Lake Seminole WMA Hunting Area Profile

Crazy high hunter-success numbers don’t really paint the picture, but it’s still a great non-quota WMA with deer and hogs.

Mike Bolton | July 1, 2023

Here’s a nice muzzleloader buck taken on Seminole WMA. This southwest, Georgia area is open from the opening day of bow season until the last day of rifle season.

Lake Seminole WMA is an enigma. The 8,635-acre WMA is a confusing patchwork of nine tracts with varying habitats. Several of the tracts can be accessed by vehicles, but the roads inside those tracts are so rough that they can’t even be navigated by ATVs. Hunters, and even wildlife biologists, agree that the only real access to the WMA is by boat or on foot.

The WMA does have its enticements. One is that hunting there is non-quota, meaning that the WMA opens to deer hunters at the start of bow season and runs non-stop until Jan. 31 for a combination of bow, muzzleloader and rifle hunting. The fact that hunters have the opportunity to take 10 does and two bucks per season also lures hunters.

Another enticement, and maybe the most perplexing, is that the numbers show that the WMA’s deer harvest numbers are astronomical. Those numbers show the WMA to be the best WMA for deer hunting in Georgia. Those numbers have been as high as a 200-plus percent hunter-success rate in recent seasons.

Both biologists and hunters say pay no attention to those numbers because there are extenuating circumstances that created them. They both say that they are nowhere close to being accurate. More on that a little later.

Hunters come to the WMA not only to hunt deer, but turkey, doves, quail, small-game, hogs and waterfowl. To those with lofty imaginations, the Lake Seminole WMA must seem like a small slice of hunter’s heaven. They quickly learn when they visit that the WMA that was so marvelously crafted by Mother Nature over the centuries was ransacked in a matter of hours by Hurricane Michael four years ago.

“Michael went right up the middle and devastated both sides,” said hunter Reggie Rodenberry, 75, who has been hunting the WMA for more than 50 years. “Michael kicked its butt.”

Despite the WMA’s uniqueness, biologists and its better hunters agree that the WMA is really no different than all WMAs in one respect. The hunters who do their homework and are willing to walk to the remote places where others don’t routinely go, are the most successful.

Brent Howze is WRD’s senior wildlife biologist who oversees Lake Seminole WMA. He says the WMA in Seminole and Decatur counties is an interesting mix of diverse habitats surrounding the 37,500-acre lake.

“It is a lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a variety of habitats,” he said. “For instance, the Spring Creek Tract is more upland with a pond on the south end. The Desser Tract is a skinny tract that is more swamp-like. It runs north to south along the river, and it has more hog habitat.

“Some tracts are used a lot more than others. Some tracts are more accessible by boat, but some are accessible by land. Some tracts are much less accessible now because of Hurricane Michael.

“There are definitely turkeys on some tracts,” he said. “The hurricane decreased turkey numbers, but the Spring Creek tract has turkey and quail, and it’s managed and burned.”

Brent says the WMA was forever changed by Hurricane Michael.

“The hurricane hurt a lot,” he said. “The Ranger Station Tract is now thick and needs work. The Ten Mile Tract has good deer numbers, but you’ll have to take a boat and hoof it a little more.

“All of those are pretty good for deer. The hunting seasons are the state seasons for the area. Research has shown that deer there are breeding late, so next season, there will be an extended archery season.”

Matt Keel, of Bainbridge, is an expert on Lake Seminole WMA. He has interesting credentials. Not only is he a wildlife biologist there, he also hunts there.

“The entire WMA is owned by the corps, and it is adjacent to Lake Seminole,” he said. “Several tracts are not particularly large. It is beneficial to have a boat because road access is almost non-existent. There is so much downed timber since the hurricane that an ATV is not useful. Boats allow you to get farther away from people. The best thing you can do is do your homework and walk.

“I tell people who are not seamen to skip the WMA and go to the nearby Silver Lake WMA.”

Matt was asked to give a synopsis of the nine tracts on the WMA. Below are his descriptions.

Hogs can be found on Lake Seminole WMA. However, some of the nine tracts offer better chances than others.

Desser: “This tract is a long, narrow strip along the Chattahoochee River,” Matt said. “There is a boat ramp. It is possible to navigate on foot, but hunters really need a boat. The tract is hilly. It’s not really swampy. There is a lot of saw grass on one end. There is boat access to most of it. There are some pigs and deer. The hurricane tore this tract up pretty good. It was clearcut after the hurricane to get the timber before it could rot. There is good access on foot because it is clearcut.”

