Georgia WMA Hogs

Public pigs offer a reason to get out and enjoy February hunting while adding excellent freezer meat.

Brad Gill | February 4, 2019

It’s February, possibly one of the more popular months when folks get out to purposely find a hog to shoot on a WMA.

This February’s biggest news on the public-land hog front is probably the floods that middle Georgia has sent downstream to Regions 3, 6 and 7, which has affected the hog hunting on their WMAs by flooding thousands of public-land acres. However, as hogs adapt, it’s the job of the hog hunter to adapt to the current situation, too.

Up north, where the rains haven’t forced hogs to take up new residences, pigs seem to be relating to food plots pretty heavy right now. They can be found on a number of mountainous WMAs; however, expect to work the boot leather in many cases. 

As you venture out, just remember that hogs are present and there for the taking, but they are so sharp and so quick to move when hunter pressure picks up. Take that into account as you begin to poke around for a Georgia WMA hog in February.

Always consult the Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations booklet before you go hog hunting on a WMA. In February, you’ll want to make sure small-game season is open on a particular WMA. If it is, you can use small-game weapons to hunt hogs. Also, if a WMA is open for fox and bobcat hunting, and the hunter is hunting for those critters, centerfire rifles of .17 caliber and larger may be used (page 12 of hunting regs).

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  Region 1: WRD Biologist David Gregory reports, “Pine Log has the most hogs, followed by Cohutta, and tied for third would be John’s Mountain and Rich Mountain, but neither one of those have a whole lot,” said David. 

David said the more traditional pig areas on Pine Log are off Oak Street adjacent to downtown White, and then off East Valley Road on the north end.

“There’s hogs on other parts of the area, but that’s the two spots everybody tends to gravitate to,” said David.

However, these hogs figure out hunter pressure and eventually become pretty scarce in those areas.

“The more people who go out there, the more scarce they become,” said David. “Hunters figure out they can’t find any hogs, then they stop going, and all of a sudden hogs start going back, and all of sudden hunters figure it out, nail a bunch of them, and they disappear again. Hogs are very mobile. They go to areas that are not as very easily hunted, some that are still on the property.”

During those scarce times, David suggested going up on the mountain to the harder-to-reach areas where there is less hunter traffic. 

If you want a mountain experience with an outside chance at a hog, Cohutta WMA is your place.

“What makes Cohutta so hard is that it’s such a huge area that it’s just difficult to pin them down because they could be anywhere,” said David. “I guess that’s why people gravitate toward Pine Log because if they are there, they are going to be in those spots and people are going to kill them. If they are not, they’ll wait and come back. At Cohutta, they could just be anywhere.”

WRD Biologist Adam Hammond heard from a friend who reported some recent hog activity at Cohutta off Old Highway 2 on Forest Service Roads 51 and 51B, specifically in the areas of Horseshoe Bend, Rice Camp, Ken Mountain and Jigger Creek. 

Historically, good areas for Cohutta hogs are Snaggy Lead/Barnes Creek (Forest Service Road 304) and  the headwaters of Sumac Creek (Forest Service Roads 17 and 17A).

Region 2: WRD Biologist Kevin Lowrey says that most of the mountain WMAs have a good population of hogs worth hunting. His favorites are Warwoman, Chattahoochee and Lake Russell WMAs.

“They are certainly using food plots right now, but they are grazing, not rooting, so don’t just look for rooting when scouting,” said Kevin.

At Warwoman WMA, any food plot located off Tuckaluge Creek Road would likely be good, and there’s a population of hogs found along the food plots around Sarah’s Creek.

On Chattahoochee WMA, there’s been a lot of recent fresh activity off White Oak Gap Road off Richard B Russell Scenic Highway. Other areas to try are the 6-mile Trail Ridge Road and the food plots in the Martin Branch area. 

On Lake Russell WMA, look in Frady Branch and at the Georgia Mountain Orchard.

“There’s places you can find pigs on Dawson Forest WMA on the Wildcat and Burnt Mountain tracts, but it’s just a little harder to find them,” said Kevin.

“The Waters Creek area on Chestatee is usually good, and on Swallow Creek, there’s usually always pigs off Grapevine Road off Indian Grave Gap Road. It’s about a 4-mile long road, and there’s usually hogs there. The gates are closed there and makes for a good area if someone doesn’t mind covering some ground.” 

Region 3: Tuckahoe is really the only consistent bet for running into a WMA hog in east-central Georgia.

“Wildlife Technician Howard Pope has told me he has seen more hog sign this year than he’s seen in a long time,” said I.B. Parnell, WRD biologist.

