WRD Proposes Statewide Deer Season Closer on Second Sunday In January

Staggered doe days for many, while some in south Georgia may be going back to either-sex every day.

Brad Gill | March 30, 2015

Northern Zone deer hunters being permitted to hunt after Jan. 1 just took another step toward becoming a reality. WRD just released their 164-page proposed hunting seasons and regulations package for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 hunting seasons. That complete document is available at Scroll down to a link that will take you to the proposed regulations.

Highlighting the document is a proposal that Georgia deer hunters statewide would be permitted to hunt until the second Sunday in January. If passed, it would be a historical change. In the past, Northern Zone deer hunters could only hunt until Jan. 1, while Southern Zone hunters could hunt until Jan. 15. The proposed change eliminates a Northern and Southern Zone in reference to hunting dates. However, a Northern and Southern Zone would remain in place when it comes to following baiting/feeding regulations. Currently, only Southern Zone hunters may hunt over bait, and there’s no indication that Northern Zone hunters will be able to do this any time soon.

In reference to a single statewide deer-season closer the second Sunday of January, the proposed regulations state, “Multiple surveys of Georgia hunters indicate strong support (>61 percent) for establishing a single statewide deer season. Public comment over the past four years concurs and also supports the season ending on a weekend. Hunter input concerning the best closing date does not share a consensus. The proposed closing date of second Sunday in January represents the best compromise between opposing opinions desiring an earlier closing and a later closing. Additionally, the proposed season will always end on a weekend and encompasses late December breeding periods in southwest Georgia and the Blue Ridge mountains.”

Either-sex deer hunting opportunity is proposed to change in most areas, too. The biggest change to affect all hunters would be that the Dec. 1-25 buck-only hunting period that hunters experienced the last two seasons would not take place. In fact, some Southern Zone hunters would be back to either-sex hunting every day of the season.

Most hunters in middle and north Georgia would find themselves going back to more traditional “doe days,” as days for antlerless hunting would come in and out throughout the season. Also, for the first time in many years, hunters would find themselves in a buck-only situation on opening day of firearms season.

In reference to antlerless hunting days, the proposal states, “Opportunity in Blue Ridge counties is reduced by one day in Upper Blue Ridge and six days in Lower Blue Ridge, and timing is shifted later. Ridge and Valley and Piedmont regions are slightly increased (~5 days) but timing is shifted later and avoids the breeding season and last week. Upper Coastal Plain region is increased and restored to full season. Lower Coastal plain is increased about 12 days and shifted to later in season.”

Other highlights from the proposals is a change that would allow WRD to implement rules on harvest recording, harvest reporting and transport requirements on game species. WRD is expected to implement a system of mandatory harvest reporting of all deer and turkey. Hunters would have to report each harvest, likely within 24 to 48 hours, either online, by phone or by a smartphone app.

The proposal states, “Harvest reporting systems can provide important population monitoring and harvest information for WRD and facilitates compliance efforts for LED. A 2014 survey of hunters indicated 79 percent support for implementing a harvest reporting system. This proposed change is responsive to public desires and action items in Georgia’s Deer Management Plan 2015-2024.”

Another proposed change is an increase in bear hunting opportunity. The "bear zone" of open counties in north Georgia would jump by 11 counties would basically run from Carrollton to Atlanta and to just north Athens. Bear hunting would be allowed in Barrow, Carroll, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hart, Jackson, Madison and Walton counties and all counties to the north of that line. In addition, Lanier and Lowndes counties would be added to the Southern Bear Zone.

Statewide, the number of folks who would get drawn for an alligator quota hunt will likely jump to 1,000 hunters, up from 850. Also in the proposal, Lake Eufaula would become its own alligator zone and would require a minimum harvest size limit on gators of 8 feet. It’s also being proposed that the statewide gator season would open earlier, and the season would increase from 29 days to 50 days.

There are numerous proposed changes on WMAs, including a ban on "man drives." A hunter was shot and killed while taking part in a drive on Cedar Creek WMA two seasons ago. Groups of hunters, many from out of state and who don’t speak English—which makes conversation about hunter ethics and common courtesy impossible—have been disrupting stand hunters by conducting drives all day long on WMAs.

Hunters can now make comment on the proposed regulations. Those comments can be made at one of three public hearings that will take place in April. Those locations are as follows:

April 14; Cornerstone Christian Church, 236 Etowah River Road, Dawsonville.

April 15: Middle Georgia State College, Mathematics Building Auditorium, 100 College Station Dr., Macon.

April 16: Coffee County Courthouse, 101 South Peterson Ave., Douglas.

If you can’t attend one of the public hearings, public comments may be submitted to [email protected] or by calling  (770) 918-6404. Written statements may be sent to: Dr. Tina Brunjes, DNR Wildlife Resources Division, Game Management Section, 2070 US Hwy 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025.

All comments regarding the proposed changes to Georgia Hunting Regulations 2015-2017 must be received by close of business on April 24, 2015.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!