How did one WMA manage to be open the entire hunting season last year and have hardly any hunters? The answer: Nobody knew about it!
Townsend WMA officially opened last year during the muzzleloading season, almost two months after the hunting regs were published. So the majority of hunters in Georgia didn’t even know the WMA existed because it wasn’t mentioned in the 2006-2007 hunting regulations.
WRD Game Management Region 7 Supervisor David Mixon said the majority of the hunters last year were local, and he hopes the addition of Townsend WMA to this year’s regulations will allow more hunters to give it a try this year.
Most of the 6,714-acre tract is comfortably nestled in the southwest corner of Long County, while a little more than 800 acres of the tract is in the northwest corner of McIntosh County.
“The state of Georgia owns 2,639 acres and owns a conservation easement on the remaining land owned by Goodwood Georgia, LLC,” David said.
“Goodwood also holds a timber deed on the 2,639 acres the state now owns. The timber deed for Goodwood allows the right for Goodwood to harvest trees currently growing on the property. It also restricts what trees can be harvested, so all 2,639 acres will not be cut.
“The land is primarily planted in sand pine, and it is our desire to convert it to longleaf pine, which we will begin to do as soon as Goodwood removes the standing timber or after September of 2017, whichever occurs first. The conservation easement we own on the property Goodwood owns essentially ensures that the property will be used only for timber production.”
David said because the WMA is so new, and still managed primarily for timber, there are currently no food plots on the area — but some will likely be planted in the near future.
“Most of the WMA is planted in several different age stands of pines, and I think some of the younger pines will provide bedding cover for the deer,” said David.
“But because most of the pines are older and the area beneath them is very clean, I think most of the deer killed on this WMA will be passing through and not living on the area.”
Even though most of the WMA is planted pine stands, David said there are numerous hardwood stands on the area which were left purposely.
Topographically, Townsend WMA is located on the first ridge northeast of the Altamaha River swamps of Long and McIntosh counties. This makes the WMA a great place to start looking for pigs when the river leaves its banks. The animals that usually call the swamps home sweet home will be pushed to higher ground and likely stay as close to the swamps as possible until the water recedes.
“When the water rises the animals will be pushed onto the ridge and try to stay hidden in the thick stuff,” said David. “Hunters should look to the hardwood ridges for animals passing through. The deer especially will use these hardwood ridges for runways.”
David estimates the WMA to have a deer population of about 25 deer per square mile. He said a large area of land including the WMA was estimated close to 37 deer per square mile, but he suspects there isn’t enough cover to continually hold deer on Townsend. David said a hunter’s best bet for taking a deer this fall is to position a stand between a bedding area and a food source. It may be a hardwood stand on the WMA or a food source such as an agricultural field not on the WMA. Look for areas that deer are using on the WMA that could be providing cover for the deer as they travel to the food source.
David said it’s not too early to get in the woods and start scouting if you’re hoping to take one during archery season this year. Many logging roads remain on the property and provide easy access to the interior of the property. If the gates on the roads are open, then the road is OK to drive on. If the gates are not open, then hunters are allowed to walk on the road with a loaded weapon during the season. This allows hunters an easier way to sneak through the woods without making too much noise.
As far as the actual hunting last year, it wasn’t very successful. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t deer in the area. With almost 3,000 acres of land, the deer had a lot of places to hide from the very few hunters who participated in the sign-in hunts last year.
New Area Manager Hal Wiggins has high hopes for the area but says it’s going to take time. Hal said there were three major causes for last year’s poor turnouts:
1. The WMA did not appear in the Hunting and Fishing Regulations, therefore the few people who did know about it were locals.
2. There was no sign-in kiosk for hunters located at the WMA. If hunters wanted to hunt, they had to sign-in and sign-out any deer at the Altamaha WMA. Hal said it’s a little out of the way, and he suspects if any deer were killed, they weren’t signed out.
3. The boundaries of the WMA weren’t marked yet. Hal said even if the local hunters knew of the WMA, many of them wouldn’t hunt because the boundaries hadn’t been marked yet, and they didn’t want to risk accidentally trespassing on another’s land. Hal said they’ve spent a lot of time on the area since then, and the boundaries are now clearly marked with yellow paint.
