A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Public Lands — Part 1

By: Charlie Killmaster, State Deer Biologist

Where to Hunt – Choosing a Public Area

hunting-regs-coverStep 1– Pick up a copy of the current Guide to Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations. The Guide is also available at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations.

Step 2- In the Guide, find the General WMA Regulations. Read this whole section 3 times. Even experienced hunters may realize there are several things they may not be aware of about hunting on public land.

Step 3– Choose an area you would like to hunt. There are several different types of public hunting land available including state managed Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), National Forest (Federal), National Wildlife Refuges (Federal), State Parks (State), National Parks (Federal), and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE, Federal).

There is a locator map in the Guide, or you can visit our interactive Georgia Outdoor Map to help you choose areas near you. After you’ve decided on the property you’d like to hunt, look up the chosen area in the Guide to see the specific regulations for that area. Georgia has many public hunting areas around the state, and regulations differ widely from area to area. Federal areas are typically listed in a separate section after WMAs in the Guide.

All WMAs are partly or wholly managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, but the ownership of the land can vary and includes state-owned land, private land leased by the state, and federal land. For example, Cedar Creek is a WMA, but the majority is owned by the Forest Service, so some Forest Service rules also apply—such as No ATVs.


Georgia’s First Youth-Focused Wildlife Management Area

This post is part of a series by DNR intern Mishay Allen about the Wildlife Resources Division’s Game Management Section.

DCIM100GOPROBuck Shoals Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is the first WMA in Georgia that is solely focused on youth hunting opportunities. Its small size and other natural features make it
the perfect place for Georgia’s youth to learn to hunt. In addition to dove hunts, there are deer, bear, turkey and small game hunts that will all take place this hunting season. Continue reading “Georgia’s First Youth-Focused Wildlife Management Area”


Banding Ducks on the Altamaha River

This post is part of a series by DNR intern Mishay Allen about the Wildlife Resources Division’s Game Management Section.

Wildlife biologists band ducks every year to gain important insight on waterfowl movements, harvests and survival rates. I was lucky enough to take part in one of these capture and banding trips recently. The opportunity to experience this first-hand made for a night I’ll never forget! Continue reading “Banding Ducks on the Altamaha River”


Archery and Shooting Ranges: Give ‘Em a Shot!

Fall is around the corner, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has the perfect outdoor activity for you and your family! If you haven’t visited one of DNR’s archery and shooting ranges located all over Georgia, you’re missing out.

Me with an instructor at the archery range.

I’m Mishay Allen, and I’m the new intern at our Wildlife Resources Division. Last week, I had the opportunity to go out and experience the archery and shotgun ranges at the Clybel Wildlife Management Area, located in the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield.  This is DNR’s largest range, and even knowing that, it exceeded my expectations. The range boasts multiple archery and shooting range setups, including an archery trail with 32 3-D targets and an archery tower with tree stand stations where you can practice climbing in and out of a tree stand. There is a Continue reading “Archery and Shooting Ranges: Give ‘Em a Shot!”

Sunflowers at River Creek WMA in Thomas County. The forecast looks excellent for the September 3 and 10 Adult/Child Hunts.

Dove Season Forecast 2016

Dove is the number-one small game species and the number-one migratory game bird species in Georgia. There is more public dove hunting opportunity than ever before, including a new dove fields at Big Lazer Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Flat Creek Public Fishing Area (PFA).

Dove Field Forecasts 2016:

Quota Hunt Fields

Adult-Child Hunt Only Fields

Non-Quota Fields

Non-Quota VPA Fields

Quota Hunt Fields

At the Pine Log WMA we have planted sunflowers and wheat. There are a total of 32 acres, and the forecast is fair.

At Wilson Shoals we have planted sunflower, wheat, and brown top millet. There are a total of 16 acres, and the forecast is fair.

At Alexander WMA we have planted sunflower and wheat for a total of 45 acres, and the forecast is excellent. Continue reading “Dove Season Forecast 2016”


Hunting: How to Get Started — What to Do with Your Harvest

There’s more to hunting than the harvests. There are more sights to see and more to take in, so don’t count your harvests as the only measure of success. Hunting is a chance to go out in the wild woods and off the path that’s been set for you. There isn’t a schedule. It’s not about having a goal. It’s about taking opportunities as they are presented to you. And not just opportunities to shoot game. Opportunities to hear everything from true silence to noises you never knew existed. To see wild life, new landscapes and the unexpected.

