The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has wrapped up its public input meetings that focused on the proposed 2023-2024 Georgia deer season dates and regulations. While most Georgia deer hunters won’t be impacted by the proposed changes, those in the southwest corner of the state will enjoy a longer season to take advantage of the area’s late rutting activity.
This article highlights the specifics of the DNR’s proposed changes and what it means for Georgia’s 2023-2024 deer season dates.
Georgia’s New Southwest Deer Zone
As I mentioned above, the majority of the changes proposed are focused on eight counties in the Southwest corner of the state, including Baker, Decatur, Early, Grady, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, and Thomas counties.
While I’m not aware of any formal name the DNR has for this area, for the purpose of this article, I’ll refer to that area as the Southwest Deer Zone.
The changes for this new zone are based on data collected from does in the area which showed that the rut peaks there later than the rest of the state.
“Southwest Georgia has a later peak rut than most of the rest of the state, but we didn’t have enough breeding data to make a change,” said state deer biologist Charlie Killmaster. “Starting 3 years ago, we began working with landowners and hunt clubs to collect breeding data in 10 counties. The 8 counties we proposed changes for had late enough peak ruts in at least a portion of the county to justify the change.”
To help deer hunters in the Southwest Deer Zone take advantage of that late rut activity, the DNR proposed extending the firearms deer season for those eight counties through January 15. That’s certainly not a major extension, considering deer season will close on January 14, 2024 for the rest of the state, but some years it will result in as many as 6 additional days of firearms deer hunting.
In addition to the extended firearms deer season, bowhunters will get additional time in the field with an extended archery season until January 31. That’s the latest the DNR can keep deer season open without an act of the legislature.
Since a later rut results in fawns being dropped later in the summer, the DNR also proposed limiting hunters in the Southwest Deer Zone to bucks only for the first two weeks of archery deer season to reduce the chance of killing any does that are still weaning their fawns.
“Because of late breeding there were also some concerns that some fawns may not be fully weaned at the start of archery season,” said Killmaster. “So we proposed making the first couples of weeks buck only to address this issue.”
So how does all that translate to actual calendar dates for the 2023-2024 Georgia deer season? Here are the proposed dates for the Southwest Zone.
Southwest Deer Zone 2023-2024 Deer Season Dates
|Archery Season||Sept. 9, 2023 – Jan. 31, 2024|
*Bucks only the first two weeks
|Primitive Weapons Season||Oct. 14-20, 2023|
|Firearms Season||Oct. 21, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024|
Changes for the Remainder of the State
For those of us not in the Southwest Deer Zone, we will not see any changes to the upcoming deer season other than the annual shift in dates so the season openers fall on their respective Saturdays.
The one exception is Richmond County, which the DNR proposed to include in the state’s extended archery season.
If approved by the DNR Board, here’s what the 2023-2024 Georgia deer season dates will look like for hunters outside the Southwest Deer Zone.
Georgia 2023-2024 Deer Season Dates
(except Southwest Deer Zone)
|Archery Season||Sept. 9, 2023 – Jan. 14, 2024|
|Primitive Weapons Season||Oct. 14-20, 2023|
|Firearms Season||Oct. 21, 2023 – Jan. 14, 2024|
Bag Limits and Doe Days
With the Georgia DNR finally gaining regulatory authority over the state’s deer bag limits last year (previously it was controlled by the state legislature), I thought we would see reduced doe bag limits and the ability to shoot does all season for most of the state in 2023-2024. That’s not the case, though. There are no proposed changes for bag limits or doe days that have been announced.
Georgia WMA Deer Season Dates
While there will certainly be changes made to some WMA deer seasons, the DNR did not announce those proposed changes for the public input meetings they held in January. My understanding is those changes won’t be announced until March when the official proposals are presented to the DNR Board. So stay tuned for more information about WMA season dates as they become available!
For most Georgia deer hunters, the 2023-2024 deer season is going to look almost identical to what it did last year. But for deer hunters in the southwestern corner of the state, you will finally have the opportunity to hunt some of the best days of the rut for the first time.
Keep in mind that these are just the proposed dates and changes at this point. While I don’t anticipate any changes, there’s always the possibility the Board could go in a different direction. As always, we will keep you updated as additional information becomes available.