Alabama Hunting

All About Hunting in Alabama

In Archery, Archery Tips, Bowhunting, Compound Bows, Longbows, Recurve Bows, Traditional Archery by Vineet JainLeave a Comment

Alabama, with hundreds of thousands of hunters every year, is one of the forerunners for great hunting in the United States.

It has more than 1.3 million acres of hunting land and many different species, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, feral hogs, bobwhite quail, etc. that keep hunters coming back for more each year and contributing to the economy by nearly 3 billion dollars.

One huge advantage that Alabama presents to hunters is that it makes it easy for even non-residents to get their licenses on time and have their next great hunting adventure in the state.

Additionally, it has long seasons and liberal bag limits that attract hunters, you can hunt at least one species during each month of the year.

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1. What Species To Hunt in Alabama?

1.1 White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer are the most popularly hunted game animal in Alabama. Around 180,000 deer hunters annually hunt, and harvest in excess of 300,000 deer. This has a significant impact on the local economy of Alabama.

As part of an active deer management plan, the state offers Deer Management Assistance to landowners so that they can collect harvest information such as sex, age, weight, etc.

1.2 Eastern Wild Turkey

The second most popular game animal in Alabama, the Eastern Wild Turkey is accounts for nearly 500,000 man-days of hunting each year. There is usually a four to six week spring turkey hunting season that attracts a lot of hunters.

1.3 Bobwhite Quail

Alabama quail hunting has changed over the times. Due to farming practices and habitat changes, the quail population has dwindled over the decades. Hence quail hunting in the present generally takes place on commercial quail hunting preserves.

1.4 Mourning Dove

Mourning dove hunting usually starts the fall hunting season with hunters congregating on dove fields with friends and family.

Dove hunting is a highly social event with a lot of hunters on the same field, as opposed to most other hunting types where solitary hunting is the norm.

1.5 Feral Hogs

Feral hogs are a highly destructive species that cause severe damage to agricultural crops, habitat and other natural resources.

Many areas of the state now have high populations of this species, with populations increasing during the last 15-20 years and spreading across all 67 counties of Alabama.

As such, hunting of this species is encouraged, with special night-time permissions also granted on private land.

1.6 Sandhill Crane

The Sandhill crane is a common game species across America and Mexico. The specific subspecies found in Eastern U.S. is the giant sandhill crane.

Sandhill are found in wetland habitats and often feed in harvested grain fields. In Alabama, you can find Sandhill cranes in the Tennessee River Valley as well as Weiss Reservoir.

The hunting is restricted to north Alabama. But state and federal wildlife refuges do not allow sandhill crane and waterfowl hunting.

1.7 Waterfowl

Waterfowl is also regularly hunted in Alabama by around 30,000 individuals annually.

The Tennessee River drainage along with the Mobile Tensaw Delta are the regions with the most opportunities for hunting waterfowl. Wood ducks are predominantly hunted in other regions.

1.8 Alligators

From being an endangered species, the alligator population in Alabama has grown exponentially during the last 50 years. Now, there are often complaints from citizens across the state worried about public safety.

Keeping that in mind, an alligator hunting season was started in 2006, to limit the growth of population. Hunters are selected by draw and hunts can take place in August.

1.9 Small Game

Apart from the big game mentioned, small game species are also very popular in Alabama, including dove, rabbits, squirrels, waterfowl, opossums, etc.

Small game hunting can serve to introduce children as well as beginners to hunting and can also give family and friends the opportunity for socialization and camaraderie.

1.10 Black Bears

Black bears are considered a game animal in Alabama but they have no open season, meaning that it is illegal to kill a black bear unless there is an imminent threat to your life.

It has been so, as the numbers had declined in previous years. However, the population appears to be on the rise, and it is advised to report any sightings to the conservation authorities such that they can manage the species population in the state.

2. Seasons

Hunting seasons determine when it is legal to hunt a specific species. Seasons are demarcated taking into account various factors such as breeding times, conservation efforts, and population of the species.

During open season, it is legal to hunt the species while during closed season it is illegal to hunt the species.

In Alabama, hunters can hunt one species or another all year round as the hunting starts from September and goes on till end of August.

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Hunters can hunt many species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, mourning doves, feral hogs, waterfowl, etc.

