An eight-point buck lay in a field not far from the Burke County line, its body pelted with bullets. In a ditch along U.S. Highway 1, two whitetail does died from gunshot wounds, their carcasses rotting in the hills. And at the Phinizy Swamp Wildlife Management Area, game wardens searched for wood ducks that a tipster said had been killed by law-breaking hunters, apparently just for the thrill of it.
The reports keep coming in: deer, ducks and Eastern wild turkeys killed in a wave of poaching that state conservation rangers in the Augusta area expect to increase. The firearms deer hunting season began in Georgia and South Carolina this month.
Local authorities said they are seeing more organized “night hunts” and “roost shoots” – groups of homegrown poachers and bored adolescents who park along public roads and camp on private property after sunset to kill deer and ducks as they return to burrows and nests.
To protect their land, the wildlife population and the integrity of the state’s fee collection system, local hunting groups are gating reservations, marking stands and monitoring social media sites to catch poachers who post online pictures of large kills.
State rangers say the best way to stop the illicit act is to file complaints with Georgia’s Turn in Poachers program, a 25-year-old awareness campaign that pays $100 for any tips that lead to the arrest of those who “deprive citizens of the state’s natural resources by illegally taking wildlife,” the program’s mission states.
“It’s all for show,” Cpl. Ben Dayne, Richmond County’s state conservation ranger, said as he hauled off an abandoned deer carcass. More....