There are a lot of reasons why folks like the slogan, “Sweet Home Alabama”. One reason is because of the huge opportunity that hunters have to pursue their sport on 1.3 million acres of public hunting land. Alabama hunters have a sweet deal, with the chance to hunt everything from white-tailed deer and wild turkey to bobwhite quail, feral hogs, ducks, geese, rabbits, squirrel, mourning doves, quail and many other species.
The state also goes by the motto, “Share the Wonder” and that fits outdoor enthusiasts as well.
Alabama Public Land Hunting
The state Division of Wildlife Section operates and maintains 35 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) across the state. There’s one not far from any area of the state. The total of 721,000 acres ranges from small areas like the 400 acre Martin CHA to the giant 91,263 acre Black Warrior WMA. The state also has a liberal program that allows Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) on typically smaller acreage areas.These allows random draw permit system that reduces pressure and increases the quality of the hunt.
The Forever Wild Land Trust is also a boost to the state’s hunting. A large percentage of the land purchased through the Forever Wild Land Trust is open to public hunting. Some areas are part of existing Wildlife Management Areas and others adjacent to existing WMAs are managed as Natural Preserve/Recreation Areas and are open to hunting.
The state is home to eleven National Wildlife Refuges, which dot every corner of the state. They include Key Cave, Fern Cave, Sauta Cave, Wheeler, Watercress Darter, Mountain Longleaf, Cahaba River, Eufaula, Choctaw, Grand Bay and Bon Secour NWRs.
Hunting pressure on public lands is often high. One way to counter that and find deer that aren’t targets of the majority is to be willing to pack in extended distances, sometimes several miles into tough conditions. Going off the beaten path is a good way to increase a hunter’s odds over the general population.
Alabama Big Game Hunting
Like most southern states, the white-tailed deer is the top game target. A whopping four million man/days of hunting are put in by approximately 180,000 deer hunters annualy in the state. The harvest varies from year to year, but ranges in excess of 300,000 deer harvested every year. That’s a pretty good success ratio.
Deer hunting is good across the state. But these areas deserve special mention. The counties of Montgomery, Lownes and Dallas lie in the heart of the ferule “blackbelt” of Alabama and it is these same rich land areas that produce the biggest and best white-tail deer. Food supplies are abundant and the deer population is steady.
The southwest area of the state around Mobile in Monroe, Escambia and Baldwin counties are also top deer producers. Hunters looking for an easy trip can contact one of many lodges in these areas. Finally, deer hunters won’t need to miss checking out the Lawrence County area. This area is part of the Bankhead National Forest and a combination of public and private land in the region is all good for big bucks.
Alabama has a big population of black bears, mostly in the southwest and northeast. But despite the numbers, they aren’t high enough yet to allow an open season on bears. Wildlife experts do ask hunters or others in the woods to report any sighting to help better estimate the numbers.
Feral hogs are not a friend of hunters after other species, but they do provide some good hunting opportunities. Once confined to river swamps, the populations have spread all across the state.
And then there are alligators. The state’s alligator population has grown so large that they have become a nuisance and an alligator season by permit is now available to hunters.
Hunting for Birds and Other Species in Alabama
Approximately 30,000 individuals hunt waterfowl annually in Alabama. The Tennessee River drainage and the Mobile Tensaw Delta provide a large portion of the waterfowl hunting opportunities for most migratory species. Wood ducks are the primary species hunted throughout the remainder of the state.
Alabama quail hunting has changed significantly over the past decades. There was a day when quail were all over the state, but changing farm practices and habitat loss had huge negative impacts. Today, most of Alabama’s quail hunting opportunities are on commercial quail hunting operations. There are several good ones to choose from.
The Eastern wild turkey is the second most popular game animal in Alabama and accounts for about 500,000 man-days of hunting annually. Many of Alabama’s turkey hunters are quite avid and enjoy the four- to six-week spring turkey season.
Mourning dove hunting typically kicks off the fall hunting season as many hunters look forward to a day on a dove field with family and friends. Like most other places, dove hunting is as much a social event as a hunting activity. Alabama is divided into two dove hunting zones, with most of the state in the northern zone. The north and south zone seasons typically begin in early September and October, respectively.