Ten Mile Still: “This tract is a series of islands,” he said. “There are about 1,000 acres of islands with the biggest island being about 500 acres. I hunt that island for deer. It sits directly across from the Silver Lake WMA, which has a dirt boat ramp. That big island is only a 100-yard paddle with canoe from that boat ramp. The island is mostly natural pine and it gets burned regularly. It got some damage from the hurricane, but it faired pretty well.”

Ranger Station I: “This tract was hammered by the hurricane,” he said. “About 95% of the trees were lost to the hurricane. It is easily accessed by boat. There are some deer there, but it is tough hunting. It’s now just a big clearcut.”

Fairchild: “This is a small tract,” Matt said. “It has a boat ramp. It’s mostly pine uplands. It’s pretty much deer hunting only. The hurricane hit it hard. It is small enough to walk in and you can cover most of it on foot.”

Hale’s Landing: “Part of this tract can be accessed on foot, but it’s more accessible by boat,” he said. “It’s mostly pine uplands with some hardwoods by the river. It’s in bad shape from the hurricane.”

River Junction: “This is a decent-sized tract,” he said. “For southwest Georgia, it’s very hilly. It was clearcut and thinned heavily after the hurricane. It’s a good place to hunt deer.”

Four-mile Creek: “This tract is just outside of Bainbridge,” he said. “It is pine upland. I wouldn’t recommend it. The deer hunting is pretty poor. There are subdivisions north and south of it.”

Horseshoe Bend: “This tract is pretty small. It’s pine uplands. The deer hunting is fair at best.”

Spring Creek: “This tract is all pine uplands. It has some small ponds. It has been thinned and burned. It is in decent shape compared to others. There is actually a road that you can drive into the tract and then is accessible by foot.”

Lake Seminole WMA allows hunters to fill their freezers with 10 does and two bucks. Hunters must record deer kills on their state-issued harvest record.

Reggie Rodenberry is from Tallahassee, Fla., and he began hunting Lake Seminole WMA shortly after returning home from the Vietnam war. He and his sons have hunted the WMA for decades.

“I gladly spend more than $400 every year to buy Georgia out-of-state licenses so I can hunt on the WMA,” he said. “Georgia takes care of its hunters. I wish Florida did.

“I’ve hunted about everything there. Deer, hogs, dove, squirrels, ducks. There are a lot of deer and hogs. With deer, there is both quality and quantity. There are some 140- and 150-class deer. I don’t really hunt antlers. I’m looking for venison. You can take 10 does and two bucks a year. The deer are smart, though. You need a tree stand.

“There are a lot of wild hogs along the rivers. They are tough to hunt, though. They blow out two or three litters every year, and it doesn’t take long to build up the numbers. I don’t really hunt for them, but if you are deer hunting and get one, it’s a bonus.”

The veteran Lake Seminole WMA hunter says the WMA offers a great opportunity for duck hunting along the shores of the lake. It’s also a great place to hunt wood ducks in some swamps.

“Lake Seminole is a tremendous waterfowl lake,” he said. “It’s the finest waterfowl lake in Georgia. It gets thousands and thousands of puddlers and divers. There are also a lot of snipe and woodcock. There are also a lot of teal, and that’s what I like.

“You can get back in the swamps and catch the wood ducks coming in the mornings.”

He also says squirrel hunters might want to give the WMA a try.

“There is some good squirrel hunting in the tracts that have hammocks of oak trees,” he said. “You can hunt fox squirrels on some tracts.

“There’s not a lot of rabbits. I think the coyotes have got them.”

Reggie said like everyone who hunts the WMA, he was devastated by the damage done by Hurricane Michael.

“It flattened and leveled swamp areas that I hunted for 30 or 40 years,” he said. “This coming season, we plan to try to get back in some of those places again where we used to hunt.”

What about those high hunter success rates?

Senior Wildlife Biologists Brent Howze says they are just not accurate. He explains why.

“Prior to Hurricane Michael, there were three kiosks where hunters signed in, and they were good to do that,” he said. “Those kiosks were blown away in the hurricane. We were forced to change to an online sign-in. The hunters haven’t been so good at signing in online.”

Georgia hunters must register all deer kills through Game Check. There are penalties for anyone caught with a deer not registered with Game Check. However, there are no penalties for anyone hunting on Seminole WMA for not signing in. You are probably starting to get the picture.

“Two seasons ago, 24 people signed in and the numbers show that they took 24 does and 15 bucks for a success rate of 163%. Last season, 28 people signed in and took 35 does and 24 bucks for a 211% success rate. That’s just not possible.”

Reggie Rodenberry says the deer hunter success rates, are, just laughable.

“I guarantee you that those numbers are inflated,” he says. “The hunting is pretty good, but it’s not that good.”

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