Deer season opens: what new regulations you need to know

Published 11:50 pm Friday, October 18, 2013

Deer hunting season opens in the state Saturday with some new limitations for hunters on either sex hunting.
The firearms deer season begins Saturday and will conclude Jan. 15. As stated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, this year hunters will have to abide by rules where for certain time periods the deer harvest is buck-only — ensuring the population of one million deer is maintained.
Hunters can hunt either sex with firearms from Oct. 19 through Nov. 30 and then from Dec. 26 through Jan. 15 in the Southern zone, which includes Decatur and other surrounding counties.
Hunters can hunt with dogs in Decatur County beginning Oct. 19 through Nov. 30 for either sex and then hunt bucks only from Dec. 1 through Dec. 25.
The season limit is 10 antlerless deer and two antlered deer. One of the two antlered deer must have a minimum of four points, 1 inch or longer on one side of the antlers.
In  an online live chat with state deer biologist, Charlie Killmaster, The Post-Searchlight was able to get some common questions answered for the upcoming deer season.
Q:  Have coyotes hurt the deer population this season?
A: “Statewide, there is no doubt, we have seen an increase in the coyote population particularly in the last 15 years,” Killmaster said. “We don’t have a lot of good ways to gauge that increase of the coyote population, we have so few trappers to get information from, but we have started asking questions on our telephone survey of deer hunters and small game hunters on how many coyotes they are seeing.”
He said in general the impact the impact on the fawn crop is evident in what is called the fawn improvement rate — basically the ratio of fawns to the number of adult does.
“That’s how we regulate the reproductive capacity of the deer herd,” Killmaster said. “And as the coyote population increased starting approximately 15 years ago, we started seeing a decrease in the fawn recruitment rate. Since then we have seen a 20 percent decrease in that fawn recruitment rate at the time from late 90s until mid 2000s.”

Q: Why is there a reduction in either sex hunting days this year?
A: “We chose those specific dates in order to insure a moderate reduction in the doe harvest,” he said. “Sure, we could have gone with the front end of the season and taken it out then, and could have seen a bigger reduction in the doe harvest, but technically we are taking smaller steps to try and achieve this goal of stabilization.” He said it’s been a long time since most counties in the state have seen days that are buck only —so everyone needs to be mindful of that change.

Q: Is there anyway to forecast the rut for the season and when will that be?
A: “A few areas of extreme North Georgia and extreme Southwest Georgia have a rut in January,” Killmaster said. “So that is something to keep in mind when taking off of work and that rut essentially occurs at the same time every year in that region — but there are factors that go into the intensity of the rut.”

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Learn more about regulations and limits this season for Decatur County hunters.