Georgia deer celebrate end of hunting season

In my neighborhood I still hear occasional gunfire, but out in the Georgia woods things have grown quieter.

Deer hunting season is over.

Well, it's almost over. If you have a bow-and-arrow and a hankering for venison you can stalk Atlanta's suburbs until the end of the month. Please be careful.

Thankfully for our eardrums and homicide rates, you can't legally hunt deer with a firearm in Clayton, Cobb and DeKalb counties. It's also banned in all but South Fulton County.

Growing up, I thought of deer as somewhat rare and precious creatures but I'd probably watched "Bambi" one time too many.

Now they seem to be everywhere. For drivers desperate to keep them off car hoods, the large animals remain the primary reason to still use high beams.

The fear of hitting deer is real. In high school my tennis coach was hospitalized after hitting one and we had to drive ourselves to a match in Coffee, Bacon or Toast county. It was one of the breakfast counties, I forget which one.

For Christmas, mom gave me a car-mounted deer whistle. It doesn't seem to make any noise, but the packaging suggests deer can hear the warning and skedaddle.

I called Georgia deer biologist Charlie Killmaster, whose last name I did not just make up, to ask if the whistle works and he said "extensive testing done at the University of Georgia says no."

Thanks, mom.

Before I could hang up, Killmaster said about 184,000 of the cloven-hoofed critters were reported killed by hunters this hunting season, which, for those using a gun, ran from late October to mid-January.

Hunters have existed as long as humans, but there's a lot more rules now. State law requires hunters report their kills, but an estimated 30 percent go uncounted, said Killmaster. That means the annual haul of deer was probably north of 250,000. Estimates suggest another 50,000 or so were killed by cars, but that is a difficult number to pin down.

That sounds like a lot of deer, but they will make more. There's an estimated 1.2 million deer in the state, and despite hunters' best efforts that number is stable, said Killmaster, who noted 183,000 were reported killed last year.

Hunters have 72 hours to report a kill, but there's an app for that. Killmaster said the state's " Go Outdoors Georgia " smartphone app makes reporting easy. Unlike your hunting or fishing license, the app is free. The app can also be used to get an up-to-date license, store it on your phone and keep up with all the rules and regulations.

The state of state wildlife is good almost everywhere. Deer, alligators, turkeys and every other game creature I could think to ask about are doing well, said Killmaster, but feral hogs remain a problem. If you'd like to source your own bacon, know that you can hunt feral hogs 365 days a year, day or night, and, on private land, with almost any weapon you can devise, including the smartphone-triggered, camera-enabled live traps used by the state. On public land hog hunters may only use legal weapons for the season.

In which metro county were deer hunters most successful? Fulton, of course, since the south part of the county allows hunting with a gun. Fulton hunters reported 1212 deer taken , which is more than the archers of DeKalb County (120), Clayton (150) and Cobb (319) were able to muster. Gwinnett hunters reported 697 kills.

Fulton's numbers shocked me. More deer were killed in South Fulton than the aforementioned small, rural county of Bacon (481), and almost as much as Coffee (1611).

Toast County, Georgia, I am sad to report, doesn't really exist.

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