By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
Deer grazing row crops, especially when crops first emerge, are costing Georgia farmers dearly.
Georgia Farm Bureau has been working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and wildlife experts for more than six years to raise awareness and find solutions.
Crop yield and economic loss farmers are experiencing from deer eating their soybean, corn, wheat, cotton and peanut crops was the main topic discussed at the GFB Feedgrain/Soybean Commodity Committee in March.
Several farmers quantified the impact deer damage is having on their farms. One said deer destroyed 80 acres of his soybean crop last year, never letting the plants get above 3 inches tall. Another said replanting costs at least $100/acre for seed alone.
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Deer ate the leaves off these recently emerged cotton plants, making it necessary for farmers to replant their crops.
A 2017 report released by the UGA School of Forestry & Natural Resources highlights 2016 crop damage experienced by 109 farmers in a 20-county area in Southeast Georgia. Farmers surveyed reported 20.5% of 94,560 crop acres in the area had damage in 2016. Average loss per farmer due to deer damage was $33,786. The estimated combined economic impact for 2016 yield loss and replanting for farmers in the 20-county survey area was over $3 million.
Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist for the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, spoke to the committee about deer crop damage permits.
Farmers can visit www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com to apply for a deer crop damage permit that allows the applicant and up to six other people to shoot deer caught in growing crop fields the applicant has registered. On the DNR website, first select the Licenses & Permits icon which will take you to a box titled Online Licensing Features. Select Purchase/Reprint a License/Obtain Permits. If you have an exisiting Go Outdoors Georgia account you will log into it to access the crop damage control permit application. If you don't have an account, select the Enroll Now! icon to create an account. While the application to receive a deer damage hunting permit must be completed online, applicants may call 1-800-366-2661 to request help with navigating the online application.
When filling out the crop damage permit, farmers can register up to 32 fields on one crop damage control permit.
Killmaster encourages farmers to apply for the permit before planting their crops, so they have it when crops emerge, and deer start grazing their crops. The DNR accepts permit applications throughout the crop growing season. Most permits expire before firearm hunting season begins in mid-October.
When applying for a damage permit, farmers will supply information such as acres planted and a description of crop damage deer have caused in past years. Applicants will identify the locations of the fields they want to register using a satellite map feature that is part of the online application.
Most damage permits allow a farmer or his assistants to shoot up to 10 deer, but farmers still experiencing deer damage after shooting 10, can reapply for another permit, Killmaster said.
Farmers who have had multiple years of crop damage and know they will need to shoot more than 10 deer may request a higher number, reasonable for the acreage they are registering, Killmaster said. Applicants should explain why they need more than 10 tags in the permit form section where they describe their crop damage.
Farmers who list assistants on their damage permits will need the legal name of each assistant as it appears on an official ID, such as a driver’s license or social security card, and the person’s ID number.
Once a permit is approved, applicants and assistants listed on the permit must have a printed copy of the permit with them any time they shoot deer in the registered fields during growing season to control crop damage.
Deer control activities, such as spotlighting or scanning with a thermal scope, cannot be conducted while on a public road, Killmaster said. This is illegal without a deer crop damage permit and is considered unethical under recreational hunting, Firearms cannot be legally discharged from, across, or within 50 yards of a public road.
Deer caught grazing harvested fields can’t be shot under the crop damage permit. Farmers applying for the damage permit don’t need a Georgia hunting license, Killmaster said. During hunting season, landowners don’t need a license to hunt land they own but do need a DNR deer harvest record.
This cotton field should be green with emerging plants. Grazing deer left it full of brown stalks.