Georgia VPA Properties Open Land To Hunting

One Voluntary Public Access tract will offer a unique opportunity for those who prefer to bowhunt turkeys with stick and string.

Craig James | March 2, 2018

One of the chief complaints of public-land hunters in Georgia, or any state for that matter, is the lack of available properties to hunt. The complaints are justified, considering that roughly 93 percent of Georgia is made up of privately held lands.

The good news is that more and more of that private land is being made accessible, thanks to the now 2-year-old VPA (Voluntary Public Access) Program, thus creating more areas and diverse hunting opportunities for all Georgia hunters. The relatively new program is funded through a grant from the Department of Agriculture, and so far, the results for hunters have been great.

“The program is working really well for us so far. We pay competitive rates to lease property from private landowners, therefore creating more acres of public land for hunters to explore,” said Don McGowan with WRD.     

So far, 19 different pieces of property and thousands of acres of land have been leased, which has created hunting opportunities for dove, deer, turkey, waterfowl and small game. Property sizes leased currently range from as small as 10 acres to more than 1,500.

“We have acquired some really good dove fields with this program and have seen some really successful hunts this season. Appling County Dove Field is a prime example. We had some good shoots down there,” said Don.

Landowners participating in the program benefit, as well. In addition to competitive lease rates and contract terms, they also benefit from free wildlife habitat technical assistance, and they keep flexibility in setting dates and limiting types of use. Properties can be leased for special hunts—for disabled hunters, children or ladies.

“The sky’s the limit. We will consider most any lease and terms,” said Don.

Property owners who are interested in becoming part of the program can obtain a Land Owner Interest Form on the DNR website.

“We’re interested in all types and sizes of property. We will take a look at anything from 10 or 20 acres up into the thousands of acres,” said Don. “Keep in mind that our yearly grant expires in September, so if you’re interested in participating in the program for next year, be sure to go ahead to our website and fill out the necessary form to get the process started.”

For turkey hunters this month, a newly acquired VPA land shows good promise for a successful hunt this spring.

Camp Thunder VPA is roughly 1,600 acres and holds a substantial population of turkeys that haven’t received a whole lot of pressure in recent years.

“We just acquired this lease, and we expect to have a really good turkey season, based on the current population of birds on the property,” said Don.

However, the Camp Thunder tract is archery only, which does mean less use. But if you’re a bowhunter, this could be the public-land gold mine you’ve been waiting for.

“Not being able to use firearms makes it tougher but also means less competition from other hunters, particularly on opening weekend,” said Don.

Though only two years old, the newly introduced VPA Program holds tremendous promise for both hunters and landowners alike.

To view specific hunting regulations for VPA lands each season, check out the current hunting regulations booklet.


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