Public Input Meetings For New Deer Management Plan

Sportsmen can still comment via an online survey through April 7.

Brian Murphy | March 8, 2024

Terry Hughes provides comment during the DNR public input meeting in Gainesville.

GON was well represented at DNR’s public input meeting for Georgia’s next deer management plan that was held at the Civic Center in Gainesville yesterday, March 7. This meeting followed others in Statesboro and Jackson and was the final opportunity for in-person input on the next statewide deer management plan that will guide deer hunting and management from 2025-2031.

There is still opportunity through April 7 to voice your opinion online at through an online survey.

According to WRD deer biologist Charlie Killmaster, this deer management plan will be created a bit differently from those in the past.

“Instead of a single steering committee and regional committees that each tackle the full gamut of deer issues, this time we are going to use topic-based committees that specialize in certain areas. There will be a few broad topics that each group will address, but most of their focus will be in a single area such as urban deer management or CWD.”

Killmaster was quick to stress the value of public input.

“We work very hard to seek public input, and we listen,” he said. 

He pointed to outcomes from the previous state deer plan including consistent statewide deer seasons, the introduction of a Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), Game Check and the legalization of suppressors as examples of topics brought forth by the public that WRD put into action.

Attendance at public input meetings like these is typically low and often driven by those with one or two topics of great personal concern.

“We had a small but vocal group of landowners at the Statesboro meeting that was very concerned with crop damage,” noted Killmaster.

Other common topics raised at the public meetings include baiting, antler regulations, urban deer management, CWD and the need for a state-funded venison donation program.

The good news is that hunters don’t have to attend a public meeting to voice their opinion. Instead, they can provide input from anywhere via an online survey. As of the date of the Gainesville meeting, WRD had received approximately 3,400 surveys. The survey is open until April 7, 2024.

A unique aspect of public meetings is the opportunity to meet WRD staff and ask questions. This was a motivating factor for longtime GON supporter, Terry Hughes, from Grayson. He attended the meeting to voice concerns on two issues. The first was how WRD could have done a better job of communicating with him and his club members when it purchased the property they leased in Meriwether County to increase the footprint of neighboring Sprewell Bluff WMA.

“I understand why they bought the property and the value of public land, but they could have done a better job communicating with us and giving us more notice to get our stands and other items off the property.” 

Terry also expressed the need for improved access on WMAs with steep topography.

“There are areas where you would have to be a 30-year-old athlete to get a deer out of,” noted Terry. “I’m in my 70s and fit for my age, but it would be great to have some additional access, at least when trying to recover a deer in tough country.”

Michael Cochran and Shayden Maynr, who met at the public meeting, were there to provide input on urban deer management issues. Cochran, who runs the urban deer hunting program in metro Atlanta called Urban Deer Management, was there to stress the need for public education.

“I would like to see WRD create a dedicated information page on their website to educate urban residents on the availability of urban archery hunting, how to interact with hunters and why it’s important to reduce deer herds in urban areas,” Cochran said.

Maynr, who hunts urban and suburban areas around Gainesville, was there to advocate for a state certification program for urban hunters.

“I believe more landowners would allow archery hunting in urban areas if the hunters were certified and proficiency tested by Georgia DNR,” said Maynr. 

Both Cochran and Maynr echoed comments from other meetings that supported a robust state-funded venison donation program. Both believed that more deer, especially antlerless deer, would be harvested if hunters had a place to donate them, with the processor being fairly compensated.

Whatever your critique or suggestion may be, this is your chance to have a say. Wildlife management is one of very few government programs that actually seeks and listens to public input. So, take a moment and go online to  or directly to the survey before April 7 and complete the survey. You can also rest assured that GON will have a seat at the table throughout the development of the next statewide deer plan and will keep you informed throughout the process.

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  1. larryoutdoors on March 22, 2024 at 3:13 pm

    Certification for urban hunters is a slippery slope. Next the antihunters will be using certification to outlaw all hunters everywhere.

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