Hunting Laws & Regulations
Alabama Hunting & Fishing
50 YARD RESTRICTION FROM A PUBLIC ROAD
You may not hunt or discharge a firearm within 50 yards of the right-of-way of any public road, highway, or railroad with a centerfire rifle, a shotgun using slugs or shot larger than number four (4) shot or a muzzle loading rifle .40 caliber or larger. This law significantly impacts deer hunters. It is illegal to take any action to harvest a deer within the 50 yard restricted area with a weapon or shot listed above. The law was passed by the State Legislature to address safety issues.
WHO NEEDS HUNTER EDUCATION?
All license buyers (16 or older) born after August 1, 1977 must successfully complete an approved hunter education course. Exceptions include: APOST certified law enforcement officers employed in the state, active duty U.S. Military personnel and Alabama residents who are active members of the AL National Guard.
There are two ways to obtain your hunter education class: an in person class, also called a traditional class, or an all online option. The in person hunter education course is free; whereas the internet course providers charge a fee. 100% of the fee goes to the course provider to pay for the cost of providing and maintaining the online course. Students taking hunter education must be ten years of age or older.
For those born after August 1, 1977 and have yet to complete an approved hunter education course but would still like to hunt, there is the option of purchasing a “Supervision Required” hunting license. This license requires the hunter to be under the direct supervision of a properly licensed adult hunter while in the field. Hunters under supervision MUST be under normal voice control, not to exceed 30 feet away from a properly licensed hunter 21 years of age or older. Under no circumstance shall the supervising person be the holder of a “supervision required” license
A list of classes along with more information about hunter education can be found on our website www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/hunter-education-alabama.
Hunting includes pursuing, shooting, killing, capturing and trapping wild animals, wild birds, and all lesser acts, such as disturbing, harrying or worrying, or placing, setting, drawing or using any device used to take wild animals, wild birds, whether they result in taking or not, and includes every act of assistance to any person in taking or attempting to take wild animals or wild birds.
HUNTING PERMISSION REQUIREMENT
It is illegal to hunt, trap, capture, injure, kill or destroy any wild game on another person’s land without having in possession the written permission of the landowner or person in control of such land, unless accompanied by the landowner or unless a guest of the landowner.
Land is divided into two categories:
- Private owned and leased land is defined as that which is not open to the general public.
- Open permit-public land is defined as governmentally owned land open for public hunting and/or lands made available to the public on an individual basis whether for a fee or not. Examples of such lands would be U.S. Forest Service Lands and lands owned by lumber or utility companies available for use by hunters either through free permits, fee permits or no permit requirement.
Legal hunting hours for resident game birds and game animals including deer during open season are daylight hours (defined as beginning 30 minutes before official sunrise time until 30 minutes after official sunset time.) only. Migratory game birds and waterfowl are as specified for each species. Game animals may be hunted in open season during daylight hours only, except as specified for fox, raccoon, opossum, feral swine, bullfrog, pig frog and alligator under seasons.
HUNTER ORANGE REQUIREMENT FOR HUNTING
During dates and in areas open by regulation to gun deer season, including youth deer season and muzzleloader deer season, all persons hunting any wildlife species, except foxes, raccoons, and opossums during legal nighttime hours or turkey or migratory birds (including crows), are required to wear an outer garment above the waist with a minimum of 144 square inches of hunter orange or either a full-size hunter orange hat or cap. Hunters are not required to wear hunter orange when hunting from a stand elevated twelve (12) feet or more from the ground, when hunting in an enclosed box stand, when traveling in an enclosed vehicle, or when traveling on foot no more than twenty (20) feet directly between an operating enclosed vehicle and a stand where the hunter is exempt from the hunter orange requirement. The hunter orange must be worn when traveling on foot between an operating enclosed vehicle and exempt stand when the distance is more than a direct distance of twenty (20) feet. A small logo and/or printing is permitted on the front of hunter orange caps; otherwise, hunter orange must be of solid color and visible from any angle. Only hunter orange, commonly called blaze orange or ten-mile cloth, etc., is legal. The various shades of red, as well as camo-orange, are not legal.
