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Georgia Deer-Hunter Numbers, Deer Harvest Total Decline Again

GON Staff | May 8, 2006

The WRD is completing hunter-survey data from Georgia’s 2005-06 deer season, and the information on hunter numbers is not good.

Deer-hunter numbers continued to decline at an alarming rate. According to the survey, the number of deer hunters in Georgia last season, including licensed resident, honorary license holder, and non-resident hunters, was 238,000, a decline of 30,561 hunters over the 2004-05 season. The numbers represent an 11.4 percent decline in one year — the largest annual percentage decline in hunter numbers during the past five years, exceeding the decline of 5.8 percent between 2002 and 2003.

During the five years since the 2001-02 hunting season, the number of deer hunters in Georgia has dropped by 54,209, or 18.5 percent.
With fewer hunters in the woods last year the statewide deer harvest also dropped, from 348,760 deer during the 2004-05 season to 319,000 last season, a decline of 8.5 percent.

“The bottom line is that we are losing hunters,” said WRD Assistant Chief of Game Management John Bowers. “And when you lose hunters, your deer harvest is going to go down. If you look at the big picture of deer management across the state it is disturbing long term. In another 10 to 15 years, if not sooner, deer management (with low numbers of deer hunters) is going to be a serious issue.”

For the second year, the deer-harvest data was collected by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va. and was based on telephone interviews with 2,508 hunters.

Other survey results include:
• Overall, 44 percent of Georgia deer hunters did not kill a deer last season.

• Of all hunters, 93 percent killed four deer or less. Only 0.5 percent of hunters killed 10 deer or more.

• The harvest per hunter was 1.3 deer, the same as during the previous year.

• Doe harvest dropped from 210,760 to 191,400, a 9.2 percent decline. Does comprised 60 percent of the harvest.

• Buck harvest declined to 127,600, a drop of 7.5 percent and the lowest buck harvest in 22 years.

• Of the antlered bucks killed, approximately 75 percent had four points or more on one side. These deer were likely 2 1/2 years old or older, and only approximately 25 percent of the bucks killed were 1 1/2 years old. This is a remarkable turnaround from 15 years ago when 1 1/2-year-old bucks comprised about 75 percent of the harvest.

“A lot of hunters have adopted the philosophy that you don’t shoot the small guys,” said John. “When you do that, the buck harvest will go down.”

The good news is that buck numbers and the buck age structure should be excellent going into the 2006-07 season.

WRD will complete the deer data over the summer. GON will provide a comprehensive look at deer hunting in the state in our Deer Special in the October issue.

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