The state of Alabama designated some days and acres just for sportsmen with disabilities to hunt deer at no cost in prime Black Belt Region whitetail country. The special hunting days for physically disabled hunters will be at the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area, 1132 County Road 73 southwest of Greensboro in Hale County.
“The main purpose of this property is as a field trial area for bird dogs, but it has a very good, stable deer population,” says Jeremy Doss of the State Lands Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in Montgomery. “Of all the properties that State Lands manages, this is at the top of the heap for deer.”
The tract also contains mixed young pine and hardwoods strands. The area designated for the physically disabled hunts covers about 500 acres of forests punctuated by green-field feeding areas for deer.
“The 500 acres set aside as an area for physically disabled hunters is only open to hunters with physical disabilities,” Doss says. “Within that area, we have four shooting houses accessible to physically disabled sportsmen. Green fields are associated with each of those shooting houses.”
To participate, people need to sign up for designated days. Hunts for sportsmen with physical disabilities will be Nov. 23 and 30; Dec. 14, 17, 21 and 28; and Jan. 4, 7, 11, 18, 21 and 25. Each person selected can bring a non-hunting guest, but that helper cannot shoot.
“The shooting houses are quite large and at ground level,” Doss says. “They are ADA-compliant with plenty of room for a disabled hunter and an assistant. Every shooting house is right along a maintained gravel road so people can drive right up to it in a car and unload.”
Hunters will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters may only apply for one hunt during the season. Sportsmen with disabilities should check out the Alabama Physically Disabled Hunting and Fishing Trail at outdooralabama.com and hover over “hunting,” then “physically disabled hunting and fishing trail.”
Formerly the State Cattle Ranch under the Department of Corrections, the entire M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area covers about 4,300 acres. Primarily used for upland bird and retriever dog competitions, the tract includes 3,342 acres of Black Belt prairie habitat.
People come from all over the nation and even overseas to participate in field trials held on this property. Field trials usually last three to five days. Many people come to watch the dogs in action. This creates a major economic impact for the local area during these trials.
When conducting a field trial, organizers bring in pen-raised birds. The event staff releases the birds for the dogs to find. Formerly a commercial catfish farm, the property also holds 32 ponds used for retriever trials with pen-raised ducks.
“The property does have some native quail, but not a lot,” Doss says. “Commercially raised birds are very susceptible to predation. One of our goals is to build up the native quail population on the property. We do considerable prescribed burning and habitat management to encourage the native ecosystem.”
The area also schedules youth hunts for deer, waterfowl and doves on designated days. Deer hunts during the 2022-23 season will be on Nov. 19, 23 and 30; Dec. 14, 17, 21 and 28; and Jan. 4, 7, 11, 18, 21 and 25. Duck hunts for wild birds will be Dec. 14, 17, 21 and 28 and Jan. 7, 11, 21 and 25. To register for a hunt, see publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov
“Every year, we have a big youth dove hunt or two,” Doss says. “Some very good deer were taken off the property over the years. Some deer killed during the youth hunts are unreal. Many waterfowl come into the area every year. A tremendous number of people put in for youth deer and duck hunts, but we can only accommodate so many people. We’re looking for quality over quantity hunts.”
Other recreational opportunities
People can also fish for free on designated days at two catfish and two bass ponds on the tract. Bird watchers can also use the property, but they must call at least 24 hours in advance because other scheduled events might determine where they can go.
For more information about the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area, visit alabamaforeverwild.com and hover over “tracts,” then click on M. Barnett Lawley FW Field Trial Area. For information on hunting the area, call Brae Buckner with the ADCNR State Lands Division at (334) 868-1684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.ν