A doubling of the bear limit, banning dog training on Chattahoochee National Forest and the plan to charge fees for WMA users not hunting or fishing were all presented to the public at eight WRD regulations meetings Jan. 3-6. However, public comment was geared toward perennial concerns like baiting and deer populations.
The meetings opened with a presentation summarizing potential regulations changes as well as the plan to charge fees for WMA users not hunting or fishing. WRD Chief of Game Management Mark Whitney directed the well-attended meeting in Thomson where he asked attendees to consider items in his presentation for the official public-comment period.
These meetings were the first in which DNR has presented the completed plan for WMA user fees to the public that GON knows of, and with a deadline of Jan. 14 to submit official public comment, either at the meetings or by mail, the public was given 11 days, at most, to provide input after the user-fee plan was first presented Jan. 3. Details of the plan were reported in last month’s GON and are available online at <www.gon.com>. According to Whitney, there was little public input on the plan, and most of it was in support. However, Whitney said there was comment suggesting the group user fee proposed in the plan be increased. GON submitted comment suggesting the comment period be extended.
For regulations changes, there will be another public-input opportunity after official proposals are made. The potential regulations changes presented for input at the meetings are as follows:
• Raise the black bear limit from one to two, with the stipulation that only one bear be allowed from the south or middle Georgia populations.
• Ban the training of bear hunting dogs on Chattahoochee National Forest, which is currently allowed Aug. 15 through May 31.
At the Thomson meeting, none of the 27 in attendance gave comment on either potential change. Whitney said public comment was low on both issues at all of the meetings.
At Thomson, two Taliaferro County deer hunters expressed frustration over limited deer sightings.
“The deer are gone in Taliaferro County,” said Melvin Edwards, of Crawfordville. “And the coyotes that killed them walk on two legs and drive pickups… A poacher would starve to death in Taliaferro County there are so few deer.”
Edwards’ view of the problem is too many small hunting properties creates high hunter densities and devastates the local deer population. He suggested shortening the season and a return to doe days.
The other hot topic was baiting. Chris Edmond, of Tignall, who attended with wheelchair-bound James Edmond, also of Tignall, asked WRD to consider a permit allowing handicapped hunters to hunt over bait. Following Edmond’s comment, two attendees spoke out against baiting. They both made a point to provide an exception for the handicapped.
Other comments made at the Thomson meeting included:
• James Weeks, of Gibson: Set a hunter-to-hunter distance on WMAs to keep hunters from encroaching on other hunters who are already set-up.
• Robert Jenkins, of Millen: Alter dove season to take better advantage of the peanut plantings.
• Tony Schneider, of Wrens: Expand archery-hunting opportunity on Di-Lane WMA. Restrict designated handicapped areas on the WMA to only the handicapped.
• Chuck Williams, Georgia Forestry Association Board member, of Watkinsville: No baiting because of negative public-perception it creates. Extend North Zone deer season to match South Zone season.
• Rob Pavey, with The Augusta Chronicle: Provide for more consistent and tougher punishment of poachers.