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Biologist Bill Gray on Types of Deer Management for Private and Public Lands


Any form of deer management can’t be enacted, unless you first manage the people who’re going to hunt the deer. We have a unique situation here in Alabama, because for many years, we've had a liberal buck harvest, a liberal doe harvest and a huge deer population. First of all, we had to get information from our hunters on harvesting does to maintain the deer herd. At one time in our history, hunters could take a buck and a doe every day with no check-in or reporting required. To build data on the number of deer being harvested, the next step was to find out if our hunters wanted and would accept an antler restriction on a few of our Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in the state. That went very well. Then we came out with the three-buck limit a couple of years ago, and we asked our hunters to voluntarily report the size and the number of bucks they had taken. This year, we've required our hunters to report the size and number of the bucks they’re taking. So, Alabama gradually has moved into a way to get better deer-harvest information through a program called Buck Check, and we've limited our hunters to three bucks per season, and a doe a day during deer season, except in some restricted areas, to gain more data and to manage Alabama’s deer herd better.

What Type of Management Plan Do You and the People You Hunt With Need:

Woodson_day5Editor’s Note: Since many landowners manage their own hunting lands, and because Alabama has a great deal of private land, many landowners and land leasers, like Mossy Oak Pro Jackson Woodson, have created their own deer-management programs. The State of Alabama’s rule on private land management is that if a landowner or a land leaser wants to have a more-restrictive deer harvest program than the state has, they can implement that program. So, at the same time that Alabama has started the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) that works with individual landowners to help produce the size and the numbers of bucks these landowners want to harvest, other landowners have implemented deer management programs that better suit the needs and the wants of the people who own the land and/or the people who have leased the land. The different deer-management styles that you see on private lands in Alabama reflect the type of bucks the hunters who own or lease that land prefer to take. For instance, a good number of hunting clubs in Alabama permit their hunters to harvest any legal buck they see. Other hunting clubs have antler restrictions from as few as 2 points on one side of their rack to as many as 8 points on the buck’s rack before he can be harvested. Other clubs require a buck to have at least 18 inches between his main beams and 8 or more points on his rack. Jackson Woodson and the members of his club prefer to take older-age-class bucks, and a certain number of does. They let their youngsters harvest the cull bucks and does that they don’t take. 

So, the important thing about what you’ve learned this week is to show hunters around the country that one size shoe doesn’t fit all size feet, and one type of deer management shouldn’t be the standard by which all hunters manage deer in all places. If you hunt private lands, you need to determine what management program is best for you and the hunters who hunt with you. If you hunt public lands, you need to let the state officials who manage that land know what type of deer management you prefer and the other hunters who hunt that same public land. If we’re all going to have better deer hunting (whatever better deer hunting means to you and the people you hunt with), we've all got to do a better job of communicating with people who own and manage the land and state officials who manage public-hunting lands. Mossy Oak Pro Jackson Woodson has developed a trophy-deer management plan that is exactly what he and the people who hunt with him prefer. But this type of management plan may not satisfy you and the people with whom you hunt.  

For more information on Alabama’s deer hunting, go to

Day 4: Biologist Bill Gray on What’s the Best Deer Management Plan for Alabama’s WMAs

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