  • Deer hunting season generally lasts from October to February with additional restrictions based on zone and type of weapon used.
  • Turkey season runs from March to May. Some zones even have a fall season from November to January.
  • Alligator season will likely be from August to October. Alligators have a tag system based on preference points. Hunters are also required to undergo mandatory Alligator training course.
  • Mourning and White-winged Dove season will be from September to January.
  • Waterfowl season lasts from September to February with specific subdivisions within this for teal, duck, coot, geese, etc.
  • Squirrel season is from September to March.
  • Sandhill Cranes can be hunted from December to January.
  • Feral Swine has a special night-time season from May to August. This is however applicable only to privately-owned or leased lands, and a permit is required.
  • For Bobcat, Feral Swine, Fox and Coyote, there is no closed season. These may be hunted all year around but only during daytime hours.
  • Rabbit season is from September to March.
  • The Bobwhite Quail can be hunted from November to February.
  • Bear, mountain Lion, and Ruffed Grouse have no open season. Owing to their dwindling numbers, hunters shall not be allowed to hunt the aforementioned species.

The above species are the most popular for hunting in Alabama. For further information on the above seasons according to specific zones, or for information on further species you can visit the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.

3. Where Can You Hunt?

3.1 Wildlife Management Areas

The Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries maintains 35 Wildlife Management Areas across Alabama.

Spread out over 721,000 acres, these WMAs may be 400 acres in size or even 91,263 acres, providing significant opportunity to hunters looking for game.

Where is the best place to hunt in Alabama?

3.2 Special Opportunity Areas

Special Opportunity areas are smaller than WMAs and focus on a limited quota hunting format to reduce pressure on wildlife while increasing the quality of the hunt.

There are a limited number of slots, available on a draw basis, given to successful permit holders and their guest to hunt a specific 300-400 acre area for 2-4 days.

Lesser number of hunter in that area ensures a higher quality of hunting experience.

3.3 Physically Disabled Hunting Areas

Alabama has a fishing and hunting trail for people with physical disabilities. There are around 20 physically disabled hunting areas along this trail.

It is a network of pubic as well as private recreational sites with accessible hunting, shooting and fishing opportunities so that the pleasure of the hunt is not denied to anybody.

3.4 Forever Wild Land Trust

Some land tracts that fall under Forever Wild Land Trust that are not within WMAs are managed as Natural Preserve/recreation areas and are also open to hunters.

3.5 U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of engineers also allow public hunting on several land tracts.

The U.S. Forest Service has land on Bankhead National Forest, Conecuh National Forest, Tuskegee National Forest, and Tuskegee National Forest.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allow public hunting, but as their properties are small in size there are a few restrictions regarding use.

Hunters are required to obtain a free permit from the office of US Corps of Engineers before setting out to hunt on their properties.

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3.6 Commercial Hunting

In addition to the above public lands, several commercial lodges, guides and outfitters also allow hunting on their lands for a fee.

4. License Requirements

For residents, all hunters between 16-64 years of age must purchase a hunting license to be able to hunt in Alabama. For non-residents, everyone over the age of 16 must purchase a license.

However, there are some exemptions in the case of license requirements:

  1. Resident hunters below 16 years of age and those above 65 years of age do not need hunting licenses.
  2. Non-resident hunters below 16 years of age do not need licenses.
  3. If you are hunting on your own private land, you do not need a license. Hence resident landowners and immediate family is exempt from buying licenses. Immediate family will be landowner’s spouse, children, parents, and siblings, exempt if they are Alabama residents (grandchildren are not exempt).
  4. If there are tenants residing on a property, they and immediate family are exempt from requiring a license to hunt.
  5. Residents who are home on military leave, and have proper ID and paperwork, are exempt from license requirements.
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You can purchase your license online or in person. You can walk-in and buy licenses from any License agents, but make sure you have your driver’s ID or non-driver’s ID card as residency information is required. Your social security number is also required.

Alabama residents also have the privilege of buying a lifetime license, valid even if the license holder moves out of state.

Once you have your license number or your Hunter Exempt License Privilege (H.E.L.P.) number, you can look into getting your Conservation Identification (CID) Number.

As you are legally required to report your deer or turkey harvests to the state via a Game Check system, this number will come in handy then as an easy way to sign in.

In addition, this number is helpful in purchasing further licenses as when required, including registering for special opportunity hunts, youth hunts, alligator hunts, trapping workshops, etc.

Game Check: Lifetime Licenses and Conservation ID

5. Hunters Education

5.1 Do you require Hunter education?

Hunters born on or after August 1, 1977, must complete their hunter education program before they are able to purchase a hunters license.

You can start hunter education as early as 10 years of age, although it is not mandatory until 16, when it becomes mandatory to have a license.

Completing the course as early as possible is advisable.

5.2 Exemptions to the Hunter Education Requirement

There can be exceptions to the Hunter Education Requirement. Instead of completing the course you can hunt under “supervision required” status.

As is obvious, the hunter will need to be under the direct supervision of another properly licensed hunter, at least 21 years of age or older, within 30 feet range at all times.

 Law enforcement officers who are employed in Alabama, as well as active duty U.S. Military Personnel and active members of the AL National Guard are also exempt from the requirement.

