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Wildlife Management Area Spotlight - Oakmulgee
Oakmulgee Wildlife Management Area (WMA) represents one of the oldest WMAs in Alabama, established in 1938 as a collaborative partnership with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). The WMA consists of 45,000 acres located in Bibb, Hale, Perry and Tuscaloosa Counties in west-central Alabama within the Oakmulgee Division of the Talladega National Forest. The terrain is characterized by its landscape of rolling hills situated just north of the fall line. The Oakmulgee District represents one of the largest continuous stands of longleaf forest uplands with mature hardwood bottomlands.
While it’s difficult to believe, Alabama’s deer herd was practically nonexistent in the early 1900’s and Alabama’s WMAs served as pivotal locations utilized in re-establishing their populations. Oakmulgee WMA represents initial areas to receive these deer during those early re-stocking efforts in Alabama. From 1938-1941, one hundred twenty-nine wild deer were captured in North Carolina, on Pisgah National Forest, and transported to and released on the WMA. Due to the success of these re-stocking efforts conducted during that era, Oakmulgee WMA was one of the first to provide public deer hunting opportunities in the state. During these early years of wildlife conservation in Alabama, many hunters would travel great distances to have the opportunity to hunt and possibly harvest their first whitetail deer. As confirmed through conception data collected by our Wildlife Section personnel, the deer at Oakmulgee have retained their genetic programming from North Carolina and continue to exhibit a peak rutting period extending from December 9th – 24th. This presents a unique opportunity for Alabama hunters, enabling to hunt the rut on the WMAs practically the entire season, traveling from WMA to another WMA as the season progresses.
If the deer hunting wasn’t enough to sufficiently pique your interest, Oakmulgee has long been known for its abundant turkey hunting attributes and attracts quite the gathering of hunters during the early portion of the season. The longleaf timber stands and habitat management practices targeting an open canopy of uneven aged forest maintained through selective timber harvests coupled with a prescribed burning regimen creates conditions conducive for quality turkey habitat. On a typical year, the second or third week of the turkey season represents the peak of gobbling activity and subsequent harvest on the Oakmulgee WMA.
Often overlooked and underused by hunters are the abundant small game hunting opportunities that the WMA has to offer. While it’s certainly a productive way to put wild game on the table, it also represents a great way to introduce a youngster or a new hunter to the rewarding sport of hunting. While many hunting clubs and some private landowners often will have self-imposed restrictions on small game hunting during deer season, Oakmulgee's gun deer hunts are structured so that small game hunters have a wide collection of hunt days without conflict to better allow for multiple hunter type use of the WMA. Many of our WMAs are actually experiencing a resurgence in this prospect as many are realizing and capitalizing on the small game hunting opportunities available on public WMAs.
Oakmulgee WMA continues to thrive and offer public outdoor recreational opportunities. From hunting, hiking, wildlife watching, camping and fishing, the area has something to offer to anyone wanting to get away and immerse themselves in the outdoors. The U.S. Forest Service’s Payne Lake Recreational Area, within Oakmulgee WMA, offers both modern and primitive campsites, with restrooms and bath houses. The beautiful 110-acre Payne Lake offers outstanding fishing opportunities for anglers, or a peaceful place to just sit on the shoreline and relax. Additional primitive camping sites are available on the WMA as well. Thanks to the vision, agency partnership and work of many early conservationist more than 80 years ago, Oakmulgee WMA continues to be enjoyed by the public today and will for generations to come.