Have not tagged your springtime gobblers(s) yet? Below is a list of the best WMA’s to try in your area with some information about harvests so far this season. You will find a description of the habitat and some direction as to where to start looking.
Region 1: Berry College WMA
Berry College is on track to set a new harvest record in 2012 with 41 birds harvested thus far. The current harvest record is 42 gobblers in 1993.
Berry College WMA is on track to set a new record in terms of hunter success. At this rate, practically 1 in 4 hunters will have been successful harvesting a bird. The previous record for hunter success was 15% set last year.
Over the past 10 years, Berry College has averaged 10% hunter success for turkeys; the best average in NW Georgia of any WMA. The next closest WMA is Crockford-Pigeon Mountain WMA at 8% hunter success.
The land on Berry College is a good mix of mature hardwoods with intensive managed pines. There has been a lot of cutting in recent years increasing nesting and brood rearing habitat, while maintaining the mature hardwoods preferred by mature birds.
Access to Berry College WMA is limited. As such, the farther you walk the less the birds have been disturbed. Hunters may take advantage of the abundant logging roads on the area by using bikes for hunting access.
Region 2: Lake Russell and Dawson Forest WMAs
Region 2 is comprised of upper piedmont and Blue Ridge mountain habitats. Much of the mountain habitat generally lacks good brood-rearing and nesting habitat. From 2002-2007 much of this part of the state had experience poor reproduction primarily due to extreme weather events. In 2009 we began to turn the corner and from 2009-2011 we have managed fair to good reproduction each year. This has set the stage for the spring 2012 season to be one of the best in recent times. So far, the season is living up to its potential.
Our top producing areas in Region 2 include Dawson Forest WMA and Lake Russell WMA.
Dawson Forest WMA- This area is 25,000 acres that starts on top of Burnt Mountain and follows the Amicalola River south through a diverse mix of upland hardwoods, mixed pine-hardwoods, and pine stands. The terrain varies from rugged on the Burnt Mountain and Wildcat tracts to more gently rolling on the remainder of the area. The best access on the area occurs on the City of Atlanta tract. This 10,000 block also receives the most hunter pressure. So far, 560 hunters have harvested 46 gobblers on Dawson Forest WMA.
Lake Russell WMA- This area is 17,300 acres of upper piedmont habitat. It has a mix of upland hardwoods, mixed pine-hardwood areas and some pine plantations. Terrain is similar to Dawson Forest in that it varies from rugged to rolling. Access is good with many USFS roads traversing the area. So far, 446 hunters have harvest 39 gobblers on Lake Russell.
With the second half of the season ahead of us hunters may need to change their tactics. Hunters may want to look for areas with less hunting pressure. In Region 2, the mountain WMA’s typically have less hunting pressure. It may be worth a hunter’s time to explore areas like Warwoman WMA and Chestatee WMA for late season success.
Region 3: Di-Lane and Tuckahoe WMAs
Note: 8 out of the top 20 WMA’s for turkey hunter success rates in Georgia are found in Region 3. Any of the WMA’s in this region are great bets for turkeys this time of year. The WMA’s here vary in size, but all of them have hunt-able turkey populations, and you can expect to find at least find some birds to work on any one of them.
Dilane – So far, 21 birds have been harvested during quota hunts. For the remainder of the season, this area is open to all hunters. This WMA is great all the way throughout the 8,100 acres. There is a lot of acreage in weedy, brushy fields and also a good bit of creek-bottom habitat. Depending on what type of hunting you enjoy, either of these habitat types can provide good opportunities.
Tuckahoe – This area is open for sign-in hunting for the entire turkey season and so far, 31 birds have been harvested. Most of the 15,100 acres here holds some turkeys. Upland pine habitat (~5000 acres) and bottomland hardwood habitat (~10,000 acres) make up most of this area. Either type of Habitat can provide fantastic hunting, and although some people prefer the bottomland habitat, please keep in mind that the bugs can be worse in these areas than in other areas.
Region 4: Blanton Creek and Rum Creek WMAs
Note: The season this year so far has been above average compared to past seasons.
