Northern Zone Baiting Still Not Legal, But Very Much Alive On Final Day
The Georgia legislature is working through its final day of the session, and legalizing hunting deer over feed in Northern Zone has not yet been approved.
No, baiting for deer in the Northern Zone has not yet been legalized—at least not at 4:30 p.m. on March 29, the final day of the 2018 Georgia Legislative Session. However, you might want to check here for an update in the morning, because the proposed law change is still very much alive with a chance of passing as the legislature is expected to meet past midnight.
This law change that would legalize hunting deer over feed statewide with no distance requirement—instead of it just being legal in the Southern Zone—has been a hot potato issue during the Georgia legislative session.
Here’s how the baiting bill bounced around.
House versions of the proposal never made it out of the Game, Fish and Parks Committee, so the full House of Representatives never voted on the proposal.
Meanwhile, a Senate version, SB 450, not only made it out of Senate committee, but SB 450 was voted on and approved by the full Senate 36 to 19.
However, legislation must pass both the Senate and House before it can be signed by the governor and made into a new law. The same House committee that didn’t approve HB 275 made changes to SB 450 that basically killed the bill. They added stipulations for statewide baiting, such as no feed within 50 yards of a property line and allowing game wardens to decide if a feeder needed to be moved. That wasn’t going to fly in the Southern Zone, where hunting deer over feed without any restrictions has been legal since 2011, and where a significant majority of hunters like their feeding law like it is. Southern Zone deer hunters weren’t going to go for new restrictions on something they’ve been doing since 2011. So, HB 275 and SB 450 were basically dead in the water.
Then, with just several working days remaining in the legislative session, the Senate added the Northern Zone baiting provision to HB 271, a bill that had already passed the House. The House version dealt with legalizing hunting big game with .30 caliber and higher air guns, and it also allows DNR to create special archery-only deer hunting zones or counties where archery deer hunting would be allowed until Jan. 31.
Since the Senate made changes—adding the Northern Zone baiting proposal—the original sponsor of HB 271, Rep. Jesse Petrea (R – Savannah) has to approve the new changes. If the bill sponsor agrees, hunting deer over feed statewide with no distance restriction could be approved this legislative session with no specific vote on the matter by the House of Representatives.
A survey two months ago asked how the current baiting law—legal in the south and illegal in the north—impacted deer hunting. Among Northern Zone deer hunters, 7 percent said the current law had a positive impact, 39 percent said it had no impact, and 39 percent said it had a negative impact. For Southern Zone deer hunters, 47 percent said it had a positive impact, 36 percent said it had no impact, and 10 percent said it had a negative impact.
The point of that survey was that we have seven years of this being in place—no baiting in half the state and baiting in the other half. What’s been the impact? Has it affected positively or negatively the deer herd, hunting quality, Law Enforcement effort and resources, anti-hunting efforts or the spread of disease?
A common sentiment among Northern Zone deer hunters has been that the baiting law should be the same statewide—whether it is illegal or legal.
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