By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives voted in favor of legislation Thursday that allows Alabama hunters to hunt whitetail deer and wild hogs in fields that have been baited.
House Bill 21 was sponsored by State Rep. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer. Williams said that the legislation is necessary because of the growing wild hog menace that is negatively impacting Alabama farmers citing that one farm in the state killed over 800 hogs in one year.
The permit to be able to hunt hogs and whitetail deer over bait would be an additional $16 a year added to the hunting licenses of people who choose to purchase the hunting over bait privilege. Hunting over green fields planted in corn, clover, oats, chufa etc. as forage for wildlife is already legal in Alabama.
State Rep. Artis McCampbell, D-Livingston, opposed the bill. He said that he would have supported it if it were for hogs.
“I went out of the farming business over hogs,” McCampbell said.
McCampbell said that his objection was in hunting deer over bait, which he said with modern weapons is not a fair chase. He further said that hunters aren’t doing a good job of controlling either the hogs or the deer because too many of them are pursuing trophies.
State Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, told Williams that he supported the bill “150 percent” and said that the bill was “desperately needed by our farming community.”
State Rep. Mike Millican, R-Hamilton, said that he supports the bill, but said deer are overpopulated because hunters won’t shoot enough does.
“There are so many of them the cars are running over them,” Millican said.
State Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery, proposed an amendment to the bill.
Ingram’s amendment would raise the hunting over bait permit cost for out of state hunters from $16 to $50. Williams accepted the amendment, which passed on an 88-3 vote.
The revenue for the special hunting over bait permits will go to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which has concerns because of losing the fines they collect from people who hunt over bait now.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have opposed this legislation for years because they view it as not being a fair chase. Hunting other species such as ducks, geese, quail, etc. in a field where bait is present will remain illegal.
The bill passed 79-14 . It now goes to the Alabama Senate for its consideration.
State wildlife officials reports that wild hogs are now present in all 67 Alabama counties. They do $1.6 billion a year in damages to U.S. agriculture annually.
Hunting has proven ineffective as a method of controlling hog populations because of the large litter sizes and early sexual maturity of the species. The state and the USDA are researching the possibility of hunting the animals from helicopters.
Hogs are not native to Alabama. Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto is credited with bringing the first hogs to Alabama in 1540.
Since then the herd has grown with escapees from Alabama farms. Some unscrupulous hunters have in some areas released Russian Wild Boars to increase the size and fierceness of the wild herd in order to improve the hunting experience.
Some hunters live trapped hogs and moved them to areas that did not have a hog population to hunt. It is now illegal to release or transport live wild hogs in the state.
Most of the large mammals native to Alabama were exterminated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The eastern elk, eastern bison, and eastern cougar all went extinct.
The red wolf, black bear, and whitetail deer were hunted to near extinction in Alabama by 1920 until the state implemented an enormous conservation effort to save the remaining whitetail deer and restock the animals to all of its original habitat.
Whitetail deer is now found in all 67 counties and Alabama has the highest population density of whitetail deer in the country.
Williams is leaving the House to run for the state Senate in Senate District 34, where incumbent Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, is running for lieutenant governor.