When I first saw the black hog trotting between the palmettos, it was only about 30 yards away, heading right for me.
Best I could figure, I’d put about 10 miles under my boots in the last two days to get myself in this position. Just because hogs can’t see or hear very well doesn’t mean hunting them on a pressured WMA was going to be a cake walk. It wasn’t, but it made that moment when I first saw the hog so, so rewarding. We’d done it, covered ground, found hogs and here was my big chance to actually kill one with a .22 magnum rimfire rifle — on Chickasawhatchee WMA!
My adventure to this southwest Georgia WMA began on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I met Glen Solomon of Hazlehurst, his son, Corey, 19, and Don Wood from Waynesville at the western Chickasawhatchee WMA campground for what would be 2 1/2 hard days of hog hunting. The WMA was open to small-game hunting, which meant we could shoot hogs with small-game weapons. I was the only one who opted for a scoped .22 magnum rifle. My three hog-hunting buddies would hunt with muzzleloaders.
Chickasawhatchee WMA is about 15 miles west of Albany in Dougherty, Baker and Calhoun counties. It’s 19,700 acres of beautiful bottomland hardwoods and upland pines. Glen was the only one in our party who’d ever hunted Chickasawhatchee, but even his experience was limited. Glen’s favorite WMAs are in southeast Georgia.
Last hunting season Glen and Don killed about 25 WMA hogs between the two of them, and they shot most of them with small-game weapons in August and February. These boys would quickly teach me something about how to find WMA hogs.
“We may have to cover a lot of ground before we find them,” said Glen.
I had no idea exactly how much ground he was talking about. Glen and I headed for a section of mature pines above the Spring Creek drainage. Last year Glen said the area was covered in rootings, but after a fast-paced, 45-minute stroll revealing no sign we checked the area off our list.
“A day in the woods is never wasted,” said Glen. “If nothing else you can eliminate ground.”
Glen’s WMA hog-hunting strategy is to walk and not stop until he finds a lot of very fresh hog rootings. Glen likes to see at least several acres of rooting that’s less than 24-hours old. Since hogs can move miles overnight, Glen said that hunting two- or three-day-old hog sign is often worthless.
He often finds the freshest hog sign several miles from a road, where hunter traffic is low. Glen always carries a GPS, and he often wears waders to get him into places most folks won’t travel.
From the pine stand we headed down into the Spring Creek drainage where we found a little bit of fresh rooting. Glen told me to go down the creek, and he would make a big circle and meet me. Fifteen minutes later I’d gone about 100 yards, and Glen was coming to me.
“No good… boot tracks all down that other side,” said Glen.
Glen guessed the boot tracks were a week old, and the fresh sign we originally found was hogs starting to settle down and come back into the area. However, his quick stroll down the creek didn’t uncover any more fresh rooting. It wasn’t enough sign to peak his interest.
That afternoon we covered about four miles on the north end along the Kiokee Creek drainage. We paralleled the open bottom inside a thick palmetto flat. We did find some fresh rooting and tracks. However, it was scattered and small, which told Glen it was probably just one or two hogs passing through. We checked the north Kiokee Creek area off our list.
The next morning the four of us headed a mile or so down Kiokee Creek, and we spent time weaving from creek bottom to pines, still looking for fresh rooting. Again, we found only scattered sign, so there was no reason to slow down.
For the afternoon, Glen and I split up in the powerline area of Chickasawhatchee Creek. I stumbled upon some fresh sign a little over a mile from the powerline, but again it wasn’t much. Glen jumped a big hog out of a palmetto bush.
“He was probably the only hog in there — I didn’t find any sign,” said Glen.
Sore-footed, we were wondering if we’d even find a group of hogs. It was nearing dark on day two, and we were in the truck headed to check one last place before dark. While driving we noticed rooting by the road. Glen told me to stop. He got out and looked at it. Surely we wouldn’t get lucky and find hot sign right by the road, would we?
“Pretty old,” he said.
About 200 yards later the sign seemed to take on a different, fresher appearance. With a half hour left before dark, we split up.
Jackpot! Both of us discovered several acres of fresh rooting on both sides of the roads, several hundred yards back in the woods. We got lucky on this one. Nobody had discovered the sign, or at least nobody was hunting these hogs. I guess most folks were still busy deer hunting on their clubs.
“In the morning we’ll need to park way up the road and walk in,” said Glen. “We don’t want to bump them driving through here. A lot of people make the mistake of pulling right up to an area that has fresh hog sign.”
Twenty minutes after daylight I was 300-yards deep and looking at a Chickasawhatchee hog wasting no time coming up the same small trail I was standing in. I shouldered my rifle just as the hog jutted off the path and paused briefly behind a palmetto.
In my head I kept hearing what Glen had told me the previous day, that .22 magnum is a mean gun. I’ll shoot a hog in the shoulder with it, unless it’s a big one.
What’s a big one?
This black porker looked big enough that I knew I didn’t want him to turn and run at me after being hit behind the shoulder with a small bullet.
The hog turned broadside and looked like he was fixing to walk back into the trail. I couldn’t believe it… it was the moment we’d worked for.
When its head hit the clearing, I aimed right below the ear and pulled the trigger. I’d just taken the hardest-earned animal I’d ever worked for. We guessed the boar to be about 90 pounds, not what Glen classifies as a “big one,” but he did put the boar in the “good-eating-size” category.
The four of us gathered back up for picture-taking and high-fives. I loaded my hog in the truck and went to quarter him up, while the other three continued to hunt. An hour later my cell phone rang.
“I just killed one, looks like a twin to yours,” Glen said.
What an awesome hunt! Two dead hogs after really working for them. It’s a neat feeling to walk your back-end off and then get treated in the end with success. To me, it’s hunting at its best.
Chickasawhatchee WMA allows small-game hunting, which means you can kill hogs with small-game weapons, from December 29-February 28. Directions from Albany are in the hunting-regulation booklet.
However, don’t limit yourself to Chickasawhatchee. Glen’s tactics will work on any WMA that has hogs. However, if you’re new to a WMA don’t expect success right off the bat. We sure had to work for success.
Camp a few days, and just enjoy walking miles and miles in the beautiful swamp bottoms and pine hills of southwest Georgia. You may stumble into some hot sign, a hog or two and be rewarded with some of the best-tasting meat in the woods.