The following are designated as game animals in Alabama: bear, beaver, coyote, deer, fox, opossum, eastern cottontail rabbit, swamp rabbit, raccoon, squirrel,nutria, mountain lion (cougar), red wolf, groundhog, bobcat, feral swine (wild hog) and alligator. See Protected Species below.
The following are designated as game birds in Alabama:
- Resident species: bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, wild turkey.
- Migratory species: wild duck, wild goose, brant, clapper and virginia rail, sora, coot, common snipe, woodcock, mourning dove, gallinule, merganser and sandhill crane.
All birds except English sparrows, crows, collared doves, starlings and blackbirds (except rusty) are protected by state law. Game birds and game animals may only be taken during open season for hunting. There is no open season in Alabama for bear, mountain lion (cougar) and ruffed grouse. Other wildlife species are protected by the nongame species regulation.
The following are designated as furbearing animals in Alabama: beaver, bobcat, fox, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, otter, raccoon, striped skunk, coyote and feral swine.
ARCHERY AND SPEAR SPECIFICATIONS FOR HUNTING
Legal bows for hunting is defined as either a longbow, recurve bow, compound bow or crossbow. Longbows, recurve bows and compound bows must have a minimum peak tension of 30 lbs. Crossbows must have a minimum peak tension of 85 lbs at normal draw length. Arrows or bolts shall be equipped with broadhead having two sharpened edges and minimum cutting diameter of 7/8 inches. Attachments to the bow which project visible light are prohibited.
Deer may be run with dogs during the closed season only from October 1 to the opening of gun deer season in those counties/regions having an open dog deer season. Squirrel and rabbit may be run during closed season by licensed hunters (no guns).
It is illegal in Alabama to sell any game bird or game animal or any part of the animal, except lawfully taken deer hides, deer hooves and squirrel skins, hides and tails. Finished product items such as gloves, shoes, clothing, jewelry, tanned deer hides and similar products may be sold. Exceptions also apply to certain animals classified as both game animal and furbearing animal.
Live deer and elk may not be imported into Alabama
It is illegal to import any live member of the deer family (Cervidae) including deer, elk, caribou, moose, etc. This is our best defense against diseases that could devastate Alabama’s deer herd. Recognizing the serious threat that the illegal transportation of live Cervidae into Alabama poses, the Alabama Legislature increased the maximum fine for each violation to $5000. Should you become aware of any live deer being transported within Alabama, it is important to notify the Division at GAMEWATCH (800) 272-4263 immediately. It is also prohibited to import deer carcasses from ANY other state, territories or possessions of the U.S. unless all meat and antlers have been cleaned of spinal cord and brain tissue.
Alabama’s deer herd is an extremely important segment of our wildlife resources. The white-tailed deer is the most popular game animal from both a recreational and economic viewpoint. This herd, through proper management, has the potential to produce high quality deer. It is extremely important that this herd receives protection from sources that could cause harm. This is one reason it is illegal to import deer from outside Alabama. Any time a deer is moved, all its bacteria, viruses, diseases and parasites such as worms and ticks go along. Provisions such as “health certificates” do not ensure that animals are disease free. Diseases of concern to our deer populations are unlikely to move into Alabama unless they come here with infected deer. This risk of disease transmission to our native herd is too great. Recent outbreaks of both chronic wasting disease, commonly referred to as CWD, and bovine tuberculosis in other parts of the country demonstrate the wisdom of that ban. Many other states have recently banned or are in the process of banning the importation of deer.
To properly manage migratory birds, biologists must know migration patterns, harvest and survival rates, and ecological processes. Reporting banded bird recoveries will help provide the needed information. All band reports are very important. To report a recovery, refer to www.reportband.gov.
