Editorial-Opinion January 2011

Steve Burch | January 11, 2011

DNR is celebrating both its 100-year anniversary — when our first game wardens were created — and the appointment of its brand new commissioner — Mark Williams.

Commissioner Williams should be the most sportsman-friendly commissioner in some time. Indeed, he has been recognized by the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation (GHFF) for his pro-sportsmen work when he was in the legislature, and he has posted pictures of himself and his best buck on his Facebook account.

To help him help sportsmen, GON is conducting a survey of sportsmen’s opinions. I hope you will let us send your voice to our legislature and to our new commissioner.


Hunting Over Bait

The most controversial sportsmen’s issue that will face the new commissioner is the question of hunting deer over bait. There has not been a more favorable environment in the legislature for the passage of baiting in the past 20 years.

Historically, DNR has been opposed to baiting and groups have lobbied successfully against it in the legislature. With a new commissioner, DNR’s long-standing position on this issue could change.


Too Cheap WMA User Fees

Also controversial is the double-standard fee structure being planned for use of WRD lands by non-sportsmen. DNR’s proposal calls for group fees for WMA users at rates substantially below the fee structure charged to Parks users. DNR’s proposed structure comes despite the objections of the GHFF. In a recent letter, they wrote:

GHFF always supported charging a fee to the individual, not a car load of people, and the public supported this in the public hearings. GHFF also supported fairness in fees to all user groups, and this was also supported by the public.

GHFF will not support a Small Group Pass at $10 for three days for 12 people. GHFF  supports a $35 three-day group pass for six or for 12 at $70. This is the same as a state park pass and the GHFF position is that the WMA group pass should be the same as the state park pass.

I agree with the GHFF and would vote “Yes” on Question 2.


Commercial Turtle Farming

GON has learned that the non-game section of WRD has drafted regulations that would make anyone with more than 10 turtles a “commercial turtle farmer” and subject to fees, fines and inspection. These regs also establish turtle take limits, with some species limited to a maximum of only 200 turtles per year, by ALL “turtle farmers” statewide, while the most liberal limits are maxed out at 1,500 turtles per year for the entire state — that comes to less than 10 turtles per county per year.

The bill authorizing the non-game section to do this failed in the legislature when it was considered on its own, before DNR pasted it onto an important bill and it slipped through in the last days of the legislature.

Simply removing a few turtles from a neighborhood lake should not trigger a “commercial turtle farmer” violation and fine. What do you think?


Rate Your Deer Season

Over the past decade, WRD has expanded the limit on deer and reduced deer harvest monitoring requirements.

GON has been monitoring the opinions of sportsmen on how they have assessed their season for the past several decades. Not only does this rating give us all a composite opinion on how this current season fared, but it also provides a good trend line on how we perceive the quality of deer hunting over the past several years.

Your ballot will have your name on it if you are a subscriber, or a unique ballot number if you bought GON off the newsstand. For your vote to count, we must be able to read your name or the ballot number on the fax or copy you send.

If you send multiple copies of your ballot, we will void all of your ballots. Please vote only once.

Mail or fax your ballot to GON at: 4331 Seven Islands Road, Madison, GA 30650

Or fax to: (706) 342-2022.

All ballots must be received by close of business, Feb. 4, 2011.

We also invite comments on any of these issues, or to explain how and why you rated your deer season as you did. Please share your written comments on a separate sheet and send it via fax or snail mail as well.

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