One State, One Deer Season
There's no longer a Northern and Southern Zone for deer huntersâ€š except for baiting.
The DNR Board approved the proposed regulations changes put forth by the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), and the result is one statewide deer-season length for hunters across the state. The Northern Zone and Southern Zone—forever a fixture in the Georgia deer-hunting regulations—are still there, but now they only apply to the baiting regulations. Baiting is still legal in the Southern Zone and illegal in the Northern Zone.
The different deer-season lengths between the zones have been merged into one season. All deer hunting in Georgia is now open until the second Sunday in January. Before this regulation change, the Northern Zone closed on Jan. 1, and the Southern Zone had a closing date of Jan. 15.
One deer season will mean more hunting for Northern Zone hunters and fewer days for those in the Southern Zone. Next season, the deer season will close on Jan. 10—that’s 10 more days for Northern Zone hunters but five fewer days for Southern Zone hunters.
Small-game hunters are expressing displeasure in posts at forum.gon.com regarding the longer deer season in north Georgia, saying it effectively cuts out more small-game hunting opportunity because they don’t like to use hunting dogs when deer hunters are in the woods.
Also approved by the DNR Board were changes to the either-sex days for deer hunters. In most counties, hunters will need to check calendar next season before they pull the trigger on a doe.
The exception is for counties in a swath from south of Augusta, Macon and LaGrange, and extending into southwest Georgia to Lake Seminole, which now again have either-sex deer hunting every day of gun season, from Oct. 17 to Jan. 10. (See the doe-day map in the May issue of GON or online at www.gon.com).
All QDM counties continue to be either-sex every day of gun season.
Also, bowhunters can shoot a doe any day of deer season from the archery opener though the last day of gun season in all 159 Georgia counties.
The big doe-day change for the rest of the state is that the first week of gun season will be buck-only. In the heart of the Piedmont, including Greene, Jasper, Jones, Crawford and Heard counties, it will be buck-only the first two weeks of gun season. Doe days will start Oct. 31 and run through Nov. 15, then it will be buck-only again for eight days during the peak of the rut. Either-sex days will resume Nov. 23 and run through Jan. 1. The new “extra hunting” in north Georgia will be buck-only until the season closes on Jan. 10.
The reason for fewer either-sex days in most Georgia counties is a dramatically reduced fawn-recruitment rate. Predators, primarily non-native coyotes, are killing enough fawns that the number making it to 6 months of age has dropped from more than 1 fawn per doe to less than 0.4 fawns per doe.
Hunters are being asked to kill fewer deer to mitigate the loss of deer to coyotes, and doe days are the best way to reduce deer harvest. Hunters don’t like doe days because it restricts when they can kill does. That’s the point—there will be does that walk by hunters on buck-only days that won’t get shot.
Most deer hunters, meanwhile, are not pleased that WRD did not address the 12-deer limit. 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, and that instead of reducing the limit, WRD is restricting when they can shoot does.
However, the reality is the limit would have to be lowered to three or even two deer per hunter to actually have a statewide impact on reducing deer harvest. 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.
However, the flip side of that argument is that if most hunters kill fewer than two deer per season, lowering the limit won’t affect many folks. It sure would make it sting less next opening day of gun season when you have to watch a fat, nanny doe pass by the stand.
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