By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
A dry fall may be a bane for waterfowl hunters in the South, but the impact on Alabama’s deer herd is negligible, according to Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division Deer Program Coordinator Chris Cook.
Cook said Alabama received abundant rain when it was most important to the state’s deer herd.
“With deer, as long as it’s wet during the time when they’re putting on antlers and when fawns are dropping, nursing and developing, it really doesn’t have much of an effect on deer,” he said. “This time of year, the deer are focusing on acorns. If it was wet when the acorns were forming, it doesn’t really affect them. I know in west Alabama, we had great habitat conditions when the fawns were growing and antlers were developing.
“It certainly hasn’t affected the harvest, based on what Game Check is showing so far. What’s been reported so far this year is about 5,000 more deer taken than at this time last year.”
Game Check is the WFF system that requires hunters in Alabama to report their deer and turkey harvests.
Any person in possession of a deer or turkey that is not their own must have written documentation with the name of the hunter, the hunter’s Conservation ID number (CID#), the date of the harvest and Game Check confirmation number. The information can be documented on a piece of paper, or a transfer of possession certificate is available in the Alabama Hunting & Fishing Digest or online at outdooralabama.com.
The documentation must be kept as long as that person is in possession of the deer or turkey. The hunter who harvests the deer or turkey is required to enter that animal into the Game Check system and maintain in his or her possession a valid confirmation number for that animal.
If you are exempt from having a license due to age or landowner status, go to https://www.outdooralabama.com/hunter-resources/GetYourCID to obtain the CID# that allows you to report your deer via Game Check.
The Outdoor AL app is the easiest way to report a harvest through Game Check, and you don’t need a paper harvest record when you use the app. Hunters can also comply online at outdooralabama.com or use the toll-free Game Check phone number, 1-800-888-7690. The phone line goes to a live person at a call center that is open 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Cook said the dry weather has definitely helped hunters spend more time in the woods, which translates to higher hunter success.
“Rain can keep people from hunting a lot of times,” he said. “Hypothetically, they should kill more deer because they have more days they can go hunting.”
Cook said when the acorn supply is finally exhausted, if the dry weather continues, it could affect the quality of the browse available to the deer and increase the use of supplemental feeding opportunities like food plots if they were planted when sufficient moisture was in the ground.
“Deer are more susceptible when there are fewer options for food,” Cook said. “But when the rut rolls around, the last thing on a buck’s mind is eating.”
If you’ve been keeping track of hunter success through social media, it’s apparent the number of quality bucks being taken in Alabama continues to be excellent.
“For the past three or four years in a row, we’ve had plenty of rain in the spring and summer in most areas, so the deer enter the wintertime in really good shape,” Cook said. “Winters have been relatively mild. Growing conditions have been great with no big swings in food availability. For the bucks, they’ve been able to recuperate from the winter and put more resources into antler growth.