WRD Hunt Meetings Discuss Either-Sex Deer Days, Bears, Doves & WMAs

WRD hosted eight hunt-regulations meetings last month to discuss the 2017-2019 hunting regulations. Attendance ranged from 18 to 68 at these meetings. Hunters were able to make comments after a WRD Powerpoint presentation. WRD’s presentation included four main topics. They are as follows but can be viewed at www.georgiawildlife.com. Scroll to the bottom to see the link.

• Timing of Either-sex Days for Deer: WRD presented a map (right) of either-sex hunting days that is being considered and would allow for more “doe days” in the Piedmont (green counties) Ridge & Valley (green) and the Lower Coastal Plain (cyan) regions.

“The deer population objectives in our 10-year Deer Management Plan were to ‘slightly increase, then stabilize’ the populations (in those areas),” said Charlie Killmaster, WRD’s state deer biologist. “The reduction in female harvest as a result of the more restrictive either-sex days for the last two seasons has accomplished the goal of ‘slightly increase,’ and we are recommending these measures to now stabilize. Additionally, reducing the number of buck-only periods in the green counties from three to one helps simplify our regulations and make it easier on hunters.”

If the map were to hold, green counties would see buck-only hunting days only during the first two weeks of the firearms season. Cyan-colored counties would have buck-only hunting only during opening weekend.

Tina Johannsen, WRD’s program operations manager, was in the process of compiling hunter comments—including about 1,500 that came in by e-mail—when this issue of GON went to press. There were plenty of deer-related comments that didn’t have anything to do with WRD’s Powerpoint, which WRD welcomes.

“Judging from the e-mails, the overwhelming majority of comments on baiting were in favor of allowing it statewide,” said Tina. “Doe days, bag limits, and extending the season were also high-volume comments.”

Hunters wanting changes in baiting, deer bag limits and extending the deer season need to contact their legislators and not DNR. Those changes take legislation.

• Opening Day Dove Hours: For years, the state has had a traditional 12 p.m. start for its dove opener. WRD allowed a platform to see if hunters preferred to begin their seasons at daylight on opening day.

“We did not get a clear mandate from the meetings relative to the dove opener—no majority either way and a substantial vote of ‘no preference,’” said Tina.

Without a clear consensus, WRD has tabled this issue for now.

• Central GA Bear Season Timing: Since 2011, middle Georgia bear hunters have had a one-day bear season in Bibb, Houston and Twiggs counties. The first two seasons were held in November, but it was moved to December beginning in 2013 in order to reduce the percentage of female bears in the harvest. Still, WRD says there are too many females in this harvest and is looking at several options to lower the female percentage.

Four options that were presented for consideration were as follows:

1) Move the timing of the one-day hunt to the second Saturday in January.
2) Maintain timing on second Saturday in December but hold hunt every other year.
3) Maintain timing on second Saturday in December but close Twiggs County and open Bleckley County (86 percent of females taken were from Twiggs County).
4) Move the timing of the one-day hunt to second Saturday in January and add Bleckley County.

“The middle Georgia bear hunt didn’t generate much discussion at meetings nor from e-mail, so it remains to be seen how that goes,” said Tina.

• WMA Considerations: WRD is considering several broad WMA changes. The two possible hot-button topics are allowing the use of suppressed firearms for hunting on WMAs and allowing the use of buckshot for deer, bear and hog.

“The WMA considerations didn’t seem to generate much passion either,” said Tina. “I’ve gotten very few e-mails about suppressors and buckshot, even though those changes could impact all WMAs.”

WRD will be summarizing the info and begin working on actual proposals for presentation to the DNR Board.

“We will have three public meetings in April and will open the comment period on the actual proposed regulations after they’ve been presented to the DNR Board (on March 29). Folks will have until at least April 21 to submit comments to gm.comments@dnr.ga.gov. The final approval doesn’t happen until the May DNR board meeting,” said Tina.

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