Limited access to the area also caused poor hunter numbers, he said. Most of the roads were closed, limiting access to some interior areas and allowing only those willing to walk long distances.
One of the first things on Hal’s to-do list for the WMA is to get a better map in the hunters’ hands. The current map doesn’t have all of the roads mapped or named.
“We’re going to get on the 4-wheelers and get out there with a GPS and map and name the interior roads really soon,” said Hal.
A poor turnout last year means bigger, better deer this year. Hal said he has seen plenty of rubs and scrapes on the property. He said the hardwood drains were the best locations for rut activity when he walked the area, but other locations also showed signs of hogs and turkeys.
“I’ve seen plenty of hogs and turkeys on the land while working but never while hunting,” said Hal.
Another great hunting option at Townsend WMA is small-game hunting. Squirrel season opened Aug. 15 and is a great time to get out in the woods with the kids and shoot some squirrels in the hardwood bottoms. Small-game season also opens hog season on most Georgia WMAs to small-game weapons, including archery. If you’re just hankering to get in the woods early and kill something, a bow-killed WMA hog is a great opportunity to scratch that itch. Even if you aren’t successful, you’ll have a good head start on other hunters who haven’t done any scouting at all yet.
Randolph Cox of Jesup has hunted the area surrounding Townsend WMA on two separate clubs over the past few years. He didn’t get a chance to hunt Townsend during deer season last year but did make a few trips during turkey season.
“I saw hunters every time I went, but it was always the same people,” said Randolph. “It was always locals who have hunted the area before and know it well.”
Randolph said he has had mixed results in the hunt clubs surrounding Townsend WMA.
“You can’t really expect to kill a big buck in this area,” said Randolph. “The bucks here are in the 140- to 150- range, pounds not inches. If you kill something around here with more than 100 inches, then you’ve got something. An average 8-point in this area is about 80 inches.”
Randolph said there are a lot of good WMAs in the area, and he tries not to limit himself to just one. He does, however, plan on trying Townsend WMA at least a few times during deer season this year.
He said he feels like Area Manager Hal Wiggins will do all he can to get the area in good shape for more and better deer, but he thinks the area has a major predator problem. Randolph said he saw coyote scat every time he went to Townsend and encountered one pack of ’yotes while turkey hunting.
“The area is close to an air base, and the jets come over pretty often. When the jets came over, the coyotes started calling to the jets, and I knew I was within 75 yards of them,” said Randolph.
“I tried to move closer so I could get a shot on them, but I couldn’t find them. Then I got out my call and gave a couple of yelps and waited a few minutes. I figured they’d moved on, and I started to leave just when the whole pack appeared. I coudn’t get a shot because I scared them, but if I would’ve waited a little longer, I could’ve gotten a couple,” he said.
Even though the coyotes ruined one morning of turkey hunting for Randolph, they also offer a great opportunity to get a kid interested in hunting. Coyote hunting can be fast-paced and easy, too. There is no limit on coyotes in Georgia, and they can be hunted from small-game season until the end of turkey season on WMAs. Electronic calls are also permitted between Aug. 15 and Nov. 30.
Randolph also said there were hogs in the area.
“I didn’t see hog sign particularly, but there was hog hair in a lot of the coyote scat I found, leading me to believe they are in the area somewhere,” he said.
Region 7 Wildlife Technician IV Ed Van Otteren also did some turkey hunting on the area last season.
“I didn’t kill a bird, but I did see a few and heard a good bit, too. The area has a pretty good turkey population, and the hunting was good enough to keep me coming back to try again,” he said.
Ed said he hasn’t spent much time on the area except during turkey season last year, but he did see deer, hog and coyote tracks, proving there are definitely animals in the area. He suggested hunters concentrate on the clear cuts with some oaks still standing during this deer season.
“There are a lot of isolated cypress ponds with surrounding oaks which will probably be good areas” said Ed.
Hopefully with the advice of local hunters and wildlife professionals, hunters will have a better idea of what to expect this year at Townsend WMA.
The WMA is located a few miles from Ludowici. Hunters should take Hwy 57 south from Ludowici 4.2 miles; turn right onto Old Barrington Road, and continue for another 3.2 miles. Townsend WMA will be on the right along the powerlines.
For more information, call the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) office in Brunswick at (912) 262-3173.