Northwest Georgia public-land deer hunters were concerned when they discovered a metal gate had been erected by a private landowner, keeping them from accessing the only parking and sign-in area on Zahnd WMA. This 1,642-acre tract in Walker County is open to bow-only hunting for deer and bear and already has very limited vehicle access.
“A guy that I hunted with told me the gate was padlocked when he arrived on Nov. 8. He and another guy turned around and had to come out of there,” said Larry Huckabee, a long-time hunter on Zahnd WMA.
Access to the WMA’s sign-in and parking area is from South Cedar Lane (see map). Hunters drive through a small stretch of WMA land and then come to another area of private land, which is where the gate had been constructed by a private landowner. Beyond that gate, South Cedar Lane continues back onto WMA land and ends at the parking and hunter check-in area.
Georgia DNR has had an easement to cross the private stretch of land for at least the last 15 years, according to WRD Game Management Region Supervisor Chuck Waters. However, the private land was sold sometime last fall, and the new landowner erected the gate to prevent traffic from crossing through the property.
The question still remains on whether or not this new landowner has the legal authority to keep hunters from accessing that part of the WMA. The final outcome is still up in the air, and the situation has gone to the attorney general’s office for a ruling.
However, when GON spoke with Waters on Dec. 6, he stated, “The gate had been reopened, and hunters are able to access the WMA.”
Waters also reported that WRD’s relationship with this new property owner is now in good standing, and the situation seems to have resolved itself.
GON is thankful for hunters like Larry Huckabee, who alerted us to this issue. If you see a private landowner prohibiting access to public land, like was the case on Zahnd WMA, contact your local WRD Game Management office, and then call GON.