All other hunters must have the certification before buying their license.

5.3 Traditional Hunter Education Course

The in-person traditional hunter education course features at least 8 hours of instruction by an expert as well as a written examination. Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries personnel and other instructors take this class.

You can go for this as long as you are 10 years and older. Moreover, the offline course is offered free of charge.

Some topics covered would be responsible hunting and hunter ethics, wildlife laws and management, wildlife identification, archery, first aid, survival, etc.

5.4 Internet Course

The online courses will feature the best hunting safety videos found on the internet, as well as interactive exercises and games. The comprehensive hunter education content will provide you with all the necessary skills to become a responsible hunter.

However, the online courses are only available to Alabama residents and moreover there is a fee applicable, as opposed to the free of charge offline course.

Once you have successfully completed the Hunter Education course either offline or online will receive a hunter education certification card that is recognized by all 50 states as well as some Canadian provinces.

This card is valid for the lifetime of the holder and can be used to purchase hunting licenses as and when needed.

6. Rules and Regulations

6.1 Distance Regulations

You are not allowed to hunt or attempt to hunt within 100 yards of a dwelling, i.e. house, belonging to someone else, even if it is unoccupied, without explicit permission from the owner or tenant of the place.

You need written permission from the landowner to hunt on someone else’s land unless you are accompanied by the landowner or are a guest of the landowner.

You are not allowed to hunt or even merely discharge a firearm within 50 yards of any public road, highway, or railroad.

6.2 Legal Hunting Hours

For resident (native to state) game birds and game animals, during open season, legal hunting hours are daylight hours. This means it is legal to hunt from 30 minutes before the official sunrise time till 30 minutes after the official sunset time.

For migratory game birds and waterfowl, it varies according to the specific species. Game animals can only be hunted during daylight hours unless special permissions have been granted for specific species.

6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement

While hunting, in areas that are open to gun hunting, all hunters are obligated to wear an outer garment above the waist with a minimum of 144 square inches of hunter orange, otherwise a full-size hunter orange hat or cap.

They can be exempt from wearing hunter orange if hunting from an elevated stand 12 feet above the ground, or if hunting in an enclosed box stand, or if travelling in an enclosed vehicle.

Hunter orange is also mandatory if the hunter needs to travel more than 20 feet on foot between otherwise exempt areas such as an enclosed stand and vehicle.

Besides a small logo, hunter orange must be of solid color and visible from all possible angles. No other shades except hunter orange, also called blaze orange or ten-mile cloth are allowed.

Apart from the above regulations, it is now mandatory for hunters to wear a full body harness while in a tree stand on Wildlife Management Areas. This is because falling from a tree stand is the leading cause of hunter injuries in Alabama.

6.4 Bag Limit

The bag limit is specific to each species.

Big game such as deer or alligator are hunted with tags that may be based on a lucky draw system.

On the other hand some small game such as rabbits may have bag limits such as 8 per day. In other cases, such as feral hogs, or skunk, there are no bag limits and the hunter is free to hunt as many as they want.

Sometimes there can be a bag limit on public lands but unlimited hunting maybe allowed on private lands.

6.5 Can you hunt at night?

Hunting during the night is allowed in certain cases on private lands, but the use of any kind of night-vision aids is prohibited.

In addition, you cannot use any source of light that is attached to your weapon that may help you aim at night.

6.6 Bow Requirements

There are certain regulations to be followed while selecting a bow for hunting in Alabama. Legal bows are longbows, recurve bows, compound bows and crossbows.

Crossbows weight to have a minimum draw weight of 85 pounds while the others should have a draw weight of 30 pounds. Any attachments to the bow that project visible light are not allowed.

Only broadhead arrows should be used with a minimum cutting diameter of 7-8 inches. They must have two sharpened edges.

7. Prohibited Practices

  • It is illegal to use electronic dove, turkey or waterfowl calls. Electronic calls may be used for predators only during daylight hours during open season for that particular species.
  • Baiting is not allowed unless you purchase special baiting privileges for species such as white-tail deer or feral swine.
  • It is illegal to hunt with the aid of a visible light source to project a beam from a gun or bow.
  • It is illegal to hunt using explosives or poison.
  • It is illegal to use live decoys for turkey and migratory birds.
  • It is illegal to hunt from any vehicles. Only exception is if the vehicle’s engine has been shut off and it is currently stationary with no forward motion.
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Conclusion

Alabama is a state that attracts scores of hunters every year to enjoy its varied and rich wildlife and habitat. It is necessary to be aware of all rules and regulations before embarking on a hunting trip in this state.

For further detailed information on all the above topics, visit the website of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: https://www.outdooralabama.com/

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