8-Deer Limit Bill Passes

Legislative update for 2000 legislative session.

GON Staff | April 12, 2000

The 2000 General Assembly wrapped up most of its legislative business on March 22, closing out what has been a busy session for sportsmen’s interests. Here’s a run-down of the bills that made it, the bills that failed, and other legislative news.

• Deer Bag-Limit, H.B. 1465

The most significant bill this session for deer hunters was Rep. Bob Lane’s (D-Statesboro) legislation that will give the DNR Board room to expand the deer limit from five deer to eight in the coming season. This would still include a maximum of two antlered bucks, with the increase being made up by antlerless deer. 

The bill passed both the House and Senate with ease and now awaits a signature by Gov. Roy Barnes. WRD faced the problem of having to print the new 2000 hunting licenses prior to final passage of this bill. The 2000 hunting licenses now being sold already have spaces on them for recording a total of eight deer, with a note that says that the three additional deer may only be harvested if the regulation received final passage. 

In the House, the bill passed unanimously with no debate. The only person to speak out regarding the bill was Rep. Jay Shaw (D-Lakeland), who said he had no intention of endangering Rep. Lane’s bill by altering it on the floor. However, he used the opportunity to make comments to other representatives about the baiting law, saying that he hoped “feeding” of deer would be legalized in the future. Since feeding of deer is already legal, Rep. Shaw apparently meant that he wanted hunting over bait to be made legal. 

As GON reported last month, WRD Director David Waller originally told the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee that WRD hoped to completely lift any limit on antlerless deer in this session, citing continued deer-population problems in urban/suburban areas and in certain counties. 

• Wildlife Control Permits, H.B. 1409

Deer running across airport runways, raccoons and possums munching down on quail eggs, and any other animal that is threatening humans, crops or property can be exterminated with a special permit from WRD if this bill is signed by Gov. Barnes.

In the bill, all of these circumstances must be confirmed by WRD personnel before permits are issued. For furbearers destroying quail nests, WRD must see evidence of a legitimate quail-management program and evidence of a significant negative impact to that program by nest predators before the go-ahead is given. Permits then allow the user to go outside legal seasons and limits to deal with problem wildlife. 

Last month, GON reported that Rep. Penny Houston (D-Nashville) had introduced a floor amendment to add penned, exotic deer to the list of problems that could be addressed with the new permits. Though Rep. Houston claims otherwise, many feared that this was an effort by deer farmers to be able to sell “canned” hunts, where exotic-deer “enthusiasts” pay to shoot the animals inside the pen. Supporters of the bill at the capitol have since been able to remove Rep. Houston’s floor amendment, and the bill has gone on to pass the Senate.

• Animal Cruelty, H.B. 297

This bill, intended to make it a felony in Georgia to commit acts of intentional cruelty against animals, has been the “Energizer Bunny” of the session — every time the bill looked doomed, someone changed it and it kept going. It passed on the last day of the session.

To begin with, several groups, including sportsmen and hunting-dog owners, worked to come up with a bill that targeted genuine acts of cruelty without threatening legitimate practices like dog breeding, dog training, hunting and fishing. The resulting bill still had problems, like the fact that it allowed seizure of animals without a notice, a warrant or a hearing, but it passed the Senate. However, the House changed the bill to reduce the penalty from a felony back to a misdemeanor . Though the new version passed the House, its supporters said it might as well have been voted down.

On the last day of the session, a conference committee put the felony provision back into the law, but only for severe, aggravated cases of cruelty. Lesser offenses are still a misdemeanor. Plus, the requirement was added that anyone accused of cruelty will receive a pre-warrant hearing before animals or property can be seized by the government.

• Greenspace, S.B. 399

Gov. Roy Barnes’ “Greenspace” initiative has passed the legislature with little change, making it possible for the land-acquisition effort to move forward soon. The plan calls for state money to be appropriated ($30 million annually) into a special fund to be used as an incentive for fast-growing counties to preserve undeveloped land. Counties that develop a plan to set-aside at least 20 percent of their currently undeveloped land-base as greenspace can get assistance from the fund to buy the land.

The enacting legislation puts DNR in charge of monitoring the program and the land acquisitions, and it names several acceptable uses for the lands, including hunting and fishing. 

• Gray’s Reef, H.R. 816

Currently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is working on a new management plan for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, located 17 miles off Sapelo Island. One possibility of the plan revision is that some portion of the reef could be closed to sport fishing (see GON, March 2000). Although this is a federal issue and the state legislature has no jurisdiction in the matter, Rep. Stephen Scarlett (R-St. Simons) and other representatives have passed a House Resolution on the matter. The resolution equals a formal request by Georgia, urging NOAA to keep Gray’s Reef open to fishing.

• Bowfishing for Catfish, H.B. 1320

It may soon be legal to sling fish arrows at channel and flathead catfish in the Savannah River drainage. Rep. Bill Jackson’s (R-Appling) bill has passed the House and Senate. Currently, no game fish may be shot with bow-and-arrow. Under the new law, catfish could be shot with bow-and-arrow in the Savannah River, all of its tributaries, and on any lakes impounded in its basin, including Hartwell, Russell and Clarks Hill. The reason for the change, Rep. Jackson said, was to make the law on the Georgia side of the river the same as it is on the South Carolina side. 

• Shrimp Cast-Nets, H.B. 1463

As an amendment to the larger shrimp cast-netting bill passed in an earlier session, this bill would have gone back to fix a minor problem in the law. The change would have allowed owners of small cast-nets (a 7-foot radius or smaller) to modify their net with duct tape or other materials to aid in working deeper waters. Commercial cast-netters pursuing shrimp with larger nets would still be prohibited from modifying their nets. The bill passed the House but died waiting for Senate consideration.

2000 Legislative Summary

Bills That Passed

Governor’s Greenspace Plan

Fast-growing counties get state assistance to preserve 20 percent of undeveloped lands.

Deer Bag Limit

Increases the bag limit from five to eight deer, with a maximum of two antlered bucks per season.

Controlled Burning

Gives landowners greater liability protection when burning to encourage controlled burning for management.

Shark Gill-Nets

Prevents Florida gill-net boats  from landing their catch in Georgia to discourage them from fishing just outside state waters.

Bowfishing for Catfish

Makes it legal to shoot channel and flathead catfish with bow-and-arrow in the Savannah River basin.

Wildlife-Control Permits

WRD can issue permits to kill animals that threaten humans, crops or property, including furbearers that eat quail eggs.

Trout-Stream Buffers

Rolls back the land-disturbance buffer on trout streams from 100 feet to 50 feet. 

Animal Cruelty

Makes it a felony in Georgia to commit severe acts of animal cruelty — hunting not included.

Bills That Failed

Licenses for Guardsmen

Would have given free hunting and fishing licenses to all active and retired Georgia National Guardsmen.

Shrimp Cast-Nets

Would have made it legal again for users of small cast-nets to modify them with duct tape.

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