Deer season in full swing as summer turns to fall

Fall is here, although the current weather has yet to indicate it. The subtle moves of one season changing into another are beginning to show, even though Mom Nature seems reluctant to admit it.

 

Cruise the countryside and it is more evident every day. Most fields of corn are now stripped to stubble, the harvest near complete. Cotton is looking more snow-white each day. Uprooted peanuts lay exposed and drying, soon to be swallowed by massive combines. Trees and bushes are boasting the colors that signal the end of the spring and summer growing seasons.

Fall hunting already is in motion. The seasons and regulations covering the various game birds and animals for the current year have been topics of recent columns, the Georgia deer season is now taking center stage.

Beware of the rut

And with it comes the deer rut season – a time of year when deer are breeding and deer-vehicle collisions are the most likely to occur.

Over the years I have had the ill luck of totaling four vehicles in deer collisions, yet thankfully escaping personal injury in all. Each was instantaneous, with no chance to avoid, and each occurred in the early evenings of the fall months. Each episode remains vividly etched in my mind.

According to State Farm Insurance, in 2016 there were slightly over 6.5 million drivers in Georgia and an estimated 58,119 claims involving deer collisions. Georgia was listed as 19th nationwide for such collisions.

The report also estimated that in Georgia, one in every 126 drivers would likely experience such a collision.

During the rut, deer move mostly at night, particularly pre-dawn and post-dark hours. Where there is one deer there are often several more.

This past week while driving to Screven County I saw two deer dead on the side of the road along with front-end vehicle parts, a signal the rut has begun in that area.

So from one who has been there, done that, and prays it never will happen again, be cautious and alert.

Coming next

While the deer season has been underway statewide for over a month (Sept. 9), it was limited to hunters using archery equipment only. Starting Saturday, Oct. 14, it will expand to allow the use of muzzleloaders. Gun hunters will take to the woods and fields commencing Oct. 21 throughout much of the state, with the entire season ending January 14, 2018.

It should be noted that the taking of doe deer by gun hunters is not allowed until Monday, Oct. 23 in many counties including all coastal counties except Chatham, and those extending up the Savannah River through Screven, southwest through Bulloch, Evans, Tattnall, Toombs, Jeff Davis, Coffee, Berrien, Lowndes, Clinch, Ware, Charlton and all other counties within this sector of the state.

As for those using muzzleloaders, the either-sex rule is allowed from Oct. 14 through Oct 20, limited to antlered only bucks Oct. 21-22, then either-sex Oct.23 for the remainder of the season.

Check page 22 of the 2017-18 Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations publications. The counties mentioned are in the publication are marked in cyan blue.

While Georgia regulations generally allow for each hunter to take a total of 12 deer annually, no more than 10 may be antlerless, and no more than two antlered, one of which must have at least four points, one inch or longer on one side of the antlers.

Hunters are urged to be familiar with the regulations per county. Some are more restrictive relative to minimum antler lengths and weapon use.

Declining harvests

Georgia this year has a deer population estimated to be 1.27 million statewide and about the same for the previous year.

Yet annual harvest summaries for the past four years show a steady decline in total deer harvest numbers.

In 2016 the total deer harvest was 316,463, down 21.7 percent from the previous year of 2015 when the total harvest of 384,998, and also down another 15.4 percent from 2014 when 444, 455 deer were harvested.

Last year’s count

Last year, gun hunters numbered 319,071 and they harvested 260,765 deer, of which 117,553 were bucks – down 8.3 percent from 2015, and 143,212 were doe deer, down 24.3 percent in 2015.

Trophy buck harvests reportedly also have in decline, with no reason being offered. But in many areas night vision cameras show more movement of deer after dark than in the traditional feeding times.

It will be interesting to see what the count will be when current season is complete.

On the fishing front

We didn’t expect to hear a lot about coastal fishing action this past week and into the weekend due to weather conditions and spring tides. I predicted some excellent marsh hen hunting tides, but have not received any reports of hunting activity.

Surprisingly there actually was some excellent inshore catch action, even with muddy waters and strong currents.

Capt. Judy’s team of guides apparently put several groups of clients into reds, spotted sea trout, flounder and even summer trout.

We also heard chatter among others who said the bite with both reds and trout was strong and steady, but most of the trout were throwbacks.

We also heard from others who said the bite just was not on where they were fishing.

On individual told of fishing the low tide periods near oyster shells and hitting the harvest-size reds, limiting out and then doing a lot of catch and release.

The marine weather forecast for much of October still predicts mostly northeast winds, that along with tides mostly in the eight-foot range for several more days, continues to indicate strong tides, wide-spread muddying and limited action.

Bait shrimp continue to be plentiful along the entire coast.

No news as of this writing on Tuesday as to what they feds will allow relative to a 2017 harvest of red snapper.

John Burke can be reached at 912-655-8505, or by email at john.burke@savannahnow.com.

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