Deer season is winding down quickly, and it’s time to think about adding some variety to the wild game meats in your freezer. WRD biologists say that a good number of our WMAs have huntable populations of wild pigs, and that it’s time for hunters to come to the aid of our beleaguered WMAs.
“Wild hogs root up endangered plants, add lots of flowing sediment into our streams, destroy quail and turkey nests, devour lots of acorns that could be utilized by other wildlife and generally tear up the woods,” said Kevin Kramer, WRD region supervisor in Fort Valley.
One time I happened upon a large group of wild pigs feeding on hickory nuts in Oaky Woods WMA before daylight, and the sound was so loud, it was down right spooky! Wild pigs are eating machines. To make controlling these critters more challenging, wild pigs are masters at reproducing at quick speed.
Thankfully, the hunting regulations continue to make it easier for those wanting to kill hogs. Recent changes now make it legal to shoot bobcats and foxes with .17 caliber and larger centerfire rifles during fox and bobcat season, which started Dec. 1, 2014 and runs through Feb. 28, 2015. This new statewide regulation also applies to WMAs. So, those hunting bobcat or fox on a WMA can do so with a centerfire rifle, and hogs may also be taken with these same firearms.
Although not legally required, WRD Biologist Charlie Killmaster recommends hunters wear orange vests when small-game hunting WMAs.
There are seven WRD Game Management regions in Georgia, and for each region, we spoke with a WRD biologist to get the top-two WMAs in their areas. They all agreed that we need to thin out these destructive hogs from our WMAs. Here’s where you can get in on the action.
Region 1 (Northwest Ga.)
Biologist Adam Hammond says that the huge 96,000-acre Cohutta WMA has some pretty good hog populations, but the region lacks the hog density found in middle and south Georgia. He says that Cohutta’s acorn crop is the second-highest ever recorded in their annual surveys. This means that pigs won’t have to move far to feed, so hunters might have to search a little more to find pigs. There is plenty of feed right now, but it will decrease as the winter rolls on.
He suggested hunters look around Sumac Creek or around the shore areas and creeks leading into Lake Conasauga. Other good areas are the Jacks River drainage on the north side or Bear and Panther creeks on the east side of the WMA.
Adam said wild hogs move around a lot, so be prepared to take your fanny pack and light-weight walking boots.
Also in this region, WRD Biologist David Gregory gives Pine Log WMA a strong honorable mention.
“We have lots of pigs,” he says. “Hunters usually have pretty good success, but you still have to work for them.”
Comprised of 14,134 acres, David said the higher portions of the WMA can be good for hogs in the winter months. Hunting around the East Valley Road and Oak Street areas can be good, he says. Also, the community of White, which is adjacent to the WMA, has problems with roving hogs getting into residents’ yards, so it’s worth the time to check the WMA near there.
A non-quota hog hunt with big-game weapons is scheduled for Jan. 9-11 on Pine Log.
Region 2 (Northeast Ga.)
WRD Biologist Scott Frazier said the best bet right now for public-land hogs is Swallow Creek WMA (19,000 acres) and nearby Tray Mountain on the Chattahoochee National Forest.
“Concentrate your hunting wherever you find acorns and rooting activity,” said Scott.
Scott said most of the sign will show up on the ridge lines.
On Swallow Creek, expect lots of climbing, as the top is 4,430 feet, but hunters can access the higher sections by taking Indian Grave Gap Road off Hwy 17, which crosses the Appalachian Trail near the top. Either work the ridge lines, or pick a spot with long visibility, lots of pig sign, and wait them out.
The western side of Tray Mountain is the WMA, and the eastern side is in the national forest and open for hunting, but it’s very remote and rugged. Take your map, compass and GPS.
Scott’s backup spot is Warwoman WMA (15,800 acres), where he suggests the high ground around the weather-station field and the Hail Ridge area. He has seen the most pig sign on the east side of the WMA.
Region 3 (East-central Ga.)
WRD Biologist I.B. Parnell says Clarks Hill ( 12,700 acres) has a fair population of wild pigs that move around a good bit. He says the main highlands hold a few pigs, but also check out the Little River, Big Creek and Hart Creek drainages for hog activity.
His backup spot is Di-Lane WMA (8,100 acres) along the wet-weather pond, Rocky Creek or Buckhead Creek.
He also wanted to put a plug in for Tuckahoe WMA (15,100 acres) that has 18 miles along the Savannah River and some lands along Brier Creek, both of which are prime pig habitat.
Region 4 (West-central Ga.)
Region Supervisor Kevin Kramer gives Oaky Woods (13,240 acres) his top choice for hogs, followed closely by Ocmulgee WMA.
On Oaky Woods, Kevin recommends the Big Grocery Creek drainage as a good location since there are many swamp, red and white oaks scattered along the creek banks and nearby ridges. Taking a stand overlooking a large hardwood area can be productive, as well as slowly stalking through the woods, stopping frequently to look and listen for pigs rooting through the leaves.
Big Grocery Creek starts near the check station and runs about 2 miles to the Ocmulgee River, so there is plenty of ground to cover.
Many years ago, this writer collected a wild pig in a most unusual way at Oaky Woods. Hunting with a CVA blackpowder rifle, I saw a pig walking across a ridge. When I shot, he dropped like a pile of rocks. When I approached the 125-lb. boar, I could not see any blood or a bullet wound. Looking closer, I noticed he had two neat bullet holes in both his ears, and the bullet had left a red mark on his skull, knocking him out cold. But not dead!
