Duck Hunting Becoming More Popular in the Cotton State
With the increase in popularity over the past few years, Alabama waterfowlers have plenty to celebrate.
With the early goose season opening Sept. 1 and teal season opening Sept. 10, I wanted to give Seth Maddox, technical assistance biologist and waterfowl coordinator, a chance to inform hunters of the abundant waterfowl hunting opportunities Alabama has to offer over the next couple of months.
“Based on state duck stamp sales, waterfowl hunting has increased almost every year in Alabama for the past 10 years.”
If you are an avid waterfowl hunter, you have likely noticed an increase in the number of hunters at boat ramps or in your favorite sloughs. Based on state duck stamp sales, waterfowl hunting has increased almost every year in Alabama for the past 10 years. Specifically, duck stamp sales numbers have increased from 18,324 in 2005 to 30,343 in 2015, a 65-percent increase. If you look at the lowest number of sales by year in the decade (16,989 in 2007) compared to the number of stamps sold in 2015, the difference is a 78-percent increase. Alabama is one of only two states (Louisiana) with increasing waterfowl hunter numbers out of 14 states in the Mississippi Flyway.
Why the Increase in Interest?
So why are we seeing such an increase in waterfowl hunters? Many people attribute it to the popularity of the TV show “Duck Dynasty,” which first aired in 2012. This show has certainly fueled the fire in the popularity of waterfowl hunting, but it does not explain the totality of the increase in popularity. Other factors such as social media, internet videos, hunting TV shows, increased waterfowl populations, increased waterfowl hunting accessories and an increase in advertisements for waterfowl hunting have all promoted the growth and attractiveness of waterfowl hunting.
Hunting in general has been declining in the United States for a few decades. Many wildlife agencies, organizations and researchers have been trying to determine why we are seeing this decline and how we can recruit new hunters. When hunters buy hunting licenses, this money goes straight back into the conservation and management of wildlife for current and future generations.
This is why “human dimensions” (the social attitudes, processes and behaviors related to how we maintain, protect, enhance and use our natural resources) in the wildlife field have received so much attention in the past few decades. We are trying to determine how to retain current hunters and recruit new hunters to the sport. Having more hunters in the sport directly affects the amount of money available for wildlife conservation and management.
Where to Go
If you are looking for a place to hunt waterfowl in Alabama, you do not have to look very far. Numerous lakes, rivers and streams are open to the public for hunting. The best opportunities for public hunting are available on the wildlife management areas and waterfowl management areas operated by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
In north Alabama along the Tennessee River, the Jackson County WMAs (Mud Creek, Crow Creek and Raccoon Creek) offer some of the best waterfowl hunting in the state. These areas are located between the towns of Scottsboro and Stevenson in Jackson County and comprise 18,579 acres of hardwood bottoms covered with oaks, backwater sloughs filled with aquatic vegetation, and dewatering units managed for wintering waterfowl.
Along with the WMAs, Jackson County also has two state waterfowl refuges (North Sauty and Crow Creek) totaling 8,355 acres. These areas are closed to waterfowl hunting, but offer great places for waterfowl to rest and feed undisturbed. These two refuges generally attract large numbers of wintering waterfowl that migrate between the refuges and WMAs.
More great places to hunt waterfowl in northern Alabama along the Tennessee River are Swan Creek and Mallard-Fox Creek WMAs. These WMAs are located near Decatur in Limestone, Morgan and Lawrence counties and are comprised of 10,612 acres of hardwood bottoms containing mast-producing trees such as oak, beech and hickory, backwater sloughs with aquatic vegetation and dewatering units managed for wintering waterfowl.
In central Alabama, David K. Nelson WMA offers great opportunities for waterfowl hunting. Located near Demopolis in Hale, Green and Sumter counties, David K. Nelson WMA comprises 8,308 acres on the Tombigbee and Black Warrior rivers that provide many bottomland hardwood and wetland areas for wintering waterfowl.
Lowndes WMA is another great area for waterfowl hunting in central Alabama. Located near the town of White Hall in Lowndes County, Lowndes WMA comprises 15,920 acres along the Alabama River and consists of hardwood bottoms, swamp drainages and wetlands that offer great habitat for wintering waterfowl.
In south Alabama, W. L. Holland and Mobile-Tensaw Delta WMA and Upper Delta WMA offer the best opportunities for waterfowl hunters. These WMAs are located in Mobile and Baldwin counties and comprise marsh, wetlands plus cypress and gum swamp bottoms totaling 93,491 acres.
These WMAs provide diverse habitats for wintering waterfowl ranging from flooded hardwood bottoms in the upper reaches of the Upper Delta WMA to open waters of the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta Marsh of Mobile Bay. The Apalachee refuge, located in a section between I-10 and the Mobile Causeway, was established this year in an effort to hold more wintering waterfowl in the area.
The WFF Wildlife Section has been busy planning and implementing positive changes to our waterfowl management areas and waterfowl management statewide over the past few years. Changes include revamping our dewatering units to provide better water management, implementing moist-soil management, which focuses on natural vegetation and invertebrate management to provide high sources of protein for wintering waterfowl.
The plan also includes implementing a wood duck nesting box program to provide greater nesting potential for hens and collecting reproductive data plus continuing and increasing wood duck banding efforts to provide survival and movement data.
It also includes increased efforts to provide technical assistance to private landowners for waterfowl habitat enhancement. With these implementations, we hope to have a positive impact on waterfowl habitats and populations across the state.
“If you are new to waterfowl hunting or interested in waterfowl hunting, by far the best thing you can do is learn the nuances and ethics of waterfowl hunting from an experienced hunter.”
If you are new to waterfowl hunting or interested in waterfowl hunting, by far the best thing you can do is learn the nuances and ethics of waterfowl hunting from an experienced hunter. Many rules and regulations come with waterfowl hunting. Becoming knowledgeable before stepping afield is a must. Many experienced waterfowl hunters would be willing to take a kid or first-timer and share their expertise.
Waterfowl population numbers are at an all-time high, and it is a great time to be a waterfowl hunter. Please be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the waterfowl hunting regulations. Several significant regulation changes have taken place this year in an attempt to provide a better hunting experience. If you have questions, call the district office in your area. Check www.outdooralabama.com for a complete list.