DCNR Managed Public Land Hunting Opportunities
Alabama Hunting & Fishing
The Wildlife Section of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) began acquiring lands to secure public hunting opportunities in the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system as early as the 1940’s. The Division historically accomplished this effort utilizing hunting license revenue leveraged with monies from a federal program, termed the Wildlife Restoration Program, as described in the Pittman-Robertson Act (PR) of 1937. This federal revenue fund source stems from an excise tax placed on manufacturers in the production of firearms, ammunition, bow and arrows, for the dedicated purpose of assisting state game and fish agencies in funding wildlife conservation programs. Programs are limited in allowed scope to wildlife research, surveys and inventories, introduction of wildlife species into suitable habitat, development and maintenance of public use hunting areas and shooting ranges, hunter education and the acquisition and improvement of lands for wildlife habitat. The PR funds, managed and distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), are provided to the states through an annual apportionment based on the number of state hunting license sold and by the total square miles of land coverage of the state.
Alabama’s Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system includes 34 WMAs located within 37 of Alabama’s 67 Counties. These WMAs encompass over 723,000 acres, consisting of approximately 335,000 acres owned by WFF and the Forever Wild Land Trust (State of Alabama owned lands), approximately 30,000 acres of privately-owned lands contractually leased by WFF for no fee but instead through in-kind land management services provided, and roughly 358,000 acres provided through agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and State of Alabama Forestry Commission. The public lands managed within the Wildlife Management Area system by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s WFF Wildlife Section, not only provide for outstanding public hunting opportunities, but also provide secured landscapes for wildlife habitat, wildlife research, and simply represent a great place to enjoy the outdoors. To learn more about the WMA opportunities in Alabama visit the www.outdooralabama.com website and follow the “Hunting” section to “Where to Hunt”, and don’t overlook a great tool to navigate Alabama’s public lands by utilizing the “Interactive Map” feature also found on the website under the “Lands” section.
Up until a few years ago, the acreage of privately-owned leased lands managed within the WMA system exceeded 200,000 acres. These landowners graciously allowed the use of their lands to be incorporated into the WMA system for years but as business models and needs gradually changed, many of these landowners withdrew their tracts on several of the WMAs. This resulted in significant acreage losses to some of our existing WMAs, losing more than half of Coosa WMA and a total loss of some long-standing WMAs (such as Boykin and Scotch). If it wasn’t for the portion of the Coosa WMA being purchased through the Forever Wild Land Trust (FWLT) Program in 2006, Coosa WMA would have been dissolved of public hunting opportunities.
In an effort to reduce this loss in available public hunting lands, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division presented a proposal to the Forever Wild Land Trust Board of Trustee’s to partner with them and cooperatively purchase FWLT program nominations that would serve to add additional acreage to existing or create new public hunting opportunities. This proposal involved the FWLT program providing the required 25% State matching funds with the Wildlife Restoration Program (PR), administered by ADCNR, Wildlife Section, providing the remaining 75% funding a land tracts appraised value.
This partnership began with the re-establishment of the Autauga WMA. Years ago, the privately-owned leased lands making up the Autauga WMA were removed for the same reasons mentioned earlier. Years passed and under new ownership, these same land tracts were nominated to the FWLT program for consideration and ranked high in the WMA category. This provided an opportunity for partnership and opportunity to put those puzzle pieces back together in State ownership re-establishing the historically and currently popular WMA.
Prior to this financial collaboration, the FWLT purchased multiple tracts outright that have consistently added acreage into the WMA system. The second FWLT purchase in program history in 1994 contributed to adding 640 acres to Barbour WMA. Since then, FWLT purchases have led to the creation of 3 WMAs (Grand Bay Savanna, Perdido and Yates) and additions to Coosa, Freedom Hills, Jackson County, Lauderdale, Lower Delta, Lowndes, Riverton, Skyline and Upper Delta WMAs. Also saving long standing Cahaba and Mulberry WMAs back in 2009 resulted from FWLT purchasing the recreation (hunting) rights for those properties, as they were nearing a point of being withdrawn from the WMA, again for the same reasons mentioned earlier. To date, the FWLT program has contributed over 228,000 acres to the WMA system.
Recent land purchases in Dallas and Russell Counties have allowed for the development of a new public land hunting program termed the Special Opportunity Areas (SOA). These new properties, along with previously DCNR owned Fred T. Stimpson and Upper State Sanctuaries Areas in Clarke County and Department of Transportation’s wetland mitigation land in Jackson County became the first tracts to implement this limited quota permit program.
So, what is a SOA? It’s a smaller public hunting area, typically 3,000–7,000 acres in size, that’s divided into individual hunt units comprising 300–500 acres in size. Access for hunting is limited to those that are successful in attaining a limited quota permit through the limited quota randomized selection process administered through the www.outdooralabama.com website. Each SOA has specific hunts, typically 2–4 days in length, for a collection of game species including deer, turkey, waterfowl and small game. Applicants apply by selecting the desired hunt date windows on a specific SOA, and if selected, the successful applicant and allowed guest(s) will be assigned a specific hunt unit for their exclusive use during that hunt duration. The hunt unit will be dedicated to them, for their sole use, throughout the hunt dates assigned to them. This program is unlike any other in the State providing a hunt with attributes far exceeding that of many private hunting clubs. Judging from the feedback from the initial year’s hunters, it’s a success that will not only continue but expand in the coming years.
SOA land tracts include:
- Crow Creek (400 acres), located in Jackson County offers adult archery deer hunting for a permit holder and one guest and waterfowl hunting on select dates and times throughout the season for a permit holder and three guests.
- Cedar Creek (6,400 acres) and Portland Landing (4,744 acres) in Dallas County and Uchee Creek (4,735 acres) in Russell County offers deer and turkey throughout those seasons for the permit holder and one guest and small game hunting on selected dates for the permit holder and 3 guests.
- Fred T. Stimpson (7,200 acres) and Upper State Sanctuary (1,920 acres) in Clarke County offers adult archery deer hunts for a permit holder and one guest, youth gun deer hunts for a youth hunter and youth guest with their supervising adult permit holder, and squirrel hunts for a permit holder, youth and up to five guests (at least one additional guest must be a youth). Fred T. Stimpson also provides a limited quota opportunity for a youth waterfowl hunt. A valid state hunting license, either all game or small game, depending on which hunt participating, and a Wildlife Management Area License are required to hunt any of the SOA limited quota hunts.
How do I get to be a hunter on one of the new SOA hunting opportunities? When registration opens, just take a visit to the www.outdooralabama.com website and follow the “Hunting” link to “Special Opportunity Areas” and begin the registration process. On this page you will find the registration process in easy-to-follow steps, frequently asked questions and be able to click on a link to view the various upcoming hunts.
The 2018-2019 hunting season SOA registration dates are:
- For various deer hunts will begin July 16 and close August 21.
- The youth squirrel hunts at Fred T Stimpson SOA and adult waterfowl hunt at Crow Creek SOA registration will begin September 4th and close October 4th (Crow Creek SOA youth waterfowl hunt registration will be in January 2019).
- The turkey hunts offered at Cedar Creek, Portland Landing and Uchee Creek SOAs will begin December 3rd and close January 3rd, 2019.
This upcoming season be sure take advantage of some of your public land hunting opportunities in Alabama, either through the traditional WMA route or by applying for the Special Opportunity Area hunts.