Small Game Management in Georgia
In the early 1900's, America was in danger of losing many of its wildlife species. Destruction and loss of habitat, industrialization and overexploitation of certain animals resulted in a major decline of many species including the white-tailed deer and eastern wild turkey. Facing this threat, hunters, the sport hunting industry and other conservationists joined together in supporting legislation to develop the Wildlife Restoration Program of 1937. This legislation is often referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act.
Hunting and target shooting purchases have supported wildlife conservation for over half a century. The Wildlife Restoration Program is funded with money received from taxes on the sale of sporting guns and ammunition. In the 1970's, tax receipts from the sale of handguns and archery equipment were added to the Program fund. As a result, over four billion dollars have been generated for wildlife conservation.
More than 45 million acres of land funded by the Wildlife Restoration Program are maintained for wildlife across the country. The Pittman Robertson Act funds essential research by more than 25,000 professional wildlife biologists nationwide. The program also supports the training of more than 750,000 people annually in firearms and archery safety. In addition, hundreds of public shooting ranges have been built with Program dollars. Hunters and shooters have been investing in the future of America's wildlife since 1937.
Many hunters (particularly "baby-boomers") grew up hunting rabbits, squirrels and quail. There were few big game hunting opportunities available during the 1950's - 1970's. In the 1970's, deer herds were small, but growing, and turkey populations didn't increase significantly until the 1980's. Thus small game species provided most of the hunting opportunity.
As the deer and turkey populations grew, small game populations declined. Hunting leases became more popular and interest in small game hunting declined. Declining populations of quail and rabbits as a result of habitat loss coupled with reduced access for hunting small game, resulted in a tremendous decline of quail and rabbit hunters. Dove hunting has continued to remain popular during this period. Squirrel hunting has declined but not as much as quail or rabbit hunting.
Whether you enjoy hunting quail with a fine English setter, treeing a squirrel with a Jack Russell terrier or listening to a pack of beagles trail a rabbit, small game hunting is special. For most of us, it means quality time spent with our family or friends. Hunting is not just recreation. Research has indicated that there is something much deeper. Hunting is an important social and psychological activity for hunters (Wildlife and the American Mind, 1998).
Aldo Leopold stated in his 1949 essay, "Goose Music" that "It is not merely an acquired taste: the instinct that finds delight in the sight and pursuit of game is bred into the very fiber of the race. Golf is sophisticated exercise, but the love of hunting is almost a psychological characteristic. A man may not care for golf and still be human. But the man who does not like to see, hunt, photograph, or otherwise outwit birds or animals is hardly normal. He is supercivilized, and I for one do not know how to deal with him. We are dealing therefore with some thing that lies very deep."
The Wildlife Restoration success stories for big game, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, Rocky Mountain elk and pronghorn antelope, have been outstanding. However, some small game species such as rabbits and particularly quail have experienced dramatic population declines during the past 40 years. The declines are primarily the result of habitat loss.
The following chapters on small game species discuss the biology, habitats and management needed to assist interested landowners and managers in creating good small game habitat on the properties they manage.
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