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New Program Opens More Lands To Public Hunting
 
By John N. Felsher
Posted Wednesday September 27 2017, 10:31 AM
 
This season, some Alabama sportsmen will be able to enjoy new hunting opportunities on some special public hunting lands. Dubbed Special Opportunity Areas (SOA), four small parcels will provide public hunting opportunities that will almost seem like hunting on private land.

“We have lost some significant acreage from our wildlife management area system over the past several years, especially with the loss of Boykin and Scotch WMAs,” explained Chuck Sykes, director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “The odds of buying 15,000- to 20,000-acre tracts of land are slim to none, so we changed the model of what we were looking to acquire.”

These small parcels include the 6,500-acre Cedar Creek SOA in Dallas County, the 4,500-acre Uchee Creek SOA in Russell County, the 400-acre Crow Creek SOA in Jackson County and the 5,400-acre Fred T. Stimpson SOA in Clarke County. Hunters can apply to hunt these properties on specific days. If selected, each person and a companion will be permitted to hunt about 300 to 400 acres for a designated time.

“Typically, properties in the WMA system are vast blocks of land that allow for a wide range of hunting opportunities for a large number of hunters,” Sykes said. “The relatively small size, compared to most WMAs, and the locations of these SOAs will provide a unique opportunity for sportsmen at no additional cost, except for the price of a license and a WMA permit. It basically becomes that one person’s hunting club for four days.”

On the Alabama River, the Cedar Creek area sits in the Black Belt Region, an area known for its rich soil and good deer hunting. The habitat consists mostly of cedar thickets, hardwood bottoms, upland pines, sloughs and creeks. The Uchee Creek property offers similar habitat, but with some food plots. Crow Creek consists mostly of flooded bottomland hardwoods and old agricultural fields, which should provide excellent waterfowl habitat.

“When we were trapping deer and turkey to relocate them in other parts of the state, many of them came from the Fred T. Stimpson area,” Sykes said. “We’ve had it a long time, but it was not hunted by the general public. It was a wildlife sanctuary for restocking. We opened it a couple years ago to some youth deer hunts. This year, we’ll offer some adult archery hunts and small-game opportunities for youth.”

In other news, the state also opened up the Martin Community Hunting Area, a 400-acre tract in Tallapoosa County. The small property will allow public archery hunting for deer, plus opportunities to hunt small game and turkey.

In addition, the new Boggy Hollow WMA covers about 7,000 acres of the Conecuh National Forest in Covington County. It will be open for small game, quail and archery hunting for deer on designated days, but the emphasis will be on managing habitat for bobwhite quail.

“This format was developed to offer a broad spectrum of specific hunting opportunities, while still focusing on quail and small game,” said Bill Gray, the Alabama District IV supervising wildlife biologist.

Some quail already exist on the Boggy Hollow property. To thrive, bobwhites need open grassland habitat with extensive ground cover where they can hide from predators. The state plans to enhance the habitat for quail by selectively thinning timber and burning small parcels. This same habitat will also help rabbits, other birds and non-game animals.

People can register to hunt on these SOAs through Oct. 3. For more information about registering to hunt and the specific dates for these SOAs, go online to www.outdooralabama.com/special-opportunity-areas.
 
 
 
 
 
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