Prepare to hunt your national forests

BANKHEAD NATIONAL FOREST -  For many hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, Alabama’s national forests are special places during this time of year. The USDA Forest Service would like to wish a safe and successful season to all hunters this fall. 

Make sure to plan ahead and understand the hunting regulations and rules before hunting your national forest. All state hunting laws apply to the national forests in Alabama’s approximately 668,000 acres; however, additional federal regulations also apply. To hunt on national forest lands, you must have a valid state hunting license and follow rules set forth by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the U. S. Code of Federal Regulations. 

Approximately 242,000 acres are set-aside as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) on the Bankhead, Talladega and Conecuh national forests.

“Hunters need to check the scheduled days that are open for big and small game hunting,” said Ryan Shurette, forest biologist for the National Forests in Alabama. 

Hunting in one of the five WMAs in the national forest requires a hunting license, special permit and management area license. A management area license can be obtained from ADCNR and online. The Tuskegee National Forest has more than 11,000 acres open to public hunting during specific times and is the only national forest in Alabama that does not have a designated WMA. Hunters should check with the Tuskegee district for scheduled dates and rules.

Printed copies of hunting regulations are available anywhere licenses are sold and can be found online at: https://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

Here are some common tips to help make your hunting experience enjoyable.

• All hunters must wear "hunter orange" (hat, cap, vest, jacket, or rain gear) above the waist. Alabama regulations require hunters to wear an outer garment that is above the waist with a minimum of 144 square inches of hunter orange. This is also a good idea for non-hunting forest visitors this time of year. Consider putting an orange vest or bright bandanna on pets that will be accompanying you as well.

• Discharging a firearm within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site occupied area, trail or body of water is prohibited. 

• Camping in developed recreation areas is limited to 14 consecutive days and there is a 24-hour waiting period to return. Camping in dispersed areas (hunt camps) is limited to 21 consecutive days. There is a 10-day waiting period before returning to the same area/location.

• No permanent deer stand or structure is allowed in the national forest. (A ladder stand is considered a structure even if it is not staked in the ground).

• The use of baiting or salt blocks is prohibited on national forest lands. (Baiting privilege licenses apply ONLY to private and leased lands, not national forest lands.)

• Be aware that the national forest boundaries are marked with red paint on trees, or yellow signs with black printing.

• Leave a trip itinerary with family or friends or in the vehicle.

• Carry these essentials: map, compass, flashlight, extra food and water, extra clothes, sunglasses, first-aid kit, pocketknife, waterproof matches and fire starter.

• Follow the ‘Pack It In, Pack It Out’ and ‘Leave No Trace’ principles with every visit to the forest.

All forest recreators are responsible for knowing which roads are open to motorized use. A road without a gate, barrier or sign does not imply that the road is open. All vehicles must stay on existing routes and not drive cross-country. Do not drive around barricades or gates as these are meant to close a road, frequently for the benefit of wildlife. Violations of these closures can result in fines. Check the MVUM for the travel rules in your areas of interest.

• District Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available free for download at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/alabama/home/?cid=stelprdb5155057 . The maps identify which areas are open to motorized use, the types of vehicles allowed and any seasonal restrictions that apply.

• For public alerts regarding road closures and prescribed burns, download the “Alabama Great Escapes” free mobile app. The app is a perfect tool to help with outdoor recreation planning and introduces visitors to Eva Longleaf, a conversational tour guide providing recreation information, national forest history and what is happening in the natural world. 

Remember, you are responsible for the safety of yourself and for those around you. For more information, contact your local District office.

 

Bankhead District in Double Springs - (205) 471-7724

Conecuh District in Andalusia - (334) 708-0595

Shoal Creek District in Heflin - (256) 369-5882

Talladega District in Talladega - (256) 369-5882

Oakmulgee District in Brent - (205) 926-9765

Tuskegee District in Tuskegee - (334) 439-0244

Supervisor’s Office in Montgomery at (334) 832-4470

USDA Forest Service, National Forests in Alabama: National Forests are working forests where you can expect to see controlled burns, tree thinning, tree planting and other management activities throughout the year. The projects are focused on maintaining the health and resilience of national forests while at the same time providing products and services to the public. www.fs.usda.gov/alabama.


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
Subscribe now!