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WMAs Offer Quality Hunting to Public
By DAVID RAINER
With small game hunting underway and deer archery season in full swing, Alabama hunters may be looking for public hunting options to satisfy the urge to be a part of the outdoors.
Fortunately, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division oversees 35 wildlife management areas (WMAs) across the state for public access.
The available public areas offer hunters a wide variety of hunting terrain from the Appalachian Mountains to the vast Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
Corky Pugh, Director of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division said there are common misconceptions about hunting on public land that need to be refuted.
“The quality of hunting on WMAs is exceedingly high,” Pugh said. “The perception that WMAs are crowded is erroneous. Usually hunters can find plenty of territory in which to hunt. As far as safety is concerned, statistically, public lands are safer than privately owned or leased land.”
The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFFD) divides the state into six districts and we’ll look at the public hunting opportunities through the WMA system in each district.
District 1 covers northwest Alabama and offers 10 WMAs from which to choose:
1. Lauderdale, which has 18,299 acres near Waterloo, is open to big game and small game hunting.
2. Riverton near Cherokee has 6,626 acres available for hunting big game and small game.
3. Freedom Hills near Cherokee is 31,559 acres and has hunting for big game and small game, as well as a shooting range.
4. Seven-Mile Island near Florence has 5,745 acres open to small game and waterfowl hunting.
5. Mallard-Fox Creek near Decatur has 1,805 acres with small game and waterfowl hunting.
6. Swan Creek near Decatur offers waterfowl and small game hunting, and a shooting range, on 9,085 acres.
7. Black Warrior near Moulton has 91,263 acres available for big game and small game hunting, as well as a shooting range.
8. Sam R. Murphy near Guin has a shooting range, big game and small game hunting on 18,450 acres.
9. Wolf Creek near Townley has 9,675 acres for big game and small game hunting.
District 2 covers northeast Alabama and gives hunters nine WMA options, as well as the Etowah Public Shooting Range near Gadsden:
1. James D. Martin-Skyline near Scottsboro has a shooting range and small game and big game hunting on 46,854 acres.
2. Crow Creek Refuge near Stevenson has big game and small game hunting on 3,346 acres.
3. Crow Creek, also near Stevenson, offers hunting for waterfowl, big game and small game on 2,069 acres.
4. Raccoon Creek near Stevenson has 7,080 acres available for small game, big game and waterfowl hunting.
5. North Sauty Refuge near Scottsboro offers big game and small game hunting on 5,009 acres.
6. Little River near Centre has 12,614 acres open for big game and small game hunting.
7. St. Clair near Pell City has big game and small game hunting on 6,216 acres.
8. Choccolocco near Heflin has a shooting range, small game and big game hunting on 56,868 acres.
9. Mud Creek near Scottsboro offers waterfowl, big game and small game hunting on 8,003 acres
District 3 in west Central Alabama has the Marengo County Public Shooting Range and three WMA hunting opportunities.
1. Cahaba River near West Blocton has a shooting range and big game and small game hunting on 42,994 acres.
2. Oakmulgee near Moundville has 44,500 acres open to big game and small game hunting with a shooting range, as well.
3. David K. Nelson (Demopolis) has 7,993 acres available for waterfowl, big game and small game hunting.
4. Mulberry Fork near Tutwiler offers hunting for small game and big game on 35,520 acres.
District 4 in east central Alabama offers three choices for hunting on WMAs:
1. Autauga near Prattville has 370 acres open for dove hunting, as well as falconry.
2. Coosa near Rockford has a shooting range, small game and big game hunting on 37,291 acres.
3. Lowndes near White Hall has 12,461 acres available for small game and big game hunting.
4. Hollins in Clay County has 29,363 acres open to big game and small game hunting.
District 5 in southwest Alabama has six WMAs from which to choose, including the largest in the state:
1. Scotch near Coffeeville has 19,770 open for big game and small game hunting.
2. Fred T. Stimpson near Rockville has 5,361 open to youth deer hunting only.
3. Frank W. & Rob M. Boykin near Citronelle offers big game and small game hunting on 18,760 acres.
4. Upper Delta near Stockton offers a shooting range, as well as small game, big game and waterfowl hunting on 40,873 acres.
5. Mobile-Tensaw Delta-W.L. Holland has 57,262 acres available for small game, big game and waterfowl hunting near Mobile and Spanish Fort.
6. Perdido River near Gateswood offers 17,177 acres for big game, small game and waterfowl hunting.
District 6 in southeast Alabama offers hunters three WMA choices:
1. Barbour near Clayton has a shooting range, small game and big game hunting on 19,624 acres.
2. Blue Spring near Andalusia offers 24,783 acres for small game and big game hunting.
3. Geneva State Forest near Florala has 7,200 acres open for small game and big game hunting.
During the past year, three additions to the system occurred, including 320 acres to the Lauderdale WMA (Lauderdale County) as a result of a purchase by ADWFF, 1,897 acres to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta WMA (Baldwin and Mobile Counties) and 1,343 acres to the Lowndes WMA (Lowndes County) with Forever Wild Land acquisition funds. Elsewhere, a lease agreement was not renewed and resulted in the loss of the 2,900-acre Kinterbish CHA.
“Through the generosity and cooperation of private and corporate landowners, other state and federal agencies, as well as programs like Forever Wild, the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is able to provide licensed hunters with hundreds of thousands of acres to pursue our state’s rich game resources,” said Pugh. “With the number of acres the WMA system encompasses, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries could not provide these opportunities without this support, not to mention that of other agencies and a number of conservation organizations.
Pugh pointed out the contribution of those other government agencies – the U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Forestry Commission – in providing land and resources to the WMA program. Non-profit conservation organizations like the Alabama Wildlife Federation and chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups also have assisted the WFFD to help fund habitat enhancement on public lands, assist with land purchases and provide equipment and supplies to assist management activities.
To hunt on an Alabama WMA, a hunter is required to be properly licensed and permitted. Hunters must possess a valid Alabama hunting license (unless under the age of 16 years old and accompanied by an adult or are Alabama residents over the age of 64. A Wildlife Heritage license is valid in lieu of a resident State Hunting license for small game hunting, except waterfowl. A state license and a WMA license is required for hunting deer, turkey and waterfowl with the same age exclusions above. A valid WMA map permit, which is free, must be in possession prior to possessing a firearm or bow on any WMA.
Also, all migratory bird hunters must have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit, also free. Hunters born after Aug. 1, 1977 are required to successfully complete an approved hunter education course. Waterfowl hunters must have federal and state waterfowl stamps.
Visit http://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/wildlife-areas/ for more information on areas open to the public.
PHOTO (by David Rainer): The white-tailed deer is just one of the many game species hunters will encounter on the 35 Wildlife Management Areas managed by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.