By: Adam Hammond, GA DNR Wildlife Biologist
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division has been working to make improvements to many of our wildlife management areas. Here’s a look at some of the improvements being made to WMAs in northwest Georgia.
Game Management recently renovated the exterior of the Holly Creek Check Station at Cohutta WMA. Additionally, damaged wood has been replaced at the weigh shed, a hand rail to the steps has been added, and the exterior wood siding has been stained. Similar work was done recently to the check stations at Rich Mountain WMA and on to the West Cowpen Check Station of Cohutta WMA. Among the improvements is an updated WMA entrance sign for Rich Mountain WMA which was installed on the Owltown Tract.
Cohutta WMA is over 96,500 acres of land that is managed cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service as part of our WMA system. Cohutta WMA is over 150 square miles in size and is larger than three of Georgia’s 159 counties! The WMA is approximately 98-percent national forest land (part of the Chattahoochee National Forest) and 2-percent privately-owned land that we lease. Cohutta WMA is located in the Appalachian mountains of north Georgia in Fannin, Murray, and Gilmer counties.
Rich Mountain WMA consists of nearly 23,000 acres of land in Gilmer and Fannin counties in the north Georgia mountains. The Owltown and Cartecay tracts are state-owned lands located just outside of Ellijay totaling 5,062 acres. The Cartecay Tract is an archery-only tract just south of HWY 52 along the Cartecay River. The Owltown Tract in combination with approximately 18,000 acres of land that is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, make up the remainder of the Rich Mountain WMA.
By: Wildlife Biologist Bobby Bond, and Wildlife Technicians Randy Wood and Tommy Shover
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division has made some recent improvements for hunters on Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area.
- There is a new kiosk at the fork coming into the WMA. This makes picking up a map or a copy of the Hunting Regulations more convenient if you’re not stopping by the check station. This was completed for an Eagle Scout project with the Boy Scouts of America.
- The cut-through road has been re-opened for the first time in nearly a decade …
- … with repairs made to the breach in the crossing with a new culvert.
- Rusted out culverts on the Loop Road at the Big Grocery crossing have been replaced.
- The campground has been expanded and improved.
- Some roads that have been closed to vehicle traffic for years have been opened and graveled.
- New permanent firebreaks can be used for hunter access and areas to hunt.
By: BQI biologist Dallas Ingram
Fall covey counts used in monitoring Bobwhite Quail populations are underway across Georgia, including several state Wildlife Management Areas. These counts allow biologists and managers to estimate fall quail populations prior to quail season, which runs Nov. 15 – Feb. 28. Hunting pressure can then be regulated to ensure that the bobwhite harvest does not negatively impact population sustainability.
Volunteers are in place at least 45 minutes before sunrise at a monitoring point and listen for the loud “koi-lee” call that quail make during covey formation throughout the fall. This call is used to locate other coveys and allow birds in a covey that may have been scattered during the night to relocate each other. Covey counts require a lot of manpower and could not be done on such a large scale without volunteers. Silver lake WMA in Decatur County has 28 monitoring points.
This year, for the first time, we were able to complete the counts in just one morning thanks to DNR employees, local volunteers and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) wildlife students. Thank you to the 34 volunteers that helped to make this year’s covey count a great success!
If you would like more information on covey counts or managing for quail, contact one of our Bobwhite Quail Initiative biologists. East Region (706-554-3745), Central Region (478-296-6176), or Southwest Region (229-420-1212). Learn more about Bobwhite Quail in Georgia at our website, http://georgiawildlife.com/conservation/quail.
Also, UGA Chapter of Quail Forever is hosting a “Birds and Brews” event at Creature Comforts Brewery in Athens, Ga. on Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. Proceeds will benefit quail management on public land in Georgia and youth programs! Horderves, raffles, a silent auction, and a live auction will take place at the event. Guns, hunts, and other awesome prizes will be available.
For over 100 years, Georgia has been a premiere bobwhite quail hunting destination and the Georgia General Assembly even designated the bobwhite as the state game bird in 1970. During the last 75 years, Georgia’s landscape has gradually changed from a “sea” of bobwhite habitat that occurred primarily as an accidental by-product of land use, to a fragmented landscape comprised of small and often widely separated “islands” or fragments of habitat. That shift caused bobwhite populations to decline drastically, and consequently, so has the number of bobwhite hunters. However, there is a lot of interest and momentum for bobwhite restoration occurring and there is plenty of opportunity for success. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resource Division (WRD) is working with landowners through the Bobwhite Quail Initiative (BQI) to restore habitat for bobwhites, songbirds and other grassland dependent wildlife species.
