Registration Currently Underway for Four Archery Hunts to Control Deer Numbers in Oak Mountain State Park

For the sixth consecutive year, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will allow regulated archery hunts to continue reducing deer numbers at Oak Mountain State Park. In an effort to streamline and increase efficiency, four single-day hunts are planned for October 27, 2009, November 10, 2009, December 8, 2009, and January 5, 2010. Hunters have harvested 211 deer at Oak Mountain State Park since the regulated hunts began in 2004.
 
In lieu of an online registration and computer selection by the ADCNR, a cooperative relationship with Bowhunters of Alabama (BHA) has been formed to provide information to hunters directly through BHA’s membership base and contacts. Hunters wishing to participate in the scheduled hunts will find registration and membership information at the BHA Web site, www.alabamabowhunter.com. The Oak Mountain hunt information and forms are located in the Urban Deer Control Program section of the message board. Visitors to the site need to be registered and logged in to download the forms. Registration to the site is free.
 
Conservation officials have made several changes to facilitate hunt goals and increase overall deer harvest. Rules for this year’s hunts include the following:
 
·  Hunt registration will begin immediately through the Bowhunters of Alabama.
 
·  Hunters may participate in each of the four hunts, but not more than 110 hunters will be selected per hunt.
 
·  A $5 registration fee, a $10 per hunt fee, and a $15 membership fee payable by cash or check will be collected by BHA through hunter registration. This fee will offset the costs associated with conducting the hunts. If a hunter is not selected, the hunt fees will be refunded.
 
·  The hunter selection will take place on September 1, 2009. Applications received after this date will be used to fill vacancies and cancellations.
 
·  The park will be divided into 11 zones this year and the hunters will rank their zone preferences on the application. Once a hunter is assigned a zone they will only be able to hunt their assigned zone. 
 
·  Hunter maps with regulation information will be provided by BHA prior to the hunt dates.
 
·  Selected hunters must hold a valid Alabama hunting license and complete a proficiency test conducted by BHA prior to the hunts.
 
·  Oak Mountain State Park will be closed during the four hunt days except for the golf course, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Persons wishing to play during that time frame may schedule a tee time in advance of the hunt days (first come, first served) by calling 205-620-2522.
 
ADCNR Commissioner M. Barnett Lawley recognizes the important role hunters play in helping control deer populations. “Bowhunters who participate in these hunts realize that helping reduce deer numbers within
Oak Mountain State Park will, over time, help improve herd health and vegetative habitat not only for deer but for other wildlife in the park,” said Lawley.
 
Alabama’s largest park, Oak Mountain provides 9,940 acres of pine-studded ridges and green hardwood bottoms. 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 has suffered damaging effects of a deer herd that up until 2004 went unregulated. Scientific data provided by herd health checks and necropsy 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 were negatively effected. Additionally, disease, parasites and malnutrition can result when deer numbers exceed the vegetative carrying capacity of the land. Further planning research to be conducted in 2010 will highlight improvements within the park and the whitetail deer population.
 
Currently, short-term gains in certain plant survivability, ground-nesting activity and general deer weights appear to be more positive. Hunters may donate harvested deer to the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) program, which distributes processed venison to local food banks. In the 2008-2009 hunting season, 43,970 pounds of venison were donated by Alabama hunters to the HHH program.
 
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 Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com