published Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Gilliams donate FDR park deer to Rossvillians


by Dan Cook

Rossville’s Lanny Gilliam and his nephew Jeremiah Gilliam were among the 158 applicants drawn for the two-day deer hunt at Georgia’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park in January.

The event was designed to thin the herd in the state’s largest park. The 105 hunters who showed up were required to kill a doe first. They then could take a deer of either sex.

The Gilliams killed seven does and donated hundreds of pounds of venison to their neighbors. They hauled the animals to The Deermaster, a Rossville processing plant operated by Mike Dunn, who donated much of his labor to the project.

“We wanted to give back to the community,” Lanny Gilliam said. “There have been a lot of job layoffs in this town, and we just wanted to help.”

He dedicated the success of the hunt to his ailing father, J.O. “Pops” Gilliam, who got Lanny and his siblings started as hunters.

“Pops always said, ‘Take your kids hunting and you won’t have to hunt for them,’” Lanny said.

Deer overpopulation has presented problems in several Georgia state parks — most notably vegetation damage — and a variety of ways to reduce the numbers have been tried, including relocation. But shutting off parks to other visitors and allowing controlled hunts has been the least expensive and most efficient means, state park officials say.

The mid-January hunt was the first for FDR park, and it reduced the herd by 104. Only one 8-point buck was among those killed; at 135 pounds, it also was probably the largest, according to park manager Don McGhee.

Park manager Don McGhee said studies had indicated 50 to 65 deer per square mile for the 9,017-acre park between Warm Springs and Pine Mountain. That figure should be more like 20 to 25, he added.

“We had never done a population survey of the deer,” McGhee said. “Then we did three surveys.”

Ronnie Akins, regional director for Southwest Georgia state parks, said about 10 parks in the system now hold managed quota hunts to help control deer numbers. A total of 34 quota hunts and four deer-reduction efforts have been made since 2003.

Some parks have an even greater problem than FDR, Akins said. At Hard Labor Creek State Park, for instance, surveys have indicated 80 deer per square mile.

“It’s not unusual to see four, five or six deer at a time there,” he said. “We saw several diseases (due to) overpopulation.”

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