Play The Georgia Quota Hunt Game
There’s a reason these WMAs have quota hunts—if the hunting wasn’t good, they wouldn’t need a quota!
As summer winds down and fall edges closer, hunters turn their eyes and attention to the upcoming hunting seasons. There are numerous items on the to-do list such as planting food plots, buying gear, practicing with your bow or gun, contacting landowners, and putting out stands, bait and cameras.
What also needs to be on your list is applying for a quota deer hunt. These public-land hunts can provide some excellent hunting, all for just the price of your hunting licenses and the task of applying online. But, there is more to the game of applying and being selected if you want to be successful. Knowing the ins and outs of the process will help you get the hunt you want.
There are 46 quota deer hunts on 19 state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). There are also nine quota hunts on three Federal National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) and a National Seashore (NS). Seven Georgia State Parks have quota deer hunts that are applied for separately—more on that later.
In addition to deer hunts, there are quota turkey hunts, waterfowl, rabbit, quail, dove, alligator, deer-dog and youth hunts. There are also different application periods and separate priority points for each species. Sound confusing? It can be, but we will try to make sense of it for you and give you the best chance at one of these choice hunts.
The Wildlife Resource Division (WRD) website explains: “a quota hunt is a managed hunt that allows a set number of hunters to participate. A quota is placed on a hunt to protect natural resources, wildlife and their habitats, provide a high-quality experience and maintain a high level of safety.”
Quotas basically restrict the number of hunters on an area to provide a better hunt. Though each hunter may not get to go as often, when you do get to go, the woods won’t be overrun with orange vests.
It all starts with you creating an account on the WRD website: www.GoOutdoorsGeorgia.com. You’ll need an email address in addition to the usual name and address. Click on Quota Hunts, and the process begins. If you don’t have access to a computer or are not familiar with operating one, get a friend to help, go to your public library or call WRD. You will need an email address, so if you’re not using the Internet, it’s time if you want to take advantage of Georgia’s quota-hunt opportunities. All correspondence will be via an email address you provide, including hunt notifications.
Perhaps the most difficult decision is deciding which hunt to choose. Do you want a coastal island hunt on Ossabaw or Sapelo, or an excellent chance at a trophy at Joe Kurz, Di-Lane, Blanton Creek or B.F. Grant?
Do you want to attend a quota hunt every year, or are you willing to wait several years for your turn on a prime spot? Information about past hunts and harvests can be found on the WRD website, which will provide the number of hunters, harvest numbers and hunter success rates. Use these statistics to help choose the best hunt to apply for based on what you prefer. Word of mouth from other hunters can help, too.
The advantages of hunting a quota deer hunt are obvious, such as hunting choice property with limited hunters and hunting pressure. Another perk is not having to use one of your buck tags. Most quota deer hunts require the checking-in of harvested deer where they put a special WMA tag on the deer, leaving your regular statewide buck tags for your private land hunts.
Another feature is the possibility of bagging a big buck. Some WMAs have antler restrictions that protect young bucks. Di-Lane WMA has a minimum 4 points one side restriction, while Joe Kurz, Blanton Creek, Flint River and B.F. Grant have the 4-point on a side rule plus a 15-inch minimum outside spread requirement. That means there is a decent chance at a mature buck on these WMAs.
We see the examples every season in the pages of GON. JR Beasley submitted a handsome 9-pointer from Clybel WMA to the GON Truck-Buck Contest last season. And while hunting a B.F. Grant quota hunt in 2017, Render Crowder bagged a 7 1/2-year-old, 176-lb. dressed weight 12-pointer.
Priority points are the all-important factor that can mean the difference between getting selected or waiting a much longer time than necessary. Understanding how priority points work is critical. The more popular the hunt, the more applicants. That means only hunters using priority points will be selected, so it may be two, three or even more seasons of building up priority points before you can hunt these prime areas.
If you apply for a hunt and are not selected, you get a priority point. These points will accumulate, and the more you acquire, the better your chance of being selected for a future prime hunt.
A look at “Quota Hunt Selection Odds” on the WRD website will reveal how many points it typically takes to get selected. For some hunts, you can be selected with zero points, which means you can hit a quota hunt every season. Meanwhile, some hunts will take up to six points! Other hunts you might have about a 50% chance of being selected with one point, so do you roll the dice and burn only one priority point, or do you use two priority points and guarantee a slot on the hunt? That’s part of the game many hunters don’t understand.
Another part of the game is that you can select a first choice, a second choice and a third choice. Here’s a tip—only use second or third choices options if you absolutely want to get a quota hunt this season. For hunters playing the priority-point game, the second and third choice options do not come into play.
For example, for the 2020 WMA quota deer hunts, the second either-sex hunt at 15,029-acre Berry College WMA had 1,000 spots. All 492 hunters who put this Berry College hunt down as their first choice were selected, including the 444 hunters who wagered zero priority points. There were also 33 hunters who used one point, and 10 who used two points. An applicant didn’t need to wager any priority point to get selected on that hunt, but there’s no harm in playing it safe because if no priority points are needed to get selected, the hunter isn’t charged any points wagered. The remaining spots were filled with second and third hunt choices from applicants.
