Originally created 12/12/04

Open season for questions at gathering



Augusta-area sportsmen sometimes feel left out when Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division schedules its periodic public meetings to seek opinions on how best to manage the state's hunting programs.

Many past meetings - on topics such as deer hunting with dogs and waterfowl management - have been held in other parts of the state, but one of eight planned January hearings will be held much closer to home, in Thomson.

What's unusual this year is that there is no specific legislation or controversial rule change pending to incite public turnout and comments. But it will be an opportunity to meet state and regional game managers, and to ask questions on any topic you wish.

"You can bring up anything you want," said Melissa Cummings, communications director for WRD. "It's basically open season on anything you want to ask or talk about."

The meetings are the beginning of a yearlong effort to fine tune and sculpt hunting regulations. Topics that surface at these meetings could translate to new rules or regulations by the time hunting season gets under way in fall 2005.

One topic that is almost guaranteed to surface is the controversial restriction placed several years ago on clubs that use dogs to hunt deer. Proposals to decriminalize hunting deer over bait, and longer dove seasons also have surfaced in the past.

Georgia is nearing completion on its first comprehensive deer management plan, which incorporates surveys, biological data and opinions from both hunters and non-hunters to devise strategies for dealing with whitetails in a state where hunting is on the decline.

"I know the deer management plan will be one of the major things everyone will want to discuss," Cummings said, noting that the document is undergoing final changes by a steering committee this month.

The meeting in Thomson will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 5, at the Augusta Tech campus in McDuffie County. Everyone is welcome.

Other meeting times and locations are as follows. All meetings are at 7 p.m.

 •  Monday, Jan. 3: Georgia Wildlife Federation headquarters, Covington, Ga.; and Roquemore Center, National Fairgrounds, Perry, Ga.

 •  Tuesday, Jan. 4: Coastal Georgia Center, Savannah; White County Courthouse, Cleveland, Ga.

 •  Wednesday, Jan. 5: Southeastern Technical College, Vidalia, Ga.

 •  Thursday, Jan. 6: Lee County Library, Leesburg, Ga.; The Forum, Rome, Ga.

THREE DEER, TWO SHOTS: From the deer woods come many fine stories, including one this week from Scott Wingard of Columbia County. He wanted to share the story of how he and his young sons brought home three deer with just two shots - on the boys' first hunting trip.

Wingard was hunting with sons Jackson, 6, and Parker, who is 4.

"Just before dark, we took a small doe," he wrote. Then a huge eight-pointer lumbered into view, and Wingard took that one, too, much to the delight of the boys.

"They were very excited, and expect nothing less on their next hunt," he wrote.

After loading the two deer into the truck, they headed for home, only to collide with a huge doe a few miles from their deer lease.

"The doe was completely intact," Wingard explained, "so we threw her into the truck as well."

MASTER ANGLER: Jewel Jessie of Hephzibah has been an active member and volunteer for many years with organizations including the Fort Gordon Sportsman's Club.

That's why he was honored recently as recipient of the club's 2004 Master Angler Award. Jessie placed first in five tournaments, second in two tournaments and third in two other tournaments.

Jessie's fishing partner, Bob Palagyi, was runner-up, and would have been co-angler except for one tournament when Jessie fished with his brother, winning first place while Palagyi finished second.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.