Opinion & Attitude Survey Toward Deer Management in Georgia
Opinions on Deer Management in Georgia
Agreement was much higher than disagreement that deer are properly managed in Georgia; nonetheless, there were substantial percentages in disagreement.
Agreement exceeded disagreement that landowners properly manage deer on their land in Georgia.
Respondents place a high value on deer management: overwhelming majorities of the general population (89%), hunters (96%), and landowners (88%) said knowing that deer populations are being properly managed in Georgia is very or somewhat important to them. Furthermore, a large majority of deer hunters (71%) indicated that they would support an increase in deer hunting license fees if they knew that the money would be used for deer management. The support for an increase in license fees evaporates when the money would not be used for deer management: 85% oppose an increase in fees if the money would not be used for deer management.
When asked if they support or oppose controlling deer in urban and suburban areas, large majorities of all three groups support doing so (79% of the general population, 89% of hunters, and 86% of landowners). There is not wide agreement on the method for controlling deer in these areas, however: substantial percentages advocate some form of hunting, but sizable percentages favor trapping and relocation.
In general, the GDNR received positive ratings, with large majorities of all three groups rating the performance of the GDNR as excellent or good. When asked specifically to rate the GDNR's Deer Management Program, the ratings are again positive, with excellent and good ratings far exceeding fair and poor ratings. Also, an overwhelming majority of deer hunters are satisfied with how well the GDNR incorporates hunters' wants and needs into the management of the state's deer population. Finally, a majority of landowners said that the GDNR does excellent or good at incorporating landowners' wants and needs into the state's deer management.
Despite the positive ratings of the GDNR, respondents more often think the GDNR should provide more, rather than less, deer management assistance to private landowners.
Respondents' perceived knowledge levels of the GDNR's Deer Management Program are fairly widely distributed, with hunters claiming the most knowledge, followed by landowners, then the general population.
Regarding deer management strategies, overwhelming majorities of all three groups (82% of the general population, 99% of hunters, and 96% of landowners) support legal deer hunting in Georgia. Most of that support is strong support. The support is also high when respondents are asked if they support hunting as a way to manage deer populations (82% of the general population, 98% of hunters, and 93% of landowners strongly or moderately support hunting as a way to manage deer).
As discussed above, there was no general consensus on the best way to manage deer in urban and suburban environments when respondents were asked in a follow-up question to whether deer should be controlled in urban and suburban areas. Respondents were asked about control strategies individually, as well.
Regarding strategies to control deer in parks and other recreation areas that traditionally been closed to hunting, there was more support for regulated hunting than for use of sharpshooters and professionals.
Finally, regarding deer hunting regulations that may have an effect on deer populations and deer management, there was much support for management to favor large-antlered deer and for allowing muzzleloaders to use magnifying scopes on their guns. There was less support for allowing hunting of deer over bait, and there was low support, relative to the other deer management regulations, for fenced hunting, either of white-tailed deer or exotic deer.
Regarding the making of deer management decisions, respondents value scientific information and the professional judgment of GDNR biologists; social concerns and political concerns are not considered important in deer management decisions.
Overall, respondents think the deer herd in Georgia is very or somewhat healthy (74% of the general population, 85% of hunters, and 79% of landowners).
Respondents, in general, think the deer population in their county has grown over the past 5 years.
Majorities of the general population (51%) and hunters (59%) think the deer population in their county is about right, but a little less than a majority of landowners (44%) think the deer population is about right. Substantial percentages, however, think the deer population in their county is overabundant (31% of the general population, 28% of hunters, and 44% of landowners). Indeed, for each group, the percentage saying deer are overabundant greatly exceeds the percentage saying deer are under-abundant. Mirroring these results, when asked if the deer population in their county should be increased or decreased, majorities of all groups said it should remain the same (51% of the general population and landowners, and 61% of hunters), although substantial percentages said it should be decreased; the percentages answering "decreased" exceeded the percentages answering "increased."
In follow up, those respondents who said that they thought the deer population in their county should be increased were asked about their support for increasing the deer population when five specific consequences were discussed. Three of the five consequences did not greatly erode support, with majorities in support of increasing the deer population, even if it means more damage to gardens and landscaping, even if it means more crop damage, and even if it means there would be more automobile-deer collisions. Support nearly completely disappears if respondents are informed that an increased deer population could result in less food and poorer quality habitat for other wildlife or in poorer health for the deer herd.
Those respondents who said that they thought the deer population in their county should be decreased most commonly gave as their reasoning a reduction in automobile-deer collisions. Among landowners, a large percentage cited damage to crops.
In follow up, those respondents who said that they thought the deer population in their county should be decreased were asked about their support for decreasing the deer population when four specific consequences were discussed. Majorities were still in support despite any of the consequences named: that fewer people would be able to see a deer, that fewer hunters would be spending money, that fewer wildlife watchers would be spending money, and that fewer hunters would be able to harvest a deer.
The general population (75%) and hunters (81%) overwhelmingly said that they have not experienced any damage caused by deer over the past 12 months; however, landowners are more divided, with 56% saying they did not experience any damage, but 43% saying that they did.
Regarding automobile-deer collisions, substantial percentages (29% of the general population, 27% of hunters, and 35% of landowners) reported that they or someone from their household had a collision with a deer in the past 2 years. Relative to other driving hazards, majorities of respondents say that deer are a minor hazard rather than a major hazard. Very low percentages said deer are not a road hazard. Careless drivers and drunk drivers are considered much greater hazards.
Majorities of all groups did not know how well the GDNR responds to property owner requests for assistance to reduce damage caused by nuisance wildlife; however, of those who gave an answer, ratings of excellent or good exceeded ratings of fair or poor, particularly among hunters and landowners.
Respondents are split whether responsibility for managing deer-human conflicts should change (from the GDNR and its use of hunting as a control means) in areas where urbanization has closed hunting access, although slightly more respondents said that the responsibility should change than said it should not change.
Finally, there is more agreement than disagreement, particularly among hunters, that municipalities that pass firearm ordinances, thereby preventing deer hunting, should be required to mitigate deer damage.
Regarding managing for a quality deer herd, it is instructive to first determine what deer hunters think "quality deer" means. Most commonly, deer hunters think management for quality deer means larger deer (64%), although a substantial percentage think it means more healthy deer (29%).
When all respondents were asked if they support or oppose management for large-antlered deer, hunters were the most likely to support, although support was still in the majority among the other groups. Indeed, majorities of all groups support such management: 63% of the general population, 87% of hunters, and 67% of landowners support management for large-antlered deer.
When asked about specific management strategies for quality deer, hunters are overwhelmingly willing to give up the chance to shoot small-antlered bucks while at the same time shooting more does for an increased chance in later years of shooting large-antlered bucks (83%). However, deer hunters do not support a regulation requiring that a deer hunter must harvest a doe before he or she can harvest a buck (52% oppose, while 38% support).
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