Longleaf pine once occupied approximately 93 million acres from Virginia to Texas, but has been reduced to about 4 million acres. Longleaf is adapted to and very tolerant of fire and grows on different sites across the southeast. Its fire tolerance and canopy structure make it an excellent timber resource to be used in association with bobwhite management. Stands of longleaf that are planted at appropriate densities and prescribed burned frequently can yield excellent understory groundcover, a necessity for bobwhites and many other wildlife species in decline.
On June 25, 2014, WRD and the Longleaf Alliance hosted a Bobwhites and Longleaf field day at Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area, south of Bainbridge in Decatur County, with 25 landowners in attendance. The field day was cosponsored by Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Power, Lolly Creek Farm, The Joseph Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Quail Forever, Tall Timbers Research Station – Albany Quail Project, and USDA – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Topics included longleaf pine establishment, bobwhite habitat restoration and management, habitat fragmentation, predator management, supplemental feeding, and managing pine stands for bobwhites.
WRD BQI Biologist Drew Larson describes the specific habitat needs of bobwhites and how habitat size, structure, and distribution affect how suitable an area is for bobwhites: “Research has shown that bobwhites are an area-sensitive species, meaning they need fairly large acreages of mostly contiguous, suitable habitat. Suitable habitat for bobwhites consists of native grasses, herbaceous plants, and scattered patches of shrubby cover that is managed with fire and disking on a 2 to 3-year rotation. This early successional habitat provides nesting, brooding, and protective cover bobwhites require.
“Pine stands can also be managed for bobwhites”, says Larson. “However, there are trade-off costs in reduced revenues from forest and timber products when pine stands are managed at a high intensity for bobwhites. Timber, especially loblolly and slash pine, needs to be maintained at lower volumes to ensure ample sunlight reaches the ground to grow the ground vegetation quail need. Longleaf pine is an excellent tree to manage in conjunction with quail because higher volumes can be maintained and still produce quality groundcover. Longleaf is also very fire tolerant and can be burned at a young age, allowing the frequent fire quail need to be applied throughout the life of the pine stand.”
“Through BQI, we are working with private landowners and land managers to restore and enhance habitat for bobwhites and other wildlife. Restoration efforts are being targeted into Focal Landscapes that have been identified as having the highest potential for success. Obtaining technical assistance from a BQI biologist for the development of a management plan is a great way to start improving bobwhite habitat. ” said Reggie Thackston, WRD Private Lands Program Manager and BQI coordinator.
“Georgia WRD is also placing more emphasis on quail management on select WMA’s in the southwestern part of the state”, says Thackston. “Several WMA’s are in landscapes that make them conducive to successful quail management. Albany Nursery, Chickasawhatchee, Elmodel, River Creek, and Silver Lake WMA’s all have potential for quail restoration. These public lands could also benefit from the newly-formed Florida-Georgia Quail Coalition, a partnership that will provide funding for quail habitat work on public lands from participating Quail Forever chapters.
Learn more about managing your land for bobwhites, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative in Georgia, and how to support bobwhite restoration efforts in Georgia at the WRD quail website, http://www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/quail. For more information, contact Drew Larson at (478) 296-6176. For information on creating or joining a Quail Forever chapter, contact Talbott Parten at (229) 289-8199.
By: Matt Stewart, Georgia DNR Hunting & Shooting Education Specialist
Georgia’s National Archery in the Schools Program has produced its first college scholarship recipient and future NCAA shooter.
Andrew Agrinzones, a graduate of Charlton County High School in Folkston, accepted a scholarship offer to shoot for the archery team at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, 20 minutes northeast of Athens, this fall. Emmanuel College is a member of NCAA Division II and one of only a handful of colleges nationwide that offers scholarship funding in archery.
Agrinzones, an avid bowhunter and lifetime hunting/fishing license holder, joined the Charlton County High archery team his senior year and helped the squad reach the 2014 Georgia-National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) state tournament in Perry, which hosted more than 900 archers.
There he met Emmanuel College head men’s and women’s archery coach Rodney Estrada, a Level IV National Training System archery coach who was onsite scouting for potential archers. Estrada videotaped junior and senior archers that day and Agrinzones stood out.
“He really liked my form,” Agrinzones said. “He said I had trainable form.”
Estrada, who also trains and coaches archers at Georgia Tech, is a proponent of NASP and has seen his archery team’s roster grow from five shooters to 23 in just one year.
“I scout for talent and look for fundamentals of the shot process and the NASP provides me a good basis for fundaments,” Estrada said. “I can take those fundamentals and polish them.”
The NASP in-school archery curriculum is generally taught in physical education and agriculture classes in 4th-12th grade and more than 1,500 students competed in regional competitions held by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division in 2014. More than 20,000 students participated in the program throughout the year. The bow used in the program is a Mathews Genesis base model without sights or releases.
