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Hunting rules change

Many hunters in Covington County will be on the trail of deer this upcoming weekend, but for the first time they will be without a key companion - a dog.

New legislation passed by the Alabama Conservatory Advisory Board restricts any deer hunting with dogs on service land, which includes Blue Springs Management Area, Conecuh and Covington National Forests in Covington and Escambia counties. The law takes effect with the opening of deer hunting season Saturday, and hunting on the service lands opens Nov. 25.

"The only real change this season is there will be no dogs allowed on public service lands," Capt. Donald L. Herring, district VI supervisor for the Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Enforcement Section - located in Andalusia, said.

The regulation means no dog deer hunting will be allowed on Open Permit-Public Land. The department defines such land as: "governmentally-owned land open for public hunting and/or lands made available to the public on an individual basis whether for a fee or not. Examples of such lands would be National Forest Lands and lands owned by lumber or utility companies available for use by hunters either through free permits, fee permits, or no permit requirement."

"Dog deer hunting will still be allowed on public lands, but we've received a lot of calls in regards to whether Conecuh National Forest will be open to (dog deer) hunting season Saturday," Herring said. "It will certainly be closed."

Only stalk hunting will be allowed at Conecuh National Forest during opening day, but dog or stalk hunting will be allowed in the Blue Springs Wildlife Management Area.

The "dog" restriction was made in May, with Commissioner Barnett Lawley of the Department of Conservation signing the final decision.

"They banned dog deer hunting in Lamar, Marion, and Franklin counties in north Alabama," Lawley said in a previous report. "Then there were portions of some land in Butler and Coffee County in south Alabama, including Conecuh National Forest - it was banned in the forest."

Lawley has also emphasized that the new restrictions apply to those hunting deer with dogs only, and that in the counties that touch the Conecuh National Forest's boundaries, private landowners could still permit dog deer hunting.

The action stemmed from what Lawley has described as "years of abuse on landowners."

"It's probably not all dog (deer) hunters," he said. "These are probably renegades and not even part of the dog hunting associations. It's bad for the dog hunters who hunt like they're supposed to."

Herring said all hunters are required to wear orange covering this season.

"A total of 144 square inches of orange (covering) is required by law," he said.

The regular deer hunting season lasts until January 15, but stalk deer hunting will be allowed from Jan. 16 – Jan. 31.