Alabama deer hunters watched in dismay for years as counterparts in northwest Florida and southeast Mississippi hunted into February during the peak of the rut.
The season always ended Jan. 31 in Alabama, no matter what. No zones, no extension into February despite hunters’ proclaiming they were seeing chasing and breeding activity well into the month. For years their pleas to be able to “hunt the rut” like in other parts of the state fell on deaf ears within the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, whose previous two wildlife directors were steadfast against any expansion into February.
The biology didn’t bear out that longstanding prohibition, though, and for the 2013-14 season a Southwest Zone was established in Alabama. Deer hunters there saw 10 days cut in December and shifted into February. This helped prevent any cries of “they got more time!” from hunters elsewhere in the state.
According to Ray Metzler, acting director of the wildlife division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, so far the season has proven to be a success and popular with hunters and businesses.
“This is our first year of the extended season, and we still have data to study,” Metzler told the Montgomery Advertiser, the state capitol’s daily newspaper. “But we have received nothing but positive feedback from hunters and outfitters in that area. It looks like the February season will stay in place, and you may see the area expanded for the upcoming season.”
That last portion of the quote is something hunters in the southeast portion of Alabama would like to see happen. Based on fetal conception survey information, breeding activity varies widely including the southeast corner of the state. Coffee shop scuttlebutt is that I-85 could be a northern boundary for the zone’s eastward expansion, and also that doe harvests could be reduced to one per day statewide (it’s currently two a day in most of the state), but nothing is concrete.