Welcome to our annual overview of seasons (archery and others with high bowhunter participation), basic bow and projectile regulations, and information about the most popular or unique bowhunting species for each state, province, or territory. Where wildlife officials have forecasts available, we also provide a look at expected bowhunting conditions for 2013 and beyond. This is a great first step for assessing the many enticing possibilities, then narrowing down the opportunities that meet your goals.
All dates given are 2013 unless otherwise noted. Some seasons and applications dates were not set by press time, so we include 2012-2013 information for reference of typical timeframes to help you plan for next year.
Be aware that many management areas and other sectors have area-specific regulations that differ from general regulations. And, remember that laws, fees, and seasons can change at any time.
As we caution every year, be sure to consult state/provincial/territorial websites and land managers for the latest information. Know before you go.
Here's a sampling of what to expect in the guide:
A long season, abundant deer populations throughout the state, a generous bag limit, plenty of public land, and reasonable license fees make Alabama an excellent bowhunting destination, especially for out-of-staters, as non-resident hunters can bowhunt over 755,000 acres of public WMAs simply by purchasing a state all-game hunting license and a $16.70 WMA license. An additional 420,000 acres of USFS land is open for bowhunting and only requires the purchase of a state hunting license.
Alabama's bow season runs from mid October through the end of January for the majority of the state and late October through early February for a portion of southeastern Alabama. Hunters are allowed two antlered bucks of choice and one antlered buck with four or more antler points on at least one main beam, for a total of three antlered bucks for the year. Plus significant either-sex opportunities are offered throughout the Bow and Arrow season (i.e., two-deer-a-day bag), making it one of the country's most liberal deer seasons.
Alabama's northeast, northwest, west central, and east central regions remain the premier trophy-producing areas, though good quality deer can be found statewide, says Deer Studies Project Leader Chris Cook. In most years, the southern half of the state produces the highest deer harvests, and the central and northwestern parts of the state produce better quality deer, he says.
Interest in Quality Deer Management remains at an all-time high, and private or leased properties managed for quality bucks are among the best places to hunt. In general, public hunting lands in Alabama are underutilized by bowhunters. Hunting pressure is low and opportunities are ample in most areas. Some of the public areas with low bowhunting pressure include: Black Warrior, Choccolocco, Coosa, Freedom Hills, James D. Martin-Skyline, Lauderdale, Mulberry Fork, Oakmulgee, and Scotch WMAs. Areas that offer a shot at a better-quality buck include: Barbour, Black Warrior, Coosa, Freedom Hills, Geneva State Forest, James D. Martin-Skyline, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Sam R. Murphy, William R. Ireland, Sr.-Cahaba River, and Wolf Creek WMAs. Both crossbows and spears are permitted during the Bow and Arrow season.
The outlook for the 2013-2014 season is good, says Cook. "The 2012-13 hunting season was considered average based on the number of deer harvested. Through June, most of the state has had very good growing conditions for browse — ample rainfall, mild temperatures — which should translate to healthy, well-conditioned deer entering the 2013-14 hunting season."
Please note that a few counties in southwest Alabama will shift 10 days from the front end of the traditional archery deer season dates to the first few days of February. Instead of the traditional Oct. 15-Jan. 31, this area's season will run Oct. 25-Feb. 10.
There will be special archery-only deer hunts at Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham again this year. For more details on this and other hunts, contact Bowhunters of Alabama (BHA) Urban Deer Control Program (UDCP) Director Mike McAlpine (205-296-3775; firstname.lastname@example.org), or visit BHA's website (bowhuntersofalabama.org) for more information.
Wild turkey populations are good throughout the state. Most of the state offers a spring season only, but a few counties have a fall season as well. The fall turkey season in Clarke, Clay, Covington, Monroe, Randolph, and Talladega counties has been shortened and split to run Nov. 23-30 and Dec. 21-Jan. 1.
