WMA Hogs To Hunt In January & February
The woods are quieter, the weather is colder and the hogs must search for food.
The long 2022-2023 Georgia deer season has nearly come to an end. For a legion of dedicated hunters, a season just as important is just beginning. The colder portion of small-game season is underway on most of the state’s WMAs, but for these hunters, they are chasing something much larger than squirrels.
Hogs may be taken anytime a WMA is open to hunting, but hunters may only use weapons legal for the species for which the area is open. During small-game hunts and dates, centerfire firearms are not allowed. No night hunting or baiting is allowed. Dogs are not allowed unless otherwise specified. Legal weapons for hogs during small-game hunts are any .22-caliber or smaller rimfire, air rifle, or any muzzleloading firearm. Archery equipment may also be used.
January and February are prime months for hunting hogs with small-game weapons on WMAs. Why is that? During deer hunting season, those shooting hogs on WMAs are primarily deer hunters. They are not seeing deer and a hog comes along. Bam.
Targeting hogs on WMAs during deer season is tough. Hog hunters must deal with the woods being full of hunters. Hogs are smart. Like deer, they retreat to where hunters are unlikely to roam. They become nocturnal. Stalk-hunting hogs isn’t practical when the woods have deer hunters who got up early to climb a tree at a favorite spot.
Hunting hogs in January and February on WMAs is a different ball game. The woods are seeing just a small fraction of the hunters that they saw in deer season. WMA hog hunters say that there are other benefits, too. There are no deer hunters in the woods with high-powered rifles. The weather is usually cooler, the ticks are pretty much gone, and the hogs are constantly moving as the acorn crop has been decimated by the time new year arrives.
GON contacted WRD wildlife biologists in each of the six wildlife districts in the state for their input as to which WMAs offer the best hog hunting during the small-game season in January and February.
WMA hunters in small-game season are not required to sign in at WMAs, nor are they required to record their kills, so there are no hard numbers available. The wildlife biologists may have something just as good, however. They spend 12 months of the year dealing with the damage that feral swine cause to food plots, dove fields and roads on WMAs. All have a good picture of which WMAs have the most hogs and which areas give you the best chance.
Here’s what GON found:
Wildlife Biologist David Gregory says his region has hogs on all its WMAs, but the numbers can’t compare with the hog numbers found on WMAs in south Georgia.
He says the best bets for taking hog in his region are:
• The 96,503-acre Cohuttta WMA in Murray, Fannin and Gilmer counties.
• The 19,955-acre Rich Mountain WMA in Gilmer and Fannin counties.
• The 14,134-acre Pine Log WMA located in Bartow County.
If you are looking to get your first taste of WMA hog hunting in January and February, you’ll probably want to skip the WMAs in this region. On the other hand, if you are looking for a Seal Team Six-like workout, this might be right up your alley.
WMAs in this region can best be described as massive, mountainous and having fewer hogs than its brethren to the south.
Trapping by Region 2 personnel is never-ending to try to thwart the increase of feral swine on WMAs in this region. Wildlife Biologist Ryan Watson says those efforts are helping somewhat to keep the population in check. He describes hogs on WMAs in this region as extremely hard to hunt.
His recommendations are:
• The massive 37,500-acre Redlands WMA is spread over Greene, Oglethorpe, Oconee and Morgan counties.
• The 25,100-acre Chattahoochee WMA in White County.
• The 15,800-acre Warwoman WMA in Rabun County.
• The 27,124-acre Chestatee WMA in Lumpkin and White counties.
• The 30,000-acre Cooper’s Creek WMA inside the Chattahoochee National Forest.
“The hogs on these WMAs are nomadic, and hunting them is extremely hit or miss,” he said.
“There are hogs on all of our mountain WMAs, but I don’t believe that any of them are better than the other.”
Hunting hogs in January on the WMAs in this district in east-central Georgia is hit and miss. It largely depends on where you go.
