Hunt Georgia WMA Hogs… Now And Later
Sharpen your shooting skills, scout for deer season, and get some of the other white meat by hunting wild hogs on Georgia WMAs.
Are you one of those hunters sitting around the house waiting impatiently for deer-hunting season to begin? If you are, get up and go get yourself a copy of the new Georgia hunting seasons and regulations booklet and study it closely.
You will find that there is an animal you can hunt during small-game season, deer season, or any season for that matter. Feral hogs run amok in most regions of Georgia, and where you find one, you are likely to find droves of the destructive bulldozers with hair. Food plots, acorns, roads, whatever… If hogs find it, they can do some damage. Their presence, if left unchecked, can prove detrimental to food sources relied upon by deer and turkeys. Therefore, the stateʼs hunting regulations are liberal on taking these wilier-than-you-think beasts.
Last August, I hunted the mornings of the 19th and the 21st, returning successful from both trips. I killed two healthy boars; one with a bow and one with a muzzleloader. This was on Griffin Ridge, a WMA noted for excellent hog hunting. The thing is, I didn’t see a single hunter.
Since Georgia’s 2005 small-game season opened on August 15, and runs through February 28 on most WMAs, they are the perfect place to go look for a porker.
There are some changes and additions in WMA hog-hunting regulations that began last year for the 2004 season. They all contribute to more opportunities to hunt feral hogs. Under general WMA regulations feral hogs may be hunted with archery equipment during archery deer hunts (arrows must have broadheads), legal firearms during firearm deer hunts, legal turkey weapons during turkey hunts, small-game firearms, including .22 caliber rimfire rifles, muzzleloaders (yes, scopes are legal on hog hunts), handguns, and shotguns with No. 2 or smaller shot.
Before you venture out on a hunt, consult your Hunting Seasons and Regulations booklet for deer and small-game hunt dates, and note which specific weapons restrictions will apply for a particular WMA.
A majority of the more popular WMAs that are known for numbers of hogs will have an inclusion in the small-game hunt dates which reads: feral hogs may be taken during small-game dates after October 31.
Most of the remaining WMAs will fall under the standard small-game dates listed for that area. These dates will generally fall before, between, and after the deer-hunt dates posted for a WMA. Of course, you can still pursue hogs during the deer hunts, meaning some WMAs are open to hog hunting more than half the year.
Some WMAs will have hogs permanently, some wonʼt. And some will have sporadic invasions depending on food sources and hunting pressure. If you canʼt find any word-of-mouth information on the presence of hogs on a WMA you are interested in hunting, contact the area manager. Most are more than willing to give information, especially if it means some hogs are going home in the back of your truck.
Not only do wild hogs make for great table fare (imagine how good those shoulders will smell on the smoker when you get back to camp after a cold November morning spent in the deer stand), hunting them gives you a great chance to spend a little time scouting for whitetails. Even if preseason scouting is all you have in mind, why would you not carry a legal weapon just in case you happen upon some pigs?
Hogs are nomadic, especially the big boars, which will range great distances. I have observed hogs once or twice in an area never to see them again. So be prepared to take one when you go, because you might not get to see them again after some pressure gets put on.
Scouting and learning the terrain is critical to successful deer hunting. It is no different when hogs are the quarry of choice.
When you pick out an area to hog hunt where you have never been before, start by getting a map of the WMA. The maps available at the WMA will suffice, but they will also mean you have to put in more legwork. Topographic and aerial maps are better, because they can save you walking time and gas.
The main things to look for on your map are waterways and swamps. Feral hogs are like your granddaddyʼs hogs. They love to wallow in the mud, and they require a lot of water. Find that type terrain, and it will be easier to find sign such as rooting and tracks. In comparison to a deer track, the hogʼs track will be more square-shaped, with wider spread toes and blunt tips.
Just be prepared to walk to places most hunters wonʼt go.
