A Quest To Quota

Okay, so I am thinking about applying for a quota hunt this year. I am a relatively new hunter, but in conversations with my more experienced hunting friends, I am told that a quota hunt might just help me land that deer I really want.

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Sheffield WMA Trail Cam Image

What is a Quota Hunt?

Quota hunts are defined by the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division as “a scheduled event at a Wildlife Management Area or other state-managed property where a limited number of hunters are allowed.  Quota levels are based upon the sound principles of wildlife management and public desires for a quality hunt.”

So, the day of the hunt, you have a limited number of people that have access to that particular wildlife management area. Less people to “compete” with for the game species you are targeting. Not to mention that wildlife management areas are, well, areas “managed” for wildlife.

While I am interested in deer, there are quota hunts on a variety of WMAs for many different game animals, including deer, waterfowl, alligator, quail, dove, rabbit and turkey. Additionally, there are quota opportunities for adults with children to pursue deer, dove, turkey, quail and waterfowl.

How Do You Pick a Quota Hunt Location?

Here is where it might be worth the time to invest a little research. Ask your friends, ask Facebook, ask anyone you might know in the “wildlife-related” world for their input on the best place to apply. You will probably get a lot of different answers. Wade through the information and decide on a location.

How Do I Apply For a Quota Hunt?

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Paulding Forest WMA Trail Cam Image

Applying for a Quota Hunt is pretty simple. Click HERE and select “Quota Hunts.” Then, follow the steps to complete your application.  One of the most important things to remember is to make sure your email is current and correct in order to receive updates, confirmations or any notices about quota hunts.

The application date to start applying for quota hunts opened June 1 – so you can apply now!

Oh, and don’t forget the application deadlines! They vary depending on hunt type. The first deadlines are July 31 for Alligator, August 15 for Dove, and September 1 for all types of Deer Hunts. Complete quota application deadline list HERE.

What is a Priority Point and How Does It Work?

Hunters are awarded one priority point if not selected for a Quota Hunt. Each person listed on a group application not selected is awarded a priority point. Those priority points, which accumulate, may then be “wagered” on a future quota hunt application to increase the likelihood of selection.

So, since I have never applied for a quota hunt, I don’t have any priority points to wager. However, I have to start somewhere!

Some other “points” about Priority Points:

  • CATEGORY: Priority points wagered must be in the same category (deer, alligator, etc.) as the hunt for which you are applying.
  • MORE POINTS: Popular hunts and those offering less spots may require many years’ worth of priority points to increase selection chances (ex: alligator hunts).Click HERE to see how many priority points were wagered by applicants of past years’ hunts.
  • SELECTED? POINTS DEDUCTED: Any points you wager are subtracted from your points balance for that category.
  • NEW! ONLY POINTS NEEDED DEDUCTED: If you wager more points than needed for selection, ONLY the points that guaranteed selection are subtracted. The rest will be credited back to you.

Wish me luck this hunting season!

Wild Turkey Wellington

Wild turkey is very lean, so it’s a challenge to keep the meat moist. The mushrooms, cooked in butter, and the pastry shell help keep the turkey breast from drying out. A little bacon doesn’t hurt, either. Fancy mushrooms and shallots aren’t necessary to make a flavorful duxelles (pronounced: “duke-sell”) for this wellington. Button mushrooms and onion still cook up with tons of flavor.


Wild Turkey Wellington

16 ounces (1 pound) mushrooms

½ a medium onion

1 TBS butter

1 tsp ground sage

salt and pepper to taste

 

1 wild turkey breast

8 slices bacon

1 sheet puff pastry (still cold from fridge)

 

1 egg

water

coarse salt


Wash and slice the mushrooms. Dice the onion. Either run a knife through the mixture to get it into small pieces, or run it in a food processor until paste-like with some larger pieces.

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the mushroom and onion mixture, the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture is dry and has darkened in color (about 30 minutes).

Lay out the slices of bacon, overlapping them slightly to form a sheet. Trim the turkey breast of any silverskin, tendon or yellow fat and roll to make it a loaf-like shape. Lay the turkey on one side of the the bacon sheet and roll it to wrap it in bacon. Cook the roll in a pan, turning frequently, until the bacon is mostly cooked and most of the fat rendered. The turkey should still be undercooked. Let it cool so it won’t melt the pastry later.

Unfold the sheet of puff pastry and roll it to make it slightly larger and thinner. Spread half of the mushroom and onion paste on the puff pastry. Place the bacon and turkey roll in the center and spread the rest of the mushroom and onion paste on top. Make an egg wash by beating the egg with a splash of water. Brush egg wash around the edges of the puff pastry before folding. Fold up the puff pastry around the meat and vegetable mixture, using additional egg wash as glue when necessary. Turn over and place on a pan that has been greased or coated in foil and then greased. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with coarse salt and use a small sharp knife to cut vents in the top.

Bake at 350 degrees until the turkey is cooked through and the pastry brown. A thermometer inserted in the center of the turkey can help track the doneness of the meat.

Coyote Challenge Contested: Correcting Misconceptions

From March until August, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is promoting the Georgia Coyote Challenge. This program not only encourages the lethal removal of coyotes for wildlife management purposes, but also presents participants with an opportunity to win a lifetime hunting/fishing license (or credit for purchase)—thanks to the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation. This program was developed for the management of wildlife in Georgia, which is an important factor for conservation of our natural resources.

Luckily, the federal excise tax placed on sporting equipment makes it possible for the Wildlife Resources Division to keep our wildlife populations healthy and diverse. This is all thanks to hunters and anglers purchasing this equipment and the proper licensing for its use.  With this revenue our state’s professional wildlife biologists can perform studies to better understand our ecosystems and best manage any current and future issues. Currently, concerns are high about coyotes moving in on metropolitan areas and preying on domestic animals. Through scientific evaluation, it has been determined that the span of time between March and August is optimal for the lethal removal of coyotes for the conservation of all native wildlife, including the coyote. Another great outcome of the Georgia Coyote Challenge is the opportunity to educate hunters who are unsure of regulations in relation to coyotes. In the state of Georgia, coyotes are not—and have never been—a protected species.  Their ability to adapt quickly and exploit resources keeps these animals abundant, and the increased sightings around human developments calls for the regulation of their numbers. In addition, despite the 5 per month entry limit, the season for coyotes is open year round and there are no bag limits.

DNR RESPONSE TO STATEMENTS OF MISINFORMATION

“DNR is supposed to be protecting the diversity of wildlife”

The mission of the Department of Natural Resources is to sustain, enhance, protect and conserve Georgia’s natural, historic and cultural resources for present and future generations, while recognizing the importance of promoting the development of commerce and industry that utilize sound environmental practices. The mission of the Wildlife Resources Division is to conserve, enhance and promote Georgia’s fish and wildlife resources and outdoor heritage (i.e., hunting, trapping, fishing, wildlife watching) through science-driven research, management, regulation and education.

The Georgia Coyote Challenge is consistent with and supported by the DNR and WRD missions.

“Other states have banned similar contests”

There is only one state to have prohibited coyote contests – California. Specifically, California’s approach does not actually prohibit contests; it only prohibits the offering of a prize for the taking of a furbearer or nongame mammal in an individual contest. In California, coyotes may be taken year round (i.e., there is no closed season and no bag limit).

Many other states have recognized that the prevention and management of wildlife conflicts is an essential and responsible component of wildlife management and have used programs similar to the coyote challenge as a tool in addressing the negative impacts of unmanaged predator populations.

“Hard data showing that coyotes significantly impact the populations of other wildlife species is scant to nonexistent”

This is incorrect. In brief review of published literature since 2005, wildlife biologists and researchers have produced more than 29 scientific, peer-reviewed publications documenting significant impacts of coyote predation to fawn survival alone. Further, more than 80% of these were conducted in the Southeast and 40% were specific to Georgia.

“Recent studies in South Carolina concluded that the negative impact of coyotes on deer populations is minimal (Kilgo et al., 2016)”

This is false. The referenced 2016 study concluded that the impact of coyote predation on adult female deer was minimal on the Savannah River Site, however the introduction of that journal article specifically notes that multiple studies have documented the high level of coyote predation on white-tailed deer fawns in the Southeast.

“Coyote ‘removal’ will not reduce the population long-term.”

We agree, and we never stated that the goal of this program was to reduce the statewide coyote population. This program is designed to complement and recognize the existing lethal removal of coyotes by hunters to more effectively manage the impacts of coyote predation on native wildlife and minimize the negative interactions between humans and coyotes including the killing of pets, livestock and public safety and health.

“Initiating this in March is intended to coincide with pup-rearing season.”

This program is focused on this time period (March-August) because the best available peer-reviewed science shows that lethal removal of coyotes during this time period is most effective for reducing negative impacts from coyote predation on native wildlife.

“The ‘Georgia Coyote Challenge’ is a misguided attempt to reduce state coyote numbers”

Again, the Georgia Coyote Challenge is not designed to reduce the statewide coyote population, and we never stated that the goal of this program is to reduce the statewide coyote population. The Georgia Coyote Challenge is a program that highlights a management strategy available to citizens to maintain a biologically appropriate balance of predators and prey.

Deer Movement and Habitat

Have you ever had a deer wander right up to your stand? Maybe it’s luck, but it’s most likely the deer is motivated by food or procreation, the two main reasons deer move.

Unfortunately, as deer movement increases with the rut, they tend to cross roads more frequently and with less caution. Rut is the mating season for deer, and the deer hunting season is scheduled to overlap it. Bucks are most active during the rut. They have a slightly larger roaming range during this time so they can find does and maintain a diverse gene pool. Unfortunately during this three-month-long event, deer may roam into human developments, causing them harm. Hence the increase in deer-car collisions during the rut.

Extreme weather and drought can also cause deer to seek more supportive stomping grounds. Excellent native habitat Continue reading “Deer Movement and Habitat”

Deer Population

Currently, the estimated deer population in Georgia is 1.27 million. This may seem small compared to the 10.1 million people living in Georgia, but it does not account for an accurate number of deer in urban areas. Deer living in suburbs and areas not zoned for hunting are hard to monitor due to the fact that most of the data about the deer population is from hunters in more rural areas. Urban neighborhoods also provide safety and food which attract more deer and desensitize them to human activity. This can be dangerous for both the humans and the deer. It’s important to remember that deer are wildlife, with an emphasis on the “wild.”

Once a wildlife species has entered an urban area, others are sure to follow. In the worst case scenarios it is the predators that decide to join their prey. Predators such as coyotes, and in northern Georgia even bears, will wander into areas of high human population posting a threat to both humans and deer. This predatory threat contributes to the 22% decrease in the number of fawns per doe that survive to hunting season, also known as the fawn recruitment rate. This decrease in the fawn population must be balanced by decreasing the number of does that are allowed to be harvested each year. Decreasing the number of does increases the odds of fawns surviving because more fawns have the chance to be born.

Although coyotes can prove useful in maintaining other wildlife populations, too many can be a bad thing. Determining the extent of the coyote population is a job for trail camer
as. These motion detecting camouflaged cameras take pictures when something moves in front of it, and seems to be the most accurate way to estimate the number of any animal that may be present. If there is in fact a coyote infestation a heavy amount of trapping preceding and during fawning will yield the best results. However, the cunning nature of coyotes may prevent their capture with live traps, consequently making hunting the best and most effective option.

coyote-gadnr-wrd-stevekyles

Bears are also a predatory threat to fawns but less to adult deer. While this is a problem primarily in the northern region, it is a very complex issue that may include competition over habitat, clashing with other species, and supplementary predators. However, the exact reasons and circumstances are unclear and call for more research to gather accurate information for addressing this issue.

5 Tips for Waterfowl Season

#1. Make sure you are properly licensed

No matter your level of experience, it is always a good idea to review the requirements for any kind of hunting. Regulations and requirements can change season to season, leaving you in the dark and with a possible fine. Just a few minutes looking over what licenses you need can save you some headache and some money. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources calls for hunters to have a Georgia Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program, also known as a HIP License. There is also the Federal Duck Stamp that all duck hunters sixteen years of age and older must have. These are in addition to a standard hunting license and a Georgia Waterfowl Conservation license.

#2. Know your limits and the species

Different species of waterfowl have different limits per day, and even Continue reading “5 Tips for Waterfowl Season”

A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Public Lands — Part 3

By: Charlie Killmaster, State Deer Biologist

How to Hunt – Hunting Etiquette for Public Lands

Step 7– Head to the check station and read all available signs. This is where you will find current information about any issues that have come up since the Guide was printed.

Step 8– Public Land Etiquette. There are no designated spots on public land, with only a few exceptions (such as blind areas on some waterfowl hunts or the island deer hunts). Because everything is “first come, first serve,” you need to do plenty of scouting in advance of a hunt and pick out several good spots (5 or more, preferably). This will save you a heap of heartache in the wee hours of the morning when there’s a truck parked in your only spot. It should be widely known, and accepted, that if someone beats you to an area, you gracefully bow out and move on. But that doesn’t mean walk another 100 yards and start climbing a tree. If you can still see another hunter from the stand, you’re probably too close.

Likewise, always expect the possibility that another hunter will walk in on you. In this case, politely flash your light—or whistle if it’s daylight—and the other will likely move on. There will sometimes be the occasion that someone is not aware of these common courtesies or simply doesn’t care; just remember that you have access to hunt 1 million acres of prime land for the nominal fee of $19. If it’s daylight and someone walks past you, don’t get discouraged, I’ve seen tons of huge bucks killed because a late hunter arriving in the woods jumped the buck out of cover, and he ran past the next guy that was already set up.

A good rule of thumb for avoiding other hunters is to stay away from trucks. Unless it’s a large parking area that is a single access point for hundreds of acres, you shouldn’t park next to anyone else and risk disturbing them.

Here are a few other little “Dos and Don’ts”:

Don’t skybust (shooting at high-flying, distant birds). You will not kill a duck or dove from 100 yards away. Wait until you think you could hit it with a rock.

Do sight in your rifle.

Do bring a deer cart. It will make your life much easier—unless you’re Paul Bunyan or a glutton for punishment. Hand trucks and dragging tarps make adequate substitutes for the budget conscious like myself.

Do bring a climbing stand (w/ harness). Mobility is key to being successful, and your risk of having a stand stolen is higher if you leave it in the woods.

Don’t cordon off spots with signs and tons of flagging tape that you have no intention of picking up when you leave. This is litter, and there are no designated spots. In fact, some hunters will target those spots thinking they are better and try to beat you there.

Don’t gut your deer and throw the guts or carcass on the roadside or campground. Gut it where it drops, or drag any unusable parts into the woods 30 or 40 yards away from other hunters.

Don’t knowingly try to cut someone off to a bird when turkey hunting. There’s nothing worse than working a bird and have someone run in and spook him. If you hear 5 owl tooters and crow cackles all honking at the same gobbler, it’s best to move on to another spot.

A few other little odds and ends.

-Dove dates are typically only listed for WMAs that have dove fields. You can still hunt doves on other WMAs when small game dates and state dove season coincide.

-For small game animals not specifically listed, they may be hunted when WMA small game dates for the area you are hunting and state season for that animal coincide, unless otherwise specified. This generally applies to rabbits, quail, squirrels, woodcock, snipe, grouse, waterfowl, foxes, bobcats, crows, alligators (quota only), marsh hens, and raccoons.

-You can only kill bears on WMAs that specifically list a season for them.

-Coyotes and feral hogs can be taken during any open season only with the legal weapons for that season, unless otherwise specified.

-Nongame, unprotected species may only be taken during small game dates. This generally includes armadillos, groundhogs, beavers, starlings, English sparrows, and pigeons. You’ll have to resist the temptation to blast an armadillo with your 30-06 during deer season.

-Bicycles are great tools for accessing remote areas for turkey and small game seasons.

-You can’t take ATVs off-road, so they don’t do you much good even where they are allowed.

You should already know all the information in Step 8 since you read the General WMA Regulations 3 times.

A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Public Lands — Part 2

By: Charlie Killmaster, State Deer Biologist

What to Hunt – Choosing the Species

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Step 4– Choose a species or group of species to hunt (deer, turkey, bear, small game, waterfowl, etc.) and choose a weapon type (archery, firearms, or primitive weapons). Under the WMA heading, you will see the available dates for each species—or group of species—and weapon, along with some additional and very important information. Most areas have far more restrictive dates than state seasons. You’ll probably notice a lot of terms and symbols that you aren’t familiar with, so I’ll define some of those now:legend

Quota (Q)- This means you have to apply online by a certain deadline and be selected in order to attend the hunt. The number indicates the number of slots available. There are no “stand-by” programs for most hunts, the number of selected hunters is already adjusted for “no-shows.”

