For the first time ever, WMA hunters will have the opportunity to hunt hogs and coyotes on most Georgia WMAs from May 16-31. (Note: This article in the May issue of GON magazine in error says the special season begins May 15.)
In fact, unless a Georgia WMA specifically says it’s closed to this special May season, it’s open, and hunting can be done with any legal firearm for big or small game. The only exception is if someone plans to hunt one of the state’s archery-only areas. Those hunters must still hunt with archery equipment but are welcome to give it a try.
The only other rules are that 500 square inches of hunter orange is required, no night hunting or baiting is allowed.
Electronic calls may be used.
To gain some insight into this new hunting opportunity, GON reached out to biologists from each region of the state to get their opinions on the outlook for the upcoming special season, as well as where hunters are likely to locate hogs and yotes.
Starting in Region 1, Region Supervisor Chuck Waters was excited to talk about the upcoming season.
“There are lots of good options up here,” said Chuck. “John’s Mountain, Cohutta and Pine Log all have a good population of hogs on them. All it takes is the willingness to get out and put some miles on your boots.”
Chuck did say that creek drains are good places to start, particularly if there hasn’t been much rain.
“The hogs really move around if there is plenty of water available. If the areas are dry, though, you can bet they won’t be too far from a water source,” said Chuck.
Northwest Georgia WMAs are also home to good populations of coyotes that Chuck would like to see thinned during this special season.
“The DNR timed this season to occur right around the time that fawns will be born, in hopes that thinning out coyotes will help with fawn survival rates,” said Chuck.
“An added bonus is being able to use big game weapons during this special hunt. It gives you the ability to set up on hillsides in large open areas and take longer shots. All in all, hunters who are willing to do a little walking stand a good chance to be successful in our region.”
Looking at Region 2 in northeast Georgia, Region Supervisor Scott Bardenwerper is also hopeful that the special two-week season will be both a hit with hunters wanting to stuff freezers with hog meat and aid in controlling feral pig and coyote populations.
“Chattahoochee is where you want to look for the hogs,” said Scott. “Year in and year out, it continues to produce. The ground is mostly steep, but hogs can usually be found with a little scouting.”
As of late, Scott says that Trail Ridge and Martin Branch roads have both been heavily littered with hog sign. Dawson Forest, on the other hand, looks to be the best bet for yotes in the region, due to its flatter terrain and larger openings than other WMAs nearby.
“There are a lot of farms near Dawson Forest, and that means a larger population of coyotes, due to the prey animals that hang around fields,” said Scott. “The key is to set up where you can see as much land as possible and try to lure one in with a good electronic call. This is one property we could definitely use some coyote culling on.”
Region 3 Biologist I.B. Parnell was quick to point out there are a lot of hogs to be had, but hunters need to look in the right places.
“Up until recently, Di-Lane has been the place to go for hogs, but that has changed in the past year,” said I.B. “Through aggressive trapping by the DNR, and increased hunting pressure, we have really gotten the upper hand on the pigs. As of now, you can still find a few, but there are not a whole lot left on the property.”
Di-Lane and surrounding properties were also the location of helicopter efforts that eradicated 417 hogs.
“Tuckahoe WMA has a pile of hogs on it right now, and we’re seeing more hog sign than we have in several years.”
I.B recommended keying in on river swamps, especially those areas adjacent to upland pine areas, for likely success.
As far as coyotes go, Yuchi WMA outside of Waynesboro was I.B’s pick for Region 3.
“Due to the big ice storm of 2013, we had to clearcut a bunch of pines,” said I.B. “Several clearcuts are more than 200 acres in size and allow you to get a good setup on a yote.”
When I interviewed Senior Biologist Bobby Bond of Region 4, he was quick to tell me where readers could find some hogs, but he issued a stiff warning to hunters.
“Oaky Woods is excellent right now, but we have a large population of black bears on the property, and hunters need to be absolutely positive they are shooting at a hog and not a small bear. Unfortunately, we have about one a year that is killed by mistake,” said Bobby.
When targeting hogs on Oaky Woods, keep in mind that they are heavily pressured by hunters, requiring a little more footwork to be successful.
“They get hunted hard from August all through deer season and into turkey season, and they really get smart to it,” said Bobby.
“Putting in some steps and getting off the beaten path really ups the odds of harvesting a pig. Also, be sure to play the wind to your favor, or they will smell you from a mile away.”
Blanton Creek and West Point WMAs have the best outlooks for a coyote hunt, as WRD’s trail-camera surveys have gotten numerous pictures of song dogs.
“Blanton Creek is loaded with clearcuts that you can post up on and call, while West Point doesn’t have as much open area. Some scouting on Google Earth will help to find likely areas that you can call a coyote in range,” said Bobby.
In Region 5, Biologist Brent Howze says that Chickasawhatchee is the place to go looking for some wild-hog sausage.
“You can bet there’s always going to be a good population of hogs on Chickasawhatchee,” said Brent. “It’s roughly two-thirds swampland, and that means there are plenty of places for hogs to hide out. Success is largely attributed to hunters being willing to throw on their rubber boots and put some miles in.”
Brent did mention that if we have a fairly dry spring, it should concentrate the hogs in the wet areas and make
them much easier to find. Coyotes, on the other hand, are a little more hit or miss in this region.
“Every WMA in the region has a population of coyotes, but they move around a lot, and that makes hunting them a challenge,” said Brent. “Hunters should focus their efforts on clearcuts adjacent to thick woods that harbor small-game animals that yotes prey on.”
When I spoke with Greg Nelms in Region 6, he was really excited about the upcoming special season.
“We have been seeing a pile of fresh hog sign on Beaverdam and Big Hammock. You can literally ride the roads right now and find wallows and other sign,” Greg said.
“For coyotes, it’s hard to beat Flat Tub, not just population wise, but the habitat is about as perfect as you could ask for,” said Greg. “Lots of clearcut land, particularly on the east side of the WMA, give hunters a great chance at removing some of these nuisance animals.
“Hunters shouldn’t have any problem calling or seeing coyotes, especially if they bring a climber where they can set up and see just over the vegetation,” Greg said.
Lastly, Region 7 hunters can expect some above-average hog hunting this month. When I spoke with Wildlife Technician David Morgan, he knew just the place for readers to find a few fresh pork hams.
“Altamaha WMA, the Buffalo Swamp portion, is about as good as it can get for hog hunting in south Georgia,” said David. “Lots of wetlands make for prime hog habitat, and hunter-success rates tend to be pretty good on this property.”
Oak bottoms, swamps and sand hill areas make for prime habitat, and David said the best way to find hogs is by scouting.
“To say where they will be tomorrow is like trying to predict the weather. It’s a guess at best,” said David. “But if you do some looking, particularly around wet areas, it shouldn’t take you long to locate some hogs.”
For those wanting some coyote action, David recommended focusing on drier areas and mentioned that Little Satilla WMA wouldn’t be a bad place to start your search.
“Don’t forget if you’re a coyote hunter, make sure to take part in our May contest online,” said David. “There are some great prizes to win, and you will be helping to control the coyote population. It’s a win-win for sure.”
Coyote hunters can also enter GON’s Coyote Cull, which start this month and features some incredible prizes, including a rifle.
As you finish reading this, hopefully you are already headed to the gun cabinet and digging through the closet looking for your favorite camouflage and hunter orange. It’s only a two-week season, but with a little luck, you will be eating some fine pork sausage for the next several months!