From the Alabama Dept of Natural Resources and Conservation
-- The first full year of the youth hunting program at the Forever Wild State Cattle Ranch Field Trial Area in Hale County, Alabama is being considered a success according to State Lands Division officials.
On Sept. 12, 2009, the program kicked off with a youth dove hunt. Since then several youth hunting events have been conducted on the property including six youth duck hunts and 18 youth deer hunts. During the events several doves and ducks were harvested; and several deer were seen and two bucks harvested. Plans are being made for youth rabbits hunts and squirrel hunts for the 2010 season. The ranch also hosted various free fishing days and bird dog and retriever field trial events.
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources youth hunting events provide hunters under the age of 16 the opportunity to enjoy hunting under the supervision of an adult in a safe and controlled setting.
Chris Smith, State Lands Manager with the Alabama State Lands Division, said the seeds of the program were planted when State Cattle Ranch Farm Manager Bill Mason noticed hundreds of doves feeding on a stand of millet that was planted in 2008 to reduce erosion near a stream mitigation project. Soon Ducks Unlimited contacted the State Lands Division with an offer to sponsor the first youth dove hunt and to help provide seed for future dove fields and food plots.
“Since then our youth hunting program has really taken off,” Smith said. “It has really turned into another success story that wouldn’t have been possible without the existence of the Forever Wild program.”
In addition to the youth hunting events, the State Cattle Ranch Field Trial Area serves as one of Alabama’s physically disabled hunting areas. During the 2009-10 hunting season, the ranch hosted 53 physically disabled hunts with four bucks harvested.
The Forever Wild State Cattle Ranch Field Trial Area is a 4,328-acre nature preserve and recreation area formerly owned by the Alabama Department of Corrections. The Forever Wild Land Trust purchased the ranch in 2008 and since then has been restoring the pasture with native grasses and offering some of the ponds for public fishing.
Upcoming State Lands Division events on Forever Wild State Cattle Ranch include the Black Warrior Retriever Club bird dog field trials on April 9 – 11, 2010. For more information about the State Cattle Ranch and youth hunting program contact the State Lands Division office in Hale County at (334) 624-9952, or visit the Public Lands section of www.outdooralabama.com.