Effective for 2013-2014 hunting season, all deer (antlered and unantlered) and turkey hunters are required by regulation to report their harvests. The new Game Check system is in addition to the deer and turkey harvest record in place since 2007. Hunters must enter their harvests into the DCNR harvest database within 24 hours. The simplest route is with the free smart phone apps available at www.outdooralabama.com. Harvests also can be entered at the ADCNR website, www.outdooralabama.com, or by phone at 1-800-888-7690. Upon completion, hunters will receive a confirmation code that must be entered in the corresponding blank on their harvest record. The new Game Check system promises to provide critical information that will help manage deer and turkey resources for future generations.
Alabama State law prohibits hunters from hunting in an area where bait is present or be aided by the influence of the bait. Because it is difficult to delineate where a person may hunt in relation to supplemental feed, a new regulation was put in place beginning with the 2013-2014 hunting season to address this issue. Consult the regs for more details.
Season: Archery Oct. 15-Jan. 31 for the majority of state; Oct. 25-Feb. 10 for Baldwin, Escambia, Mobile, and Washington Counties, as well as portions of Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Covington, Monroe, and Wilcox Counties.
Limit: Majority of the state — 2 deer per day, only 1 may be an antlered buck; 2 antlered bucks of choice and 1 antlered buck with 4+ points on at least one main beam, for a total of 3 antlered bucks for the year. Portion of northern Alabama — 2 deer per day, one antlered and one antlerless; 2 antlered bucks of choice and 1 antlered buck with 4+ points on at least one main beam, for a total of 3 antlered bucks for the year.
Fees: Res. $25.05. Non-res. $287.45 (annual), $125.40 (3-day), $177.65 (10-day). No license required for res. 65+ and children under age 16.
Season: Fall Nov. 23-30 and Dec. 21-Jan. 1, Clarke, Clay, Covington, Monroe, Randolph, and Talladega counties. Spring Mar. 15-Apr. 30 (varies by county).
Limit: 1 per day, 5 total for fall and spring seasons combined, gobblers only.
Fees: Same as deer.
Season: No closed season during daylight hours.
Limit: No bag limit.
Fees: Same as deer.
Season: Mobile Delta (nighttime only), Sunset Aug. 15-Sunrise Aug. 18; Sunset Aug. 22-Sunrise Aug. 25. Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, & Russell counties (nighttime only) Sunset Aug. 9-Sunrise Aug. 25. Dallas and Wilcox counties, and Monroe County north of Hwy. 84 (nighttime only), Sunset Aug. 15-Sunrise Aug. 18; Sunset Aug. 22-Sunrise Aug. 25.
Applications: Must register on-line at www.outdooralabama.com between 8 a.m. on June 4 and 8 a.m. on July 12, 2013.
Minimum draw weight: 35 lbs. within user’s normal draw length for compound bows, recurves, and longbows; 90 percent maximum letoff at full draw. Bow draw locks illegal.
Arrows: Minimum length 20 inches from nock end to end of shaft. Crossbow bolts or arrows must be at least 14 inches in length from nock slot to end of shaft.
Broadheads: 100-grain minimum weight, 7/8-inch minimum cutting diameter (all broadheads), .015-inch minimum blade thickness on fixed-blade broadheads, and .025-inch minimum blade thickness on expandable broadheads.
Crossbows: Legal for all hunters with open season dates Oct. 15-Jan. 31. Minimum peak tension of 100 lbs. at normal draw length. Must be equipped with a working safety.
Bowhunter education permit: Not required, but all hunters born after 9/1/77 must complete a state-certified hunter education course before buying a license.
Est. bowhunters in '12: 60,400 (2011-2012 hunter mail survey).
Bowhunting organization(s): Bowhunters of Alabama
Info/licenses: Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 64 N. Union St., Ste. 567, Montgomery, AL 36730; (800) 848-6887; www.outdooralabama.com. Licenses are sold at 950 locations, including all county Probate Officer/License Commissioner offices, marinas, sporting goods retailers, by phone at (888) 848-6887, and at www.outdooralabama.com/licenses.