Legislation that would open up archery deer hunting statewide until Jan. 31 is still in play at the Georgia capitol, although there doesn’t seem to be widespread support for the measure as of yet. The legislation is an amended version of Senate Bill 122, which was introduced last legislative session.
Allowing either-sex archery deer hunting with bows and crossbows statewide until Jan. 31 would mirror what the state currently allows for counties in the metro Atlanta area, where growing deer populations pose problems and hunting options are limited.
The firearms deer season was just changed by the legislature two years ago so that it ends statewide on the second Sunday of January. That legislation did away with split seasons where the Northern Zone closed on Jan. 1.
SB 122 would have to be passed by both the state Senate and House of Representatives, and then be signed by the Governor before it would be law.
In addition to creating archery-only deer hunting through Jan. 31, SB 122 would also extend small-game seasons through the first week of March.
Last year when this topic was discussed, the Wildlife Resources Division said extending small-game seasons could negatively impact the populations of three game animals in particular—fox squirrels, rabbits and quail. Small-game hunting currently ends Feb. 28, a week sooner than the proposal in SB 122.
A similar House version of the legislation, HB 186, was introduced last year but didn’t progress. HB 186 would extend firearms deer hunting until the third Monday of January (MLK Day) and provide for archery deer hunting statewide through Jan. 31. HB 186 does not currently include the measure to extend small-game seasons through first weekend of March.
Outdoor Stewardship Act
During the 2017 legislative session, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (GOSA) was introduced in the form of HB 332 and an accompanying House Resolution, HR 238. The GOSA would create a dedicated funding mechanism “for the conservation for priority lands, the stewardship of state parks and wildlife management areas, and the support of local parks and preserves.”
The GOSA would be funded by dedicating 75 percent of the state sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment. This is not a new tax—it is simply a redirection and dedication of state sales tax money already being collected, so that it doesn’t go into the general fund but is dedicated to a GOSA trust fund.
According to the Georgia Conservancy, the money would be used for “the purchase, maintenance (including providing access) of conservation lands and parks. Stated priority areas would for the trust fund would be: Water Quality, Wildlife Habitats, Cultural Sites, Buffers around Military Installations, Support of Economic Development, and the Provision of Recreation (including, biking, hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, etc.).”
Sportsmen might expect some additional hunting opportunities on some of the newly acquired lands. There might also be additional fishing access to some areas of rivers, streams and small lakes. Based on recent lands acquired by the state, properties purchased would most likely be river and stream corridors and properties that are home to endangered or threatened animals and plants.
The GOSA is different from past land-acquisition programs, such as Preservation 2000, because GOSA also includes purchasing land for parks, hiking and biking trails and cultural sites. The GOSA effort is painting with a broad brush in hopes of finally getting broad support for a dedicated source of land-acquisition funding in Georgia. Other states have multiples sources of dedicated funding, but Georgia hasn’t been able to get one passed.
The past two land-acquisition programs in Georgia were funded completely through license-fee increases on hunting, fishing and boat registration.
To allow for the dedicated allocation of tax revenue, the Constitution of Georgia would have to be amended. HR 238 introduces a ballot initiative to do this.
The GOSA trust fund would be administered by the State Properties Commission.
Who knows? Maybe with WRD’s recent huge increase in funding through sportsmen’s license fees and some new property being purchased, Georgia might see a few new waterfowl impoundments and dove fields to go along with additional deer and turkey hunting weekends on new properties.