December 8, 2011
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
When hunters head into the woods looking for an antlered buck, they might be guilty of an inadvertent game-law violation in a way that won’t dawn on them at the time. Hunters are required to record every antlered buck harvest before the deer is moved. If you hit the woods without a pen or pencil and kill an antlered buck, you may need to get creative.

Kevin Dodd, Assistant Chief in the Enforcement Section of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF), said the antlered buck harvest information requirement is one of several things that sometimes slip hunters’ minds.

“You are not only required to have a harvest record, you must have it on your person,” said Dodd, who joined Wildlife Section Chief Gary Moody in a live chat session on recently. “And you can only have one, no duplicates. It’s a fairly new concept of recording your buck. People have good intentions, but they don’t always follow through. But the law states that you have to have that harvest record on your person and you have to fill it out before you move that buck.

“You can get by without having to have a pen or pencil. I’ve seen one filled out with a bullet tip, the lead from the tip. Now Ballistic [plastic] tips won’t work, but the lead-tipped bullet did OK. It was legible. I’ve heard of people filling them out with blood and a piece of straw. I’ve got pencil stubs stuck in all of my hunting jackets and clothes.”

If someone other than the hunter is transporting a harvested antlered buck, the person transporting the antlered buck must have in possession written documentation that includes name, address, license number (if applicable), telephone number, date of harvest and signature of the person who harvested the antlered buck until it is processed or delivered to a commercial processing facility.

“The main thing we’re seeing people ticketed for is not having the buck recorded before you move it or not having a harvest record in your possession,” Dodd said.

Even if you have a lifetime license, a method to record the buck harvest is still required. Download a harvest record here.

“As long as you record the harvest and have it on your person, you’re OK,” Dodd said. “I’m sure there is room for cheating, but, for the most part, Alabama hunters are honest, good folks who follow the law.”

Although there was some resistance to the three-buck limit when it was implemented in 2007, Dodd said the harvest restriction has become a non-issue for the hunting public.

“We haven’t had a call complaining about the buck limit in two years,” he said. “The concept of limiting antlered deer harvest has been widely accepted.”

Dodd said one other area where hunters run afoul of the regulations has to do with the requirement to wear either a hunter orange vest with 144 square inches of orange or a full-sized orange hat. A small logo or printing can be on the hat, but camo orange is not considered legal.

“Some people still think the deer can see hunter orange, but statistics prove that when two shooters are in an accident, it’s usually someone they know,” he said. “That’s why with hunter orange you wear it no matter who you hunt with. It’s a good regulation. It’s there for a reason.”

Another regulation that sometimes gets hunters in trouble has to do with the number of shells a shotgun is capable of holding.

“People will take the plugs out of their guns if they go deer or rabbit hunting, and then they’ll go dove hunting or duck hunting and forget to put the plug back in their gun,” Dodd said.  

Waterfowl and doves are migratory species managed under federal regulations that are more restrictive than those for resident species. 

Whether inadvertent or not, Dodd said the most common violation seen by enforcement officers is the failure to possess a valid hunting license.

“Believe it or not, there are still lots of folks out there who forget to get one or procrastinate,” he said. “And some of them think that since they haven’t been checked that they just won’t buy one. It’s a very common violation these days.”

Earlier this year, a hunter harvested a non-native Sika deer in Alabama, while a bull elk showed up in north Alabama and had to be put down by conservation enforcement officers. The six-by-six elk was first spotted in Cullman County and then ended up on the Jackson-Madison County line, where a landowner called WFF and reported the animal. Dodd said the elk likely escaped from an enclosure, although that has not been verified.

“It is currently illegal, and has been for some years, to import any cervid – or deer species – into  the state of Alabama,” Dodd said. “There are licensed breeders in the state. The elk was semi-domesticated. That’s why it was sighted so much. It was seen on the interstate blocking traffic. It was deemed a nuisance and hazard and had to be put down.”

He also said that during Alabama’s deer season, all deer species are fair game.

“If it’s a non-native species of deer, whether it’s Sika deer, fallow deer or elk or whatever, it’s still treated as a deer,” Dodd said. “We have a deer season that includes all species of deer. So if you’re the lucky hunter when that six-by-six elk comes walking through, and deer season is in, you can shoot that animal.”

One of the questions asked during the live chat session was whether a hunter can retrieve a wounded animal from an adjoining property.

“You do not have a right of retrieval outside your property or the property you have permission to hunt,” Dodd said. “You have to have permission from the adjoining landowner to retrieve an animal or a dog. If you do not have permission, that constitutes criminal trespassing. We get lots of calls about that each year. We encourage them to talk to the landowner and be polite. If he says no, then that’s the end of it.”

Another issue raised during the live chat dealt with deer attractants and the use of salt, especially a product on the market called Trophy Rock.

“Currently in Alabama, it is illegal to hunt over bait or by the aid of bait,” Dodd said. “Several years ago, the Legislature made an allowance for pure salt, but only salt. Trophy Rock is a naturally mined mineral. When you look at the breakdown of ingredients, it’s 99.4-percent salt. It’s got some impurities in it, but if you look at a box of Morton’s Salt, it’s the same. If the salt block has molasses or grain added, stay away from those. If the list of ingredients says 99-percent salt, you should be OK.

“There are some products that can be mixed with water and used as a human scent cover. Others can be used as an attractant. That’s OK, but if it’s piled up and the deer can eat it, that constitutes bait.”