As he regained consciousness, I was standing there with an empty muzzleloader. I tried to reload, but he got up and started to run away. Watching my bacon get away, I took off after him. He was staggering a bit, so after a short distance, I used a trick I learned on the farm. Grabbing the pig’s rear leg, I quickly yanked him up, turned him on his back and flipped him over. Still holding on to his leg with one arm, I put my boot on his neck, pulled out my knife and stuck the blade into his throat. It was soon over for the pig, and I had collected my BBQ in a most unusual way.
On the east bank of the Ocmulgee River, across from Oaky Woods, lies 17,670 acres of Ocmulgee WMA. Randy Wood is area manager, and he said pig hunters should be very careful to identify their targets on both Oaky Woods and Ocmulgee since both have black bears, which are protected on the WMAs.
Randy said the best spot for Ocmulgee WMA pigs is Area 1, the south end of the WMA, followed by Areas 2 and 3. Hunters may run across a few pigs in the northern sections of the WMA, said Randy.
Region 5 (Southwest Ga.)
WRD Biologist Brent Howze likes Chickasawhatchee WMA (19,700 acres) as his top pick for pigs. Although it has lots of swamp, about 8,000 acres are dry uplands with lots of roaming hogs.
He suggests that hunters ease along the creek banks and look for pig sign along many of the dirt trails. There was a good mast crop this year, so the hogs have plenty to eat. He says the two closed bridges (closed to vehicles) are easily accessible and are open to foot traffic, allowing movement along Chickasawhatchee and Kiokee creeks. Pigs can also be found around the dove field. He also suggests the foot-travel paths off Flat Loop Road, Mill Creek or Pine Island Road as good places to begin forays into the WMA for hogs.
He has two backup locations, and one is the 5,095 acres of Hannahatcheee WMA near Richland. The middle section of the WMA off of Moores Store Road is a good place to start as it crosses Hannahatchee Creek. There are about 18 small drainages leading into this creek, and any of them can harbor some pigs, and a few roam around the dove field.
Special hog hunts are set for both WMAs for May 19-24, June 2-7 and June 23-28, 2015.
Another good bet is Elmodel WMA, says Brent. It’s small at 1,600 acres, but it is a working farm with good pig numbers. He said to try the junction of Ichawaynochaway and Chickasawhatchee creeks, the land just north of Belmont Church off Jericho Road or around the dove fields.
Region 6 (South-central Ga.)
WRD Biologist Greg Nelms recommends Beaverdam WMA (5,500 acres), near Dublin, as the best place to pursue hogs.
“There are lots of them… and there is no limit on wild pigs,” said Greg.
He recommends that hunters stalk into the wind and ease along the many sloughs and wet areas and try to catch the noisy pigs rooting through the ground debris for food. He said hunters avoid hunting when the river is in flood stage, but it can be a good time to hunt as the pigs are pushed into less land in the upland areas.
On the north end of Beaverdam, try along Big Sandy Creek. In the middle section, stalk along the old dead river section where the river no longer flows. It looks like an oxbow lake on the topo map. On the south end, try easing around Dry Creek.
Greg’s backup location is Big Hammock WMA, located on the north bank of the Altamaha River near Glennville. Comprised of 6,177 acres of primarily river bottom hardwoods, oxbow lakes and sloughs, the pigs are constantly on the move for acorns. When the river gets up, which is normally the situation in the winter, hunt the ground along the high-water mark as pigs often travel along this line as acorns are pushed into the debris piles. Thick patches of wild Japanese honeysuckle and briars can be used both as feeding and bedding areas for pigs, so search them out.
Region 7 (Coastal Ga.)
WRD Biologist Will Ricks likes Altamaha WMA (32,000 acres) as his top pick for WMA pigs.
“On the positive side, the area has some dynamite hog hunting, but on the negative side, the hunting can be tough, and it’s easy to get lost,” said Will.
He said the north side of the river has more hogs than the south side. He also said there was a very good acorn crop this year, so the pigs should be putting on plenty of weight, and they also eat fiddler crabs and anything else they can get in their mouths.
Will said the best way to access the more remote areas is to get in a boat and just hit the banks and explore the surrounding hardwood bottoms. Good creeks to explore on the West Tract are Lewis, Big Buzzard and Cathead. Be aware that many areas are influenced by the tide, so watch the tide chart, and don’t get stuck.
For land hunters, come in by Hwy 251 and turn onto Cox Road. Then turn left near the abandoned railroad tracks to reach the WMA. Stop at the kiosk, and get a map. This road goes across the main high-ground areas. There are a few pigs around the wildlife openings near the end of this road, but you’ll find most of the hogs feeding along the creeks, so plan on doing some walking away from the road.
Slowly stalking into the wind is the best way to hunt, said Will. Take your time, and watch for movement in the palmettos and under oak trees.
Will says his backup plan would be the Buck Island Tract on Townsend WMA, which also has a good pig population and similar terrain to Altamaha. When you come into the WMA from Hwy 301, stop at the kiosk, and get a map. Follow the dirt road through the center of the WMA.
Wildlife Tech Ed VanOtteren said you’ll find some hogs in the marsh areas and around Johnson Lake, but higher numbers will be found near the river bank, around older oak trees dropping water acorns. It’s a good walk, so come prepared and bring a compass or GPS. It would be a good idea to study the WMA maps at gohuntgeorgia.com and print a copy to take with you while hunting.
The Altamaha and Townsend WMAs will host special hog hunts on March 1-15 and May 16-31, 2015. Check the regs for full details.
Ed also suggested hunters check out the Boyles Island Tract on Penholoway WMA for pigs. Access to this tract is by river only. There are also a few closed dates for this tract, so check the hunting regulations before you go.
We have lots of pigs on our WMAs, so let’s go thin them out this January and February!