What hogs lack in vision, they more than make up for with their keen sense of smell. Use the wind to your advantage, and stalk slowly and quietly through the areas you are hunting.
Hogs are like deer in that they will crash away through the woods at the slightest hint of human presence, but by stalking slowly and into the wind, I have literally stepped on hogs before.
While you are out there looking for hogs, you might stumble upon some good sign and mast that will draw deer when the season opens.
On one hunt last year, I left Hazlehurst at 10:30 a.m. for an hour-long drive to River Bend, one of my favorite WMAs for hog hunting.
Most people would ask, “arenʼt you leaving a little late?” As a matter of fact, I did so purposely for a couple of reasons. The first is, that after a long, arduous deer season, I wanted to sleep a little late and enjoy a home-cooked breakfast. Besides, I have probably killed more hogs at midday than I have in the mornings and evenings combined.
The best success I have had has been between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Donʼt misunderstand me, some mornings I still leave before daylight. I just donʼt push myself like I do during deer season.
River Bend has two tracts about six miles apart. I decided to check the upper tract first. The previous February, my good friend John Bookhardt and I took a combined six hogs with my Mathews LX and his trusty longbow. In three trips, we saw more than 30 hogs.
John had found a cache of acorns still carpeting the ground, and the hogs were tearing them up.
Once you know or think that hogs are using an area, apply the process of elimination to find them. To myself and most hunters who hunt hogs regularly, the most efficient and exciting way to go is the spot-and-stalk method.
Just follow waterways, small drainages, and the perimeter of swampy areas searching for highly visible sign. When you come across a mix of new and old sign with different ages of tracks and droppings, the hogs are coming there frequently. This would be an outstanding spot for a late afternoon hunt.
As you find sign, follow the freshest sign in the direction in which it is going and you can catch hogs out still feeding or returning to where they bed during the day. Hopefully, youʼll eventually get on some hogs using this tactic. However, if you come to open terrain and the sign is playing out without your having spotted a pig, go back and look for the thickest, most inaccessible places they could possibly hide.
Hogs will lay in impenetrable thickets, grown up cutovers, young pine plantations full of broomsedge and briars, or islands in flooded swamps.
I have found hogs bedded in the bottom of hollow cypress and tupelo trees. Once I killed a hog and a friend asked where I had got him. I said, “I shot him in a tree.”
He didn’t believe me.
When John found the acorns, we soon found the core area the hogs were bedding in during daylight hours. It was a grown-up swamp clearcut that was mostly flooded with small islands interspersed throughout.
The bedding area was extremely thick with a few small openings here and there. Several times we were within five to 10 yards of hogs with no shot openings available.
The February day I returned alone, I checked the oak trees first. No acorns to be found, and no rooting or droppings.
I made a sweep of the bedding area we had found. Nothing, though I did mark some waypoints on my GPS. I went back to the car and headed for the lower tract which can flood worse and be extremely thick.
I drove down the main road leading to Beacham Lake until deep water across the road forced me to park (hey, I was in my wifeʼs car).
I struck down the nearest trail leading deeper into the swamp toward the river, coming upon where the flooded slough crossed the trail. Beyond that, it is foot traffic only. At the edge of the water, the people tracks ended. Thatʼs also where a well-trodden path of deer and hog tracks came out of the cold, icy water on the other side, 60 yards away.
Thatʼs when I got all giddy and decided to shuck some clothes. It wasn’t all that bad, and I stood in the sun for a few minutes to drip dry before I got redressed and moved along.
I moved slowly along the trail, dodging dry leaves while treading on a multitude of fresh hog and deer tracks, scanning the adjoining strips of jungle on each side.
A few hundred yards down the trail, I came to a sharp curve, which I cautiously peered around like a soft-shelled turtle stretching its neck to see above the water. At the next curve, a hundred yards or so away, stood a black object in the trail. After a couple of seconds, I could tell it was a hog, and it was facing away from me. Miraculously, the breeze was blowing directly in my face, so I crouched over, hugged the thick fringe of the forest, and only took steps when the hog was facing away for the sheer enjoyment of getting within bow range, even though I was carrying my CVA muzzleloader.