Wildlife Biologist I.B. Parnell oversees the WMAs on the east side of the district. He says WMAs on his side lack the hog numbers like the west side, but several are good bets. He said that there is always the possibility of a hunter running into a few on any of them.
His recommendations for success are:
• The 1,500-acre Lower Broad WMA located in Wilkes, Elbert and Lincoln counties. This WMA borders the Broad River and hunters should focus on the drainages, he said.
• The 12,700-acre Clarks Hill WMA in McDuffie, Wilkes and Lincoln counties. Deer hunters frequently complain of hogs ruining their hunts there, especially in the drainages.
• There are hogs on Di-Lane WMA, he says. That 8,100-acre WMA in Waynesboro is primarily managed for quail, but the hog population is evident in the drainages and dove fields.
• A few hogs can be found on the 7,400-acre Oconee WMA. That WMA is located in Greene, Hancock and Putnam counties.
Wade Green, a WMA hog hunter from Fannin County, says he has success on both Di-Lane and Big Dukes Pond WMAs. The 1,692-acre Big Dukes WMA near Millen is on a coastal plain and has wetlands that the hogs love, Wade says.
“Both of the WMAs are infested with hogs,” he said. “Finding them is basically looking until you find the rooting areas.”
Wade says he is not trophy hog hunting, even though he has taken some pretty good size ones on the two WMAs. He says he’s looking to fill his freezer.
“I skin and eat them,” he said. “Basically, I treat them like a deer. I make some of it into sausages, I grill the backstraps and grind everything else into barbecue meat.”
Biologist I.B. Parnell says he has no numbers to estimate how many hunters hunt hogs on his WMAs in January because hunters are not required to sign-in or record their harvests.
“I feel like there are good numbers hunting hogs, though,” he said.
Wildlife Biologist Bobby Bond believes that the hog hunting is much better on the WMAs on the west side of Region 3.
• His top pick is the 13,450-acre Oaky Woods WMA in Houston and Pulaski counties. “Oaky Woods has always had hogs and always will,” he said.
• The 6,400-acre Clybel WMA in Jasper and Newton counties has a large number of hogs, he says.
• The 11,400-acre B.F. Grant WMA in Putnam County.
CJ Johnson, a WMA hog hunter from Milledgeville, says he hunts Oaky Woods, B.F. Grant, Beaverdam and occasionally River Bend. He said hog hunting on the WMAs in January and February is a whole different ball game than in deer season.
“You can’t use modern deer rifles,” he said. “I use a muzzleloader in January. I usually walk in with a chair, find a place where I can hear them squealing and get the wind in my face. I’ll set up and pop them when they cross a fire break. On a weekend, I’ll usually kill two or three.”
Wildlife Biologist Theron Menken says WMA hog hunters will find a mixed bag in his district in January.
His top picks include:
• The 15,100-acre Tuckahoe WMA located on the Savannah River in Screven County.
• The 15,000-acre Ocmulgee WMA located in Bleckley, Pulaski and Twiggs counties.
• The 5,500-acre Beaverdam WMA located just north of Dublin.
• The 3,599-acre River Bend WMA located in Laurens County.
“Ocmulgee has plenty of hogs, but it is harder to hunt,” Theron said. “It is managed for brushy habitat and hogs are more prevalent there because hogs can hide in that stuff better and are much harder to hunt.
“River Bend has a lot of hogs, too. We consistently have issues with hog damage in dove fields and the food plots.”
Another good WMA is Big Hammock WMA, he says, but that WMA has an asterisk.
“It has plenty of hogs, but hunters have to keep a close eye on the water levels,” he said. “We get a lot of complaints from hunters about us closing the gates when the water is up and how long we leave them closed.
“We spend a lot of money and efforts on the roads on that WMA,” he said. “We can’t let people go in there when the water is up and destroy the roads.”
