Originally created 02/10/02

Lawmakers consider expanded season



Laws to create a longer, earlier deer season with expanded bag limits and a statewide emphasis on quality bucks glided through Georgia's House of Representatives last week.

And unlike the volatile issue of decriminalizing the use of corn to lure deer into gun range, the proposed changes - sent to the Senate for scrutiny - are enjoying reserved support from natural resource agencies.

One of the bills would expand deer season by one week, starting Sept. 7 instead of Sept. 14. Hunters would be allowed to bag 10 does and two bucks - up from six does and two bucks.

"House Bill 1158 does two things," said Dan Forster, Georgia's assistant game management chief. "It modifies the existing limit, which is eight, of which six must be antlerless.

"The change would go to to 10 antlerless tags and two antlered tags - and one of the antlered tags must be used only on a buck with four or more points on side," Forster said.

Under the proposed revision, a hunter would be able to take many more does but would be limited to one buck that falls short of the "four points on one side" quality rule.

"It's a move toward quality deer management," Forster said. "There is significant support, apparently, with a lot of the legislators to produce something positive for age structure."

The addition of a week to deer season might attract opposition from archers - who would lose a portion of October's prime, pre-rut archery-only period.

"What DNR would do is add a week to the firearms deer season," Forster said. "It would start a week earlier than normal, and primitive weapons and archery would not lose days, but shift to a week earlier."

Another bill approved by the House and forwarded to the Senate last week would legalize crossbows for hunting small or big game.

Crossbow hunting is prohibited except when a person with a permanent disability has a license for one.

"Basically, this law eliminates special permitting and allows crossbows throughout archery, primitive weapons seasons and gun season," Forster said.

DNR forecasts little effect from this regulation on the archery industry. Compound bows are infinitely more popular and effective than crossbows, he said.

One other pending bill that sportsmen should be aware of is House Bill 1058, designed to legalize the use of pen-raised quail for training bird dogs.

"It's geared toward allowing people who train bird dogs to use pen-reared birds for training purposes," Forster said. "The way the law was written, you could not use a shotgun and live ammunition while you were training a bird dog."

Two bills that would decriminalize hunting deer over bait were referred to committees last week, where they will undergo further scrutiny. "Hopefully, that's where they'll stay," Forster said.

Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.