The restoration of wild turkeys across Georgia is a true success story, and hunters today enjoy the best turkey hunting in generations. The wild turkey has found nearly all of the Peach State to its liking, and hunting opportunity abounds on both private and public lands.
Some of the best public land turkey hunting is found on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife management areas around the state. Most WMAs offer good opportunity, but there are a few tracts that stand out as the best places to go to harvest a public land gobbler. Let’s take a look at these five WMAs and what they have to offer turkey hunters this spring.
At the top of the list based on a harvest of 150 birds over the combined 2007-2009 seasons is Cedar Creek WMA near Monticello. This WMA offers great hunting opportunity according to Region IV Senior Wildlife Biologist Bobby Bond.
“Cedar Creek WMA offers good overall access for turkey hunting in the Piedmont of Georgia,” he noted. “The WMA is very popular with hunters, especially the first three weeks of the season and on the weekends. Part of the reason the area is a good turkey producer is because of its large size, with 37,820 acres of woods to hunt.”
The WMA is known as a producer, so it receives plenty of attention from hunters. Bond offers the following tips for success.
“I would not just rely on hunting weekends when it’s very popular to hunt,” Bond said. “I would plan to hunt throughout the season too, and not just the first three weeks.”
Location is another factor.
“I wouldn’t hunt where a vehicle is parked,” Bond continued, “and it would be best if hunters did some scouting of the area before they went out and hunted it.”
Cedar Creek is open to hunting on a sign-in basis. To reach the area, from Monticello take State Route 16 for 3/4 of a mile and fork right onto SR 212. Follow this road for 12 miles until you see the arrow for the WMA Check Station, which is a 1/2 mile down the access road.
Another top five producer is Ocmulgee WMA, also in Region IV.
“Ocmulgee is another very popular area in the Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia that has a variety of habitats including swamps, pine ridges, bottomland hardwoods, fallow areas, openings, and roadsides,” Bond said. “Like Cedar Creek, this is a WMA that is very popular on weekends and early in the season, so many of the same hunting tips apply in terms of trying to schedule your hunts when most other hunters don’t.”
Ocmulgee WMA covers 22,343 acres and hunting is on a sign-in basis.
There are some other things to keep in mind here.
“There are a couple of safety zones and the Georgia Forestry Commission has a seed orchard on the WMA. These areas are off limits to hunting,” Bond said. “Hunters can download maps that show these areas from the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Web site.”
To reach the area, from Cochran take U.S. Highway 23 north and turn left on Red Dog Farm Road. Travel four miles to Magnolia Road, turn right and follow the signs to the WMA Check Station.
Second on the top five list of public turkey lands is Di-Lane WMA’s 8,100 acres. During the combined 2007-2009 seasons, this tract produced a total of 115 birds.
I.B. Parnell is a senior wildlife biologist in Region III.
“Di-Lane is great for turkeys because of the diversity of the habitat,” Parnell said. “Creek bottoms run through the middle of the area and along the southern boundary. The habitat was already good, and now it’s excellent for turkeys since our quail management efforts also appear to be benefiting the turkey population quite well.
“You can find turkeys just about anywhere on the area,” Parnell continued, “but the creek bottoms and wet drains seem to be the best hunting early in the season. Later on, as the hens start to disperse and go on the nest, gobblers can be found just about anywhere.”
That doesn’t mean the hunting is easy.
“Di-Lane is very, very open,” Parnell cautioned, “so it’s not a place to park the truck the closest spot you can to where you plan to hunt. If you do, that bird roosting in a tree may be able to watch you get out of your truck from 300 or 400 yards away. Of course, this is turkey hunting, so he may end up seeing you anyway, but no sense in making it easy for him.”
On Di-Lane, the first two weeks of the season are quota hunts with 30 hunters per week. The quota of 30 is for the entire week, so some days may be busier that others. After the quota period, hunting is on a sign-in basis.
Parnell added that Di-Lane is a fairly popular area, so remember to be courteous.
“Just treat people the same way you would like to be treated,” Parnell suggested. “If someone walks up on you by accident, they aren’t trying to intentionally ruin your hunt.”
Parnell also offered this tip.
“Yuchi and Tuckahoe WMAs are fairly close by, have plenty of birds, and don’t get as much hunting pressure,” the biologist said. “Tuckahoe is twice as big too, so there is plenty of room. Both of those WMAs would be a great choice if you want to try an alternative to Di-Lane.”
To reach the area from Waynesboro take U.S. 25 south to 4th Street. Turn right on 4th Street/Herndon Road and travel nine miles until you see the signs for the WMA Check Station.