Three Archery Hunts Scheduled for Oak Mountain State Park

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will hold three regulated archery deer hunts to reduce the overpopulation at Oak Mountain State Park. An online registration process will randomly select 70 hunters for each of the hunts scheduled for November 8-9, 2005, December 6-7, 2005, and January 3-4, 2006.

Online registration begins Monday, September 12, 2005. To register, click here. Residents and non-residents are allowed to apply, and registrants are eligible to be drawn for all three hunts. A $6 fee is required to register for the computer drawing, and a $50 fee is required of the 70 randomly selected hunters. Fees will be used to cover a portion of the costs associated with conducting the hunt and to recoup a portion of lost revenues due to the park’s closure during the wildlife management hunt. Bowhunters must pass an archery proficiency test. Hunters may harvest two deer per day, only one of which may be an antlered buck.

Conservation personnel monitored the park’s deer population for several years. Experts conducted surveys in 1999 and 2000 that documented serious vegetative impact resulting from deer browsing new growth of wildflowers, trees and shrubs before it has a chance to develop. This, in turn, affects the population of small mammals and nesting birds.

Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley made the decision to actively manage the herd. “We intervened because the deer population exceeded the land’s capacity to support their number. The overpopulation impacted other plants and animals in the park like songbirds and wildflowers. Recovery of the habitat will take years but there are signs of progress already. Some plants not seen in years are becoming reestablished in the park,” Lawley added.

Biologists point out that herd health deteriorates when deer density exceeds the nutritional carrying capacity of the land. A herd health check by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study based at the University of Georgia was conducted at Oak Mountain in 1999. The results showed parasites, malnutrition and a presence of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in the deer. EHD is a virus of white-tailed deer transmitted by biting flies.

 Hunters serve an important role in wildlife management. “Hunting is the most accepted and widely used management tool for controlling deer populations. Oak Mountain is public land and the deer within the park are a natural resource that belongs to the public. Hunters provide an important public service by harvesting the excess deer and utilizing the venison,” Lawley added.

Lawley encourages hunters to donate deer to the Hunters Helping the Hungry program, whereby the venison is distributed to local food banks. “If a hunter harvests a two-deer limit the first day and does not need any more venison, we encourage that hunter to return the second day and donate any harvested deer to Hunters Helping the Hungry,” he said.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

###