“(The NASP bow) is a really good bow to learn to shoot with (just) fingers,” Agrinzones said.
Agrinzones will arrive at Emmanuel College, which also has a co-ed sporting clay shotgun team, in August for the start of classes and the beginning of archery practice. Emmanuel College recently had one of its archers, Dusty Clark, named to the 2014 United States Archery Team (USAT) Junior Compound Men’s Team. Even if Agrinzones never gets that far, he said he’ll enjoy shooting a bow for many years to come.
“I always want to go hunting,” he said.
Estrada continues to recruit not just in Georgia, but all over the country and beyond. He’s bringing in one of the top recurve shooters from New Zealand this year and the No. 1-ranked shooter from Texas in his division. He’ll also continue to monitor the NASP competitions in Georgia for future talent.
“There is an open opportunity for any junior or senior NASP shooter,” Estrada said. “I believe in NASP.”
For more information on Emmanuel College’s shooting sports teams, visit www.goeclions.com. To learn more about the National Archery in the Schools Program in Georgia, go to www.gohuntgeorgia.com/shooting-sports.
By: Bobby Bond, Georgia DNR Wildlife Biologist
Co-authors: Mike Hooker, Casey Gray and Dr. Michael Chamberlain from the University of Georgia, and John Bowers, Georgia DNR Game Management Chief
In 2012, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources (UGA) partnered to begin an extensive research project on black bears in central Georgia, the state’s smallest population of bears. This scientific effort was initiated by GDOT’s need to examine the potential impacts of the pending Highway 96 expansion on black bear movements. This provided WRD the opportunity to join the research process without having to fund an entire project alone. Previous WRD research on black bears in middle Georgia occurred from 2003-2006; however, questions remained related to various aspects of the central Georgia black bear population. Specifically, more information on reproductive ecology (female denning, litter size, recruitment, effects of burning, etc.) and population parameters was needed.
Since May 2012, UGA has monitored the movement patterns of more than 40 black bears in central Georgia using GPS tracking collars. Advanced technologies are allowing researchers to locate black bears at a rate as intense as 1 location every 5 minutes. This fine-scale location data is providing insight on how these bears move in relation to Highway 96 between Bonaire, Ga. and Interstate 16. This data also allows researchers to evaluate habitat use across the range of the central Georgia black bear population.
Of the 18 female black bears UGA has monitored in 2014, three (3) had newborn cubs in the den, seven (7) did not produce young this year, and eight (8) females from 2013 should still have yearlings with them from 2013. It’s also noteworthy that 2 of the 3 females that produced cubs in 2014 also produced cubs in 2013 but lost those cubs and thus re-bred. During 2013, litter size averaged 1.9 cubs/litter, whereas during 2014 the average litter size was 1.6 cubs/litter. Typically black bears give birth to around 2 cubs and raise them until they are 2 years old. Litter sizes of 3-4 bears are not typical but do occur. However, most of those larger litters will result in only 1-2 cubs being recruited into the population. Therefore, most black bears only produce cubs every 2-3 years.
Part of this ongoing study was to estimate the population size. Knowing the exact population size is not necessary and is fiscally and logistically unattainable. Wildlife biologists use scientific techniques to monitor a variety of biological aspects of a wildlife population and how these indices inform changes in the population. This is why we use estimated population sizes and indices to manage wildlife populations. The portion of the study to estimate the size of the bear population used barbed wire hair snares and capture-recapture techniques to estimate the number of bears in central Georgia. UGA researchers constructed 129 hair snares throughout the study area (from south of the Houston County Landfill to I-16 in Twiggs County) that were baited. Hair snares were checked weekly for 2 months during the summers of 2012 and 2013, and more than 6,000 hair samples were collected for DNA analysis. Initial modeling results estimate the central Georgia bear population to number ~150 individuals. However, this is only after one year of data collection. A better estimate will be available in the future after a few more years of data collection. Typically, wildlife models get better with additional data.
The next phase of the project will be to move the population estimate research to north of I-16 in Twiggs and Wilkinson counties, primarily to determine relative bear numbers in that portion of the state.
VIDEO: The video shows the UGA researchers crawling into another sow’s den site, the difficulty of getting to it,
the sow’s cubs of the year, and collaring and collecting data from the sow and cubs.
Here’s a pretty cool infographic from the National Shooting Sports Foundation highlighting just how much the hunting and firearms communities contribute to wildlife conservation. Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers all contribute a great deal to conservation, and as always, we can’t thank you enough. You make wildlife conservation possible in Georgia!