Deer Farming Issue Clouded By CWD Discovery in Missouri
Legislative session includes bill to legalize silencers; no action on Northern Zone baiting.
A bill to legalize deer farming in Georgia is expected to be introduced this legislative session; however, opponents now have more ammunition against the effort after Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was found in wild Missouri deer. The deer were killed just 2 miles from a legal, permitted deer farm where penned deer were previously found to have CWD.
A Georgia subcommittee held a meeting about deer farming on Dec. 12, and supporters touted the economic benefits. Deer farming is allowed in 33 states, and supporters claim fears of diseases being spread are not an issue since the deer are tested extensively and because the livelihood of breeders depends on healthy animals.
However, opponents to deer farming can now point to the Missouri situation when saying it’s not worth the risk. The discovery of CWD in wild Missouri deer was annouced Jan. 24.
There is no CWD test for live deer — they have to be dead to be tested. Once CWD is found, the standard procedure is to kill as many deer as possible to prevent spread of the disease. Missouri officials said their next step is to kill and test more deer in the area where CWD was found.
Since the average hunter can’t afford — or is ethically opposed to — high-fence hunts, and because farmed “super” bucks could not be legally released into wild populations to enhance genetics, opponents say deer farming has no benefit — only risk — to average hunters.
Meanwhile, legislators are considering Senate Bill 301, which would legalize “silencers” for hunting. Proponents of hunting with silencers — actually a more accurate term is suppressors because they don’t silence a gun shot — say the noise of guns is what often drives firearms-discharge ordinances that limit or ban hunting. Noise complaints have also caused battles to close shooting ranges. Quieter guns would also prevent hearing loss associated with guns. A supressor would make a .308 sound more like a .243, and a .243 sound more like a .22.
The “what’s next” crowd considers quieter guns as making hunting easier and make it more difficult to catch poachers. A comment heard at the GON office was you could shoot more than one deer at a time if they don’t run away because of the noise, and that suppressors would be just another in a list of recent changes to deer-hunting regs that take away from the tradition.
Legalizing suppressors likely wouldn’t have much of an impact on Georgia hunting, primarily because of the cost. A $200 federal tax is required when applying for a permit to own a suppressor. A suppressor costs about $1,000, and then a gunsmith would have to thread a gun for the attachment.
SB 301 passed out of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee on Jan. 25. There has been no legislation to legalize deer hunting over bait in the Northern Zone, and none is expected.
Reggie Dickey, president of the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation (GHFF), said it’ll be up to legislators in north Georgia to revisit the baiting issue. GHFF, with a membership primarily based in south Georgia, won’t be advocating any more changes to the baiting laws this legislative session, Reggie said.
“We fought for years to get something done, and we got the bill last year, but north Georgia hunters didn’t call their legislators. If they want it, they have to make the phone calls,” Reggie said.
Initially, the baiting bill last year removed the 200-yard distance restriction for deer hunting near feed statewide; however, legislators from north Georgia changed the bill so it split the state and legalized it for deer only in the Southern Zone.
To track legislation, go to www.legis.ga.gov.
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