Hunter Galloway Profiles Paulding Forest WMA

The author said crowds don’t deter him from hunting this popular WMA. It’s got plenty of deer, turkey and small game.

Paulding Forest WMA held their annual check-in adult/child deer hunt the weekend of Oct. 15-16. With me being 17 years old, this was the last year I could attend this hunt. Paulding Forest added the adult/child hunt back in 2011. I have participated in it every year and have killed a deer on it every year except 2013.

On Friday, Oct. 14, I went out scouting for a spot to hunt for the weekend. I ended up finding multiple fresh scrapes and rubs in a creek bottom. I hung my stand and was ready for Saturday morning. I was planning on sitting all day Saturday, but little did I know, my hunt wasn’t going to last that long.

At 10:15 a.m., I caught movement in front of me on a logging road. It was a buck trotting toward me with its nose to the ground. I self-film all my hunts, so I followed him with my camera until he got in an opening where I could shoot. I immediately knew he had a good rack.

The buck stepped into an opening at 50 yards, and I hammered him. About an hour and a half later, I got down to recover my buck. He ended up being a beautiful 9-point, and WRD aged him at 3 1/2 years old. He field-dressed 130 pounds. There’s no doubt, I went out with a bang on the last year I could participate in this hunt. You can view this self-filmed adult/child hunt at http://youtu.be/NT6ARrxlVQ8.

When you bring up hunting Paulding Forest WMA to someone who hasn’t hunted it, or to someone who may have had a not-so-good experience, the first thing that often comes to mind is a high population of hunters. This is a true statement. Each year, there is a high population of deer, turkey and small-game hunters who hunt this WMA. Aside from the high population of hunters, there is still a good population of target animals for hunters on Paulding Forest WMA.

Paulding Forest is made up of 25,707 acres. The state owns 11,909 acres, and Paulding County owns 2,527 acres. These portions of the WMA are permanently protected.

The remaining lands are owned by the Forestar Timber Company, Jones Company or the City of Atlanta. These tracts are leased annually but do not have permanent protection from a recreational public hunting standpoint.

Paulding Forest seems to be getting more and more popular each deer season, likely because of what has been killed there in the past few years.

The November check-in rifle deer hunt is the most popular hunt for Paulding Forest. Last year, 870 hunters checked in. Out of the 870 hunters, 90 bucks and 16 does were harvested on this four-day hunt. With a 12.2 percent hunter-success rate, it’s one of the most successful non-quota WMA deer hunts in the state.

During this very popular November hunt at Paulding Forest, I have had good success seeing multiple bucks. Deer are on the move then mainly because it’s the peak of the rut.

In 2010, my dad and I sat in a ground blind on a morning hunt. We are real big on using a grunt call. We ended up calling in four different bucks that morning. We never could get a shot at any of them, but it just shows you what can happen on that hunt.

This year’s hunt is Nov. 10-13. This hunt is buck-only the first two days and either-sex the last two.

In 2015, Paulding Forest added a sign-in December hunt. The first year of the December hunt, Terry Renfroe, of Cedartown, killed the biggest buck ever on Paulding Forest WMA. Terry’s big 10-pointer grossed 150 1/8 and netted 147 0/8. This year’s December hunt will be held Dec. 9-11 and is buck-only.

On the morning of Terry’s hunt, he went to a spot where he hung his stand the day before. The area was overlooking some buck sign.

“I got in the woods early only to find three other hunters in the area,” said Terry. “They had their flashlights flashing everywhere. I decided to go get my stand and go elsewhere.”

It was breaking daylight when Terry finally got set up away from the other hunters. Terry was set up on a long ridge.

“I just had got set up, and it wasn’t long before I caught movement dead in front of me,” said Terry. “I got on him quick, and noticed he had a big rack. He turned broadside, and I dropped him in his tracks. I couldn’t believe it when I got to him. I have been hunting Paulding County for 45 years and have never seen a deer of that quality.”

Not only did Terry kill a buck of a lifetime on Paulding Forest WMA, but he also won Week 13 in the GON Truck-Buck contest. Terry ended up shooting in GON’s Truck-Buck Shoot-Out and made it down to the final two for the John Megel Chevrolet truck.

Paulding Forest also hosted open sign-in bowhunting from Sept. 10-Oct. 13. At presstime, WRD didn’t have the number of hunters who signed in or the harvest data. Just remember this bowhunting opportunity for next year.

If you’re going to try a Paulding Forest deer hunt this fall, you’ll find a variety of different habitats.

“The habitat is changing and will continue to change over the next couple of decades as we continue to build up our prescribed fire program and manage the timber,” said Brent Womack, WRD wildlife biologist. “We are in the initial stages of exerting a more intensive management schedule on the state and county owned lands since it has all been acquired within the last eight years. Leased lands timber management goals are set by the landowner and usually aim to maximize revenue. On the state owned and county owned property, the primary objective of timber management is to improve conditions for wildlife and to manage for the historical ecosystem (montane longleaf pine).”

To me, it seems like this aggressive habitat management has boosted the number of deer and turkeys on the WMA.

If you’re planning to deer hunt this year at Paulding Forest, my scouting has revealed that the white oak, red oak and the chestnut oaks hit very well. The animals will not have trouble finding food. A few main creeks to start your scouting would be Raccoon Creek and Pumpkinvine Creek.

For six weeks this past summer, Brent ran 26 trail cameras on Paulding Forest. Brent’s camera checks were very impressive. There were a variety of nice-sized bucks.

“We run trail cameras on WMAs to get a population estimate on game animals,” said WRD Region 1 Supervisor Chuck Waters. “It’s just like the bear bait station we do across Georgia. It isn’t something we really rely on, but it is a good tool to get a rough estimate of population. It could also help us know if we need to help reconstruct a game population.”

For hunters, this survey certainly revealed that good bucks and other wildlife can be found on a WMA that has a lot of hunters.

Believe it or not, it’s not all about deer at Paulding Forest. There’s a good population of turkeys there, too. Last year, 42 gobblers were killed by the 719 hunters who tried to kill one. Again, this place does receive traffic during hunting season.

Paulding Forest is a place I have turkey hunted a lot, and I have even killed a few gobblers off of it. There is a lot of competition from other hunters. It’s hard to find a bird that doesn’t have hunters after it. A good strategy to use is to hunt on the weekdays when there’s less pressure from hunters. It’s always great to know the lay of the land and where you could set up. Not knowing the lay of the land could cause the bird to get away, which has happened multiple times for me. Even with a large number of turkey hunters, there is a high population of these thunder chickens on Paulding Forest.

There are multiple small-game opportunities, and there is even a bird & rabbit dog training area. Check page 55 of the Georgia Hunting & Regulations book or visit www.eregulations.com/georgia/hunting for further information and dates for small game on Paulding Forest.

Paulding Forest has a good population of gray squirrels, and there are even fox squirrels in some areas. I have had my fair share of squirrel killings in the past years, even a few fox squirrels thrown in there, which are now hung above the fireplace for a fine conversation piece. Using squirrel dogs to find squirrels is one of the easiest ways I have found to kill squirrels on Paulding Forest, but it is very possible to just walk out and sit down in a nice hardwood hollow and kill a good mess of squirrels.

Without a single doubt, Paulding Forest WMA is a fine place to hunt for a variety of different game animals, even with a high population of people who hunt it. My hat goes off to the WRD for the hard work they put into the WMAs year-round to give hunters a place to go.

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