Most of southwest Georgia is inundated with feral swine, so it only makes sense that all the WMAs in that part of the state have them, too. Wildlife Biologist Drew Zellner says it is a constant battle.
“All of our WMAs have hogs,” he said. It seems every piece of property in southwest Georgia does.”
For numbers, he recommends:
• The 1,600-acre Elmodel WMA is located near Newton in Baker County.
• Chickasawhatchee WMA, with 19,700-acres located 12 miles southwest of Albany.
• The 5,600-acre Hannahatchee WMA is located in the coastal plains of Georgia in Stewart County.
“Elmodel is small, but it is sandwiched between two creeks, and the majority of it is creek drain, longleaf pine and fallow fields,” Drew explained. “The creeks are good cover for them, and they radiate out to the fallow fields to root.”
As if the feral swine at Chickasawhatchee WMA needed any help, they got a big boost in 2018 when Hurricane Michael hit, Drew said.
“Chickasawhatchee is a big swamp system,” he said. “More than half of it is swamp. The pigs are everywhere in the drainages. There’s plenty of cover for them.
“When Hurricane Michael hit, it opened it up for them to get into the open pines that are there.”
Currently, Drew and others in Region 5 are concentrating on the exploding pig problems on Hannahatchee WMA.
“We’re spending a lot of time on Hannahatchee Creek and will probably do so for six months,” he said. “We’re trapping hogs.
“It’s mixed pines and hardwoods and not a lot of open ground.”
Wildlife Biologist David Mixon says more than 15 WMAs can be found in his district, and all have hogs. He says several offer hunters an excellent opportunity to put a pig in the freezer.
“You can find hogs in all of our areas,” he said. “The chances of taking a hog varies depending where you are.
“The highest number of hogs can be found at Sapelo Island, but there are only quota hunts there, so its restricted hunting area. If you are drawn, you still have to provide your own transportation to get to the island, so it’s not easy as driving in.”
The 16,500-acre Sapelo Island WMA is located McIntosh County.
David says any of the WMAs along the Altamaha River offer high concentrations of feral swine. He recommends:
• The Altamaha Plantation, a 3,986-acre WMA in Glynn County.
• The 32,000-acre Townsend WMA located in Long and McIntosh counties. This WMA is made up of four tracts of land that includes North Townsend, South Townsend, Buck Island and Pine Island tracts. They are located on the north side of the river.
• The 8,555-acre Clayhole Swamp in Glynn County.
• The 5,600-acre Griffin Ridge WMA in Long County.
• The 16,867-acre Sansavilla WMA in Wayne County.
• The 10,546-acre Penholoway Swamp WMA located in Jesup.
“All of those have a lot of hogs along the river,” he said. “If you find the water, you’ll find the hogs. It’s just a matter of locating them.”
He also recommends the 36,000-acre Dixon Memorial WMA and the 15,845-acre Paulks Pasture WMA, located in Glynn County.
“There’s no river frontage on these two, but there are big swamps in there,” he said. “Those hogs just love rooting in those wet areas.”
During deer season, hunters typically don’t target hogs, he said, but they might take one should one come by. He says January and February are definitely the best months to target hogs on WMAs.
“It’s the best time from my perspective,” he said. “For one thing, it’s cooler. During deer season, the hunting pressure affects them, and they go beyond where the pressure is. In January, the acorn crop has been exhausted and the hogs have to move around to find food. It’s easier to find a hog.”
No rifles with centerfire ammunition is permitted on WMAs in January and February, but David insists that is not really a problem.
“If people think you can’t kill one with a .22 magnum, well, I guess they can use a muzzleloader or archery equipment,” he said.
“Everybody wants to kill a 300-lb. hog because it’s a trophy, but the truth is most hogs will be about 100 pounds. A .22 does an incredible job on them. I’ve killed a hog that size with No. 5 turkey shot.”
Sends your WMA hog pics to [email protected] We’ll publish you in GON’s online Trophy Room and you may appear in a future issue of GON.