“It’s just a great place to hunt,” said Johnson, a salesman from Cumming who likes hunting miles from the road.
The changes in federal laws allow the refuge to add hunting over an additional 2,400 acres to its hunting grounds and allows hunting seasons for animals as varied as ducks, squirrels and wild turkeys, said Jacob Tuttle, manager of the refuge.
Any changes in hunting won’t take place until after next summer, after biologists and law enforcement officers determine what’s best for the refuge, Tuttle said.
“We’ll implement hunts to stay within our management capabilities, as far as personnel management, but also try to maximize our habitat and resource management,” Tuttle said.
Much of the interest is expected in the refuge’s white-tailed deer, which biologists determined are “approaching nutritional carrying capacity,” Tuttle said a University of Georgia report shows. In short, there are enough deer that food is getting scarce.
Johnson said much of the deer’s problem are the feral pigs in the refuge. Considered an invasive species, the pigs are destroying much of the plant life that animals survive on.
“The whole entire place looks like it’s just been rooted out,” Johnson said. “The pigs are just like vacuum cleaners in the woods.”
Johnson has been going for about six years to Bond Swamp, hunting deer with a bow in the fall and pigs with a rifle in late winter. He said he hasn’t always gotten a deer, but he’s always gotten pigs.
Tuttle said because pigs are an invasive species, hunters have been allowed to kill pigs incidental to their deer hunting. That would continue with other kinds of hunting, such as the small-game hunting. Johnson said he’s had good success elsewhere killing hogs with single shots from small-game rounds such as the .17HMR.