“[The hunt is] done specifically for deer population control. We have deer hunts in several Georgia state parks that have a particularly high population of deer and they really need to be managed for preferred health, and Red Top is one of them,” Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, said. “We actually had a problem [in the early to mid-2000s]. There were a number of car collisions through the park because the main road that runs through the park is a popular route not just for people going to the park, but for people living around the area and the deer have been really browsing too much of the understory and kind of affecting the ecosystem as a whole and taking away some of the food that would go to other species as well, so that’s when we started having these control hunts.”
The hunt, which featured 28 hunters, resulted in the harvesting of 16 deer.
“Four of those were bucks, 12 of those were does and it’s actually important to control the doe population,” Hatcher said, adding biologists within DNR help survey and determine what areas have a safe deer population.
According to www.georgiawildlife.com, “Although most hunters think in terms of bucks, it is the doe segment of the herd that determines most of the differences found in deer populations. For example, depending on the food supply and the total deer population, does can produce twins, singles, or not bear any fawns at all.
“If births exceed the total death rate from hunting and other causes in any particular year, then the population increases. Eventually, the population reaches a size where it exceeds the available food supply (‘carrying capacity’ of the land) resulting in lower birth rates, poor antler development, lower body weights and eventually a lower population as the remaining food supply is permanently damaged.”
Licensed hunters will be able to learn about local controlled hunts when approaching the 2014 season, Hatcher said.
“[The hunts] are not open to the general public, you actually have to apply and have a lottery number selected to be one of the hunters who comes in, so they limit the number of people. And then they will close the park on the days they have the hunts,” she said.
Hatcher said Red Top also provides opportunities for visitors over Christmas.
“We want people to know that Red Top is open [over the holidays],” Hatcher said. “We don’t close at all even over Christmas. Our offices will be closed, but if people want to take their families and maybe walk off Christmas lunch, they can go on the trails, they can ride their bikes on the Iron Hill trail, they can fish and they can boat.”
For more information on opportunities at Red Top, visit www.gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain.