For the third year, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will conduct regulated archery hunts to continue reducing the deer overpopulation at Oak Mountain State Park. An online registration process will randomly select 80 hunters for the three hunts taking place November 28-29, December 19-20, and January 23-24. Registration opens September 8 and closes October 31 at www.outdooralabama.com.
Conservation officials made several changes to streamline the hunt registration process and increase overall deer harvest. Changes include:
Registration will be offered online at http://www.outdooralabama.com/ from September 8 to October 31. A $6 fee payable by debit/credit card, is required at the time of registration. Applicants may register more than once. The 80 chosen hunters pay $50 per hunt to help offset costs associated with closing the park and conducting the wildlife management practices.
Hunters harvested a total of 134 deer since the hunts began in November 2004. Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley praised the role of hunters in helping control deer populations. “We appreciate bowhunters for helping reduce deer numbers within Oak Mountain State Park,” said Lawley. “Overpopulation remains a serious concern. But, by removing mouths from the food chain, the habitat will slowly recover and become more suitable for deer and other animals utilizing the park.” Herd health and vegetative habitat are expected to gradually improve over time.
Wildlife experts point to Oak Mountain State Park as a textbook case of how deer tend to multiply in numbers greater than their habitat can support, unless controlled through regulated hunting. Oak Mountain State Park suffered damaging effects of a deer herd that went unregulated for decades. Scientific data confirmed the presence of parasites and disease due to overpopulation. After consulting with state wildlife biologists and in consideration of research data, Commissioner Lawley determined that a regulated archery hunt was the most appropriate control measure for the Oak Mountain State Park herd.
Surveys conducted in 1999, 2000 and 2003 found serious vegetative impact on developing wildflower growth, trees and shrubs as a result of deer grazing. In turn, populations of small mammals and nesting birds are negatively effected. Additionally, disease, parasites and malnutrition can result when deer numbers exceed the vegetative carrying capacity of the land.
Hunters may donate deer to the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) program, which distributes processed venison to local food banks. Since 2000, HHH has provided over 319,000 pounds of processed venison to help those less fortunate. More details may be found on the Department’s Web site, www.outdooralabama.com.