In an effort to expand the opportunity for bowhunters to harvest more deer within Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham, hunt dates will be scheduled from November 1, 2013, through January 31, 2014.
Hunt dates will be weekdays only with the exception of the three weekends in January 2014. Those dates are January 11-12, January 18-19 and January 25-26, 2014. The program was designed by the Alabama State Parks Division, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) and Bowhunters of Alabama (BHA) in an effort to maximize hunter opportunity and simplify the deer management process within the park.
Oak Mountain State Park will remain open during the hunts. All established park rules and regulations will apply. The park will be divided into 11 zones with each zone accommodating four to five hunters on a first-come, first-serve basis. Up to 60 hunters will be chosen by BHA through a registration and interview process. Visit www.alabamabowhunter.com to learn more about registration for this program.
The Oak Mountain hunting format is modeled on other urban deer control programs across the United States and was beneficial in total number of deer harvested from the park during the 2012-2013 season. Last year 60 deer were harvested during the hunts (45 does and 15 bucks). Weather permitting, harvest numbers are expected to go up during the 2013-2014 season due to the expanded time frame.
Wildlife experts point to Oak Mountain State Park as a textbook case of how deer tend to multiply in numbers greater than their habitat can support unless controlled through regulated hunting. Past herd health checks and necropsy confirmed the presence of parasites and disease due to overpopulation. After consulting with state wildlife biologists and in consideration of scientific research data, regulated archery hunts were established in 2004 to control the Oak Mountain State Park herd.
Surveys conducted in 1999, 2000 and 2003 found that the Oak Mountain deer herd was causing serious damage to wildflowers, trees and shrubs as a result of feeding on park vegetation. In turn, populations of small mammals and nesting birds were negatively affected. An ongoing independent study reveals a higher percentage of seedlings have survived since the hunts were implemented. As funds allow, future research will be conducted highlighting the improvements to park vegetation and to the health of the whitetail deer population due to the hunts.