Local, state opinions on hunting are quite different

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 30, 2004

In the past the killing of does was considered taboo, a no-no for many hunters. But within the past eight or nine years that type of philosophy has changed and in the state of Alabama hunting restrictions and regulations have taken on a more liberal aspect and now on certain lands doe quotas must be met.

In the state of Alabama hunters are able to harvest as many as two deer a day, a doe and a buck a day or two does a day, throughout the deer hunting season, which stretches from the beginning of October to the end of January. That’s over 100 days of hunting with hunters being able to kill as many as 200 hundred deer a season if they so choose.

And today many hunters especially those in West Alabama are concerned with deer population and what the future holds for deer hunting in the state of Alabama.

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Louis Gibbs, avid deer hunter and owner and operator of Buck Wild Hunting Products in Demopolis, believes the hunting in the state of Alabama has become too liberal.

“Here in Alabama we have very liberal limits. The state has imposed some very liberal limits with hunters being able to kill one doe and one buck a day or two does a day during the season,” Gibb said. “And I can understand their theory in that, in order to keep population down we must kill the does. But in turn if we don’t do some kind of antler restrictions, meaning that you can kill the does and any buck you want. Then I feel that we are hurting ourselves by over killing.”

Gibbs is more than happy to see his sales numbers for his deer hunting product business go up this year by more than 120 percent, but like many other hunters in West Alabama who spend a great deal of time in the woods throughout the season, Gibbs has been slightly disappointed with both the number and quality of deer he harvested this year.

“I shot 11 deer during the season four years ago. Seven the year after that, five bucks last year and this year I got two bucks and three does,” Gibbs said. “Granted it may be that I spent more time hunting in the past than I did this year, but I still spend more time out there than the average hunter and I’m just not seeing that many deer in the woods.”

But Gibbs isn’t the only one with complaints about the deer season this year.

Ronnie Willingham of Willingham Sports, Douglas Petite of Jefferson, Willis McGee of Eutaw and about a half dozen other hunters throughout the area also say that the deer season this year has been the worst they have ever seen it.

But according to Corky Pugh, Director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries there is no evidence that we have an under-population problem in the state of Alabama-in fact the opposite might just be the case.

“Generally in the state of Alabama we have more deer than we need in most places, ” Pugh said.

So what is different about this year and why are hunters not seeing the numbers they have seen in the past?

According to Gary Moody, Chief of Wildlife for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Fisheries the could be a variety of different reasons as to why, but one bad year doesn’t mean that we have a problem.

“One year means very little when it comes to wildlife management. You have to look at the bigger picture and I think it’s getting better. There is more opportunities and hunters are becoming more aware of what wildlife management is and what their part in it is,” Moody said.

Wildlife Biologist and deer studies project leader for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Fisheries, Chris Cook agrees with Moody, but says that he knows that there are many hunters who have come to understand wildlife management and then there are plenty that may still be wondering what is really going on.

“Wildlife management is ultimately left up to the hunters,” Cook said.

“They make the decision each time they pull that trigger.”

Things are changing and it may look like it’s for the worst right now to many hunters, but according to moody, change is inevitable when it comes to a wild animals. “We are harvesting somewhere in the number of 400 thousand deer a year in the state of Alabama and we currently have a 50 percent buck to doe ratio, which is much better than it was five or six years ago when it was 69 to 31 buck to doe ratio,” Moody said.

“I’m a hunter myself and I know that deer sightings have been somewhat low this year. But we are talking about a wild animal here. Where there were plenty of deer sightings at one location last year don’t mean that you’ll see the same in that location this year.”

But Moody believes that the state, as far as doing what benefits both the hunters and the wildlife, are doing the best thing.

“We believe what we offer gives land-owners choice in what type of deer they wish to harvest. And with there being no antler restrictions we believe we are not making violators out of people who make common hunting mistakes,” Moody said. “We have established many quality deer management programs throughout the state that have produced some great deer. We wish we had more public lands in the West Alabama region. We want there to be something for everyone.”

Hunting season ends tomorrow in Alabama, and there are plenty who can’t wait to see this day come. But until the last day shot is fired, the Demopolis times will look into the problems with the deer population and what can be done to make not only next year, but also the future of the sport, better.

Coming tomorrow, a deeper look into what the hunters of West Alabama are saying regarding this situation and how politics and money have come into play.