However, don’t expect to find any hogs along the edge of the Savannah River right now since roughly 10,000-12,000 acres of Tuckahoe’s 15,000 acres was under water on Jan. 18.

“It’s (the high water) got the pigs pushed up on the western part, but just realize that any of the secondary roads are going to be very muddy and difficult to drive on. Your main roads going in—Greenwood Church, Tucker Camp, Bay, Main Road—those are all driveable, but are closed at the water’s edge” said I.B.

The double gate on Main Road that is about 2 miles inside the WMA is closed. As a general practice, gates are closed when the Savannah River gauge at Burtons Ferry reaches 12 feet. Don’t expect these Tuckahoe gates to open back up until the river level returns to that level and the roads have had at least a week to dry out some. 

“Hogs can be anywhere on Tuckahoe,” said I.B. “There wouldn’t be anywhere specific I’d point hunters to. Traditionally, checking around wildlife openings is a good place to start though.  Go hunt, look for fresh sign and go from there. If you don’t see fresh sign, pack up and try a different location.”

Some hog hunters like to get in boats and go island hopping during times when the river is up. However, I.B. said that when the river gets to 18 feet on the Burton Ferry gauge, most of Tuckahoe’s river swamp islands get flooded. The river level reached nearly 18 feet just after the first of the year and stayed there for several days, likely not allowing any hogs the opportunity to hold up. 

“Your best bet would just be to stay on the high ground,” said I.B. “I’ve got some friends who have property near the Spring Lake Tract on Tuckahoe, and they are seeing game pushed up out of the floodplain. Also, now that it’s after deer season, you may see a few more hogs, too, because nobody is running feeders anymore. You might see the hogs spread back out and onto the WMA.”

I.B. said he would not recommend any other WMAs for a hog-only trip.

“We still have some pigs at Di-Lane but not thick like they were a few years ago,” said I.B. “I wouldn’t make a special trip for the numbers that are there now, but you can find them. You are just going to have to hunt for them. I would start in the creek swamps. 

“I’ve heard of a few hogs on Redlands, a few on Oconee. They can be there, but don’t go specifically for them.”

Just be prepared with a .22 head shot if you’re at one of those WMAs looking for a February squirrel. 

Region 4: WRD Wildlife Biologist Bobby Bond says Oaky Woods and Ocmulgee WMAs in the Ocmulgee River bottom are tied for the best places to try and knock down a February hog in his region.

“On Oaky Woods and Ocmulgee WMAs, we haven’t planted a food plot in over a decade because of the hogs,” said Bobby. “Hogs can be on any part of those WMAs.” 

However, unless luck simply strikes, make plans to really hunt hard in order to be successful on a February hunt on these WMAs. 

“Starting Aug. 15 those WMAs get hit almost daily for people trying to kill a hog. We get a lot of people who come down—even during the week—to go in there and try and kill a hog,” said Bobby.

Hogs react much quicker to hunter pressure than deer. Since hogs have been hunted since late summer on these popular areas, they are going to be a challenge to kill this month. 

“I’ve seen their behavior on Oaky Woods,” said Bobby. “If they ever see a light, if they hear the gravel crunching, those jokers are in motion.”

For future reference, Bobby added that the best time of the year to kill a hog on one of these WMAs is likely Aug. 15 when the small-game season opens. It’s buggy and just plain miserable outside, but the hogs haven’t experienced any hunter pressure yet. However, it’s February now, and there are ways to score on some wild pork. 

“You’re going to have to find the freshest sign you can find,” said Bobby. “If you find any sign that looks a week old, you can forget it. You’re wasting your time.”

Even though both these areas are larger than 12,000 acres, hunter pressure will push hogs off both these WMAs.

“They way those WMAs are shaped, we have a lot of edge we share with private landowners,” said Bobby. “So those hogs will get shoved off the property at some point, but they’ll come back.”

Due to recent flooding, there are some gate closures you need to be aware of. At press time, the following two gates were closed:

• Oaky Woods: South of the powerline is a gate that is closed.

• Ocmulgee: The gate behind the Ocmulgee check station when you cross the railroad tracks is closed.

The rest of the WMAs in Bobby’s region either don’t have hogs or they are hit-and-miss with hogs.

“We get a few hogs on B.F. Grant, but it’s not what we had 10 years ago. They’ve knocked those hogs down a little bit,” said Bobby. 

“Clybel is hit and miss. They will run those drainages around our big dove field off Shepherd Pond Road. Believe me, we’d love for every hog to be off that property because they mess with the dove fields.”

