Another Top five turkey destination in recent years has been Chickasawhatchee WMA in Region V. The WMA offers plenty of hunting opportunity on its 19,700 acres.
“Of that nearly 20,000 acres, about 14,000 of it is swamp,” cautioned Senior Wildlife Biologist Brandon Rutledge. “The reminder is planted pines and mixed pine/hardwood stands.
“The WMA has a very good turkey population since there is some really good
turkey habitat out there,” Rutledge continued. “To improve the habitat, we try to do prescribed burns on 1/2 to 1/3 of the uplands each year, so that averages about 2,000 to 3,000 acres of burning a year.”
According to Rutledge, the WMA is a favorite with hunters.
“We generally have a pretty high success rate,” he confirmed, “particularly during the first quota hunt. In the spring of 2010, we had 59 turkeys harvested, including 58 gobblers and one jake. Out of the 357 hunters signed in, the success was 16.5 percent.”
“We’re in a regulation change cycle right now, so the regs could change before the season arrives, but will likely stay the same as they have been in previous years,” Rutledge relayed.
“On Chickasawhatchee, the first two weeks of the season are made up of one-week quota hunts with 50 hunters per week. The remainder of the season hunting is on a sign-in basis.”
Rutledge provided a few tips for visiting hunters.
“Most birds generally roost in hardwood areas, usually close to water,” Rutledge pointed out, “and hunter success rate is usually higher during the early part of the season.”
Based on those comments, a good game plan would be to apply for one of the early season quota hunts and then do your scouting to find some good roosting areas.
Rutledge also commented the Chickasawhatchee is not the only WMA with improved habitat.
“We are doing a lot of habitat work on Chickasawhatchee, but also other WMAs in our region,” Rutledge said. “Other good WMAs to try would be Silver Lake, Hannahatchee, and River Creek. Hannahatchee is the closest and has open hunting on a sign-in basis.
“River Creek and Silver Lake are quota hunting, including quota adult-child turkey hunts. The adult-child hunts are very successful hunts and a great opportunity for an adult to take a child out hunting.”
To reach Chickasawhatchee WMA, from Albany take Newton Road (SR 62/91 south for 15 miles and then follow the signs to the WMA Check Station.
The last stop on our Top Five turkey tour is Dawson Forest WMA in northeast Georgia’s Region II. The WMA covers 25,000 acres in several tracts and according to Senior Wildlife Biologist Kevin Lowrey, the WMA offers a wide variety of habitat for hunters.
“Dawson Forest ranges from Piedmont-like rolling hills on the southern side on the City of Atlanta tract to more mountainous terrain on the northern side on the Burnt Mountain Tract,” Lowrey said. “Two major drainages, the Etowah River and Amicalola Creek, cut through the area. There are plenty of open hardwood stands to hunt.”
He went on the note that the WMA stays busy in the spring, especially the area on Amicalola Creek upstream of SR 53. However, the entire WMA offers good turkey hunting.
The tract also has good turkey habitat.
“Dawson Forest has a good mix of hardwood mast areas turkeys need in winter, along with open areas that are good nesting and brood-rearing habitat in the spring,” Lowrey continued. “Basically, everything a turkey needs is there. If the weather cooperates, we can pull off a really good turkey hatch on Dawson Forest.”
When it comes to hunting a popular multi-use WMA like Dawson Forest, Lowrey had some suggestions.
“On a WMA like Dawson Forest, the best thing is to have several backup plans,” he emphasized. “You are going to run into people. It is very popular area and close to major population centers, so just expect to run into people.
“Don’t be afraid to hunt midday or late in the day. The birds get the most pressure in the morning and sometimes seem to get call shy. Put together a plan that takes all of that into account, stick with it, and you should enjoy some success.”
The future for Dawson County WMA continues to look bright.
“We are doing a lot of timber work on state-owned portion of the WMA,” Lowrey described. “It should be great turkey habitat in general and especially brood habitat. The last few years have been rough all across the state for turkey reproduction, but the spring of 2010 was a really good hatch statewide, after 2007 and 2009 being some of our lowest years on record. So, things are looking up. The spring of 2011 will be too early to tell how all of this translates into mature gobblers in the woods, but 2012 should tell the story and I’m expecting great hunting on Dawson Forest in the next few years.”
Dawson Forest WMA is open to turkey hunting on a sign-in basis. To reach the area, from Dawsonville take SR 53 west for six miles. Turn right onto the driveway at the WMA kiosk and the Check Station is at the top of the hill.
Put these tips from the biologists who manage the areas to work this year on one of these top five public land turkey WMAs. And you’ll be in position to match wits against a boss gobbler who’s king of the public-land turkey woods.