Halfway there, a much larger hog came around the curve toward the other hog. The large, dark red hog was then followed by two slightly smaller black hogs. When they bunched up at the apex of the curve, they stepped into the thick woods, stopping every few steps to root while working deeper into the flooded swamp.
I could tell by their little “skips” and other body language that nature was telling them to finish looking for food and hurry to bed. Once they start that little trot, itʼs goodbye.
The biggest hog — the one I wanted — weaved behind a bank of dirt and overturned tree roots. As I neared where I could see over or around the dirt bank, I was getting dangerously close to the other hogs, which were less than 10 yards to my right.
Thatʼs when I felt the breeze hit my neck, and then my cheek.
“Oh no,” I thought. The wind was beginning to swirl. I looked immediately to my right and the two black hogs were statue still, heads held high. I knew they were about to high-tail it, and I couldn’t see the big hog. However, I had a small opening for a neck shot on the larger of the two black hogs.
I couldn’t cock the gun without making noise, so I applied slight pressure to the trigger while rocking the hammer back. When I let it go, there was a simultaneous explosion of Pyrodex and Powerbelt, with the thud from a hog dropping like a rock.
I dropped to my knees below the cloud of smoke, pulled out the ramrod and grabbing my speedloader. I reloaded the gun and sat for five minutes, waiting and listening. Since the shot, I hadn’t seen any hogs cross the trail, nor did I hear any splashing escapes in the opposite direction.
I eased into the thicket at a snailʼs pace, going past my fallen trophy to the waterʼs edge beyond. From across the water, a hog grunted, and I saw him, a big, black, hairy Volkswagen. If he kept his bearing parallel to me, he would wind up in a large opening directly across from me. I would be propped and ready.
Before that could happen, a traitor of a crosswind blowing directly to the hog froze him in his tracks. My aim was perfectly blocked by a picket fence of small saplings. Another grunt from farther up near the large opening diverted my attention.
An almost identical hog stepped out broadside, looking toward the alerted hog. As I threw my gun to my shoulder, hogs started moving to my right. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw two black hogs and one strawberry blonde one. Hogs were coming out of the woodwork!
They were about to enter the water to join the others when I chose the blonde one from the bunch, swung the smokepole, and tickled the trigger.
My ears rang and my nostrils filled with burnt powder as the hog splashed and squealed on his short death run.
Two hogs to butcher, one more breathtaking, icy ford, a mile and a half cheerful stroll, and Iʼll be home before dark. Not bad for middle of the afternoon.
I wish I could bottle this stuff!
This hunt and others were done on a local WMA that is open to everybody. Because they compete heavily with deer, hogs can be detrimental to deer-management programs. Wildlife managers on WMAs and private landholdings consider hogs an invasive, exotic nuisance animal, and their population must be controlled by hunting.
I am trying to do my part.
Remember if you are not successful in bagging a hog, you will have gained valuable knowledge about a WMA which you can return to year after year on deer hunts. I firmly believe there is no such thing as a wasted day in the woods, even if you only eliminate a non-productive area, helping you to close in on that next honey hole.
Also, wild pork is delicious, and most importantly, all natural. Live more off the land. You will not regret it.
Glen’s WMA Picks For Wild Hogs In 2005
Feral hogs can be seen from the foothills of northwest Georgia all the way down to the big-timber swamps and palmetto flats on the coast. WMA small-game hunts make an excellent place to put some pork on the tailgate. Glen listed his favorites, and this is just a partial list:
1. Altamaha WMA
2. Beaverdam WMA
3. B.F. Grant WMA
4. Big Hammock WMA
5. Chickasawhatchee WMA
6. Griffin Ridge WMA
7. Little Satilla WMA
8. Ossabaw Island WMA
9. River Bend WMA
10. Sansavilla WMA