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Boats, bows and bucks: It’s open season on Lanier’s islands

Bow hunters are descending on the islands of Lake Lanier this November for the lake’s annual deer hunt.

The hunt is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which drew a lottery for bow hunters in October to participate in the November event. Not all islands are involved in the event, which includes a few off-limits areas for hunters, but it does cover about 23 groups of islands, peninsulas and areas across more than 1,000 acres.

Deer populations on the lake aren’t tracked by the corps, according to Nicholas Baggett, its natural resource manager on Lake Lanier. However, the population isn’t unique to the lake or its islands.

“They swim out to the islands (from the mainland),” Baggett said.

The hunt is scheduled in the fall of each year to coincide with bow hunting season and is intended to control deer populations on the uninhabited islands of the lake.

A map is available from the corps at its website, The corps has also discussed the issue at length on its Facebook page.

Hunters are put through a pre-hunt safety briefing, and several islands near high-traffic areas will be marked for boaters with signs noting the upcoming hunt.

“Aside from this announcement (which we will repeat before the next two hunts) the peninsulas and islands that may become peninsulas (depending on lake level) receive signs at their narrow points notifying walkers of the hunt,” the corps posted on its page. “Some of these include 4 Mile, Little Ridge, Wahoo, etc, depending on the lake level. Other islands such as 3 Sisters will not receive any posting on the island itself.”

Last year, 110 hunters bagged 43 deer — nine bucks and 34 does — leaving a success rate of 39 percent.

This year, hunters will need to use boats because the lake is about at its full pool, Baggett noted. In previous years, the lake has been low enough to allow hunters to walk or wade to a few islands near the shore.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources helps schedule and organize the island hunt.

“We like to do it during this period when the parks are not used very much,” Baggett said. “We try to strike a balance between those who may want to use our trail system or some of the parks in the south end and just close them down for some limited periods.”

The hunt has grown over time, according to corps records that go back to 2007, and 2017 was the busiest hunt to-date by both hunter participation, number of deer bagged and area of land open to hunters.