Fall is a great time to be a sportsman or woman in Georgia, as there are so many hunting opportunities from which to choose.
After months of heat and anticipation, November is a great time to hunt in Georgia. The cooler weather brings on the changing of the leaves, and makes it difficult to decide what species to pursue.
Rabbit, quail, squirrel and duck season open, and while archery season for deer and bear has been running, November heralds in the deer rut, which peaks in the middle of the month across much of Georgia. Even better, the Peach State contains more than 100 wildlife management areas, along with national forests and Corps of Engineer land that are open to hunting.
In central Georgia, Oaky Woods and Ocmulgee wildlife management areas have offered great deer, wild pig and small game hunting for almost 50 years. These two WMAs are located along the Ocmulgee River, near Warner Robins, Perry and Cochran.
According to Tommy Shover, Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife tech, the 13,240-acre Oaky Woods typically has some nice bucks brought to the check station each year, along with some does on the final day of the hunt. This year, the hunt is scheduled for Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, with does being legal on the last day again.
Prime locations are the hardwood ridges along Big Grocery Creek, says Shover, which starts behind the check station and runs to the Ocmulgee River, much of which is in the management area. By mid-November, the creek bottom ridges will have acorns on the ground from the abundant white and red oak trees.
Hunters really need to do some scouting for a good location, looking for areas that are open for at least 50 to 75 yards under trees, or locate trail crossings and areas that funnel deer.
Other good deer and wild hog locations are along Thompson Mill Creek, which is along the northeast portion of the management area. This is a pretty remote area, meaning a good place to get away from other hunters.
Many hunters also have good luck around the old school bus, which can be found using the WMA map. This is an area of mature pines and mixed hardwoods with small drainages. From the school bus, a road runs east for about 300 yards to the old camp ground, which is now the parking area. There is a freshwater spring about 150 yards east of the parking, which is a magnet for wildlife, especially during dry weather. Both pigs and deer are available, but there are also black bears, which are protected, so be sure to identify the target.
Another good spot is the Ocmulgee River bottomlands, which has a strong wild hog population, but this area draws a lot of hunters.
The area around Houston County Land Fill is part of Oaky Woods, and is often overlooked by hunters. The south side of Big Indian Creek is a travel route for both deer and pigs, but it can get a little thick in there. The far eastern portion of this tract is another area that holds a lot of wild pigs, as they funnel back and forth from the garbage of the land fill.
Across the Ocmulgee River lies the 17,670-acre Ocmulgee WMA, which is highly regarded as a top location for big bucks and wild pigs. According to Wildlife Biologist Bobby Bond, a recent Trail camera survey done of the WMA shows that the deer population may be around 40 deer per square mile, which is a strong number of deer. A buck-only hunt is set for Nov. 16-18, with the last day being either sex.
Randy Wood is the area manager and has spent most of his career managing both the wildlife and the hunters who visited the area. Woods says that area one, which is the south end of the management area, gets about 50 percent of the hunting pressure and produces about 50 percent of the game brought to the check station. It is a great area to get a deer, but expect company. Hunters like area one because of its good road system. Two drainages, Carden Branch and the small creek that comes out of the Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area, also provide good cover for wildlife.
Area two, just north of area one, is probably the next best and most productive location for deer and hogs. Shellstone and Magnolia creeks are good travel corridors for deer and hogs and the roads are usually good. Wood says that some hunters put in at Dykes boat landing and slip into the area from the river, which is a good hunting strategy. But be aware that it's easy to get lost in the river swamp, especially late in the day.
Those who want to get away from other hunters should consider area six, near Highway 96 and West Lake Road. Area six used to be an archery only area, but it was clearcut a few years ago and is now open for deer firearms hunting and shares the open Ocmulgee WMA dates.
Small-game hunters will likely find a good population of rabbits in the thick regrowth of area six. Avid rabbit hunter Bill Bethune, of Macon, likes to run his beagles in both Oaky Woods and Ocmulgee, and has had good luck in the areas that are thinned and clearcuts that are three to five years into regrowth. According to Bethune, November is a good time to hunt because rabbits have not been thinned out by hunters or predators.
Shifting to north Georgia, Wildlife Biologist Kevin Lowery of Region 2 says that the 30,000 acres of Coopers Creek WMA is a great place to harvest a deer during the primitive weapons hunt, which is set for Nov. 1-4. For a mountain WMA, Coopers Creek has some good deer hunting and it also has a strong bear population and some wild pigs.
The WMA is characterized by rolling mountainous terrain, but the DNR has improved the land for wildlife by adding more than 40 food plots and wildlife openings, which are scattered across the WMA. Pull up the online WMA map for Coopers Creek to get a good idea where these wildlife openings are located. Some of the openings have been plated as food plots, while others have had older vegetation removed so that young, nutritious browse can grow.
Lowery says a good starting hunting strategy is to drive in on one of the many dirt or WMA roads, like Duncan Ridge Road or Board Camp Road and then drop down into a creek bottom and look for deer crossings and hog rooting areas. Look for concentrations of red or white oaks that still have some acorns on the ground, and get downwind with a wide view of the landscape. Two other top WMAs in the region, recommended by Lowery, are Chattahoochee and Lake Russell.
Down in southeast Georgia, Chris Baumann, GDNR Wildlife Biologist, says that the 8,100 acres of Horse creek WMA are a very good place to try for deer, wild hogs and small game. It's located in Telfair County, near the town of McRae-Helena and lies along the Ocmulgee River. Baumann says that Nov. 1-4 the WMA will host a buck only hunt and later in the month, an either sex hunt is scheduled for Nov. 16-18. In the past, both these hunts have resulted in good hunter success. The area manager, Scott Duggan, says that to ensure a good quality hunt experience, some of the main roads that run near the river, like Chicken Cut and White Oak Way, will be closed so that hunters will have to walk in.
The WMA has a good population of water and white oak trees that produce good mast for the wildlife, which has resulted in some good game harvests over the years. Wild pigs are common on the WMA and Duggan recalls seeing a large group of pigs this year with a boar that weighted around 300 pounds, two sows around 150 pounds each and a numerous mixed-size pigs. He says they range all up and down the river corridor and hunter success on pigs is usually good. A key hunting strategy is to key in on groups of white oak tree with lots of nuts on the ground and set up a ground or tree stand offering good visibility.
Other hunting is also good, with two duck ponds, one 80 acres and the other 65 acres, the many sloughs hold lots of ducks. The WMA also boasts a 100-acre bird dog training area, where hunters can release quail to hunt and train dogs.
There are, of course, many other places to hunt in the Peach State. Hunters just have to do the research and scouting for success, just like any other year.