Deer hunt Oak Mountain State Park closes for bow hunt to thin deer herd

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Seventy hunters drawn at random from a list of 5,849 applicants took to the woods at Oak Mountain State Park yesterday for an archery hunt to control the whitetailed deer population there.

The hunt, organized by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, was the result of numerous studies conducted by the department and park officials, who agreed on a bow hunt to remove some of the deer.

Deer populations have gotten so far out of control, officials say, that the health of the herd has deteriorated and the park itself placed at risk because of the destruction of underbrush mowed down by foraging deer.

A handful of protesters rallied outside the park on Tuesday morning but overall the support has been &uot;overwhelming,&uot; said DCNR spokesman Jerry de Bin.

&uot;I think people understand that some population control is necessary,&uot; de Bin said. &uot;Hunters and nonhunters alike have worked together for one common goal and that is to improve the quality of the deer herd at Oak Mountain State Park.&uot;

Not everyone was so supportive of the idea of a bow hunt.

Some groups questioned the charges for registration and a use-fee collected by DCNR.

Applicants were charged a $6 fee and hunters chosen by the lottery were charged a $50 use fee.

Prospective hunters were allowed to apply as many times as they wished, subject to the $6 charge for each entry.

Officials maintained that the money would be used to recuperate lost revenue from closing the 10,000-acre park for two days and said any leftover funds would be used to address the deer overpopulation and enhance the park habitat.

Friends of Oak Mountain, an organization representing special interest groups at the park, did not oppose the plan but instead regarded it as the &uot;lesser of the evils,&uot; according to president Scott Stone.

DCNR began taking applications from licensed hunters last month.

After a random drawing, the selected applicants were notified and required to take a bow proficiency test before being cleared for the hunt.

Seventeen-year-old Shaun Jarvis, a senior at Thompson High School in Alabaster, was selected along with his father Phillip.

&uot;They sent a packet in the mail that told us about the hunt and how to conduct ourselves,&uot; Jarvis said.

Jarvis, president of the Technology Students Association who has been hunting for as long as he can remember, said he was intrigued by the opportunity to hunt at Oak Mountain State Park, an area where deer face no hunting pressure and have no natural predators.

He was also excited about being able to hunt there with his father, who was assigned to the same zone.

Officials marked off the park, which will remain closed until the hunt is completed, into zones to prevent too many hunters in one area of the park.

For Jarvis, an avid hunter, the excitement started before the hunt ever began.

&uot;Before the test, I hadn’t shot my bow since the beginning of bow season,&uot; he said.

Jarvis said his nerves calmed after his first two shots found their target.

But he found himself still looking for the required third &uot;vital shot&uot; when he took aim at the fifth and final target.

&uot;The wind started to pick up, so I sat their for about 10 seconds to let it die down.&uot;

Jarvis’ arrow flew true and found its intended target, a deer decoy 22 yards away.

&uot;I thought it was a really good test,&uot; Jarvis said. &uot;It was to see if you knew where the vitals were and if you could make the shot.&uot;

Jerry de Bin said seven of the originally drawn hunters failed the test and were replaced by qulalifying alternates.

&uot;It was challenging and fair,&uot; he said. &uot;It was no cakewalk.&uot;

Hunters had two chances to pass the test before they were disqualified, de Bin said.

In addition to the seven hunters who failed the proficiency test, another four were replaced because they had time conflicts with the hunt dates.

Officials have not announced whether the hunt will become an annual event.

&uot;The only talk we’ve had is about taking care of this one,&uot; de Bin said. &uot;No single thing is going to fix this. This is a process. It’s going to take years to fix this problem.&uot;