Alabama’s Hunting & Fishing Trail for People with Physical Disabilities
Alabama has a statewide network of hunting, fishing, and shooting sites for people with physical disabilities. There are no requirements to preregister to use the fishing and shooting facilities but those using the hunting sites (see below) must be approved in advance including certification that they meet disability guidelines. Users must be properly licensed and abide by all laws and regulations. Call (334) 242-3469 for additional information.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS
The Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division manages 34 WMAs to provide public hunting opportunities. Consult the Wildlife Management Area map permits and the Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Regulation Book or
www.outdooralabama.com for hunting dates and regulations governing hunting on these areas. Before hunting, hunters are required to have proper hunting licenses and management area permits.
In addition, WMA hunters must also possess the wildlife management area license for hunting deer, turkey or waterfowl. Shooting range users on WMAs are required to have a valid hunting license, management area license or wildlife heritage license (residents only). For locations, see map on Facilities Map.
SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY AREAS
The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Wildlife Section manages 6 SOAs, providing a different public land hunting opportunity through a limited quota random computerized draw process. These areas provide a selected hunter and guest(s) the opportunity to hunt a dedicated specific unit within an SOA for a two (2) to four (4) days.
To learn more about the various SOAs, available hunts and how to register visit the www.outdooralabama.com website. Visit the Hunting page and look for the Special Opportunity Area link.
DESIGNATED AREAS FOR PHYSICALLY DISABLED HUNTERS
Specific areas are reserved primarily for use by physically disabled hunters. These areas are open to deer hunting on designated days during gun deer season. To hunt these areas, hunters must possess proper hunting license, certificate of qualification and reserve hunting dates in advance. Application forms and information on these designated areas are available from the Wildlife Section, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 64 N. Union St., Suite 584, Montgomery, AL 36104, (334) 242-3469.
SPECIAL YOUTH HUNTS
Youth who have not yet reached their sixteenth birthday have the opportunity to participate in special hunts. The special deer hunt is scheduled for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the opening of gun season. Each youth or youth hunting party (maximum of 2 youth) must be accompanied by a non-hunting, properly-licensed adult 21 years of age or older, or the parent of the youth, and wear hunter orange (adult must also).
The opportunity for youth to hunt turkey is offered the Saturday and Sunday prior to the regular spring season opening days. The same regulations apply as for the youth deer hunt, except hunter orange does not have to be worn while hunting turkey.
A special youth waterfowl hunt is offered statewide. The Alabama Waterfowl Hunting Guide should be referred to for rules and regulations.
Those interested in any of these special youth hunts should contact the Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division’s Wildlife Section at (334) 242-3469 for more details.
YOUTH DOVE HUNTS
Fields located throughout Alabama will offer exclusive youth dove hunts on selected Saturday afternoons beginning on the opening date. To participate, an adult (21 years of age or older or the youth’s parent) must be accompanied by youth(s) less than 16 years old. These hunts are designed to maximize youth participation and foster mentoring by the adults. Information advertising the various hunts can be attained by calling the nearest district office at www.outdooralabama.com.
SHOOTING and Archery Ranges
The Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division recognizes the need for public facilities where individuals can safely discharge firearms. The Division operates and maintains 12 shooting ranges open to the public. Most ranges offer shooting opportunities from 25 to 100 yards.
The Division also operates 17 archery ranges in partnership with local entities. Archery ranges consist of stationary targets from 5 to 50 yards. Most facilities also have a 12-foot shooting platform for bowhunters to practice shooting from an elevated position.
Ranges are constructed with revenue from the sale of hunting licenses, and firearms and ammunition sales. To use any of the Division’s ranges, a wildlife management area license or hunting license is required. For residents only, freshwater fishing license or wildlife heritage license can also be used.
For exact range location, please refer to the map on Facilities Map. For more information, please call the Hunter Education Office at (334) 242-3620.
ALWAYS WEAR A FULL BODY HARNESS
Falling from treestands is the leading cause of injuries to hunters in Alabama. Injuries from treestand accidents could be minimized or prevented by wearing a full body harness. Alabama regulations now require all hunters utilizing a treestand on Wildlife Management Areas to wear a full body harness.
