Hunting season signifies family time for some UA students

Adrienne Burch

For some University of Alabama students, the start of hunting season signified the beginning of a family affair throughout their childhood.

“It is a family tradition,” Jeremy Payne, a junior majoring in metallurgical engineering, said. “I started hunting when I was just three years old with my dad.”

Over 250,000 licensed hunters take to the fields and forests each season across the state of Alabama, according to Outdoor Alabama. The 2012 deer bow hunting season began Oct. 15 for the state of Alabama and the firearms season is set to begin Nov. 19, sending Alabama hunters out in full force.

This includes the college students at The University of Alabama who have been raised on hunting and wait for months in anticipation for this time of the year.

“Every chance that I get to go home during hunting season, I do, including this weekend for bow hunting,” Sage Smoker, a junior majoring in criminal justice, said.

Smoker said he hunts in a small community called Bashi near his hometown of Thomasville, Ala., on private property owned by his family.

Often, students like Smoker grow up hunting every year at their family-owned hunting camps or local hometown ranges, but when they come to college they are forced to find new places to hunt or travel back home to hunt with their families.

Payne said he still travels back to his family’s hunting grounds in Missouri multiple times a year. This causes him to sometimes miss school, but he said it is well worth it.

“Being in college has definitely affected how often I hunt, but it has not stopped me from going,” Payne said. “Now it is more like the best vacation I can possibly take.”

Many student hunters travel back home to hunt, but there are more than 1.3 million acres of public hunting land in the state of Alabama, with a couple of sites located near the city of Tuscaloosa.

Chris Allen, hunting manager at Woods-N-Water in Tuscaloosa, said he believes students coming to Tuscaloosa for college can still hunt inexpensively in and around the area.

“A lot of college students who grow up hunting at home want to continue to hunt in Tuscaloosa, which is definitely possible,” Allen said.

Allen recommends two popular locations: the Oakmulgee Wildlife Management Area in Bibb County and Forever Wild for duck hunting near Marion County.

Oakmulgee Wildlife Management Area is a public hunting ground located in Bibb County, 25 miles southeast of Tuscaloosa. It is considered one of the top public-land destinations in the state according to Alabama Outdoor News.

In addition to the hunting land, Oakmulgee has a shooting range, South Sandy Shooting Range, which is a popular destination for UA student hunters looking to perfect their shot throughout the school year.

William Littlejohn, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, said he enjoys going to the shooting range while he is in Tuscaloosa and is not able to hunt as often.

“I get more excited about hunting because it means I have something I can grill when I get back to school,” Littlejohn said.

For many student hunters, hunting represents a way to escape the hustle and bustle of university life and get out into nature for a few hours to relax.

“It’s so peaceful out in nature,” Payne said. “It helps me forget about the stress of my school work. It’s hard to think about your test next week when you have beautiful woods and nature all around you.”

Hunting is also beneficial for students as it provides them with food to eat. However, one of the main problems student hunters come across while in college is where to store their equipment, as it is illegal to have firearms on University property.

Littlejohn said he always has his hunting gear and equipment with him, but he stores his guns at a family member’s house who lives locally.

However, for students who have no other option for storing their guns, they are able to store them with the University of Alabama Police Department for free. Students need to bring proper identification, pistol permit (if applicable), the unloaded weapon and ammunition to the UAPD headquarters. This firearm check-in service is available 24 hours a day.