Bowhunting season in Alabama has started and it won’t be long until gun deer hunters join in the pursuit of Alabama’s most popular game animal—the white-tail deer. Conservation Enforcement Officers (CEOs), commonly called game wardens, are taking to the woods to make sure hunters are complying with hunting laws and regulations.
During the fall, the majority of these encounters consist of checks for proper licenses and game bag limits. Officers strive to keep these interruptions as brief as possible so that those checked can get back to hunting.
It is common to experience anxiety when approached by a uniformed law enforcement officer. What hunters may not realize is that the officer may be experiencing some anxiety as well. CEOs often work in remote areas and regularly encounter people with firearms, knives and bows. According to Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Enforcement Chief Kevin Dodd, the goal of the officer is to have a safe and positive experience−for the officer and the hunter. “Our officers are there to ensure that the state’s wildlife and fisheries resources are used in a fair and equitable manner,” he said. “With the hunter’s cooperation, most encounters are short and go smoothly.”
A new question CEOs will be asking hunters this year is if they have reported their deer or turkey harvests. Dodd says officers will have education in mind when speaking to hunters about this new regulation. “Hunters have 48 hours to report their deer and turkey harvests through the Game Check system,” he said. “We will not only be asking hunters if they have checked their game, but we will be educating them on how to use Game Check. We can also determine if the hunter has complied.”
If you are approached by a CEO, here are some courtesies to keep in mind.
- If necessary, acknowledge that you have identified the officer’s location by a low whistle or hand motions. Put your firearm on “safe” and keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Wait until the officer asks that you unload your weapon or allow the officer to do so upon request. Maintain control of any youths bearing firearms who may be hunting with you.
- Produce any required licenses and permits, if requested.
- If hunting from an elevated stand, wait for instructions from the officer before descending. Licenses and permits can sometimes be dropped to the ground for inspection then tucked into the tree bark for the hunter to retrieve after the hunt.
- Remember that the officer is there to ensure that landowner rights against unwanted poachers are protected and that the resource is being used legally.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
Photo: A Conservation Enforcement Officer shows a hunter how to use Game Check on his smartphone.