Currently, 2 WMAs that may offer some good late season hunting are Big Lazer Creek and Blanton Creek WMAs. These WMAs are quota the first three weeks. Therefore, they are just now coming off the quotas and becoming open for all to use. They have almost the exact same harvest results year to date so far. Big Lazer Creek has had 53 hunters harvest 12 birds (23% success) and Blanton Creek has had 52 hunters harvest 13 birds (25% success). The one point to note though is that Blanton Creek is 2,400 acres smaller than Big Lazer Creek. So, the birds harvested per square mile is much greater on Blanton Creek than Big Lazer Creek. Blanton Creek has had a history of high success rates and high harvest per square mile. Blanton Creek is owned and the timber managed by Georgia Power. There is a nice mixture of habitat types as well as a nice mixture of pine stand age classes. This mixture has created some great turkey hunting. Big Lazer Creek is owned by the GA DNR. Timber management has become more regular in the past few years along. With an increase in diversity of pine stand volumes and age classes the habitat for turkeys should become better.
Something else to consider: So far this season, the 2 WMAs that have produced the most turkeys harvested also have had the most hunters and are the largest in our Region. Those are: Cedar Creek WMA (470 hunters, 70 turkeys harvested) and Ocmulgee WMA (433 hunters, 42 turkeys harvested).
Tip: from Bobby Bond, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Region 4:
“Late season I would be trying to find WMAs that have not had as much pressure. I would also be very low-key in calling to gobblers. I recently called in a bird without yelping.”
Region 5: River Creek and Chickasawhatchee WMAs
River Creek, the Rolf and Alexandra Kauka WMA is located in Thomas County. The 2,600-acre WMA boasts the highest turkey hunter success rate in Region V on both adult/child and general quota turkey hunts. Nestled between the Ochlockonee River to the east and Barnett’s Creek to the west, this WMA consists of a mix of upland pines and bottomland hardwoods. Elevations are gently rolling on the north end of the management area and fall off gently to moderately along the small drains, creek and river. Upland pine stands include significant acreages of longleaf pine savannah and slash pine. Most stands have been thinned at least once and the understory vegetation is generally open consisting of grasses, bracken fern, and forbs. Numerous wildlife openings and a good system of roads provide turkey hunters access and good opportunities for harvesting birds.
Chickasawhatchee WMA consists of 19,700 acres and is situated in portions of Dougherty, Calhoun and Baker Counties. The WMA consists of approximately 12,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods associated with four creeks – Chickasawhatchee, Spring, Kiokee and Keel Creeks. The WMA is part of a larger wetland complex known as the Swamp of Toa. This swamp system is the second largest freshwater swamp in Georgia (second only in size to the Okeefenokee Swamp) and is the major recharge zone for the Upper Floridian Aquifer. The remainder of the WMA consists mostly of upland pines of various stand ages and understory vegetative conditions. The WMA has two primitive campgrounds, a shooting range which includes a 50-yard pistol and 200-yard rifle range, and an extensive network of roads, trails, and firebreaks.
The WMA has a good population of wild turkeys and has the highest number of birds harvested of any Region V WMA. The WMA has two quota hunts during the first two weeks of the season and then is open for sign-in hunting opportunity the remainder of the season. Hunters should come prepared for an experience that can include encounters with snakes, mosquitoes and alligators.
Region 6: Big Hammock and Horse Creek WMAs
Big Hammock – So far in 2012, 107 hunters have harvested 8 adult birds on the area, but roads were closed on most of the area for repairs for the first 2 weeks of the season. The 6,900 acres of Big Hammock are primarily open bottomland hardwood interspersed with brushy clear-cut openings and grassy, walk-in hunter access roads. The 800 acre Big Hammock Natural Area, a turkey oak/scrub oak sand hill, lies to the north of the WMA. Turkeys are found throughout the area.
Horse Creek WMA is located along the Ocmulgee River in Telfair County. The WMA is just over 8,000 acres in size and consists of mature hardwood river bottom and upland older aged pine stands with numerous hardwood drains running through them. The WMA also has many planted and naturally managed wildlife openings. To date approximately 76 hunters have harvested 7 turkeys. The WMA has several walk in only areas which usually do not receive as much hunting pressure as the more easily accessible areas of the WMA. Turkeys may be found throughout the WMA.
Region 7: Penholoway and Sansavilla WMAs