By Steven W. Barnett, Wildlife Biologist

Public hunting opportunities on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) abound throughout Alabama in many richly diverse landscapes. Each WMA has unique habitat features that are directly linked to the wildlife species it supports. In most habitats, there are management techniques that can be employed to improve habitat resulting in increased wildlife populations and subsequently improved hunting opportunities. A few WMAs in Alabama with unique landscape features and environmental conditions present special challenges for wildlife biologists and hunters alike. The WMAs in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in Baldwin and MobileCounties are two such properties.

By definition, a delta is a deposit of soil, usually triangular, that is formed at the mouth of a river or rivers. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is located at the head of MobileBay and is formed by the confluence of the Alabama and TombigbeeRivers. In fact, about 70 percent of the tributaries in the state drain through the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. This delta covers an area approximately 10 miles wide and 40 miles long. It is comprised of bottomland hardwoods including several species of oak and cypress/tupelo swamps, bogs, marshes, and other wetland habitat types that are interspersed amid creeks, ponds, sloughs, lakes, and rivers.

 The three WMAs in the Delta, Mobile-Tensaw Delta, W.L. Holland, and Upper Delta, comprise close to 100,000 acres of public hunting opportunities in this vastly diverse region of the state. The game species on these WMAs are as equally diverse. Hunters have opportunities to hunt deer, turkey, small game, feral hogs, and a variety of waterfowl. Even though most of the habitat is in bottomland settings, there are some associated uplands that further enhance the diversity of the flora and fauna found on these WMAs as well as the game species that may be hunted.

With such a richly diverse region of the state and the hunting opportunities that exist, what are the challenges for managers and hunters? One of the biggest challenges for wildlife biologists and hunters is a term locally referred to as highwater. Since these public hunting areas are located in a delta system, significant rain events upstream will flow into the many watercourses in other regions of the state and ultimately flow through the Mobile-Tensaw Delta resulting in significant flooding (highwater). It is imperative that wildlife biologists and the public monitor these events. By checking current river tailwater readings/forecasts upstream and contacting the appropriate ADWFF personnel, hazardous conditions can be avoided. To illustrate the point, the Upper Delta WMA maintains a road system in the floodplain, which is open for public use during dry periods of the year. However, due to safety concerns, the main gate leading into the swamp is closed when flooding occurs or is imminent. During a significant highwater event the road conditions can change in a short timeframe from dry to 8 feet of water over the roadway.

These unique environmental conditions also present a challenge to wildlife biologists in terms of management activities in the Delta. Typically, there are narrow windows of opportunity to conduct activities such as planting wildlife openings, mowing roads and wildlife openings, clearing trees from roadways felled by highwater, and other habitat enhancement/maintenance projects, due to these flooding events. So, we try to take full advantage of favorable conditions to accomplish management objectives during dry periods.

 With only about 20 percent of the Delta WMAs with seasonal road access and due to the natural hydrology of a delta system, hunters will find that a boat provides access to property with safe, effective, and enjoyable results. Also, a keener appreciation for the beauty of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta will be achieved by traveling the network of waterways. All boaters, both experienced and novice, must be aware of and follow all laws, regulations, and safety protocol while using watercraft. As with any outdoor adventure in a remote area, hunters should be familiar with basic first aid and safety as well as have a working knowledge of the use of topographical maps compass, and GPS unit. Always carry this equipment with you whether you are on foot or in a truck or boat.

All hunters in pursuit of game in the Delta WMAs must possess a valid hunting license, a WMA license, and WMA permit. Hunting opportunities in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta may be challenging, but the enjoyment of a well- planned and executed trip will be exhilarating and will provide cherished memories for a lifetime.

For more information on hunting opportunities in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, contact Steven W. Barnett, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries,