Georgia deer hunting is hard, and it's getting harder. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates hunting practices throughout the state. Georgia's DNR regulates license issuance, hunting limits, and applicable hunting restrictions. The Wildlife Resources Division is responsible for offering various services, including directly issuing hunting licenses, boat registrations, and hunter education courses.
Georgia's hunting calendar is updated in two-year cycles and adjusted for opening dates to fall on their respective Saturdays. For 2022-2023, deer season starts September 10, 2022, and ends January 8, 2023. An extended archery season for certain counties runs until January 31, 2023. Georgia hunting season dates vary based on region, weapon choice, and even county and region. Sources predict a mixed review for this next season's outlook, with some concern about areas experiencing an extended rut period and others a decline in the deer population. Georgia is maintaining its 12-deer limit per season with additional restrictions within that number.
Remember, always refer to the DNR's official dates and information when determining when and where to hunt in Georgia, as well as reviewing the legal methods of take and other regulations.
Georgia Deer Hunting
Typical Season Dates
Georgia recognizes an either-sex archery season statewide, extended archery season in certain counties, primitive weapons and youth-only firearms seasons, and a general firearms season. Generally, seasons run from the second week in September to the second week in January of the following year, with some exceptions and adjustments. Hunters may find additional county-specific restrictions here.
Bag Limits for Georgia Deer Hunting
Limits can be specific to regions and counties, with a general limitation of 12 per season. Georgia specifies that of the 12, 10 antlerless and two antlered deer are allowed, with at least one of the two required to have a minimum of four points at least one inch in length.
Hunters must meet this requirement on either antler or the antlered deer must have a minimum of 15-inch outside antler spread, except for Dooly and Macon counties, where the only requirement listed is a minimum outside antler spread of 15 inches.
Button bucks are considered "antlerless," while antlered deer are only legal if these antlers are visible above the hairline.
In my local opinion, those limits need to be significantly restructured. Unfortunately, Georgia is not worried about quality deer management and instead focuses on removing as many deer as possible. If every hunter takes ten does from a location each year will render that property relatively barren in 2 or 3 years. Not everyone is limiting out, but the state should cut those limits in half if you ask me.
As for bucks, they need to reduce the limit to one buck that has at least four points on one side. Georgia is notorious for small bucks because everyone shoots the first buck they see, even if it is a fork horn. If you don't shoot it, the neighbor will, and you likely won't see another buck for a while. We must stop shooting yearlings if we want to have mature bucks.
Georgia Hunting Licensing Requirements
Georgia requires all hunters with a birthdate after January 1, 1961, to complete a hunter education course before being licensed to hunt; this applies to residents and non-residents. Apprentice and short-term licenses are also available, without the requirement of completing this course.
Hunter education courses certified by any state wildlife education or Canadian province will meet the hunter education requirement in GA, and hunter's education is not required to hunt on your land or the land of a parent/guardian. There are also online courses available that can help satisfy this education requirement.
Future Outlooks for Georgia Deer Hunting
Depending on the area of Georgia, you'll find varying reports of populations, rut seasons, and movement patterns. This rut map is handy for understanding deer movements during the rut and shows date variance depending on the region.
Population Decline in Georgia Deer
The University of Georgia (UGA) has collected data indicating a significant decline in the North Georgia deer populations. With this decline, a reduction in hunters is also evident. Since 1979 there's been a 68% drop in the number of hunters, and of those hunters that do venture out, 75% leave without a deer.
UGA demonstrates concerns with this decline in deer and hunters due to its economic impact and indications of more significant issues with land management. Jacalyn Rosenberger, an author of this study, concludes that this is easily remedied through sensible land management practices and that these practices often face opposition from outside groups when proposed.
This study also postulates that these same forests aren't conducive to meeting the adequate habitat needs of other species besides deer. This can lead to fewer food opportunities for carnivores and omnivores and less cover for prey animals during breeding and birthing seasons. Fawn survival rates are mentioned, specifically being poor in northern Georgia.
Deer Hunting Regulation Shifts in Georgia
Georgia is experiencing an exciting pattern that may impact future seasons' start and end dates in the extreme southwest region. Wildlife research indicates that more does have later conception dates, leading to reports that some show spotted fawns at their sides at the beginning of the archery season.
Charlie Killmaster explains in this article that the reason southwest Georgia may be experiencing later conception dates are either native or those that crept from the adjacent Alabama region. The significance of this is that these areas are considered flood zones, and this lineage of deer adapted to dropping fawns after the spring floods by adjusting their conception dates.
Additional research is being conducted to identify what line this adaptation can be traced back to and determine what areas are demonstrating a later rut to meet the needs of does coming into season later than other regions in Georgia.
Georgia may be seeing drastic changes in seasonal dates, and hunters should be on the lookout to ensure they aren't hunting out of season with their particular weapon. When in doubt, check the DNR website for licensing requirements depending on age and seasonal restrictions depending on the county or region being hunted.
Overall, the 2022-2023 season shouldn't see too much change, though, in certain regions, change may be necessary very soon. Wildlife groups are conducting research, and hunters are being heard when describing findings atypical of the general deer population across the state. Both will aid Georgia's DNR in proposing regulations to support healthy populations and sustainable hunting practices.