Southwest Georgia Counties Could See Shift In Deer Dates As Early As 2023

Mike Bolton | February 16, 2022

Some counties or parts of counties in extreme southwest Georgia could see a change to the start and end to their deer seasons by the 2023 season.

Research and input from hunters have shown a significant number of does in those areas having a later conception date than does in other parts of the state. That is resulting in some does having small spotted fawns at the beginning of the archery season in those counties.

One hunter posting on the GON Forum hunting thread said spotted fawns where he hunts in southwest Georgia are not yet weaned at the start of the bow season and likely couldn’t survive if their mother was harvested. He said, in essence, instead of killing one deer, killing a doe at the start of archery season, means you could actually be killing three deer.

WRD State Deer Biologist Charlie Killmaster said two years of research in a 10-county area in southwest Georgia has shown that the average conception dates fall in January. That average is still within the parameters of deer season, but he said there is plenty of evidence that there are some areas where conception dates occur later and even after the deer season ends.

He said the reason for that is while most of Georgia was stocked with deer from other states, southwest Georgia was not. Native deer, and deer that found their way into southwest Georgia from Alabama, are the dominant deer found in that part of the state.

“These deer were in flood-prone areas along the Chattahoochee River before it was dammed,” Killmaster said. “The deer that bled over here from south Alabama were from flood-prone areas. That lineage of deer learned to conceive late so fawns wouldn’t be dropped until after the spring floods.”

Killmaster said two years of research has shown that does in some southwest counties are indeed dropping fawns later than the rest of state.

“We’re still collecting data trying to find out where the line is where the late season rut occurs,” he said. “Seminole and Decatur counties are obvious, but other counties or parts of other counties that have this late rut is still being determined.

“We have the authority to extend the archery season and begin it at a later date by making a calendar shift. That’s up for consideration. First, we’d have to make a decision on what counties or parts of counties would be included. We’re collecting that data right now. Then, we’d have to get that decision into the regulation cycle in January and open it up for public comment.

“Any new season or seasons could then start in the fall of 2023.”

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  1. Jeff on February 25, 2022 at 8:18 am

    I’m a landowner and have been hunting SW Georgia (Sumter/Lee county) for over 20 years. I can attest to does dropping late fawns. I’ve got spotted fawns both on trail cam and video from the stand all the way through December. Shocking to see how tiny they are when seeing them live in November and December. It’s just not what you expect to see! It makes sense because I’ve seen them rutting hard in February and March.

    Although I’m not for pushing back the start of hunting season, I fully support extending it at least through January and even through mid to late February. I personally trophy hunt so harvesting early does doesn’t necessarily affect me. Perhaps an idea would be “bucks only” until November or later in the season? …just an idea

  2. Luis H. Izquierdo on February 18, 2022 at 11:07 am

    Which ten counties?

  3. dlhj1 on February 17, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    As others have said, this is long over due. Not only for Decatur, Mitchell county, deer rut well into late January. We have seen spotted fawns into mid November on multiple occasions. It’s mid February right now and fresh scrapes are still abundant. Not to mention its way too hot in September.

    It doesn’t make sense to have a “one size fits all” approach to deer seasons for the state. I applaud DNR for listening and taking the steps to address our frustrations.

  4. TG Road on February 17, 2022 at 12:24 pm

    I’ve Been hunting in Decatur County for 40 years. Moving the season start and stop dates back are long overdue. The Georgia DNR after years of study has confirmed what we’ve been saying for years. The peak rut is in January in our area. Our neighboring counties in NW Florida and SE Alabama hunting season ends in late February for that reason. This proposal is the culmination of many years of study by the DNR on the actual conception dates, as evidenced by fetus size.

    Hunters everywhere else in state have the opportunity to hunt all three phases of the rut. All we want is the same opportunity.

    Lastly, over the last 10 years or so I have attended many DNR public hearings and would like to thank the DNR staff for always being attentive, forthright and engaged. It has been a long time coming, but thank you DNR for listening and acting upon our request.

    As a land owner in Decatur I fully support this proposal.

  5. Randae26 on February 17, 2022 at 11:57 am

    I hunted Florida for many years an their start date was later but not better. From 1996-2015, I hunted Thomas and Colquitt Counties and observed that the fawns were often not fully weened during bow and even by rifle season and often wondered why the dates couldn’t be pushed back, start later, end later.

    I now hunt Lee, Sumter, and Harris counties and still think it would make sense for preservation and the health of the herd to start later and extend further into January. In my humble opinion, it is not just a weening issue, it is a predator and survival skill issue fawns have not learned if they lose their mother too early.

    I would be open to a change to open later and close later. If for no other reason, it is cooler weather.

  6. Bone Head on February 17, 2022 at 10:31 am

    I hunt in Decatur and Clay counties, we see spotted fawns well into rifle season.

    Shifting the season open and close dates 3-4 weeks later in the year is scientifically sound and biologically beneficial, additionally it will finally allow hunters in the region to hunt the majority of the rut.

    I/we as a landowner and land lessor in multiple counties in SW GA fully support this proposal.

  7. drykilned on February 17, 2022 at 10:30 am

    I am just outside Moultrie ga. I am still getting trail cam pics of bucks with horns in the middle of feb. I am also seeing scrapes at this date and the bucks still have black hocks. I believe the later start for bow season and later end of season for deer is in order. It would not bother me a bit to have guns season in November and end same as Alabama.

  8. bmw357mag on February 17, 2022 at 10:20 am

    I think the same thing is happening in the Northern zone as well. I hunt in Rockdale and Newton County and noticed fawns with spots late into the season. It seemed as if there was no rutt this season or a very late one ? and then the season was over. We may need to have a latter start date as well.

  9. aganas on February 16, 2022 at 4:39 pm

    Who should we reach out to in order to be involved in this conversation? I am all for extending archery season in SW Ga but if that means pushing opening of bow season back then I am not supporting it. The nice thing about SW Ga is most bucks are still in velvet opening weekend of bow season. I agree fawns are still not able to survive without their mother at this time but thats why I harvest does later into the season.

    Deer numbers are very high in SW Ga and extending the season makes sense. Why not have bow season open earlier but only for bucks. Doe season could open Youth weekend through the end of the extended season.

    Just my two cents…..

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