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Deer Season Extended In SW Alabama
Despite outcry from dog hunters and small-game hunters, Conservation Advisory Board approves measure for 2013-2014.
By Mike Bolton
Posted Tuesday March 26 2013, 4:40 PM
This map shows the proposed February deer season area in southwest Alabama.
   Enlarge Image
Despite pleas from a vocal crowd of dog hunters and small-game hunters, the Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) unanimously passed a proposal from Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. to extend the deer season in southwest Alabama to Feb. 10 for the 2013-2014 season. It will mark the first time any part of Alabama will have a deer season that extends past Jan. 31. A new zone will have a split season with the season being closed to gun hunters Dec. 2-11.

A large crowd of primarily of dog deer hunters from across the state was on hand at the March 9 meeting in Vestavia Hills. They pleaded with the board not to pass the measure. They said the proposal, which will close the season for 10 days in December to offset the extension, will take 10 days away from the period in which they are allowed to hunt deer with dogs.

In most counties where dog hunting is allowed in Alabama, the season is Nov. 17 to Jan. 15.

Several small-game hunters also addressed the board to say the season extension was a bad idea because it harms their hunting. They said much of the hunting they are able to do doesn’t come until after the deer season closes, when landowners and hunting clubs are willing to allow them to hunt on their land. Thus, they said, a 10-day extension in the deer season would in effect take away 10 days from their season.

Guy presented the controversial proposal to the board at the CAB’s February meeting in Montgomery. There has long been an outcry from many deer hunters in the state who claim the deer season ends in their area while the rut is still underway. Guy told the board the zone in southwest Alabama was selected because data from state biologists showed that area to have a later rut. Biologists documented the ages of fawns and the dates fawns were born and were able to determine that the rut in southwest Alabama extended well into February, Guy said.

The commissioner said his staff is currently gathering data from other areas of the state to see if an extended season is warranted in those areas.

While a crowd of about 100 dog hunters were in attendance, many more apparently stayed away because the CAB limited the number of those who wished to speak out against the extension to only 10. Only one person spoke in favor of the extension

Don Knight, of Anniston, the president of the Alabama Dog Hunters Association, said dog hunters in southwest Alabama had planned to charter two buses to attend the meeting but canceled the trip when it was learned the CAB was going to allow only 10 people to speak out against the measure.

“Dog deer hunters across Alabama have been working their rear ends off for years to clean up their sport and to educate people,” Knight said. “Instead, they are being punished once again.

“Look how many people showed up to oppose this, and look how many people spoke in favor of it—one.”

Guy told the group that the most troubling aspect of the proposed season extension in southwest Alabama was the dog hunters and the small-game hunters that would lose hunting days because of the measure. He promised them that he was working on a way to return those days.

CAB member Grady Hatzog suggested one way to help small-game hunters would be to extend the small game season into March. Wildlife biologists at the meeting said they could see no immediate harm to the wildlife from such an extension but would look into it.

CAB Chairman Dan Moultrie echoed Guy’s sentiments that causing certain types of hunters to lose hunting days so others may be benefit is the most troubling aspect of the extension.

“I thought Grady Hartzog had a great idea,” he said. “The board tries to make all user groups happy, but as you can imagine not only is that tough, it’s impossible.

“You have to be on the constant lookout for ways to try to make individual groups happy while trying to be fair at the same time.”

Susan Morrow, of Mobile, was one of the 10 opposed to the season extension that was allowed to address the board. She said the board needed to table the issue to consider all the ramifications. She echoed the sentiment of many that a season extension into February during Alabama’s prime deer hunting would draw out-of-state hunters who’s seasons have ended.

“Extending the season into February will attract out-of-state hunters and that will drive up the price of our leases,” she said. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Dennis Russell, of Covington County, told the board that extending the season would likely drive many frustrated dog deer hunters out of the sport. Like several other dog hunters, he said the cost of raising and training dogs has become less and less enticing through the years as the board has taken away the days they can dog hunt. The season extension would cut out more than a fourth of the days hunters can hunt deer with dogs, he said.

More importantly, he said, the extension is likely to cause many youth to look for other ways to spend their time. He said his hunting club typically entertains 60 to 70 kids each hunting season.

Amos Fowler, of Choctaw County, echoed Russell’s claims.

“We spend $56,000 each year on our leases,” he told the board. “We have a club that welcomes kids. The kids now days get bored sitting on a green field and not seeing anything.

“They’ll go all day hunting with dogs.”

John Ward told the board he’s worried about what will happen to so many kids if the dog-hunting season is reduced again and dog-hunting clubs have shut down.

“There are so many kids on drugs these days,” he said. “Dog deer hunting keeps so many kids out of trouble.”

Roger McElroy, of Elmore County, told the board if they wanted to change the deer season it should move the season back to Jan. 15. That would give the small-game hunters and quail hunters more time to hunt, he said. He said deer hunters already have plenty of days to hunt.

Paul Farmer, of Shelby County, begged the board to give the small-game hunter a break and not extend the deer season.

“I am a rabbit hunter, and an extended deer season will hurt us tremendously,” he said, alluding to the fact that many landowners and hunting clubs only allow small-game hunting once the deer season ends.

“Please think about us small-game hunters,” Paul said.

One user group that had no complaint about the extension was bowhunters in southwest Alabama. The Dec. 2-11 closure applies to gun hunting only, and in essence bowhunters gain an extra 10 days in their hunting season. The bowhunting season in southwest Alabama will now run for 108 consecutive days from Oct. 15, 2013 through Feb. 10, 2014.

Hunters on private and leased lands will be allowed to shoot both bucks and does during the extended season. The 10-day extension doesn’t automatically include state wildlife management areas in the zone, nor the Conecuh National Forest in Covington and Escambia counties. Wildlife biologists will determine later if those hunting locations will be open until Feb. 10.
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