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Alabama Outdoors

Hunting regulations changing this fall

By John N. Felsher

Many changes to hunting regulations will affect Alabama sportsmen this fall. For starters, deer hunters must abide by revised supplemental feeding regulations. Under the new rules, hunters can feed deer, as long as they put the food more than 100 yards from their stands and can’t see it because of a natural object like a row of trees or a terrain feature. Hunters cannot erect a wall of logs or place a hay bale between themselves and the feeder 101 yards away.

“Baiting for deer and turkeys is still illegal in Alabama,” stresses Kevin Dodd, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division enforcement chief in Montgomery. “There will be a rebuttable presumption that any feed placed more than 100 yards from the hunter and not within the line of sight of the hunter is not an attraction for the hunter attempting to kill a deer. If a hunter knowingly hunts less than 100 yards from or within sight of feed or a feeder, that person could be cited for baiting. This is merely an attempt to clarify the area in which someone can feed animals and hunt without getting arrested. It’s still up to the local wildlife enforcement officer’s discretion if the person is baiting or not based upon available corroborating evidence.”

The new feeding regulation only applies to private lands since public land regulations prohibit any baiting or supplemental feeding. However, landowners can still plant food plots, such as clover or rye grass and hunt over growing crops.

In southwestern Alabama, deer season dates will extend into February since whitetails often go into rut later in that part of the state. During the rut, or mating season, bucks lose some natural wariness and may move around more to look for receptive does. That makes them easier to hunt.

“There’s some evidence that whitetail bucks go into rut later in the southwestern part of the state,” Dodd explains. “We wanted to give sportsmen in that area better opportunities to hunt the rut, so we adjusted the season dates a bit, but it’s still the same overall number of days.”

In the affected counties, the state will close the modern firearms deer season for 10 days in December and open the season for 10 days in February. In that area, modern firearms season runs from Nov. 23 through Dec. 1. It will reopen Dec. 12 and run through Feb. 10, 2014. Archery season will also open 10 days later, but will continue through the December gun season closure. Archery season runs from Oct. 25 to Feb. 10, 2014.

Many public lands set different season dates or may impose more stringent regulations for hunting on that property. Therefore, check the laws for that specific property before hunting.

Successful sportsmen throughout the state, whether hunting on private or public land, must report all deer and turkey kills. Each hunter must carry a harvest record, available with the purchase of a hunting license. Before any successful sportsman can move a deer or turkey, that person must record the kill on the harvest record. Then, that person must report the kill to the state, via telephone or Internet within 24 hours.

“This harvest data will help us keep track of when and where people are killing deer and turkeys so we can better manage the resource,” Dodd says. “That information will be available to the public, so sportsmen can see how many deer or turkeys were harvested in their county or favorite wildlife management area. The easiest way to report a kill is by downloading the free app to a smartphone and use it to file a report. It only takes a few minutes.”

To report a deer or turkey harvest, see www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck or call 800-888-7690.

Waterfowlers will also see changes this year. With teal populations up significantly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow hunters in many states including Alabama to bag more teal during the September season. Blue-winged teal migrate much earlier than other ducks, sometimes arriving on the Alabama coast by late August. Consequently, many states hold September seasons to increase the harvest of these birds. Teal season runs from Sept. 7-22. Sportsmen may bag up to six birds per day, up from the four-bird daily limit in place for decades, in any combination of green-winged and blue-winged teal.

The state also made it easier for sportsmen to complete hunter education training. Anyone born on or after Aug. 1, 1977, must complete a hunter education program before buying a license. The traditional hunter education course takes at least eight hours and ends with a written examination. Beginning on Sept. 1, the state will allow sportsmen to complete the hunter education requirements online without physically attending a class.

“This is a big change, one many people wanted for years,” Dodd says. “With people as busy as they are, not everyone can get into a class. Also, they had to wait for the next class in their area. Now, they can take the course over the Internet at their leisure.”

For more information on hunter education, call 334-242-3620. For a complete list of course dates, see https://huntered.dcnr.alabama.gov/public.

For more information about fish and game laws and seasons, consult the free 2013-2014 Alabama Hunting and Fishing Digest, available at most sporting goods stores, or see www.outdooralabama.com. Sportsmen may also call their district wildlife enforcement office for clarification of game laws.