Hound Hunts For WMA Bobcats & Foxes

This unique dog hunting opportunity kicks off Dec. 1 on some WMAs. Check regs before you go!

John Trussell | December 3, 2023

Joe Hester, his son Haddon and the author’s grandson Jack Trussell turn loose fox and bobcat hounds on Oaky Woods WMA last winter.

Joe Hester says it’s all about hearing the dogs singing and enjoying God’s great outdoors. Joe and his son Haddon or a few close friends will often turn his large pack of tracking dogs loose on the foxes and bobcats on WMAs of middle Georgia just to see the dogs run for hours. They are in pursuit of the very healthy population of bobcats and foxes that are rarely hunted on state-owned or leased lands. He does most of his hunting on Oaky Woods or Ocmulgee WMAs but has visited Rum Creek.

More common out West where there are vast tracts of public lands, hunters there turn out their tracking dogs for mountain lions. Here in Georgia, turning out dogs to run a bobcat or fox is pretty rare. In fact, Joe knows of few others who pursue the sport, but he says it is a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and the fun of running a pack of well-trained dogs. Joe, who is 44, says working with the dogs can be great exercise and keeps him in good shape for his outside job, which is the rental of trash dumpsters. His company is “Dump That Junk,” and he serves all of middle Georgia from his home in rural Peach County.

Last winter, Joe and his son Haddon teamed up with this writer and my grandson Jack Trussell to chase bobcats and foxes on Oaky Woods WMA. The season was winding down in February, so we didn’t have time to do a story last year, but now another hunting season is rolling around. With the fox and bobcat hunting season opening up on Dec. 1, it’s time to plan your own predator hunt.

We rode down one of the many dirt roads in the WMA and pulled off the side of the road to put collars on each of the dogs. Joe says the collars are essential to not only keeping up with the location of the dogs, but to observe the travel route of the predator and try to determine how to intercept it. The Dogtra Pathfinder app ( that he uses on his iPhone combines the shocking collar that he uses for training purposes with the many features of the app to match the dog’s location up with the app’s terrain map.

Key to this type of hunting is the pack of dogs that are used for running the predators. Joe uses treeing walker and Penn-Marydel hounds. The AKC says the treeing walker coonhound is an American favorite because they are strong runners that can cover lots of territory quickly and their tri-coloration makes them a handsome dog. Their smart intelligence and friendly personality make them easy to train and be social with other dogs and humans. They also have a sensitive nose that makes them great trackers for raccoons, foxes and bobcats.

Joe uses treeing walker and Penn-Marydel hounds for running bobcats and foxes.

Joe says the Penn-Marydel foxhounds were once only hunted in the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware area, hence the name was shortened to Penn-Marydel. They are a sub-breed of American hounds that is unbeatable for their strong noses and ease of hunting. This breed has spread across America among foxhound enthusiasts who want the best hounds for hunting. Learn more at

Joe says he was fortunate that a good friend gave him a couple of well-trained walker hounds years ago, and he has basically used those two dogs to educate his new hounds into the fox and bobcat running business. Joe has a lot of both fox/bobcat hunting friends and rabbit running friends, and he grew up rabbit hunting with his dad. He says rabbit and fox/bobcat hunters are always talking about their dogs when they get together, comparing notes on different abilities and always enjoy poking one another with who has the best dog. These arguments are sometimes settled at field-trial events around the country, but the debate about the best dog always continues!

After we got the dogs all collared up just after daylight, they were turned loose and free to roam the adjacent woodlands. It wasn’t long before a hound let out a loud howl, indicating a strike on a scent. The other hounds rushed to the scent to get a nose full of fox or bobcat. Then the races were on!

Joe knew from previous hunts which dog usually led the race and had learned the voice of each dog, which is the result of many races. He also has a numbered collar on each dog and can view the track of each dog on the app, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of knowing where the dogs are located and how the race is progressing. Armed with this knowledge, Joe tries to anticipate where the fox or bobcat is likely to cross the road or other open area where they can be observed. Joe never shoots a fox, and the payoff is just getting a look at the fox and the pack of dogs that is usually a few minutes behind it.

He says red foxes are not as common in Georgia and the gray fox can easily outrun most dogs. Bobcats generally run in big circles, but the young cats will sometimes climb a tree to try and lose the dogs. Big bobcats will either lose the dogs, or if they get very worn out will head to a thick bramble to hide or attack the dogs. The dogs sometimes kill the cat, but if the fight is going on when Joe arrives, he normally dispatches the bobcat due to the damage they do to turkey and quail populations. He says there are more bobcats in the woods than many people realize because they mostly move around at night.

The Dogtra Pathfinder app ( that Joe uses on his iPhone combines the shocking collar that he uses for training purposes with the many features of the app to match the dog’s location up with the app’s terrain map.

Coyotes are something that Joe has to deal with when he is trying to hunt. They normally make a straight beeline out of the area, and if the dogs seem to be interested in a coyote, he’ll shock them to encourage them to drop the trail.

On this hunt, we made several attempts to get ahead of the dogs and catch a glimpse of the fox or bobcat fleeing across a road, but they always seemed to be just a few minutes ahead of us. Although we didn’t see a bobcat or fox on this hunt, we had great fun just running the dogs and enjoying our camaraderie in the outdoors over a period of about three hours. However, these chases can get very long. Joe and his pack of dogs once ran a fox for 5 1/2 hours, and the app showed the dogs had covered 47 miles!

In regard to WMA rules about fox and bobcat hunting, the season runs from Dec. 1 until Feb. 29, 2024. Hunting is available on WMAs during small-game dates during this time period, but be sure to check the regulations at each WMA listing to determine any special instructions.

I.B. Parnell, a WRD wildlife biologist in Thomson, says foxes and bobcats may be hunted on WMAs with small-game weapons only. Hunters who use dogs to pursue foxes and bobcats must pick up their dogs by noon on the day following their hunt. For still hunters, no electronic calls may be used. However, manual calls are welcome.

Night hunting is allowed unless noted in the WMA listing. Travel is limited only to roads open to vehicular traffic, and this also applies to those who choose to hunt using horses. If you are interested in traditional English style fox hunting on horses in Georgia, check out

There are lots of foxes, and bobcats on our WMAs. If you want to talk fox and bobcat hunting with dogs, give Joe Hester a call at 478.960.8718.

On private lands, foxes and bobcats may be hunted with small-game weapons or centerfire rifles of .17 caliber or larger from Dec. 1-Feb. 29, 2024. On those private lands, the same rules apply to calls. Manual calls are legal, but electronic calls may not be used for fox and bobcat.

If you don’t own dogs, you can hunt them with manual calls only. One successful technique for private-land hunters is to draw in predators with an animal carcass, like a deer or wild pig. Predators can be lured into the smell of the carcass and may remain close to the site for several days, giving hunters the opportunity to set up close and use a predator call to get them within rifle range.

I once shot a large wild pig and left the carcass in the woods with a trail cam mounted close by just to check out what critter would pay a visit. A large bobcat visited the site for three days, and covered up the carcass after each visit. The bobcat must have been close by, because no buzzards visited the site until he had abandoned it.

No dogs, no problem. On private lands, you can place a carcass in an area and it may attract a bobcat and keep it close-by for a few days. Then, you can use manual calls to draw it into range.

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