State parks in Georgia offer a variety of recreational activities like hiking, nature watching, and camping. But, you may not realize that some state parks offer an extra opportunity: quota hunting.
State Park quota hunts provide a unique experience for hunters. The park closes down for two days so they can hunt the entire park without other visitors.The benefit is getting to hunt on a large area of land that sees limited hunting pressure. Limited hunting pressure means higher quality deer than ever on these properties.
One popular quota hunt takes place east of metro Atlanta at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, GA. You can find more specifics about the area here: http://gastateparks.org/HardLaborCreek. DNR Commissioner Mark Williams was lucky enough to draw one of the quota spots and had this to say about his experience: “This was my first time drawn for a State Park quota hunt. It was wonderful to see 3 Divisions of DNR (Wildlife Resources, Parks, and Law Enforcement) working together for a great event that meets our management goals. Our staff did a fantastic job organizing the hunt and I heard nothing but positive feedback from the hunters – myself included!”
This year, our outreach coordinator Andrew, tagged along during the quota hunt there on November 7th and 8th. Here’s what he experienced: “On Monday afternoon, hunters gathered for a safety meeting before getting into the field early Tuesday morning. By 11:00am, they had already brought in about 25 deer to be “worked up”. The work up includes weighing, aging, and measuring all the deer brought in. The deer harvested both met and exceeded weight expectations per age group. There were also a few bruiser bucks checked between 2.5 and 4.5 years old. Midday brought a lull in the harvest before deer started moving again. In the afternoon, we worked up about 20 more deer from ranging from yearlings to 5.5 years old. Several nice bucks came in then too, averaging around 3 ½ years old. The second day of the hunt was slower as many hunters had limited out on deer and the weather was dreary. Hunters harvested about 20 deer in total on Day 2. “
Andrew’s “take home messages”:
- Hunters saw great success! While there weren’t quite as many deer harvested as some past hunts, deer quality and weights were up.
- Conservation efforts by park staff have paid off. We saw heavier weights in young deer and quality mature deer.
- Hunters from all over the state came and camped out in tents, campers, and many of the cabins offered at the park.
- Many of the hunters used a cell phone app called “Avenza Maps” to find their way back to the truck after tracking their harvest down. The app has safety zones and trails for many of the state parks mapped out to help hunters and recreationalists orient themselves in the woods.
Excellent habitat management and an increase in food sources this year provided hunters with a healthy deer population at Hard Labor Creek State Park. The deadline to apply for this year’s deer quota hunts has passed, but there’s still time to apply for spring turkey hunts. The turkey quota hunt applications are due by 11:59pm (EST) on February 15, 2018. For more information or to apply visit: http://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/quota.