Georgia WMA Deer Hunting Special 2018
I’m thankful for Charlie Killmaster, head deer guru for WRD, and all the Game Management region biologists and supervisors who keep up with WMA check-in and sign-in data. Without those numbers, which are also used to gather important information to help manage WMA deer herds, hunters would be left in the dark about which WMAs best fit their needs. So, thanks Charlie and all you region folks who help keep hunters informed through our WMA Special.
While WRD keeps the data, they don’t compile the data in tables and charts. Their time schedules are crunched enough, so it’s GON’s job is to come along with its WMA Special and break those numbers out so hunters can more easily determine which WMAs they’d like to hunt in the fall.
In the WMA Special, GON publishes statistics for each hunt on individual WMAs. We know some of you enjoy flipping to your favorite WMA and seeing how certain hunts did last year. In addition, we provide three years of data for each hunt, so you can look at trends and get a better picture of how productive, or unproductive, these hunts are over time.
If you don’t see a WMA listed in the hunt data in this article, data was not available, or space constraints for this article didn’t allow us to include it. To view what WMA data WRD has online, go to www1.gadnr.org/dnr/deer/public.
WMA Quota Hunts: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that limited hunter numbers on a WMA generally ups the quality of the hunt.
If you’re going to participate in a WMA quota hunt, you’ll need to apply online at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com by the Sept. 1 deadline. If you’ve never set up an online account, it’s an easy process that’ll unlock the door to 39 different WMA quota deer hunts to choose from. You can select only one hunt or pick as many as three to up the odds of getting selected for one. Or, if you just want to earn one priority point and start saving points for some of the more popular hunts in the next few years, you can do that, too.
Some of WRD’s quota hunts take a few years before you get to go. Check out WRD’s selection-odd tables at georgiawildlife.com/hunting/quota#odds. This will let you know how many points to use on the more popular hunts.
Sapelo Island boasted the top-two quota hunts in the state last year for hunter success: Nov. 2-4, 84.9 percent; Nov. 16-18, 69.4 percent. Both of these either-sex hunts had a 125-hunter quota.
Here’s something that may knock your hunting socks off. For the Nov. 2-4 hunt, the most successful hunt in the state, 70 percent of folks who were drawn for that hunt applied with zero priority points. Having said that, those 70 percent of folks had to apply for the Nov. 2-4 hunt as their first choice.
On the second Sapelo hunt (Nov. 16-18), 100 percent of people who applied for this hunt as their top hunt choice were drawn. In addition, zero priority points were needed. Wow!
“The manager on Sapelo, Blaine Tyler, has been working hard to reintroduce fire and open up habitats for hunter access,” said David Mixon, WRD’s coastal region supervisor for Game Management. “This increase in burning and habitat manipulation is what he credits for increased hunter success.
“His application of fire and habitat manipulation that opens up areas for hunter access has continued to increase this year, as well. He expects this deer season to be as good, if not better, as long as the weather doesn’t interfere. He has been seeing lots of deer as he moves around the island working on the habitat.”
Chickasawhatchee WMA outside of Albany had the third-most successful quota hunt last year: Dec. 7-9, 66.7 percent.
This was another easy draw that didn’t require years of waiting. One priority point got you on this hunt, and 75 percent of those who applied with zero priority points got to hunt. Again, those 75 percent had to apply for this hunt as their first choice. Don’t think you can put a hunt like this as your second or third choice and get drawn. If using no priority points, put this as your top hunt choice and you’ve got about a 75 percent chance of getting drawn.
“We’ve done an awful lot of thinning on Chickasawhatchee in the last two years,” said Drew Zellner, WRD wildlife biologist. “We’ve started with some intensive quail management on Chickasawhatchee, resulting in low basal areas on much of the upland acres there, together with an aggressive 2-year fire rotation. As a result, ground cover has rebounded and flourished in these stands, providing great forage and fawning areas.
“In addition, hunters can see a lot farther into these pine stands, taking deer that would have previously not been seen. The hardwood bottoms are still present and plentiful on Chickasawhatchee, so cover is certainly not lacking either. We’re still thinning out there, opening more areas up for ground cover recovery, so I expect the success rate trend to continue.”
Last season’s hardest quota draw was the first gun hunt on Flint River WMA. It took four priority points for a guaranteed draw, although 83 percent of hunters got in applying with three points. That hunt was the No. 8 most successful for quota hunts last year.
