By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the State Lands Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will conduct its hunting lease program without a live auction for 2020.
Patti Powell McCurdy, State Lands Director, implemented a program in 2010 that aligned all leases under State Lands’ control to operate on a five-year public bidding cycle. State Lands would kick-off a new cycle by advertising an Invitation for Bids listing all the tracts available for leasing.
Until this year, potential lessees could submit sealed written bids, but they also had the opportunity to continue bidding at a live auction.
“We had an auctioneer conducting the bidding,” McCurdy said. “If we received written bids on a tract, the highest written bid then became the new minimum at the live auction. Like any other auction, people would be raising their hands and yelling out bids. It was fun to watch.”
McCurdy said when it came time to send out the 2020 Invitation for Bids, the uncertainties related to COVID-19 presented hurdles that made it unrealistic to try to hold a live auction.
“We held off a bit in hopes that we could find a way to successfully include a live auction component,” she said. “We never really got there. The last thing I wanted was for a hunter to drive several hours and then be unable to bid at the live auction because of capacity limitations or other restrictions. I ultimately decided to move forward the best way we could. So, for the 2020 cycle, State Lands will only be accepting written, sealed bids.”
However, with the 2020 cycle providing avid hunters an opportunity to submit bids for 145 tracts across 30 counties, there is still plenty to get excited about this year.
McCurdy said the hunting lease program expands the many excellent public hunting opportunities currently offered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on the state’s wildlife management areas (WMAs), Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) and various Forever Wild Land Trust tracts.
“The leasing program gives individuals the opportunity for a totally different hunting experience – a very personal one,” she said. “Not everybody has access to family land or a hunting club. This gives the public an opportunity to lease a tract and enjoy it with family and friends. Our bidders range from hunting clubs to grandparents looking for a place to take their grandkids hunting. I suspect we might also have a few bidders who just want a place to get away and enjoy all by themselves. It’s just a different experience we can offer the public.”
One happy lessee is Marty Pasley, who leases a tract in central Alabama. Pasley said the lease allows him to take his 9-year-old grandson hunting anytime he is available.
“This has been great for me and my grandson,” Pasley said. “It’s been a godsend for me because it’s close to home. It’s been the greatest experience in the world with the way State Lands did everything they said they would do.
“It’s been a great setup to take kids. Almost every time we go, we see deer. I’ve really been blessed to be able to lease this property.”
While Pasley leases for his family, hunting clubs also participate in the program.
“It’s been fantastic for us,” said Brian Fulkerson, who leases land in south Alabama. “If I need any support, they (State Lands) are fantastic. We’re on the QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association) program, so we take care of our deer.
“I know they didn’t have a choice on the bidding process. Sealed bid is okay with me.”