Always use a pull-up rope to pull equipment from the ground to your treestand. Never carry a gun, bow, or other equipment while climbing up or down a tree. Always pull guns up to your treestand unloaded. The use of portable treestands is highly recommended. Never erect permanent stands without landowner permission.
DEER MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
The Alabama Cooperative Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) was developed in 1984 to assist those who wish to intensify deer management on their lands. Over 100 landownerships and hunting clubs covering more than 200,000 acres are enrolled as DMAP cooperators. Wildlife biologists are assigned to help cooperators develop deer management plans and harvest strategies. Conservation Enforcement Officers assist with legal aspects of the program. Cooperators collect biological information from deer taken on their lands each year. Analysis of the data results in a status report and deer management recommendations which are provided to each cooperator before the following hunting season. For more information, contact the nearest Wildlife Section district office.
FOREVER WILD PROGRAM
The Forever Wild Program was adopted by Alabama voters in November 1992 to set aside land for permanent state ownership using a portion of the interest earned on profits from the sale of offshore natural gas. The land, to be used for hunting, fishing, camping, outdoor recreation, natural resource protection and research and preservation of unique sites, will be acquired from willing sellers at no taxpayer cost and will belong to you, the public.
The 15-member Forever Wild Board reviews all nominated tracts for purchase and establishes a priority purchase authorization. The Forever Wild Program will allow a steady acquisition effort to build a public land base to meet the needs of Alabama citizens and provide natural resource protection and management to accommodate hunters, hikers, campers and other outdoor recreationists. For further information, contact the Lands Division at (334) 242-3484.
NONGAME WILDLIFE PROGRAM
Since 1984, the Nongame Wildlife Program has been charged with the conservation of the nongame animals of this state—animals that are neither caught, hunted nor trapped. With over 900 nongame vertebrate species of animals native to this state, as well as thousands more invertebrates such as butterflies, crayfish, mussels and snails, this is a formidable task indeed. Funding for the Nongame Wildlife Program does not include any state general funds—not a penny of taxpayer dollars. Conservationists support the program through the nongame checkoff on state tax returns, direct donations, and from hunting license and wildlife heritage license fees.
Hunting Accidents In Alabama
As the 2020-2021 hunting season begins, the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries would like to remind our hunters to stay safe while afield and avoid easily preventable accidents. Over the last four years, Alabama hunters have averaged thirteen treestand-related accidents per year. Practically all of these could have been prevented if a full body safety harness was attached to the tree from the moment the hunter ascended up the tree and until they reached the ground again. While it’s great to see more hunters wearing a safety harness when hunting from an elevated position, unfortunately, some hunters are not attaching themselves to the tree until they reach the height they wish to hunt. Statistics show that most falls occur during the transition from climbing into or out of the elevated stand. Please be mindful and repeatedly remind your hunting partners to use harnesses correctly and be connected to the tree constantly while climbing up, while hunting and all the way back until down on the ground.
Thankfully though, our hunters are practicing better firearms safety and the number of firearm accidents in Alabama have sharply declined in the last ten years. However, one accident remains too many and we continue to document them either self-inflicted or by another hunter. Over the last four years, Alabama has averaged 6 firearm accidents per year with an average of two being fatal. Carelessness in handling firearms or shooting without properly identifying the target accounts for the majority of incidents. Following the simple basics of firearms safety would practically eliminate these from occurring. Safe firearms handling should of utmost of concern for all hunters. The most important safety firearms rules to remember are:
- Always control the muzzle of your firearm and keep it pointed in a safe direction.
- Treat ALL firearms as if they are loaded. Always use a haul line to pull up your gear, bow, or unloaded firearm.
- Never climb with anything in your hands or attached to your back. Before climbing down, utilize the haul line to safely lower all your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
- Finally, always properly identify your target and what is beyond before you pull the trigger.
Above all else, use common sense. Remember that safe hunting is no accident. Hunt safe, hunt smart!