HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Deer baiting, a controversial practice in which hunters lure wildlife to areas with the promise of food, has become legal on private land throughout the state of Georgia. On June 27, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) voted to redraw the boundaries, with the Northern Deer Zone now reaching the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia. While only state legislature is permitted to abolish or make changes to the existing law, DNR effectively bypassed the restriction by voting to instead relocate the border of the northern territory. While baiting deer is illegal on public land in Georgia, the redrawn border removed distance restrictions on privately-owned property throughout the state.
“The proposal was to increase parity for hunters across the state by making the Northern Zone the Chattahoochee National Forest, and the Southern Zone would be anything outside of that,” Georgia DNR Director of Public and Governmental Affairs Wes Robinson said, “The department’s proposed rule simply allows for hunters across the state to hunt as close to that feed as they would like to while on private property – a privilege currently granted to South Georgians, but not North Georgians.”
Prior to the rezoning, hunters were ticketed and fined if caught hunting within sight or within 200 yards of feed. It remains illegal to bait deer within the confines of the Chattahoochee National Forest, an area which encompasses a large portion of Towns County. Baiting deer on private property, however, will become legal at the start of the 2018 hunting season.
Local DNR Ranger David Webb explained that attracting wild hogs onto private property with bait is legal during their hunting season as well.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal authorized the Resource Board to determine an “appropriate” expansion of the Southern Zone. In the order, Deal stated that state officials found no evidence to support concerns that hunting over feed directly contributes to the amount of deer killed, nor encourages the spread of disease.