Another spot where you could find some periodic hogs is on Cedar Creek WMA. It wasn’t until five years ago when the first pigs showed up on this area.

“Most were between the check station and the dove field, the western part, and southwest of 212, but there’s not a lot of them,” said Bobby. 

Sandhills WMA-West is another area to find some hogs from time to him.

“We wish someone would kill every single one,” said Bobby. “We’ve got some rare and threatened plant species in that black creek corridor that goes through Sand Hills, and they about messed up some of that. We trapped and shot a few out, but they come through back and forth.”

Bobby said a general rule is that the smaller the WMA, the more likely hogs are to be hit-and miss on those areas.

“When they get pressured, they move off,” said Bobby. “Also (on WMAs in his region) on the WMAs with river drainages, they tend to stay around a lot. On WMAs with just creek drainages, they run on and off the properties.”

The Almo Area of Chattahoochee Fall Line and Big Lazer Creek are two more WMAs where you can find hogs from time to time. 

Region 5: If you’re after southwest Georgia pigs, you’ve really only got two good places to choose from, Elmodel and Chickasawhatchee WMAs.

“If it was me, I’d probably go to Elmodel first. The property is smaller, and there seems to be more sign at Elmodel than I see at Chickasawhatchee,” said Drew Zellner, WRD biologist. “Elmodel has Chickasawhatchee Creek running through it, and the Ichawaynochaway Creek enters the WMA on the south end. Hogs find refuge in those drains.

“We have quite a few dove fields on Elmodel, too. They are not planted now, so the hogs are not rooting around the fields too much.”

Drew said if he was going to look specifically for a hog on Elmodel, he would drive down Jericho Road on the eastern side of the WMA. He’d park along the northern portion of the WMA and make plans to access Chickasawhatchee Creek from there. This is a large area where you should find some hog sign. From this point, he would work south.

“Chickasawhatchee WMA is a big piece of property, so you’re going to find a number of pigs, but you’re going to have to run them down. The bottoms are where they stay at Chickasawatchee,” said Drew. 

“If I was going to Chickasawhatchee, I’d go down Mud Creek Road on the far eastern part of the WMA. You go south about 4 or 5 miles, and you’ll come to the dove fields. There’s a powerline right there, and there’s a drainage west of the dove fields. Walk that drainage a little bit.

“If you’re not seeing a whole lot, I’d come back out on Highway 62 and come in the main Chickasawhatchee Road and access the powerline over there on that end, and you may see some fresh sign.”

Drew added that adjacent plantations are getting pretty aggressive in their hog management, so the overall numbers of hogs may not be as fruitful as it could be. 

Region 6: WRD Biologist Greg Waters was recently burning at River Bend WMA and saw some hog sign on the Upper Tract in an upland area. The river bottom areas are still flooded.

“If they’re heading from the camping area back, it wasn’t within a quarter mile of leaving the camping area that there was hog rooting on the right where they had been in there the last couple of days,” said Greg.

While working, Greg spoke to a small group of hunters who had been camping at River Bend, and they had shot at a hog on an upland area. Greg didn’t poke around on the Lower Tract, but he would predict some hogs to be down there on the higher ground, too.

“On Big Hammock WMA, back even before it was flooded, I was squirrel hunting on the Natural Area, which is all upland area, and I saw a group of hogs,” said Greg. “I’m sure there are probably still hogs on the upland areas. You just have to move around and find out where they are.” 

Before the river rose, Greg saw some hogs on Horse Creek. There are enough uplands on this area to likely find some fresh hog sign to hunt around. While Greg hasn’t been to Beaverdam recently, he says there’s enough uplands to hold some pigs that have left the flooded river bottom. 

These pigs were recently photographed on a DNR trail camera on Ocmulgee WMA.

“I noticed yesterday the river level here at Bullard Creek has started to go down,” said Greg. “As these river levels do go down, people could get out there and start getting in some of the swamps again and probably see some sign where those hogs will get back in there fast.

“At Bullard Creek, so much has been flooded, and I just haven’t seen the hog sign on it as I have the other areas. If you go on Bullard Creek, the most hog sign I’ve seen in the last year has always been on the east side of the area toward the Appling County side.”

Greg said hogs in his area are feeding on leftover water and pin oak acorns and different plants. 

“I’d bet that if hunters did a little bit of scouting on any one of those areas, they could see them in our region,” said Greg. “And all the areas I’m talking about are generally within an hour of each other.

