Ocmulgee WMA Loses 8,200 Acres
GON Staff | March 11, 2005
During last year’s 2004 turkey season, 487 Ocmulgee WMA turkey hunters killed 46 gobblers for a hunter-success rate of 9.5 percent. Those impressive figures likely won’t be matched this season, since St. Regis Paper Co. has decided not to renew a land-lease agreement of 8,263 acres to the state. St. Regis is one of the timber companies that bought a portion of the Weyerhaeuser properties last summer. Effective March 1, 2005, that 8,263 acres was removed from the WMA system.
“We are offering the land for sale in tracts, and we are leasing the land to private hunters also,” said Holland M. Ware, the owner of St. Regis.
Hunters who rely on public-hunting opportunities are grieving the loss of a piece of the WMA pie.
“This is a terrible loss for all sportsmen of Georgia,” said John Trussell of Warner Robins, who has hunted Ocmulgee WMA since the late 1960s. “We’ve taken this land for granted, considered it like National Forest land because we’ve been able to access it for so many years. I think now that we realize public-hunting land is at risk, we need to do something to preserve it.”
Areas no longer part of Ocmulgee on the north end include Areas 11 and 12. These two areas are from Flat Creek north. Another tract that borders the north side of Hwy 96 will also be out of the WMA. This is the south end of Area 10.
The remaining land that won’t be leased again is a contiguous piece of property that sits in the middle of the WMA, and it includes parts of Areas 2 and 3 and all of Area 4.
Ocmuglee’s check station sits in the middle of Area 2, property that is now owned by St. Regis. For years, hunters have used the check-station area to access the Tolleson Tract, 2,028 acres of state-owned property west of the railroad tracks along the banks of the river.
Public-land turkey hunters need to know where to sign-in to hunt, and some of them will want to know how to access the Tolleson Tract.
“Both of those issues are concerns at this point, and we’re trying to determine what course we can take to solve both those problems,” said the chief of the DNR Real Estate Division Paul Michael. “I’m the one who handles all the real-estate matters for the Department, and that’s something that’s in discussions right now.”
At presstime, Holland Ware said he hasn’t been contacted by DNR about the check station or access into the Tolleson Tract. If permission is not granted for WMA hunters to use the old check station, the state will have to move it.
“It may be in the same place or it may be moved,” said WRD Region IV Supervisor Ken Grahl. “I just don’t know yet. The only option we’d have (for moving it) would be in Area 1. That’s state-owned land. We’ll have a sign-in (sheet) somewhere, but I don’t know exactly where yet.”
Access into the Tolleson Tract could be very difficult this spring.
“There’s some parking potential (from Magnolia Road), but it’s a long way from there to that upper end,” said Ken. “If you’re going to access it, the best way to do it is by boat.”
There’s a boat ramp below the tract at the end of James Dykes Road.
Ken said that his office was working on a new WMA map for turkey hunters, and that should be ready by March 1.
“We can mail them out or fax them,” said Ken.
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