Flint River’s second gun hunt was the second-hardest draw, with three points needed for a guaranteed spot. That hunt was the No. 5 best quota hunt last year.
The WMA quota-hunt deadline for deer hunts is Saturday, Sept. 1.
Non-Quota WMAs: Many of our readers utilize the non-quota deer hunting opportunities on WMAs. A list of the top-20 most successful non-quota WMA hunts are listed here.
Beaverdam’s Nov. 2-4 hunt had the highest non-quota hunter-success rate: Nov. 2-4, 42.9 percent
“I believe there are several reasons that particular Beaverdam hunt is so successful,” said Greg Waters, WRD wildlife biologist. “One is that it usually falls during the rut and has the deer moving well. Second is that we usually have good weather and a good hunter turnout, which keeps the deer moving during the hunt. The hunt is also the first either-sex hunt for firearms other than an early (youth) hunt, which always has low hunter numbers.”
Mayhaw WMA hosted the No. 2 best WMA non-quota hunt: Dec. 1-Jan. 14, 38.4 percent
“It seems as if the stars were aligned this year on Mayhaw WMA,” said Brent Howze, WRD wildlife biologist. “The deer were really moving during this hunt, which was likely attributable to the timing of the hunt lining up with the slightly later rut in that area, as well as favorable weather conditions for the hunt. We have also ramped up the habitat management (thinning and burning) on Mayhaw, as well, which allows for more available and better quality forage.
“This year’s hunt is close to the same time frame, so I imagine as long as mother nature cooperates, this year should be an excellent year, as well.”
Penholoway near the coast had the No. 3 best non-quota hunt last year: Oct. 5-7, 31.9 percent
“I think several factors contributed to this success,” said David Mixon. “This was essentially our first firearms hunt on this area. The youth hunt was two weeks before, but no deer were harvested. Only 23 hunters showed up for the youth hunt.”
David believes the fact that Hurricane Irma was two weeks before the youth hunt attributes to the low youth turnout.
“Our rut typically kicks in during the first two weeks of October, so this hunt (Oct. 5-7) was positioned to take advantage of this timing,” said David. “The management of Penholoway has been moving toward an early successional habitat type. Our long-term goal for this WMA is a restored longleaf pine ecosystem on much of the upland with regular fire intervals. We have been able to make strides toward this habitat type on this area, and because of this, we are producing more forage and more open habitat for hunters to access.”
Adult/Child WMA Hunts: Buck Shoals WMA hosted two youth quota hunts last season, with one of them having a 50 percent hunter-success rate.
“Buck Shoals WMA is a unique place. It totals 600 acres situated along the Chattahoochee River. The area was purchased to build a state park and was not hunted for approximately 16 years, until the Wildlife Resource Division took over when it was decided a park was not going work on the site,” said Kevin Lowrey, WRD biologist.
“The deer population is high, and hunter success has reflected that. The diversity of this WMA attracts and holds game. The area is mostly mixed pine/hardwoods and hardwoods. We plant about 7 percent of the area in a variety of crops, such as peas, millet, oats, clover and sorghum. This helps supplement the deer on the area and increases carrying capacity and fawn recruitment. We also have a limited number of hunts on the area and minimize disturbance on the area the rest of the year. All of this is an effort to maintain abundant game populations and try provide the best youth hunting experience in Georgia.”
Great Mountain WMA Buck: Submitted by Kevin Ray
“On Nov. 24, I, took Phil Cowan on a one-hour hike up the mountain on Chattahoochee WMA with our climbers, backpack and rifles. We got our stands in place and hunted before having to leave for Thanksgiving get-togethers.
“The following morning, not long after daylight, the silhouette of a deer came through the mountain laurel by Phil. A glimpse of antler shimmered in the sunlight, so he shot. I heard the shot 1,000 yards away and immediately knew it was him. After he waited a while and climbed down, he sent me a pic, and I immediately came to join in the celebration.
“We built a sled with rope and wood and began to take all of our equipment, as well as the deer, down the mountain. It took three hours but was well worth it. The deer had a 23 7/8-inch inside spread and was aged at 7 1/2.”
2017-2018 Georgia WMA Data By Hunt
Other Articles You Might Enjoy