It’s been quite a few years since Georgia hunters had to worry about which days were “doe days” and which parts of the season were “buck only,” but this weekend marks a return to the ways of the past.
Dec. 1 through Dec. 25 are “buck only” for firearms hunters in almost all counties in both Northern and Southern zones, with traditional “either sex” days returning the day after Christmas through the end of the season.
The change was adopted long before our season began, due to an increasing number of studies that indicate fawn recruitment continues to decline, while our annual doe harvest continues to increase.
The folks at the Wildlife Resources Department simply want to ensure a herd that is sustainable from year to year, and which can tolerate both the hunting pressure from the public and the varying forces that can increase or reduce the number of fawns that survive from one season to the next.
Will it make a huge difference in harvest numbers? Or will it change hunter behavior?
My theory is that it will not.
Meat hunters, I figure, will have long since filled their freezers with whatever legal deer wandered by during the first parts of the season.
Trophy hunters, meanwhile, have let plenty of does come and go as they please, preferring instead to wait for bucks – and hopefully for a mature buck.
With the potential to connect on a good buck still high, and opportunities at the end of the season to put a little more venison into the freezer, hunters’ behavior will remain much the same, too.
It is worth noting, however, that archery hunters can continue to take either-sex whitetails statewide; and firearms hunters who have already tagged out on their two-buck limit might want to take their kids squirrel hunting.
Georgia's regulations still allow a 12-deer annual limit, of which up to 10 can be antlerless.
Statistically, most hunters harvest one or two does per season, at the most.
MORE PUBLIC LAND: Georgia has many wildlife management areas and quite a few of them are producing trophies as spectacular as those at any private club. If you don't believe me, check out the Wildlife Resources Division’s Facebook page with photos of some of the great bucks taken on public lands around the state.
Closer to home, the Department of Natural Resources is actually adding new acreage for public hunting in Hancock and Greene counties, where 1,390 acres is being added to the Oconee WMA.
“We are thrilled with these new additions to the Oconee WMA, as this will expand opportunities for hunters pursuing deer, turkey, and small game,” said Wildlife Resources Division Director Dan Forster. “Even better, no need to wait to use them – they are open now!”
The division’s staff will manage the new tracts for hunting in conjunction with the management of the natural habitat.
The tracts are populated with a variety of wildlife inhabiting a mixture of hardwoods and planted pine stands, along with some large pasture areas.
Hunting enthusiasts can immediately begin pursuing small game and deer under current Oconee WMA regulations. Hunters pursuing deer may use archery equipment through Jan. 1, 2014. Firearms deer season is closed for this WMA. Small game hunting continues through Feb. 28, 2014. Additionally, opportunities to hunt turkey are available in the spring.
State-managed public hunting lands are funded through a combination of state license fees and matching federal funds from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services’ Wildlife Restoration Program. Hunters account for $977 million in retail sales in Georgia each year with a $1.6 billion ripple effect and almost 24,000 jobs.