“Be flexible. Don’t just sit on one area. If they spend a couple hours walking around on some area and don’t see any sign, move to another area or another part of that area.”

Region 7: When I caught up with David Mixon, Game Management region supervisor out of Brunswick, he jokingly asked that middle Georgia quit sending the coast so much rain.

“If you can find some high ground, you can probably find some hogs. In a lot of cases, the hogs are probably not going to be on our properties,” said David.

Much of the Region 7 WMAs lie along the Altamaha River corridor, and thousands of acres will simply be flooded and unhuntable this month. Altamaha WMA, usually one of the region’s top pork produces, is mostly flooded. 

“There’s a little bit of land you could probably access around the entrance to Altamaha at the Buffalo Swamp Tract until you hit that first ford. Then there’s probably some little pieces to the west that you could access from Possum Point Road, but other than that, pretty much everything is under water,” said David. 

There are some scattered ridges on the WMA, but just randomly striking out in waders or a boat is not recommended for those inexperienced with Altamaha WMA. 

Another option is to try the Altamaha WMA Waterfowl Management Area, which includes the islands of  Broughton, Butler, Champney, Rhetts, Rabbit and Rockdedundy. 

“The area is tidal, so you don’t notice as much of a river affect out there,” said David. “It’s all boat access, and it’s all marsh. It’s muddy, but there are portions you’ll slosh through, but you can walk in.

“It’s stalk and listen, or stalk and spot. A lot of the grass is 6 foot high. You can be successful, but it’s a lot of work. They do well in that environment where they are not bothered.”

David said he’s hunted hogs on Rhetts, and he’s been in hog sign all day long but was still unable to locate hogs.  

“You see a lot of hog sign, but it’s not easy to figure out where they are. I would not recommend someone who has never been down here to pile up in a boat to try and do it. It’s tough and just takes experience when dealing with tides and that marsh mud. If you step in the wrong place, you could sink up to your armpits.”

The Altamaha WMA Waterfowl Management Area also offers an extended hog season from March 1 to May 31 with small-game weapons.

Griffin Ridge WMA still has some dry ground that should be holding some hogs as you read this, but be prepared to walk.

“The road that accesses Low Road and High Road is closed,” said David. The Low Road is under water, while the High Road is above water. That gate is located at the highway, so it would take a little bit of a walk to get into the ridge. There’s a wooden bridge you normally have to drive across, but the gate is closed before you get to that bridge.”

David said if you move northeast and go down Check Station Road and drive back toward the campground portion of the WMA, you’ll find several closed roads in the area that you can access dry ground along Fountain Branch and the north side of Back Swamp. Those areas will take you back toward the edges of the swamp. 

“My rule of thumb for hunting hogs is to go to the edge of the water and start walking. Find sign from there. They are usually rooting about as close to water as they can get.”

Townsend WMA still has a fair amount of higher ground that can be accessed from Old Barrington Dirt Road along the North and South Tracts.

“It’s going to take a little work, but if you find those areas up on the hill that are accessible by vehicle where the hogs have been pushed to, it may be an easy hunt for you. But if other people have already pushed them out of that spot, they are likely back in the hard-to-reach areas.”

Much of the vehicular road access into Pine Island and the one road into Buck Island are currently under water.

“Sansavilla, Penholoway and even Clayhole have a lot of upland that is not going to be flooded when the river comes up,” said David. “The  Boyles Island portion of Penholoway is going to be under water, but it’s only boat access anyhow.”

Paulks Pasture maybe one of the least effected WMAs from the floods.

“There’s hogs there,” said David. “Those sloughs are wet, but they’re not directly affected until it gets really high. Right now they are not directly affected by the river level.”

David said the vehicular roads on Paulks were a mess recently, but they are now starting to dry out some.

Finally, if you want an adventure this month, Sapelo Island is open for those who have their own boat and don’t mind primitive camping and then either walking or riding a bicycle to their hog hunting spot. 

“There’s a lot of fresh water on the island, and I would expect the hogs to be doing well out there,” said David. “There’s hogs out there, but that hunt is a little more for the hard core.”

In addition, hog hunting with big-game weapons will be allowed on Sapelo from March 1 to May 31. Again, you must provide your own boat transportation and camp at Moses Hammock campsite. Since this trip is always a big undertaking, you may want to call the Brunswick office before you go. Their number is (912) 262-3173.

“Don’t assume these WMAs aren’t hunted because of the high water,” said David. “There are people who are dedicated hog hunters who kind of wait on situations like this, and they break out their boats and waders. But for the casual ones, I suspect the flooded woods has slowed them down a bit.”

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