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Fort Yargo hunt thins deer herd

WINDER - Hunters killed 98 deer at Fort Yargo State Park Nov. 29 and 30. It was the park's first deer hunt in its 52-year history.

Hunters donated 49 does to Hunters for the Hungry, which passed the meat along to the Athens Food Bank.

The hunters were chosen by a lottery. Of the 65 hunters chosen, 52 showed up.

Fort Yargo State Park has always been a protected haven for deer with no natural predators. Increased construction in the surrounding area has caused many more deer to seek refuge within the park's boundaries. But the park is only so big, and many of those deer were starving.

During a recent spotlight survey, park officials discovered an estimated 250 to 300 deer living inside the park's 1,814 acres. Normally, deer thrive at about 15 to 20 per square mile. Park Manager Eric Bentley estimated Ft. Yargo was attempting to support about 75 to 80 per square mile.

Hungry deer decimate landscaping in nearby subdivisions and are dangerous to drivers. Deer-car collisions are common in the area.

Fort Yargo State Park will close again Jan. 3 and 4 for a second hunt. Bentley said he hoped to see 125 to 130 deer taken in the four days of hunting.