Meeting introduces, explains new hunting regulations

Published 8:43pm Friday, August 2, 2013

A hunting meeting Thursday night at the Central Alabama Farmers Co-Op gave outdoorsmen a chance to ask questions and provided members of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division an opportunity to clarify three new regulations.

The meeting was called mainly to end rumors about the new “baiting law,” as it is most often referred to, and to make sure hunters know the law has not really changed at all.

Despite rumors to the contrary, it is still illegal to hunt over bait in Alabama.

The new law simply states “any feed beyond 100 yards from the hunter and hidden from sight by natural vegetation or terrain features will be presumed not to constitute bait.”

In other words, a hunter will be presumed innocent by a game warden if the feed is beyond 100 yards, but that does not mean a hunter is necessarily innocent. If an officer can provide evidence a hunter is attempting to kill deer attracted to the feed, the hunter can be arrested or written a ticket.

“If you make sure that wherever you are, you can’t see the deer and the bait together, you should be okay. Then, that bait has to be out of your line of sight.” Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources commissioner Gunter Guy said.

However, the regulation still depends on the judgement of conservation officers. The law makes things “consistent for officers,” Guy said, which makes regulations more standard.

“If you are wondering just how far I can get to get away with it, you are probably walking a thin line. You are going to have to rely on your own common sense to figure that out,” Conservation Enforcement Officer Sgt. Joe Johnston said. “There is a minimum distance — that is a bare minimum standard —that you have to be at least 100 yards. If you are within that 100 yards, there is a real good chance you are going to get a ticket. “

Another new regulation states hunters have to report their harvest within 24 hours by calling it in, going to www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck or using the Outdoor Alabama app on smartphones. This new regulation was put in place, so it is possible to track the number of deer in Alabama.

The new information will be available to hunters online, allowing them to see where the most deer are being killed and will give the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division more information when it comes to setting bag limits and hunting seasons.

In the past, the deer population was approximated through a survey that was given out to 1 percent of hunters in the state.

“Truthfully we don’t know how many deer are killed or harvested in Dallas County or any other county in the state,” Guy said. “We don’t know how many turkeys are killed or harvested in Dallas or any other county in the state. We don’t know. We also don’t know how many deer are in Dallas County or any other county.”

Guy said the new regulations will help enforce bag limits.

“We have a bag limit on bucks and turkeys. We must enforce that,” Guy said. “Most of the [complaints] I hear from hunters is ‘what is the purpose of the bag limits if you aren’t enforcing them?’”

Also, hunters will be able to track where others are having the most success.

“We need to get bigger numbers. We think for [hunters] it will be good,” Guy said. “For instance, [hunters] will get to see it in real time. It will all be transparent.”

The final regulation discussed dove hunting, where new planting guidelines have been passed. In previous years, the state was divided into three zones with three different planting dates for top-sown wheat.

The new regulations eliminate the zones and move the start date for planting top-sown wheat back to Aug. 1, running through Nov. 30. In the past, the regulated plant date was Sept. 1.

Charles “Chuck” Sykes, the director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, and Conservation Enforcement Officier Sgt. Alan Roach also spoke at the meeting.

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