Archived Story

Stuck in a rut

Published 8:03pm Friday, March 18, 2011

Locals debate merits of proposal on deer season

Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, wants to give hunters in the state a couple more weeks to bag that big buck.

Whatley has sponsored Senate Bill 127, which extends gun season for deer hunting and allows for supplemental feeding sources to be used.

In its original form, the bill proposed lengthening the season by two weeks at the start of gun season and also at the end of gun season. However Whatley plans to introduce a substitute bill at a Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation Committee meeting Wednesday to only extend the season into February and only allow gravity feeders, mechanical feeders, or field planting on private property.

“I think it will help the economy and create jobs,” Whatley said of the bill.

He said he sees the proposed legislation as an economic development tool. Whatley said the bill, if passed, would attract hunters from out of state to come and spend money in Alabama.

Whatley added that the bill would also help curb an overpopulation problem by allowing hunters to hunt the rut, or deer mating season and would also keep residents safer as fewer deer would be hit on roadways.

“It would save some money on the insurance side of the house,” Whatley said.

Groups such as the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Lake Martin Chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association oppose the legislation saying the effect this law would have on deer population in the state has not been adequately researched.

“The Conservation Commissioner (N. Gunter Guy) is looking into the biological effect it would have on the herd,” said Curtis Jones, assistant commissioner of conservation. “We just need further study on it. We haven’t had enough time to have the input we need.”

Jerry Brown, president of the Lake Martin Chapter of QDMA, said there is no reason to extend the deer season into February, or allow feeding. He said the regulations should not be taken out of the hands of the conservation department and placed with politicians in the legislature.

“If it’s done by politicians it means the conservation department can’t change it if it’s needed,” Brown said. “This would take it out of their hands.”

Brown said allowing hunters more of a chance to kill deer during the rut only means a better chance at killing a buck and the three months given during a normal season is enough time to reach the state’s three buck maximum anyway.

He added that using feeders would not help much as the deer would wait until nightfall to eat and hunting at night is illegal.

“There are just to many problems with it,” Brown said of the proposed legislation.

Woody Baird, owner of The Sure Shot Shooter and Archery Supply, said he doesn’t think the season should be extended, but does see a place for feeders in hunting if the state can put a tax on them to help support the state’s conservation department.

“Hunting is a billion dollar a year business,” Baird said. “We need to take care of our natural resources.”

Baird also rejected the idea of an overpopulation of deer in Tallapoosa County, saying an overpopulation of deer in Lee County suggests more protection from suburban areas there.