradual decrease in water temperature that won't begin to reverse itself until next spring.

Another common sign of fall is low water levels. In a normal year, water levels on most reservoirs are well below full pool as the result of hot summer weather, day-to-day evaporation, daily water usage and minimal rainfall to replace what is taken out.

The low water pushes bass off of shallow flats and concentrates them along the edges of creek channels, river channels and other structure that provides easy access to the security of deep water. This narrows the size of the playing field and offers a pretty good hint as to where anglers might begin searching for fish, and which tactics should work best for exploiting them.

Of course, anybody who has spent much time around East Texas lately knows we're coming off a summer that was anything but normal as far as the weather goes. Hurricane Harvey saw to that, and water levels on many lakes in southeast Texas are well above normal for this time of year because of it.

Shad On the Move

The changing seasons and cooling water puts bait fish on the move and bass are quick to follow.

Threadfin shad are filter feeders by nature. Studies on shad movements indicate the succulent forage fish gravitate towards shallow water during fall, usually via creeks, drains and ditches that connect skinny water to deep. Take a look around in late September and October you should see pods of shad dimpling the surface in the mouths coves and major and secondary creeks.

The gradual influx of forage sometimes sparks some big time feeding binges that can play right into the hands of bass anglers who know what to look for and which cards to play when opportunities are golden.

Bottomline: Fall fishing in Texas can be pretty darned at times. Here are some fishing tips that might help turn an otherwise average day of autumn fishing into a banner one:

Up A Creek

If there is one time of the year that it doesn't hurt to be up a creek without a paddle, it's fall. Channels also act as highways for shad and other forage. By concentrating your efforts to channels you are sure to boost your chances of finding and catching fish.

Dissecting a Creek

Fall bass won't be everywhere along an underwater channel. Instead, they are usually found in relatively small areas, often in big numbers.

Locating theses "magic stretches" is a process of elimination that takes time to accomplish, but there are some things you can do to speed up the process.

* Location, Location: The upper 2/3 portion of a creek will usually be the most productive by the time October rolls around. Most pros say it's best to start at the back and fish your way out. If water levels are low it should make the channel fairly easy to follow, especially if there is grass or stumps lining the edges.

* Homing in on Hotspots: While fall bass are apt to be gather anywhere along a creek, they are prone to gravitate to places that offer something different from the surrounding area. Well-defined bends are always worth a look, as are other "oddities" such as slight indentions in a straightaway of grass, points of grass, a place where two creeks intersect or stick-ups/laydowns lodged on the creek bank.

Wakes, Boils and Birds

Perhaps the most obvious sign of a productive area are fish actually feeding. Keep an eye peeled for wakes and boils on the surface.

Another good visual aid to key is birds, especially blue herons. The big birds will often take a ringside seat when bass are feeding and pick off stray or wounded shad driven to the surface. If you see a heron perched on a stump adjacent to a channel, and the bird appears to be on point, it would be wise to move in and check it out.

Keep Your Distance

Let's say your are easing down channel and a well placed cast to a definitive creek bend or indention in a grass bed produces a fish. It would be wise hold off a ways and and work the area thoroughly from a distance. Remember, fall bass often run in gangs. Move too close and you could booger the spot prematurely.

Boat Position

When fishing a creek, try to keep the boat positioned on the middle of the channel. This will allow you to work both sides effectively. If you come upon a stretch that looks especially good, position the boat so you can cast parallel to the grass line, lay down or whatever it is that you suspect may be holding fish. This will allow you to keep the bait in the strike zone for the longest period of time.

Back to School Bass

As earlier mentioned, fall bass often run in gangs or schools. At times the fish will drive pods of shad to the surface or pin them against a shoreline so they can feed on them at will.

Schoolies are often so aggressive they will pounce on just about anything you throw at them, but certain baits tend to produce better than others.

Topwater baits like a Pop-R, Yellow Magic, Tiny Torpedo and Cordell Near Nuthin' (if you can find one) are veterans on the list. Other favorites are lipless crankbaits, square bill crank baits, buzz baits and small spoons.

When School Lets Out

Just because surface schooling wanes doesn't always mean the bite has died, or that the fish have left the area. They could be suspended just beneath the surface, waiting for another unsuspecting pod of shad to come swimming by. This is when a Texas rig worm matched with a light slip sinker, diving plug or the Alabama rig can pay off.

Match the Hatch

It is always a good idea to use baits and bait colors that simulate what bass are feeding on. During fall, that would be shad on most Texas lakes.

The best hard bait colors to throw now are Tennessee shad, chrome/blue, chrome/black, clear or bone.

Bait size also can make a big difference at times. For best results, try to use a lure that is fairly close to the same size as the forage on which the fish are feeding.

Waking the Blade

A spinnerbait can be deadly medicine during fall. The trusty blade comes through shallow cover extremely well and it does a good job of simulating fleeing bait fish.

Spinnerbaits can be fished in a variety of ways and at varied speeds. A good retrieve to try during the fall is a fast or "waking" retrieve, especially when fishing in relation to scattered clumps of aquatic vegetation or around lay down logs or bushes. The idea is to keep the bait moving at a rate of speed fast enough that it bulges or wakes the surface without actually breaking through. The speedy retrieve sometimes triggers bass to pounce on the bait without taking time to evaluate it. This is sometimes called a "reaction strike."

Offshore Options

As productive as creek fishing can be, offshore structure on many lakes will continue to hold big numbers of fish right on through fall. Humps, channel ledges, points and ridges are good places to look, particularly if the bottom is hard.

Assorted baits will get you bit out there. A shaky head, Carolina rig or spoon can be hard to beat. The trick is to use your electronics to graph structure to determine if fish are present. If so, pop a waypoint or drop a buoy to mark the spot for easy reference and have fun.

There's nothing more fun than whackin' 'em when there is nobody else around.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

September 29, 2017 - Friday Night Football Schedule for September 29th, week 5.

Friday Night Football
Center 39 - Bullard 35, Final Score
Joaquin 56 - Hawkins 0, Final Score
Shelbyville 14 - Corrigan Camden 26, Final Score
Timpson 20 - Lovelady 14, Final Score
Tenaha - Open

September 26, 2017 - The season has begun for Tenaha’s Cross Country teams. Twenty-six Middle School and High School students are competing this year. The High School teams competed recently at Broaddus High School. The boys’ team placed 4th overall and the girls’ team placed 7th. There were over twenty teams competing.

On September 20th the teams travelled to West Sabine where the High School boys’ placed 2nd overall and Araceli Vazquez placed 4th individually for the girls with the time of 13 minutes and 40 seconds. The Junior High was scheduled to participate in this meet but was cancelled due to severe weather.

There are only a couple of Cross Country meets left before District competition. The teams are scheduled to compete in Zavalla on September 27th at 1:30pm and Lufkin “Coke Classic” on October 4th at 3:30pm. District competition for both High School and Junior High will be held in New Summerfield on October 11 beginning at 1pm.

September 22, 2017 - Several more hunting seasons are set to open in coming weeks and one is set to close as summer gives way to fall.

The first is the Youth Only squirrel season on Sept. 23-24. The two-day season is intended to give young hunters age 16 and under an early crack at the bushytails before the regular season gets underway on Oct. 1.

Also on tap are the Archery Only seasons for white-tailed deer, mule deer and Rio Grande turkey, which runs Sept. 30 - Nov. 3. The general deer season for whitetails opens Nov. 4.

The early archery season is typically plays right into the hands of East Texas whitetail hunters because it offers the opportunity to get in the woods ahead of the rut, before bachelor groups of bucks start busting up and changing their movement patterns. It also gives hunters the chance to hunt before acorns start to fall, thus boosting chances of success while hunting in relation to corn feeders.

The 16-day early teal season will close on Sept. 24.

September 22, 2017 - Friday Night Football Schedule for September 22nd, week 4.

Friday Night Football
Center 42 - Diboll 45, Final Score
Joaquin 47 - Huntington 0, Final Score
Tenaha 62 - Clarksville 6, Final Score
Timpson 38 - Hawkins 14, Final Score
Shelbyville Open

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