The Georgia State Park system opened three new parks to its deer management quota-hunt program, and the hunter-success rate for the hunts that had taken place at presstime ranged from good to spectacular. At the Dec. 8-9 quota hunt at Tugaloo State Park on Lake Hartwell, 17 hunters using bows or crossbows killed 38 deer — a hunter success rate of 223 percent!
A permit to hunt on one of the state-park hunts is a prized deer-hunting ticket. For the 2007-08 deer hunts, a total of 6,700 hunters applied for the 617 permits available for hunts on six parks — a 10-to-1 ratio. Hunters are especially eager to get in on the initial hunts and get a crack at unhunted deer. This year there were three new hunts added to the state park management deer hunt roster: Mistletoe State Park’s firearms hunt, Bobby Brown State Park’s two muzzleloader hunts and two bow hunts at Tugaloo State Park. Gun hunts were also offered again at Fort Yargo and Hard Labor Creek.
Mistletoe State Park, on the banks of Clarks Hill Lake, hosted its first deer hunt on Dec. 5-6. From a quota of 75 hunters who were selected, 49 hunters paid the $30 special-use fee, and 47 showed up Dec. 5 to hunt.
The deer killed at Mistletoe were remarkably old, and lightweight. Two does aged at more than 6 1/2 years old weighed 56 and 60 pounds, respectively.
“That works out to a live weight of about 75 pounds,” said WRD Biologist I.B. Parnell. “In the Piedmont (region) you would expect those deer to have a live weight of 90 to 100 pounds. The deer living in the park are finding enough to eat to sustain themselves, but they are not doing well.”
Of the first 15 deer brought to the check station, eight were aged at 4 1/2 years old or older.
“The population is skewed toward older age-class deer,” said I.B. “It is an indication of an unhunted population. You wouldn’t see older age classes represented like this on somewhere that is hunted like Clarks Hill WMA. I have never seen so many old deer.”
No matter the age, most hunters saw plenty of deer. Mark Noble of St. Simons Island was 25 feet up a tree in a spot where he could be seen from a road. Park rangers who drove by and saw a herd of deer under him wondered why he wasn’t shooting.
“I had to let the deer clear the road before I could shoot,” said Mark, who shot three of the seven deer under his stand.
Jeremy Biggars of Grovetown hunted opening morning from a buddy ladder stand with his mom, Cindy. They saw 10 or 12 deer that were often screened in a thicket. Finally Jeremy had a clear shot and downed a doe.
Overall, 47 hunters killed 32 deer at Mistletoe, a hunter-success rate of 68 percent.
“I thought it would be at least 100 percent,” said Mistletoe State Park Manager Bill Tinley, who reports that the food plots have already greened up since the hunt. “Everyone loved it. They all saw deer, and they liked the way the hunt was run — they were tickled.”
At Bobby Brown State Park the quota was 30 for two muzzleloader or archery hunts on the small, 665-acre park. For the first hunt, only 17 hunters showed up. They killed six deer, including a nice 8-pointer. On the second hunt, 12 hunters killed five does.
At Tugaloo State Park, a 393-acre peninsula that juts into Lake Hartwell, Area Manager Robert Emory said the first of two quota hunts on the park went real well. That’s an understatement. A total of 17 hunters showed up for the archery-equipment-only hunt, and they killed 38 deer, a stellar hunter-success rate of 223 percent.
“It went very well,” said Robert. “The park was way overpopulated, and I was quite please by the hunt.”
Fort Yargo State Park’s initial hunt of the season saw 42 hunters of a quota of 65 kill 77 deer, a hunter-success rate of 183 percent — nearly matching the success rate of 192 set at the park’s first-ever hunt a year earlier.
At Hard Labor Creek’s first hunt of the year, 144 hunters of a quota of 250 killed 64 deer, a hunter-success rate of 44 percent. Compare that to the statewide hunter-success rate for WMAs with quota or sign-in hunts of 11.2 percent.
At R.B. Russell, only 40 hunters of 80 drawn showed up to hunt. Those hunters chalked up a very respectible hunter-success rate of 43 percent.
Chuck Gregory, the park system resource preservation program manager, said he was pleased with the success of the hunts, but he expressed concern about hunter participation.
“We are concerned about participation, particularly on second-year hunts,” he said. “There is a perception that the deer are all gone after the first year, but the reality is that hunter-success rates have remained high during the second-year hunts. We are getting a lot of no-shows, and that takes other hunters who would have come off the list and reduces the impact of the hunt. If we aren’t getting enough hunters to show up we are not getting the number of deer we want, and we are not getting the management impact we want.
“We want to use hunters to manage the deer on state parks, but if hunters won’t show up, it forces us to look at other methods.”