Doe-Day Map Making A Return

Hunters may need to check the calendar before pulling the trigger. Proposed regs include more buck-only days, including opening week of gun season for many counties.

Daryl Kirby | May 1, 2015

When it comes to setting hunting regulations, it’s quite impossible to please everyone. Based on reaction to proposed changes to next year’s Georgia deer season, quite a few groups are far from pleased.

Small-game hunters aren’t happy that the Northern Zone deer season would now stay open until the second Sunday of January. Meanwhile, Southern Zone deer hunters aren’t pleased their deer season would now close as early as Jan. 8 some calendar years. And even some Northern Zone deer hunters, who got their desired “one statewide deer season for the entire state,” are now hiccuping at a proposal to limit the either-sex days.

If the proposed regs pass, there will no longer be Northern and Southern deer zones—except in defining where baiting for deer is illegal. All deer hunters would be able to hunt deer until the second Sunday in January—Jan. 10 next season. However, in much of the old Northern Zone counties, it will be buck-only after Jan. 1.

Except for in the Upper Coastal Plain counties, in a few Piedmont counties in west Georgia and in suburban counties, antlerless deer also won’t be legal the first week of gun season. In the heart of the Piedmont region, it will be buck-only the first two weeks of gun season. It’s been a while since deer hunters have had to plan a special “meat trip” to the hunting club to hit the open doe days.

The proposed doe days won’t be finalized until a DNR Board of Natural Resources meeting May 20 at Middle Georgia College in Macon.

After more than a decade of basically no limit (12 deer per hunter per season) and every day being either-sex, the thinking that we can’t kill too many does has been “re-thunk.” The elephant in the Georgia deer woods looks exactly like a coyote. It wakes up every single day with a hungry belly, and as deer hunters have said since coyotes first showed up—and it’s now proven in scientific study after study—coyotes eat deer. They eat enough deer that, for now, hunters are going to have to shoot fewer deer.

Doe days are how the deer harvest is reduced. There’s a reason many hunters don’t like doe days—it restricts when they can kill does, and that’s the point. There will be does that walk by hunters on buck-only days that won’t get shot.

WRD decided not to address the deer limit. During public meetings and in the 10-Year Deer Plan process, WRD said the limit is a legislative issue. However, the fact is if WRD wanted to change the deer limit they would simply ask their legislative friends to introduce and pass legislation to change the limit. That’s how the deer limit got raised from three to five, to eight, and then to 12.

Reducing the deer limit would be a good move socially and politically. It might also help a landowner unlucky to be next to a hunter who shoots 12 deer. Most hunters only kill a few deer per season, so it’s very difficult for them to accept that other hunters are allowed to kill 12. But the reality is the limit would have to be lowered to three or even two deer per hunter to actually have a statewide impact like doe days can have. With a limit of 12, the average harvest is below two deer per hunter killed each season. Let’s say we have about 1 million deer and 300,000 deer hunters… if every hunter killed three deer, there won’t be any deer left for hunters or the coyotes. The limit isn’t set at a number that means there are enough deer for every hunter to go kill that many—not even close.

Meanwhile, one fair and equal statewide season length is something most deer hunters wanted. In WRD’s justification for this change, the state said, “Multiple surveys of Georgia hunters indicate strong support (greater than 61 percent) for establishing a single statewide deer season. Public comment over the past four years concurs and also supports the season ending on a weekend.”

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