Complete Guide To 2014 WMA Youth Hunts
From deer to dove to ducks, you're missing out if you don't take a kid on some of these special hunts.
Georgia is truly blessed with a variety of public hunting opportunities. From the mountains in the north, Piedmont hills in the central part of the state and to sandy hills and swamps in the south, we truly have a huge variety of land to hunt.
Having two boys born in the 1990s and watching them grow up made me want to get them in the woods. I first started taking the boys dove hunting when they were 5 and 7, and even though they were not big enough to shoot yet, they enjoyed being in the field and fetching the few doves I knocked down. We started hunting the adult/child hunts at J.L. Lester, and eventually moved over to the Walton Public Dove Field.
One of the most memorable dove hunts we had was when I was accompanied by my dad, my two boys and two other dads and their sons. We were hunting the Walton field, and the birds were flying fairly well most of the day, but by 4 p.m. the birds were pouring into the field. One of the adults limited out and gradually the kids started reaching their limits. At the end of the hunt, the DNR staff always has a raffle for the kids and even a chance at a shotgun.
We hunted Walton for several years, and for a little more variety, we tried Redlands WMA’s adult/child dove hunt. The hunts at Redlands and Walton are very similar, and both usually have a good number of birds.
Dove hunting for us is traditionally the start of the hunting season, but before the first dove season even ends, we are planning for deer and hog hunting. One of best public places in Georgia to take both deer and hogs is Ossabaw Island. Its adult/child hunt falls during Thanksgiving when the kids are out of school. With the great hunting success on Ossabaw comes high demand to hunt the island. Most years it takes at least one rejection to be picked for the adult/child hunt on Ossabaw, but when the kids do get picked, it’s like winning the lottery. The first year the boys hunted the island they were 9 and 11, and they had two other buddies along for the hunt.
Fast forward from that first hunt on the island to six years later. On this particular hunt, it was just the two brothers, their grandfather and myself in our group. The first day of the hunt the boys hunted on the west side of the island. I hunted with my 15-year-old son Brian, and my dad hunted with his 17-year-old grandson Josh.
Brian and I sat up against a tree between two dry ponds filled with dog fennel. As the sun started to filter through the live oaks and palm trees, we were full of anticipation of what the morning’s hunt might bring. Brian first saw a deer as it moved at the edge of one of the ponds, and soon behind it followed another. With both being does, and it being so early in the hunt, Brian elected not to shoot either deer. Both deer fed toward us and passed 15 yards away while walking toward the other dry pond. Thirty minutes later we had three more does come out of the same location, but these stayed out about 50 yards before going behind us.
Another 30 minutes passed and another doe started coming out, and Brian whispered, “I see antlers on the one behind her.”
The buck was following the doe closely, and they were slowly working their way closer to us. Brian had the rifle propped up on his knee and was just waiting for the buck to turn broadside. I kept whispering for him to be patient and relax, but I think it was more for my benefit than Brian’s.
Finally at about 35 yards the buck stopped broadside, and Brian dropped him in his tracks. The buck turned out to be a 7-pointer and would be aged by DNR at 3 1/2 years old.
Josh and my dad had an uneventful morning, and on the afternoon hunt we saw a few animals, but nothing was taken. The second afternoon we tried some new areas, and the animals were really on the move. Not long after getting off the trailer, Brian softly whistled to me. I turned back to look at him and saw that he’s looking at three feeding hogs that I had walked by at about 20 yards.
Brian decided to take the largest of the three. We field-dressed the hog, hung it up in a tree and proceeded with our stalk to the marsh. We passed on some smaller hogs we encountered along the way, and once at the marsh, we set up over a trail going along its edge. Near dusk we had a group of hogs come trotting down the trail, and Brian took the largest of the group.
Josh was hunting in the area next to us, and we heard him shoot several times and were anxious to see what he had taken once we met back at the trailer. Josh had taken three hogs, so we had our work cut out for us at the cleaning station.
Ossabaw has a really nice cooler for both hogs and deer and a very nice cleaning station. With 50-plus hunters and many hunters taking multiple hogs and deer, you can imagine how much use the cleaning station gets. The boys would take a couple more animals and end the trip with six hogs and two bucks.
We also enjoy going to non-quota adult/child hunts. We have made some great memories at Paulding Forest, Coopers Creek, Oaky Woods, Ocmulgee and Chickasawhatchee.
Chickasawhatchee is about three hours away from us, but it has become one of our favorite places to go for deer and hogs. Chickasawhatchee offers two adult/child hunts, and on both of them, the adult and child are able to hunt (have a gun and shoot). The first hunt is at Thanksgiving, and the second hunt starts the day after Christmas.
We went to the Chickasawhatchee hunt just after Christmas in 2013 and had a kid and an adult who had not taken a big-game animal. I was hunting with a friend of my boys, 15-year-old Albert Guy, the first afternoon, and we slowly stalked through the swamp. Being so far away from the WMA, we don’t have time to scout prior to the hunt, so the stalking becomes hunting and scouting at the same time. We have only been hunting Chickasawhatchee for a few years, so I am still learning how to hunt this swamp.
We started this stalk around 3 p.m., so I was a little surprised to hear something moving in the dry leaves. I told Albert it sounded like hogs moving toward us and to get ready. I caught a glimpse of a piglet, and then a medium-sized hog stepped out. Albert took his time and shot at the larger hog, and the hog ran around in a half circle in front us but showed no signs of a hit. After searching for blood and finding none, we chalked up the shot as a miss. With so much rooting and acorns around us, we still felt good about the evening hunt even with the miss.
Just before dark we had a big boar move out of the small pines we were next to and started wading through the palmettos near us. This time Albert didn’t miss and was able to knock down the 130-lb. boar. We ended up taking that hog and two other deer on that hunt, and it was great to see the two who had never taken big-game animals were able to get their first deer and hog.
In addition to dove and deer adult/child hunts, Georgia offers adult/child hunts for rabbits, quail, waterfowl, squirrel and turkey.
All the adult/child quota hunts must be applied for by going to www.gohunt georgia.com. For these hunts, the youth will need their own username/password on the DNR site in order to apply. The entire process is fairly simple.
These quota hunts are for youth 17 years of age and younger. Some of the hunts are very popular. If you want to hunt deer at Ossabaw or River Creek, or doves at Walton or Redlands, it may take a rejection before getting picked.
The adult/child dove quota-hunt deadline is Aug. 15, and the application deadline to sign up for adult/child quota deer hunts is Sept. 1.
Don’t waste any time to sign up. Your kids won’t be kids forever. It’s time to start making those hunting memories today.
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