Alabama's Special Opportunities Areas
Every hunter desires to hunt a prime location with limited hunting pressure, where the odds for seeing and harvesting a quality deer or turkey are in their favor. The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) provides these venues with our Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and now with a newer format of public land hunting through our Special Opportunity Areas (SOA). The SOA program hosts limited quota hunting opportunites on lands of varying ownership including WFF, Forever Wild Land Trust, Department of Transporation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge. The SOAs are smaller in size than the typical WMA and make for a more appropriate limited quota (random selection permit) hunting format designed to reduce hunting pressure and increase the quality of the hunt for the entire season. During the 2021-2022 season, eleven SOAs offered a limited number of slots for a successful permit holder and guest(s) to hunt a dedicated 300-400 acre unit for a 2-4 day hunt. Species that are available to hunt include white-tailed deer, turkey, waterfowl, dove and other small game.
For an opportunity to obtain one of the limited quota permits at an SOA, hunters can apply through the online registration system by visiting the Special Opportunity Area page at OutdoorAlabama.com. Registration begins in September for white-tailed deer and dove, followed by waterfowl, small game, and turkey over the following months. Hunters have the opportunity to register for multiple hunts for each species at several different locations across the state.
To register, you must be 16 years old or older and have a Conservation ID (CID) and a Wildlife Management Area license. If you are a license exempt resident hunter (65 years old or older), Game Check H.E.L.P. number should be attained prior to registration instead of a Wildlife Management Area License. If selected as a “hunter”, a valid Alabama hunting license is required before participating in the selected hunt. If selected for a migratory bird hunt, in addition to a state hunting license, a Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program Certification (HIP) (free of charge) and applicable State and Federal Waterfowl stamps (if hunting waterfowl) are required.
After the registration closes, a computerized random system selects the successful hunters. If selected for a hunt, either as a hunter or an alternate, you will receive an email requesting you to follow a link to the login page to either accept or decline your selection. If selected as a hunter and the selection is accepted, you will receive an email in the following weeks with hunt unit assignment, and other hunt details and logistics. Hunters can only accept one hunt per species per hunting season. This means someone cannot accept a hunter and an alternate selection. Once an acceptance of a selection is submitted, all other hunts for that species will be automatically declined. It is important to choose carefully, once the acceptance has been submitted it cannot be reversed.
So whether you are new to hunting public land or an experienced public land hunter and looking for that prime location with limited hunting pressure, the Special Opportunity Area program might be right for you. Remember to visit the OutdoorAlabama.com website this Fall and search for the Special Opportunity Area page to find out more about the SOA program and opportunities being offered for the current season.