Check-in (C)- All hunters must first visit the check station and sign up for the hunt prior to hunting. For deer, you have to bring any deer you kill back to the check station to be weighed and measured by DNR personnel. DO NOT mark deer on your harvest record or Game Check your deer on Check-in hunts; you will be given bonus tags. Unless otherwise specified, there is a limit of 2 deer on Check-in hunts; only one of them may be a buck if there are antler restrictions on the particular WMA.

Sign-in (S) – All hunters must visit the check station and sign up for the hunt prior to hunting and you must sign out any game you kill yourself at the check station. Your deer harvest record and season bag limit applies on these hunts. All deer and turkey taken during a sign-in hunt must be marked on your Harvest Record and checked. You may kill only 2 deer on hunts lasting fewer than 7 days.

Buck Only – Hunters can only shoot antlered bucks. Button-heads will get you a ticket.

Buck Only/Either Sex Last Day – Hunters cannot kill an antlerless deer until the last day of the hunt. There may be several variations to this such as either sex last 2 days or last 3 days.

Quality Buck – The area has antler restrictions, so you need to check the special regulations for that area to see what they are. Some have a minimum of 4 points on one side, others must have a 15” spread or 16” main beam length to be legal. Typically you will have a one-buck limit on these hunts.

Either Sex – This means you can kill any type of deer for the duration of the hunt, but you are still subject to the bag limit.

Step 5– Read the special regulations. This section under each area heading will include site-specific rules that may not apply to other areas, such as antler restrictions on bucks.

Step 6- Purchase all required licenses at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com. You will need a hunting license, WMA license (if hunting a WMA), Big Game license outdoors-ga(if hunting Big Game), HIP permit (if hunting migratory birds), Federal and State Duck Stamp (if hunting Waterfowl), and any additional permits required for land outside of WMAs (some USACOE land requires a permit). A Sportsman’s or Lifetime License will cover all these except for the federal duck stamp, other federal permits, and state park quota hunt fees.

Every hunter must also have a Harvest Record, which is available at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com. This can be printed or stored in the GA Outdoor Georgia App.

A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Public Lands — Part 1

By: Charlie Killmaster, State Deer Biologist

Where to Hunt – Choosing a Public Area

hunting-regs-coverStep 1– Pick up a copy of the current Guide to Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations. The Guide is also available at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.

Step 2- In the Guide, find the General WMA Regulations. Read this whole section 3 times. Even experienced hunters may realize there are several things they may not be aware of about hunting on public land.

Step 3– Choose an area you would like to hunt. There are several different types of public hunting land available including state managed Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), National Forest (Federal), National Wildlife Refuges (Federal), State Parks (State), National Parks (Federal), and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE, Federal).

There is a locator map in the Guide, or you can visit our interactive Georgia Outdoor Map to help you choose areas near you. After you’ve decided on the property you’d like to hunt, look up the chosen area in the Guide to see the specific regulations for that area. Georgia has many public hunting areas around the state, and regulations differ widely from area to area. Federal areas are typically listed in a separate section after WMAs in the Guide.

All WMAs are partly or wholly managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, but the ownership of the land can vary and includes state-owned land, private land leased by the state, and federal land. For example, Cedar Creek is a WMA, but the majority is owned by the Forest Service, so some Forest Service rules also apply—such as No ATVs.

Georgia’s First Youth-Focused Wildlife Management Area

This post is part of a series by DNR intern Mishay Allen about the Wildlife Resources Division’s Game Management Section.

DCIM100GOPROBuck Shoals Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is the first WMA in Georgia that is solely focused on youth hunting opportunities. Its small size and other natural features make it
the perfect place for Georgia’s youth to learn to hunt. In addition to dove hunts, there are deer, bear, turkey and small game hunts that will all take place this hunting season. Continue reading “Georgia’s First Youth-Focused Wildlife Management Area”