After the legislature failed to act on several proposed law changes to make baiting legal statewide for deer hunters, Governor Nathan Deal issued an executive order telling the DNR Board to take a look at the issue. The Board can’t change the baiting law or do away with the Northern/Southern Zone line—only the legislature can do that—but the Board can change where that line is drawn.
“The proposal was to increase parity for hunters across the state by making the Northern Zone the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Southern Zone would be anything outside of that,” said Wes Robinson, the director of Public and Governmental Affairs at Georgia DNR.
The baiting regulations only apply to private land anyway, so the DNR proposal would legalize baiting statewide on all private land. The Chattahoochee National Forest is public land where baiting would have been illegal regardless.
In 2011, legislators sought to legalize hunting deer statewide with no distance restriction. However, opposition in north Georgia led lawmakers to split the state. The Georgia law was changed to allow hunters in the Southern Zone to hunt deer with no distance restriction from supplemental feed, while Northern Zone deer hunters still had to be 200 yards or out of sight of placed feed.
Georgia law created the Northern/Southern Zone distinction, and Georgia law says Northern Zone hunters must be 200 yards away from feed. But while law creates the Northern and Southern zones, the DNR Board has the authority to say where that line can be drawn.
The proposal follows Governor Nathan Deal’s recent executive order directing Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources to take up the contentious issue of the legal distance deer hunters must be from placed feed.
According to the DNR website, “This proposed regulation modifies the department rule establishing the northern and southern zones as it relates to statutory legalities for hunting deer over bait. Changes to the existing rule are responsive to an Executive Order directing an expansion of the zones relating to hunting deer over bait to meet public objectives for use of the white-tailed deer resource. The comment period for this proposed regulation change closes on June 26, 2018.”
In addition to the public comment period, there will be two public hearings where the public can learn more about the proposal and provide input. The first hearing will be June 19 at the Armuchee High School Auditorium in Rome (4203 Martha Berry Hwy NW, Rome, GA). The other public meeting is June 20 at the Augusta Tech Auditorium in Thomson (388 Tech Dr. NW, Thomson, GA).
Following the two public hearings and comment period, the proposal will be eligible for action again in the June DNR Board meeting. If the DNR Board approves the measure, the zone line would be changed for the 2018-2019 Georgia deer season, and all private-land deer hunters in the state would be able to hunt deer with no distance restriction from placed feed.
The public may submit input for consideration into the development of proposed hunting regulations by: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Call: (770) 918.6404
Write: Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, 2067 US Highway 278 SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
Here is the wording of Gov. Deal’s executive order that led to the DNR proposal to move the Northern/Southern Zone line:
Whereas: In 2011, HB 277 was enacted, providing a framework for deer hunters in this state practicing supplemental feeding; and
Whereas: Since 2011, the Department of Natural Resources has found no evidence that hunting over feed has directly impacted deer harvest numbers, nor has the Department observed any direct evidence of disease linked to supplemental feeding in Georgia; and
Whereas: Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 27-3-9 and 27-3-15, the Board of Natural Resources is authorized to establish Northern and Southern deer hunting zones based on sound wildlife management principles; and
Whereas: In the Southern Zone of the state hunters may hunt within two hundred yards of feed, while those in the Northern Zone may not; and
Whereas: Such a distinction produces an inequity among licensed hunters based on geography which is not necessarily tied to deer population and abundance;
NOW, THEREFORE, PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORITY VESTED IN ME AS GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA, IT IS HERBY
Ordered: That the Department of Natural Resources evaluate and determine an appropriate expansion of the Southern Zone and present such findings to the Board for action based on sound wildlife management principles.