Georgia expands alligator and bear hunts, unifies deer hunting regulations

Anyone wishing to try alligator and bear hunting will have more opportunities in upcoming seasons.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board recently lengthened alligator season, increased the quota from 850 to 1,000 and added more counties for bear hunting.

The DNR also leveled the field for deer hunters by mandating the second Sunday of January as the end of deer season for the whole state, instead of giving southern counties an extra two weeks.

“That obviously created a kind of two-tiered system,” said Tina Brunjes, manager of DNR’s Game Management Program.

Next year, Jan. 10 will end deer season -- except in archery-only counties.

Changes have also been made in scheduled “doe days,” and additional rules apply in regard to firearms and antlered bucks, depending on the county.

Hunting rules can be so complicated, the state literally wrote the book on it.

“That is why we put out this free hunting guide,” Brunjes said. “Definitely in a year like this, with a big season change, you really need to pick up a copy.”

Hunting guides are distributed next month in sporting goods stores that sell hunting licenses and will be posted online at www.georgiawild life.com.

Georgia also now runs an online registration system at www.gohuntgeorgia.com for hunting enthusiasts to apply for scheduled hunts on public land or state-managed property.

“We are especially pleased to bring hunters a new system this year that improves and streamlines the application process,” John Bowers, chief of the Game Management Section with the Wildlife Resources Division, said in a DNR news release.

A variety of quota hunts are available as the state manages the population of deer, alligator, waterfowl, dove and other wildlife.

Participation for licensed hunters is often limited for quota hunts and events for adults and children.

The deadline to apply varies.

The last day to register for the expanded alligator hunt is July 31.

Aug. 15 is the deadline to apply for dove hunts, including those allowing children.

Adults and children applying for deer hunts must be registered by Sept. 1.

Applicants can use the same online account used to purchase their license.

Every two years, Georgia re-evaluates its wildlife population, listens to input from hunters and other stakeholders and draws up regulations.

As the bear population eases closer to metro Atlanta, DNR opened hunting in more north Georgia counties. Monitoring nuisance reports, such as last week’s bear sighting in east Bibb County, helps the state manage hunting and set quotas.

“Bears get respectful where they’re hunted, and where they’re not, they can get a little sassy,” Brunjes said.

Alligator hunting is a growing sport, but it is closely regulated as well.

It is illegal in Georgia to hunt an alligator that is less than 4 feet long,

Near Lake Walter F. George on the Alabama border, gators have to be at least 8 feet long because Georgia wants to give the reptiles a chance to repopulate in that popular hunting spot.

“We want to offer as much of an opportunity as we can, but they are different critters, in every sense of the word, in managing that population,” Brunjes said. “It boils down to scientific methods of controlling the population.”

New hunting regulations will be in effect until 2017, when they will be tweaked again depending on wildlife populations and other concerns.

“If you get it down this year, there will be no changes next year,” said Brunjes, who stressed the need for learning the changes. “You don’t want to get in trouble.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.