Georgia Legislature Debates Proposals That Would Impact Sportsmen

Legislators consider bill to make deer zones end on same day; while fee hikes for non-residents move forward and WRD's budget is still unclear.

Daryl Kirby | February 24, 2009

While the key issue for sportsmen during the current Georgia legislative session at the state capitol continues to be the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) budget, several bills have been introduced that could affect hunting and fishing.

The overall budget for WRD has been cut year after year along with other state agencies, despite sportsmen paying for about 80 percent of their own way through license fees and taxes on sporting equipment. This year, citing the economy and declines in state revenue, Gov. Sonny Perdue asked for 10 percent cuts from all state agencies. WRD’s proposed cuts include taking all WMAs on federal land out of WRD management — including Cedar Creek, Redlands and most of the mountain areas — which would likely result in the areas being open to hunting under state seasons. Until the legislature hashes through the list of items proposed for cuts by WRD and the Governor, the damage remains unknown.

Below are bills that could affect sportsmen. More details on these bills can be found in the February issue of GON or at the General Assembly website <>.

HB 402, Statewide Ending to Deer Season: Martin Scott (R – Rossville): A push to extend the Northern Zone deer season to close on Jan. 15 instead of Jan. 1 heated up during the WRD Hunting Regulations meetings last month when hundreds of deer hunters attended the Dalton meeting to ask for an extended deer season. Now, HB 402 has been introduced, and it calls for a statewide ending date for deer season. Since no one expects a shorter season for Southern Zone deer hunters, the intent of the bill appears to be to extend the Northern Zone season to Jan. 15. Small-game hunters in north Georgia have come out in opposition to HB 402.

Bill Cunningham, Georgia chapter president of the Ruffed Grouse Society, said, “During the overlap with deer season, our opportunities are very limited. At worst, it is hazardous to be in the woods hunting with a bird dog in the presence of an ill-intended deer hunter. At best, it is not very sporting on our part to hunt through someone’s deer stand on foot with dogs. Deer hunters have priority use of the woods from mid October to year end. We request that you not approve HB 402 and continue to give priority to the small-game hunter in northern Georgia in January and February.”

On Feb. 17, HB 402 was placed in a special subcommittee of the House Game, Fish and Parks committee for further discussion.

HB 326, Increase Non-resident License Fees, Bob Lane (R-Statesboro): The move to increase non-resident hunting and fishing license fees moved quickly out of the House Game, Fish and Parks committee and was approved by the House by a vote of 164-2. The proposed law is now being considered by the Senate.

SB 71, Blood Alcohol Level for Boating and Hunting Under the Influence, Bill Heath (R-Bremen): Currently, a blood-alcohol content of .1 is required before someone can be charged with boating or hunting under the influence. This bill would bring the standard in line with Driving Under the Influence — a blood-alcohol level of .08. Supporter Andy Johnson of Tallapoosa said, “The bill sits idle in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment committee as supporters scramble to alleviate concerns that the [blood-alcohol] level is not important. I, along with hundreds of grassroots supporters, find this ludicrous. [SB 71] establishes firm guidelines that are supported by countless studies, showing that at a limit of .08, all persons, even experienced drinkers, show impairment in their ability to do normal functions necessary to operate items like equipment, drive vehicles, and yes, operate a boat.”

HB 182, Restrict Counties and Cities From Imposing Firearms Discharge Ordinances, Rick Austin (R-Demorest): Five years ago when the GONetwork was created, endless local ordinances restricting hunters were cited as a primary reason for the need to create a group to protect sportsmen. HB 182 provides that no county or municipality can impose any limitation or prohibition on the discharge of firearms that is applicable to tracts of property of five or more acres. HB 182 has not yet moved out of the House Judiciary committee to allow a vote by representatives.

Gun Bills: For details on various gun-control bills and bills that would protect gun owners’ rights, see Ronnie Garrison’s column on page 12.

For updates on legislation, visit

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