High Hunter Success On North Georgia Bear-Dog Hunts
New bear-dogging quota hunts on mountain WMAs produce 55 percent hunter success and 61 bears taken.
Sixty-one bears were killed by the 110 hunters who participated in a nine-day quota bear-dog hunt on Chattahoochee and Chestatee WMAs Sept. 28 – Oct. 6. Eleven of the 15 parties drawn for the hunt showed up to participate.
“Obviously there are a lot of bears in this area, as many or more than anywhere else in the state,” said Adam Hammond, WRD state bear biologist.
While southeast Georgia hunters have been hunting bears with dogs for years, this was the first year that a select few north Georgia hunters were allowed to use hounds to tree and shoot bears on a pair of WMAs.
“Although hunting bears with dogs has not previously been offered in north Georgia, using bear-dog hunting as a tool for managing bear populations in north Georgia has long been discussed and considered and is well-recognized in several of our adjacent southern Appalachian states, like Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina,” said Adam.
The 61 bears taken were 12 males and 49 females. From Chattahoochee WMA, 49 bears were killed, while 12 were taken on Chestatee WMA.
“Prior to the hunt, we had six GPS collared bears using the two WMAs. Two of those collared bears were taken during the hunt,” said Adam.
Although numbers may seem strikingly high to the casual hunter, it’s still too early to get a picture on whether or not the introduction of a limited bear-dog season will have an impact on the overall north Georgia bear harvest for the 2019-20 season.
“It’s too early to determine how the 61 bears taken on this hunt compares to the historical annual harvest from the local area, including surrounding WMAs and counties,” said Adam. “We’ll know more when the season is finished.”
In 2018, 190 bears (92 males, 98 females) were harvested in the local area, including Chattahoochee WMA, Chestatee WMA, Cooper’s Creek WMA, Duke’s Creek WMA, Swallow Creek WMA, Union County, White County, Lumpkin County and Towns County. For comparison, in 2011, 188 bears (70 males, 118 females) were harvested in the local area.
“Success on the hunt varied from one to nine bears harvested per party,” said Adam.
“This special opportunity bear-dog hunt was included as part of DNR’s two-year regulation package. The results and effectiveness of this hunt will be monitored and evaluated to determine future opportunity.”
The 15 hunters drawn for the hunt could bring nine other buddies with them in their hunting party.
Chad Ivester, of Clarkesville, knew a few folks drawn, and he said between their two hunting parties, they killed nine bears.
“Between the two hunting parties, we ran 19 or 20 bears,” said Chad. “We treed three times and didn’t shoot the bear. The other ones either we didn’t get them treed or had to pull the dogs off because they were crossing a road or something like that.”
Chad has spent many years still-hunting for bears in the mountains, and he said he wasn’t at all surprised with the good success on this initial bear-dog hunt in north Georgia.
“I’d knew we’d be in a lot bears,” said Chad. “What did surprise me was that you could go to a spot and strike a bear and run it and tree it or whatever and come back in a few hours and strike another bear in the same spot.
“One day we went up in this big hole and got a bear and were coming back out and leading the dogs and a bear just had crossed our back track. The dogs struck, and we turned loose on it before we even got back to the truck.”
Chad said he believes the bumper acorn crop in the area had a lot to do with the 61 dead bears.
“This hunt was so successful because it landed on a good bumper acorn crop year,” said Chad. “If you’d had this same hunt last, you’d been lucky to have 20 bears killed because there was no acorns and no game up here last year.”
Chad said he is definitely going to put in for the special bear quota hunt next year, but he’s not crazy about the idea of a continual bear-dog hunt, at least not on the same WMAs.
“If they hit it hard next year, I’d like to see them go to Cohutta or go to a different area and just do Chattahoochee about every third year or some type of rotation,” said Chad. “There’s still plenty of bears up here, but it could really hurt them over time in an area.”
Chad added that there are very few deer left in the mountains, in large part due to the bears and coyotes, he says. With very few deer left to hunt, Chad enjoys bear hunting from the stand every fall.
“We only saw two deer all week during the bear hunt,” said Chad. “If DNR would restock some deer, then I’d be all for thinning out the bears, but I don’t think they’re going to do that.”
While Chad is hoping DNR decides on a rotational bear-dog hunt schedule, he’s already talking about next year’s bear-dog season.
“I hate to see Georgia starting a dog season because if it leads to a statewide (where bear hunting is allowed) dog season, our bear hunting is going to dwindle, but if they are going to have it, I’d really like to be a part of it because it’s fun, and we got plenty of bear meat,” said Chad.
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