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Public-Land Coons In Southeast Georgia

Region 7 has no shortage of public-land places to turn loose some hounds after dark for the next two months.

Craig James | December 30, 2019

As I begin to type this story while sitting on my back porch, the Georgia moon is hanging brightly in the sky, and through the cold night air, I can hear a coon dog howling in the distance. It’s a southern hunting tradition like no other. One of the greatest books of all time, “Where the Red Ferns Grows,” was based upon it. There is truly something magical about man and dog going out into the night for a race.

Georgia is particularly blessed with coon hunting opportunities, literally from one end of the great state to the other. This holds true for the area I hail from down here in the coastal region of our state. I can still recall going on my first hunt more than 20 years ago, and the tradition is still alive and well today, as every night tailgates drop, and with a sudden howl the race is on.

The really great thing about coon hunting in southeast Georgia is there is an abundance of public-land hunting opportunities all within a short drive of one another. 

When I was assigned this story, my first call was to none other than Robert Horan, a WRD wildlife biologist from the Brunswick office. 

“Anywhere you look down here, there is a huntable population of coons, and there are miles upon miles of river bottoms and cypress swamps that coons like to call home,” said Robert. 

“Little Satilla has long been the favorite area for coon hunters in the region, and though it receives a good bit of hunting pressure, it still offers up some fine hunting opportunities.”

Robert also mentioned Paulks Pasture, Sansavilla and Clayhole as some other good options in the region.

“Truthfully, they all have some great hunting, but for a lot of hunters, it comes down to access,” said Robert. “You want to try and find wetland areas that require the least amount of leg work that you can send your dogs in and get one up a tree in a hurry. Some of our WMAs have better vehicle access than others, making them easier to hunt than others.” 

After interviewing Robert, I decided to reach out to three different WMA hunters in the region to get their takes on the best areas for hunters to tree a coon.

Jimal McBride, of Waycross, with a pair of Little Satilla WMA coons he took. At the end of the article, you can read how Jimal likes to cook his coons on the grill.

My first call was to Jimal McBride, of Waycross, who has been coon hunting for as long as he can remember.

“It’s my passion. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been chasing coons with my family from Patterson,” said Jimal.

Jimal hunts several nights a week in the coastal region at several WMAs but says Richmond Hill is his favorite by far.

“There is a very high density of coons at Richmond Hill,” said Jimal. “I feel like it doesn’t get pressured as much as some of the other areas in the region.”

Since coons like to feed in and around the marsh at night, Jimal recommends keying in on those areas and says it shouldn’t take long for the race to be on.

“I can usually tree and kill my limit of three coons pretty quick and still have a few hours to work my dogs on some other coons. For public land, Richmond Hill is as good as it gets,” said Jimal.

For hunters interested in giving Richmond Hill a try, it is open from now through Feb. 29 for small game.

Austin Pennington, of Waynesville, has been chasing his coon hounds for the past few years and says though it gets a lot of hunting pressure, Little Satilla is a great WMA to tree a coon.

“The entire area is 18,000-plus acres, so even when you have several hunters out here on a given night, you can still find an area all to yourself,” said Austin.

Austin said that the river bottom that runs through the WMA is a favorite of hunters, but he prefers to stay a little ways away from the main run of the river.

“Hunting along the river is great as far as easy access and it’s really open, but if your dogs cross the river, especially when it’s running swift, man it can make for a long night rounding your dogs up.”

Austin Pennington, of Waynesville, suggests looking for areas where hunting pressure maybe lighter in order to find a WMA coon.

For this reason, Austin keys in on swamps and creek drains nearby the river, where a coon is more likely to go up a tree before crossing the blackwater river.

“Hunters new to the area will do well by spending some time scouting on the map for areas of the WMA that aren’t as noticeable to other hunters. Look for those little swamps and creek drains that others overlook, and you should have a successful hunt,” said Austin.

Like Richmond Hill, Little Satilla is also open for small-game hunting through Feb. 29. Austin did mention that the area around Zirkle Road may want to be avoided due to the high population of coyotes as of late.

“The other night I turned my dogs loose in there, and within a few minutes, we could hear yotes howling,” said Austin. “By the time we got there, the pack had my dogs circled. We managed to shoot two, but the other 10 or so got away. A few nights later, we had problems again in that area, and I decided for now it would be best to stay away from the Zirkle Road portion of the property.”

Last but certainly not least, Jeremy Patrick, of Screven, says Rogers WMA is definitely worth a try this month. Jeremy has been at the coon hunting game for a number of years and says that Rogers has been pretty good to him.

“I hunt private land as well as WMAs for coons,” said Jeremy. “Management land is tougher. You have to get out and go to where the coons are. It definitely tests your skills more when you are on the public land.”

Rogers WMA has some creek drains, as well as man-made trenches that will hold water year-round, and where there is water there will be coons.

Jeremy says there are several good turnout points throughout the WMA, and most will require a 100- to 600-yard walk due to the road system and limited access.

“Be sure to bring your axe. It can get pretty thick in some places, but for hunters willing to do the work, it can pay off big time,” Jeremy added.

A final piece of advice Jeremy gave was to wait a little later in the night before hunting the area.

“I don’t know why, but the coons aren’t as active out here until near midnight. This WMA is a great place to try after hunting other nearby WMAs,” said Jeremy.

Like the other areas mentioned, Rogers is also open for small-game hunting through Feb. 29.

With approximately two good months of coon hunting left in the season, now is the prime time to load up the hounds and give one of these coastal WMAs a try.

Jimal’s Tasty Grilled Coon

Treeing a coon is the hard part, but getting him ready for the table is downright easy. Jimal McBride offered up a simple way to cook some delicious raccoon for the family.

After skinning and gutting the coon, season liberally with salt and pepper and boil the meat until nearly done. This should take approximately 15 to 20 minutes or so.

Pat the meat dry, and pour your favorite hickory-flavored barbecue sauce all over the coon and place over a grill preheated with hot charcoal. Allow the coon to cook long enough to caramelize the sauce. Then remove from the fire. 

Serve with your favorite side and some sweet tea for a dinner you won’t forget.

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