Georgia's Quality Deer Herd

Georgia needs to do like South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and so on. Have you ever heard this statement? We sure have; wish we had nickel for every time we have heard it regarding deer management. It often seems that a lot of time is spent looking at the neighbors' grass and the longer we look; the greener it gets. Meanwhile, we don't inspect our own grass with same detail.  And, so it is with deer hunting in Georgia and Georgia's deer herd. So, how green is our grass? You may be surprised!

Georgia supports a very healthy, productive deer herd. The most recent pre-hunt deer herd estimate for Georgia was a conservative 1.2 million deer (2002). The result of this healthy, productive deer herd is that Georgia's 280,000 deer hunters harvested 410,000 deer in 2002. On the other hand, your comrades in Alabama harvested 410,000, Florida - 140,000, South Carolina - 309,000 and Tennessee - 157,000. This is quite a feat considering our pre-hunt population estimate in 1980, just 20 years ago, was only 473,000 and our harvest was about 135,500 deer. Georgia's deer hunters and deer herd have come a long way in a short period of time and are no doubt leaders in the South! Is their grass still looking greener?

What about the successful Georgia deer hunters? The average deer hunter harvests 1.5 deer per season and it takes the average deer hunter just 14 days to harvest a deer. This is incredible when compared to 1980 when the average deer hunter harvested 0.4 deer, and it took the average hunter 31 days to harvest a deer! Deer hunting in the 1980's was good; now it's great.  No doubt, the good old days of deer hunting are right now! Georgia deer hunters are harvesting more deer and are more successful than ever before.

Good Ole Days of Deer Hunting Are Now

Well, we briefly described the outstanding deer hunting opportunity that we cherish in Georgia. Now, what about our deer herd? We have mentioned its general size, but what about its quality? It may be of surprise, but Georgia actually has a quality deer herd and has since about 1996. There are several ways to judge the quality of our deer herd including Boone & Crockett records (B&C), Pope & Young records (P&Y) and the number of mature bucks (2½ years old and older) harvested.

Did you know that Georgia has 80 B&C record bucks? Our surrounding states do not even compare. We are numero uno! At a distant second to Georgia is Tennessee with just 18 B&C bucks and third is Alabama with 11. Our grass seems to be quite green!

Boone & Crockett Bucks Entered in All-Time Records Book through 2000 in Georgia and Surrounding States

Yet, our grass gets even greener. Georgia has 198 P&Y record bucks!  Once again, Georgia is the leader. Alabama is second at 110 and then comes Tennessee at 105. That other grass is starting to have several brown spots (no pun intended)!

Pope & Young Bucks
Georgia and Surrounding States (1980-2001)

Finally, how does our buck harvest look between yearlings and adults? A final testament to the quality of your Georgia deer herd is the fact that more quality bucks are being taken in Georgia than ever before. In 1975, 70% of the bucks taken were yearling bucks (1.5 years old) and only 30% were true adults. In 2002, only 47% of bucks taken were yearlings and 53% of bucks taken were quality, adult bucks.

Georgia Hunters Are Taking More Quality Bucks

It seems that Georgia hunters have the greenest grass in the neighborhood.  Georgia far exceeds its neighboring states in producing a quality deer herd. How did this happen? Well, it happened while we were paying attention to our neighbors. First and foremost, Georgia tailored a management system unique to Georgia. There is little doubt that voluntary restraint in the harvest of young bucks has contributed to this success; however, this practice is no silver bullet all by itself. Additionally, Georgia slowly increased the doe bag limit and either sex days while holding the buck bag limit constant at two.

As a result, the doe harvest steadily increased relieving hunting pressure on bucks. In fact, we lead the nation in doe harvest. At the same time, the harvest of quality bucks has increased while the harvest of younger bucks has decreased. Congratulations, you and the DNR have managed and molded Georgia's deer herd into a quality deer herd and made Georgia the leader in biologically sound deer management.

Doe Harvest Has Steadily Increased For Over 25 Years

It is up to us collectively to keep Georgia's grass the greenest. Enjoy your bragging rights; you have earned them. However, new and old threats keep appearing that stand to place at risk your hard work, the quality of Georgia's deer herd and your bragging rights. Remember, Georgia developed its quality deer herd though a path of our own making, not by doing what others do. You can keep it that way by keeping Georgia like Georgia.




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