Alabama hosts a large deer population. Hunting white-tailed deer is quite popular in Alabama, with about 180,000 hunters visiting the field yearly. Much of the hunting done in the rural area of Alabama significantly impacts the rural community.
While harvest does vary from year to year, about 300,000 deer are hunted annually in Alabama.
There are several deer seasons throughout the state and many regulations to follow. Hunting in Alabama is, however, somewhat complicated and includes many requirements. Below, we’ll look at some of the more important rules to consider and when to expect certain seasons to open.
License Requirements for Deer Hunting
To hunt deer in Alabama, four elements are necessary. The first requirement is a hunting license. There are many ways to purchase a license. You can order one online or buy one from several license agents. Several types of licenses are available, including a lifetime license.
Those who are disabled (including veterans) can purchase a disabled hunting license.
If you are over 65, you do not need to purchase a license. Several other individuals may be exempt from this rule. People under 16 are exempt from some licenses (including a general hunting license). Resident landowners and their immediate family also do not need to purchase a license.
You can bait deer in Alabama, but this requires a separate license. A bait-privilege permit is needed for shooting over bait for white-tailed deer. Even those usually exempt from purchasing licenses must purchase a bait license. Baiting is only allowed on private land.
On top of a license, you must always keep your harvest record on you while hunting. This can be in paper form or on the state’s app.
If you’re hunting in a Wildlife Management Area, you must have a license and map permit to hunt in that area. This is in addition to your regular hunting license.
Finally, after harvesting deer, you must undergo the appropriate check.
Deer Seasons in Alabama and Dates
There are several different hunting seasons in Alabama, and many seasons in each. While these seasons do line up somewhat, there are some differences. Therefore, you should be aware of the different season dates for hunting and the requirements associated with each.
Bow and Arrow – Stalk Hunting
This season usually occurs through the latter half of October and into February. However, the bag limits may be different at different times. Keep this in mind when hunting, as it is easy to get mixed up.
Special Youth Season
During this season, only youth may hunt. Typically, this season occurs sometime in November and lasts about four days. If you’re a youth interested in hunting, this is the best time to go. There are fewer people in the woods, as adults are not allowed to hunt.
Special Muzzleloader and Air Rifle
Right after youth season, muzzleloader season occurs. During this time, those on private or leased land may hunt with a muzzleloader. Usually, you may harvest one deer of either sex.
This season is rather short, usually only lasting a few days.
Gun Deer-Stalk Hunting
This season varies depending on the area. As the name suggests, you can use firearms during this season. Therefore, it is one of the most popular seasons. However, it usually starts in November.
Private-land hunting is more straightforward than hunting on public land. Public land starts and stops, with different bag limits depending on the exact date and area. Often private-land hunting extends into February.
Check local bag limits and dates before hunting with a firearm.
Gun Dog Deer Hunting
Hunting with canines is allowed during a specific season in very few areas. During this season, you may use dogs trained to hunt deer. Not all areas have this season, so many hunters travel to participate.
This season lasts through November, December, and some of January. However, the bag limits change depending on the exact date.
Deer season in Alabama: Bag Limits
Alabama has both seasonal and annual bag limits. But only certain seasons allow hunters to hunt deer and the bag limit differs depending on the area. Be sure to double-check the date and bag limit before you go hunting. What deer are legal to hunt and which are not can change in a single day.
Antlered bucks are defined as any male deer with visible antlers. Any antlers that can be reasonably seen “count.”
An un-antlered deer is any deer that doesn’t fit the above description. As you might imagine, some deer can sometimes be “button deer.” They fall into this description because they don’t have reasonably visible antlers.
Currently, the bag limit is three antlered bucks for the whole year. One of these three bucks must have at least four antler points 1″ long on one side. However, each season has a different bag limit. Barbour County is the only outlier, with its own set of rules.
In un-antlered deer seasons, you may take one un-antlered deer daily on top of your antlered deer. However, there are some areas with a one-deer-per-day limit. Usually, these are on select U.S. Forest Service Lands.
Deer season in Alabama: Checking Game
Alabama requires that all deer harvested be checked every season. It would be best to record your harvest directly on your harvest record right after the kill. After a successful kill, your deer must be checked within 48 hours.
The easiest way to do this is to use the OA app. Record the deer in the app by filling out all the necessary information. Then, the app will automatically complete the check whenever service is available. The app provides a confirmation number and updates the harvest record automatically.
You can also check your game via the state’s website or phone.
Before checking your deer, be sure to have the necessary information ready. You’ll need the date of harvest, county of harvest, type of land, and antler point count. Double-check your location to ensure the information is accurate.
Beyond that, Alabama has far fewer regulations in checking and transporting deer than other states.
The chronic wasting disease is a severe condition that affects many deer throughout the United States. This disease is caused by mutated proteins called prions. These prions infect the brain and cause a host of neurological problems. CWD is highly contagious and always fatal.
It may take a year or two for deer to display symptoms (though they are contagious that entire time). Once symptoms do show up, the deer often starts acting strange. Because the brain is affected, most signs are neurological. For instance, the deer often loses weight as it forgets how to find food. It may no longer fear people or act unaware of its surroundings.
Chronic Wasting Disease has been documented in some parts of Alabama. However, only west-central Lauderdale County is currently affected. Alabama has set up a Chronic Wasting Disease management area to keep tabs on the disease. The seasons and regulations are a bit different in this area.
If you hunt within this area, you must submit samples from each deer you harvest for testing. While CWD hasn’t affected humans yet, the CDC does not recommend consuming infected deer meat. Therefore, it’s vital to test your deer before consuming any meat.
You cannot transport deer carcasses or body parts outside the management area. First, the animal must be processed to remove the brain and spinal tissue. Meat must be completely deboned before transporting.
Furthermore, no baiting is allowed in the management zone. Baiting brings deer together and may further transmission.
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Potential Fines and Other Penalties
If you break a regulation, there are fines and other penalties put in place that you may have to undergo. These fines vary widely. For instance, hunting without a license results in at least a $75 fine. However, “borrowing” a license constitutes a $250 fine.
Some fines are considerable. For instance, hunting at night results in a $2,000 fine minimum. And that’s not accounting for associated court costs.
Fines can be more significant and are at the judge’s discretion. Furthermore, other penalties can occur, too, such as loss of hunting privileges and jail time.
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- Judicial Alabama, Available here: https://judicial.alabama.gov/docs/library/rules/JA20_appxB.pdf
- Outdoor Alabama, Available here: https://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/game-check-and-harvest-record-information
- Outdoor Alabama, Available here: https://www.outdooralabama.com/what-hunt/deer-hunting-alabama
- Outdoor Alabama, Available here: https://www.outdooralabama.com/seasons-and-bag-limits/deer-season
- Outdoor Alabama, Available here: https://www.outdooralabama.com/cwd/cwd-alabama
- Outdoor Alabama, Available here: https://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/hunter-education-alabama
- Outdoor Alabama, Available here: https://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting