Last week, the Progress reported that multiple deer carcasses had been illegally dumped on a road behind the commercial area off Highway 515 – a problem spot for animal carcass dumping in the county.
After the article was published, a nearby resident who has complained about deer carcass dumping on the same road in the past called the Progress and weighed in on the gravity of the situation. The man, who wished to remain anonymous because of potential backlash, said he had personally counted 138 deer carcasses on the road in the last four years.
The resident, a hunter himself, said while both Progress articles addressed one issue – illegal carcass dumping – they didn’t address other unethical practices of hunters taking too many deer in one season and not properly logging their harvest, which is required by law.
“It’s just not ethical,” the resident said. “And when you see 20-30 black trash bags all with the red ties, you know they’re probably coming from the same person or group. Some are processed and some are the full body – like they took too many. They’ll hunt, process them themselves, dump them, and don’t report them like they should.”
The man said he regularly drives that road and has kept a log since he moved to the area. The dumping starts just before Thanksgiving and lasts through the deer season. Prior to the 2018-2019 season he counted around 80 deer carcasses.
“That jumped to 138 this season, which is like 50 more deer,” he said. “They’ll be in the middle of the road, some of them in bags, just getting run over and over and the bags bust open. It’s disgusting and not right.”
In Georgia, hunters must keep a Harvest Record and report their deer harvest through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. According to the Georgia DNR, reporting harvest data “provides county-level information for hunters and land managers, assists conservation rangers in enforcing game laws, and informs management decisions made by professional biologists.”
Georgia DNR Game Warden Cpl. Casey Jones said that in his experience, most hunters do legally report their game.
“I feel most hunters do what they’re supposed to,” Jones said. “In any area you’re going to have some bad elements, people who do what they want, but from what me and other game wardens have seen that’s very few.”
Jones noted that some hunters, especially novice hunters, may not realize they’re breaking the law.
“There are a lot of game and fish laws, and new hunters may not know they took the wrong kind of deer or during the wrong time of year,” he said. “In those instances, it’s best to self-report to us what happened first so we don’t have to dig around and find out.”
Hunters found not properly reporting harvests, hunting out of season or with the wrong kind of weapon can be charged with poaching. Most poaching charges are misdemeanors, but some, such as hunting deer at night or improperly hunting/baiting bears are considered high and aggravated crimes.
With the exploding population of deer over the last 30 years, bag limits have been increased. Technology has also made it possible to log harvests online.
“Used to, we had to physically tag the animal and affix the tax with the hunter’s information, but that’s changed,” Jones said. “But documenting harvests is a good way for us to estimate population and a good law enforcement tool.”
For the 2018-2019 season, Go Outdoors Georgia reported 691 total deer harvested in Pickens. Of those, 407 were male and 283 were female. Statewide, a total of 175,151 deer were reported harvested.
For the 2017-2018 season, Go Outdoors Georgia reported 560 total deer reported killed in Pickens. Of those, 365 were male and 195 were female, with 436 taken by firearm and 97 taken by muzzle loader.
Georgia hunters are allowed 10 antlerless deer and two antlered deer per season. One of the two antlered deer must have a minimum of four points, 1 inch or longer, on one side of the antlers. (Special county antler restrictions apply in some counties).
Georgia DNR’s harvest guidelines require hunters to fill in the harvest date and county on a paper harvest record (or online at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com or through the Outdoors GA app) BEFORE moving a turkey or deer from the site of a kill (except deer hunts on Wildlife Management Areas or National Wildlife Refuges that requires hunters to check out their harvested deer). Within 72 hours, all harvested deer must be reported through Georgia Game Check, which provides a harvest confirmation number. If a hunter entered the kill on their paper Harvest Record, they will need to go online to Georgia Game Check browser to report the harvest and get a confirmation number and enter that number on the paper Harvest Record.
Hunters also may call Georgia Game Check (1-800-366-2661) 24/7 to report their harvest and receive a harvest confirmation number.
Jones said while it’s now possible to log your harvest online and through an app, he recommends hunters keep those hard paper records with them during the hunt.
“Hunters are required to log their harvest before they move the carcass, and they can do it through the app, but sometimes they won’t have cell service and will get in a situation where they have to leave illegally with the carcass or walk out of the site to get service and report,” he said. “It’s a good idea to always keep those hard copies with you.”