Alabama Commissioner to Propose Long-Sought February Deer Season

A deer season extension into February for southern Alabama, rumored for months and sought for years by hunters in that area, will be proposed by the state’s conservation department commissioner.

By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor

As reported by Jeff Dute in the Mobile Press-Register, the season would be through Feb. 10 for a portion of southwest Alabama. Gunter Guy Jr., commissioner of the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, confirmed he would make the proposal at the upcoming Conservation Advisory Board meeting on Feb. 9 in Montgomery.

Alabama deer hunters may see changes in the future, including a check-in system for state officials to gather better data and an extension into February in the southwest portion of the state.

“My philosophy from the beginning has been to try to make the overall outdoors experience better for the people we serve, hunters in this instance, while balancing that with doing what’s in the best interests of the resource. We are comfortable that we have done both in this instance,” Guy told the newspaper on Thursday.

Guy also confirmed he plans to propose a statewide telephone-based checking system. Alabama currently does not have a mandatory tagging or check-in system of any kind for deer or turkeys. Hunters are asked to carry a “harvest log” to record the bucks and turkeys killed during the seasons. But without a checking or call-in system, that reporting and recording method is meaningless for enforcement or data-gathering.

Alabama’s deer season has for years ended on Jan. 31 statewide. It opens Oct. 15 with five weeks of archery season before firearms season opens. Due to a wide fluctuation of breeding activity, hunters throughout the state experience “the rut” anywhere from December through mid-February, the latter in the southernmost part of the state.

Hunters in southern Alabama have pleaded for years for an extension into February so they could experience the peak of the rut. State wildlife officials have steadfastly refused, arguing that data showed most rutting activity occurring in mid-January with some extended rutting activity later on.

Hunters disagreed, and have for years, to the point of garnering more than 12,000 petition signatures three years ago. That failed to sway the Advisory Board or Conservation Department officials to change the season dates. Hunters also argued unsuccessfully that southeast Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle’s “Zone D” dates extend into February.

State officials also have said for years that extending the season into February could increase the price of leases and attract non-resident hunters who might further drive up the prices.

Guy told the Press-Register he plans to introduce a proposal that would create a southwest zone not following county lines but possibly highways and rivers. The season would close in the zone area for 10 days in December and be open in February.

The Conservation Advisory Board cannot vote on Guy’s proposal at its February meeting, but could do so at its March meeting.

Read the full report here.