Encouraged by the successful quota deer hunts at Hard Labor Creek State Park last season, Georgia Parks is now planning a similar quota hunt at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder. Pending approval of the DNR Board of Natural Resources, two firearms hunts are planned to reduce an overpopulation of deer on the park, which is located in a heavily developed area.
According to WRD Region Game Management Supervisor Ken Riddleberger, WRD spotlight studies on the 1,800-acre park this year place the deer population above 80 deer per square mile.
“That is too many,” said Ken. “There is a browse line throughout the forested part of the park, and an absence of preferred deer foods. There is even a browse line on the privet.”
The overpopulation of deer has damaged the vegetation on the park and also caused significant safety issues with deer/car problems on adjacent highways.
“Eighty deer per square mile on the park is a conservative number,” said Senior Park Ranger Artie Doughty. “There have been more than 100 deer/car collisions on roads adjacent to the park during the last year.”
There are some big bucks on the property, but the number is dwindling due the deer being killed by cars, said Artie.
The proposed hunt has generated a tremendous amount of interest.
“I would conservatively estimate that the staff has talked to about 6,000 people since the news broke,” said Artie. “Everybody wants information and wants to participate.”
Artie said he had received only two negative comments about allowing hunting on the park.
Because a portion of Fort Yargo State Park is within the city limits of Winder, the park had to make a formal request to the city council for an exemption to the city’s firearms ordinance. On March 7, the Winder City Council granted that exemption.
The proposed hunt dates are November 29-30 and January 3-4. Both two-day hunts are scheduled for Wednesdays and Thursdays when park use is low. The park will be closed to other visitors during the hunts.
“There are some logistical problems of holding a hunt at Fort Yargo because of the close proximity of development that they didn’t have to consider at Hard Labor Creek,” said Ken. “But it can certainly be done by hunters.”
Hunters are likely to be required to hunt from elevated tree stands to decrease the possibility of errant bullets. Safety zones will also be defined around developed areas and park boundaries.
A quota of 65 hunters per hunt has been set. Hunters will be required to pay a $25 hunt fee. Hunters will also be required to attend a mandatory safety meeting prior to each hunt. Hunters for the Hungry will have mobile coolers on hand to accept deer donations during both hunts.
Application for the Fort Yargo hunt will be handled online through the Georgia WRD quota-hunt application process, likely on a special state-parks application.
According to Ken, WRD and Parks hope to remove between 120 and 150 deer from the park. Approximately 1,500 acres of the 1,850-acre park will be designated for hunting.
A public hunting-regulations meeting hosted by WRD and Parks, which will include discussion of the proposed hunts on Fort Yargo, has been scheduled for 7 p.m., April 20 at the Will-A-Way Recreation Area facility on Fort Yargo.
“If hunters want to see the hunting on parks continue, they need to show up at the meeting,” said Artie.
In discussions with Parks about holding hunts at Fort Yargo, there was a lot of comment about the success of quota hunts at Hard Labor Creek State Park, said Ken.
“(Parks) saw the results of that hunt, and it was good.” said Ken. “The hunters were very effective at reducing the deer population on the area, and they behaved well. That’s what it is going to take for this hunting program to continue.”