The need to cover more habitat, however, isn’t likely to deter the lucky recipients of the states’s 850 lottery-drawn gator tags.
“If high water doesn’t recede, some places might have fewer gators than in the past,” said Greg Waters, alligator program coordinator for Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division.
The state’s gator population has remained relatively stable since the inaugural season in 2003, when 184 permits were issued, yielding a harvest of 72 gators.
Word traveled fast, and the following year, more than 2,500 people applied for 180 available permits – including residents from 39 states.
Since then, the number of permits has risen gradually to the current number – 850 – but competition for those limited tags has increased even faster.
Last year, state officials received more than 11,000 applications for the 850 tags awarded, with similar numbers of applicants for the 2013 season, which runs from Sept. 7 to Oct. 6, with a bag limit of one alligator and a minimum size of 48 inches.
Although four-foot gators are at the low end of legal, hunters typically target larger animals.
“The success rate is in the low 30s because so many hunters want to look for that eight to 10-foot gator.” Waters said. “If they can’t find a big one, a lot of them won’t use their tag.”
Some hunters target only gators in the 10-foot range, he said, which means they would pass on seven to nine-footers that are part of the breeding population.
Officials in South Carolina, which also holds a recreational hunting season, have raised questions recently over whether hunting pressure for larger animals is reducing the number of mature gators that comprise the breeding population.
Waters said Georgia’s rules are drafted to insure sustainable numbers.
“We’ve seen no significant trend that would deter the population or warrant a slot class,” he said, noting that the average length of gators harvested each year has remained relatively constant since the season was established.
The limited number of permits issued each year, he added, is conservative and designed to maintain gator populations.
“The permits are tied to survey data in nine separate zones,” he said.
The zone approach allows wildlife managers to tailor hunting pressure to varied population levels across the state.
“If we just had a statewide season, all the pressure would be on Lake Seminole and the coast, and we could hurt the population,” he said.
YOUTH DOVE HUNT: A youth dove hunt will be offered Sept. 7 and 14 for hunters between the ages of 9 to 15. This hunt begins at 2 p.m. and 12 slots will be available at each hunt through random drawings. A parent or guardian must accompany youths and are permitted to shoot.
Additionally, two quota hunts held on a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dove field on Sept. 7 and Sept. 14, from 2 p.m. until sunset. The quota hunts are open to both youth and adults. Fifteen slots are available for each quota hunt and will be selected by random drawing.
To enter the drawing for either the youth hunt or one of the quota hunts, call Jeff Brooks at 1-800-944-7207 ext. 3424 at the Russell Project Office no later than 5 p.m. on Sept. 3.
For questions, contact the Jeff Brooks, Wildlife Biologist, at 1-800-944-7207 ext. 3424.
CSRA FLY FISHERS: Please post the following announcement in the Augusta Chronicle for the August 26th CSRA Fly Fishers will meet Monday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m., at the Club House of the River Island Community in Evans. Bring your fly rod to practice casting at the dock. For more information see www.csraflyfishers.org.
NRA BANQUET: The CSRA chapter of the Friends of the NRA will hold a banquet catered by Sconyer’s Barbecue on Sept. 10 at the Richmond Hotel, 835 Greene St., Augusta.
TIckets are $45 and are available from Steven Fishman at 558 Broad St., Augusta, or by calling 706-722-3112.