Plan ahead for safe hunting season

Published 12:55 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By By Chandler Myers
For many hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, Alabama’s national forests are special places during this time of year. These perfect backdrops that hold a lot of fond memories can also become a nightmare when safety measures are not taken seriously.
Forest Service law enforcement officers are urging hunters to plan before hunting in the Bankhead, Talladega, Tuskegee, or Conecuh national forests. Understanding the hunting regulations and rules before making a trip can result in a safe hunting experience this season.
For Escambia County High School Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Kyle Davis hunting is something fun to do that he takes seriously.
Davis said one of the most important things to him when hunting is knowing his surroundings.
Potential dangers are always a factor when dealing with weapons and sometimes unpredictable situations.
One of the most critical rules is to wear hunter orange. Alabama regulations require hunters to wear an outer garment that is above the waist with a minimum of 144 square inches of hunter orange or a full-sized hunter orange hat or cap. According to Blake, anyone hunting wildlife in the areas and times opened by state regulations has to wear hunter orange to avoid tragic accidents. Many users share the national forests during hunting season.
Davis said when dealing with his gun, he makes sure it is not loaded until he is ready to begin his hunt.
The National Forests in Alabama have almost 668,000 acres open to public hunting. The only requirement for hunting on national forest is that you must have a valid state hunting license and follow rules set forth by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the U. S. Code of Federal Regulations.
Hunting in one of the five wildlife management areas in the national forests requires a hunting license, special permit and management area license. Wildlife management area licenses can be obtained from the Department of Conservation, and the Forest Service district offices carry special permits.
Approximately 242,000 acres are set-aside as wildlife management areas on the Bankhead, Talladega, and Conecuh national forests.
All national forests except Tuskegee have wildlife management areas open to public hunting. The Tuskegee National Forest has over 11,000 acres open to public hunting during specific times. Hunters should check with the Tuskegee District or sporting goods shops for scheduled dates and rules.
According to Blake, law enforcement officers work with state conservation officers to keep hunting season safe in Alabama. “We want to ensure the safety of the public while traveling on roads and using our recreation facilities,” said Blake. Hunters cannot hunt or discharge a firearm within 50 yards of the right-of-way of any public road or highway. The following are additional safety requirements and regulations hunters should be aware of while in the national forests:
Visit or call any USDA Forest Service office for information about maps, hunter camps, and camping permits.
For more information contact the supervisor’s Office in Montgomery at 334-832-4470, Bankhead District in Double Springs at 205-489-5111, Conecuh District in Andalusia at 334-222-2555, Shoal Creek District in Heflin at 256-463-2272; Talladega District in Talladega at 256-362-2909; Oakmulgee District in Centreville at 205-926-9765, and the Tuskegee District in Tuskegee at 334- 727-2652.

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