At the other end of the spectrum, the 2,300-acre Flint River WMA in Dooly County, an area known for big bucks, has a quota of only 35 hunters. You are going to wait a while before being selected. How long? The quota-hunt odds table shows 811 hunters applied for those 35 spots with 423 being their first choice. Getting selected for that hunt as your second and third choice is impossible. No one with three priority points or fewer was selected. You had to have at least four priority points to be picked, and 26 hunters, or 81% of those applicants, who used four points were selected. So, you are going to wait at least four years for a good chance to go on that Flint River hunt. It is a good WMA, but do you want to wait that long? Some do, some don’t, your call.
Regarding second and third choice hunts, many hunts are filled with these choices if there are not enough first choices to fill them, but these are only the hunts that aren’t as popular. Remember, the popular hunts are requiring multiple priority points and only first-choice selections get drawn. If you’re fine with those less popular hunts, put them down as a second or even a third choice. But if you get picked, you won’t get a priority point for your first-choice selection. You may need that priority point for another future hunt. If you’re selected for your first hunt, your second and third choices don’t come into play.
If for some reason you’re not able to go on a hunt this year, go ahead and apply just to go get the priority points. But, you’ll need to apply for “points only.” That way you can continue to accumulate points and use them when you can go. It’s also advisable to apply for “points only” on other game hunts that you’re not interested in now, but you may want to try a hunt later, such as rabbit, turkey or waterfowl. Start accumulating points for when you may need them. There’s no harm in just accumulating points, and in Georgia where there’s no fee to apply, it is a no-brainer to create an account and accumulate priority points. You may need public-land options sometime in the future. If the state gets a brand-new, super awesome WMA, you will have priority points at the ready to get on that very first public hunt.
When applying for a hunt, go ahead and wager all your points to maximize your chance of being selected. You’ll only burn the number of points needed and you will retain the others. For example, if you wager six points and only needed three points to get selected, you still retain your other three points and can use them for future applications.
Charlie Killmaster is the WRD State Deer Biologist, and Charlie offers this advice: “Hunters can look over the past several years to see the average number of priority points it typically takes to draw a given hunt. If you want to build points for a specific hunt, then always set your application to apply for points only, so you don’t draw a hunt you didn’t want and use up any points. If you have more points than the hunt you want to draw might need, go ahead and wager all your points because the system will only deduct the number it takes to draw the hunt leaving you with the excess points.”
Take advantage of all the best strategies when applying. Avoid applying for a hunt and not wagering enough points to draw the hunt. Also, don’t select a hunt you don’t really want to go on when you’re trying to build points. Stick to the points-only application if you really just want to build up points. Another tip is to go ahead and apply for all species since you build up points and can use them down the road one day when you do develop an interest or get the time to go.
Quota deer hunt applications are accepted starting June 1 and the deadline to apply is Sept. 1. The deadline for other species will vary. The turkey deadline is Feb. 15, alligator is July 15, dove is Aug. 15 and Oct. 15 is the deadline for waterfowl, quail, rabbit and feral hog quota hunts.
Seven state parks hold quota deer hunts: Chattahoochee Bend, F. D. Roosevelt, Fort Yargo, Hard Labor, Mistletoe, Panola Mountain and Tugaloo. These are applied for separately from WMAs, also they have their own priority points. The deadline to apply for state park quota deer hunts is Sept. 1. Panola Mountain is one of the toughest park hunts to draw. With a quota of only 40, there were 685 first-choice applicants last year. You had to have six priority points to be selected, and not even everyone with six points was picked. Panola is a prime property requiring plenty of points. Hard Labor with 5,804 acres has a quota of 250 hunters, and 66% of applicants with two points get selected. There is also a mandatory pre-hunt meeting and a $30 charge to hunt state parks.
Federal hunting lands operate under a different system. These include the Okefenokee Swamp, Bond Swamp, Cumberland Island and the 34,000-acre Piedmont NWR. The Feds are still ‘old school’ with applications being mailed in or dropped off in-person, with a deadline of Aug. 26.
You don’t have to hunt alone on these hunts either, as groups are accepted. If you and your buddies all want to go on the same hunt, apply as a group for the same hunt. Group applications are collectively selected or not. But be aware of each member’s points, as the group will be considered based on the points of the member with the lowest points. For example, if one member has four points and the other two members have two points, the entire group application will be considered as having two points. Choose your hunting buddies carefully.
We have primarily concentrated on the deer quota hunts, but the rules and tactics are similar for other species. The WRD website details each year’s selection odds for all quota game hunts, with some as far back as 2014. You don’t have to be a statistician to play the quota hunt game, but it does help to research your odds and make smart choices that give you the best chance to attend your chosen hunt.
Some excellent public-land hunting can be experienced on the many quota hunts in Georgia. Set up an online account, and start building priority points. The process can be a bit confusing, but if you play your points correctly, you can secure a choice hunt with a great chance of scoring some venison or even a quality buck.
Take some time, and go study the selection odds and hunt data at http://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/quota.
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