By Marlee Moore
Alabama hunters have a new, legal tool in their armory for a second year — the bait privilege license issued by the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (ADCNR).
The license, $15 for in-state residents and $51 for out-of-state hunters, is required for private landowners, those under age 16 and hunters over 65, an exception to exemptions allowed for hunting and fishing licenses.
License sales brought in over $2 million to ADCNR last year. The increase in funding allowed the Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division to meet budget requirements for the first time in four years.
“Yes, we sold more licenses, and the bait privilege license brought in more money,” said ADCNR WFF Division Director Chuck Sykes. “Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of people let it go. We’re not flush with cash because of the bait privilege license. We were just able to meet the budget.”
State dollars don’t fund ADCNR programs. Instead, the department relies on license sales and Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act matching dollars, funded by an excise tax on sporting arms, handguns, ammunition and archery equipment.
The Alabama Legislature passed the licensing requirements in April 2019 after years of public appeals to legalize hunting over bait. Despite Alabamians’ desire for the law, ticketed cases of hunting over bait without a license were down just 10% last year.
Sykes said the choice is simple — pay $15 for a license or fork over hundreds of dollars for a ticket.
“The sales show there are a lot of people who enjoy it, but it’s not mandatory,” Sykes said. “If you’re averse to baiting or feeding, you don’t have to do it. For me, I buy it as an insurance policy because now I don’t have to worry about hunting with friends who may or may not be feeding.”
In the 2019-2020 season, 151,286 hunting licenses were sold. That same year, the were 158,211 bait licenses sold, and those were on track to increase this season.
The license isn’t just required for hunting over corn. Using protein feeders, mineral blocks, juices and sprays necessitates the permit.
Alabama Farmers Federation Wildlife Division Director William Green said the once-controversial license has become a new normal. Hunting contributes $1.8 billion to Alabama’s economy annually.
“Originally, there were two very differing opinions,” Green said. “Some people loved the idea of legally utilizing baits while others were adamantly opposed to it. After making it through two seasons with the option to use bait, I think the majority have warmed to the idea. It’s another tool to help outdoorsmen have a successful hunting season.”
Need a license?
Visit OutdoorAlabama.com or purchase from the local probate office.