You’re out there to participate—to interact with nature and enjoy the experience. Have a little fun! It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and to think about what you could have done differently or wish you had known ahead of time. Every hunter, new and seasoned, makes mistakes and learns something new each time they go out in the field.


So what if you do get a squirrel? Continue reading “Hunting: How to Get Started — What to Do with Your Harvest”

FS Road 1267_2

Hunting: How to Get Started — Considering Land

At the most basic level, hunting takes place on either private land or public land.

Private Land

Resident hunting licenses are required for all resident hunters 16 years old or older, except when hunting on land owned by them or their immediate family (blood or dependent relationship) residing in the same household.
Many areas have municipal ordinances against discharging a firearm within city limits. Be sure to follow these ordinances.

Do not trespass. If you want to hunt on land that does not belong to you or immediate family (as defined above), you will need written permission from the landowner.

If you do not own land usable for hunting, someone you know might. You can find many great opportunities by reaching out to people you know.

Public Land

Georgia has nearly 100 WMAs with approximately 1 million acres of public hunting lands. Every Georgia resident has at least one WMA within one hour of home.

Federal lands and some state parks offer hunting opportunities as well.

How to Find WMAs Near You

Online, you can use the Georgia Outdoor Map to find Continue reading “Hunting: How to Get Started — Considering Land”


Hunting: How to Get Started — What You Will Need


In the previous post, we hope we got you excited about hunting! It’s still possible to get out there and hunt before small game season is over. In this post, we will talk you through what you will need for hunting squirrel.

License Requirements and Hunter Education

In order to hunt squirrel, you will need a basic Hunting License.

To get up and running before the end of small game season, we recommend that you purchase a three-day Apprentice License and be accompanied by an experienced and/or knowledgeable licensed hunter.

When purchasing a hunting license online, you can pick the date you want the license to become effective, making it possible to purchase a three-day apprentice license in advance of when you intend to hunt.

If you are going to hunt on a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or practice at one of WRD’s shooting ranges, you will need a Wildlife Management Area license in addition to your hunting license. This WMA license is also sometimes referred to as a “WMA stamp.”

You can purchase licenses online by going to https://www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com

Other options for purchasing a license, and more information on our licenses, can be found at http://georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes.

If you choose to go the full route and get a basic Hunting License, you will need to complete Hunter Education prior to getting your license if you are over the age of sixteen. Taking Hunter Education will make you eligible for Continue reading “Hunting: How to Get Started — What You Will Need”


Hunting: How to Get Started — Introduction

Are you interested in hunting, but not sure where to start? In the next few blog posts, we’ll outline some steps to get started and simplify the process. Because it’s such a good starting point, we’re going to explain the requirements of a squirrel hunt that you can do before the end of the season. Squirrels are a manageable size, they have excellent meat and you only need a basic hunting license to hunt them. In later posts, we’ll explain what firearm to use, how to choose where you hunt, how to clean a squirrel, and give you a recipe you can use with your harvested squirrel meat.
Squirrels are small game, and small game season is open until February 29, 2016. Deer season is over, and turkey season doesn’t start until late March, but there’s still time to get out in the field and hunt squirrel!
If you don’t get a chance to go small game hunting before the season is up, that’s okay. We’ll also have posts about what you can do between hunting seasons to hone important skills, as well as information about hunting turkey.
If you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with the Hunting Regulations. We have a guide, including a quick glossary, to help. https://georgiawildlife.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/how-to-read-the-hunting-regulations/
Your Goals
Ask yourself why you want to hunt. Do you want to feel a greater part of the nature that surrounds us? Do you want to provide high-quality food for yourself or your family and feel the joy that comes from living off the land? Do you want to take part in a sport that brings millions of people together all over the country? There are many reasons to start hunting. Take a minute to figure out what you want to get out of the experience.
Squirrel Biology
Learn about your target game animal’s biology. It will help you when you’re in the field.
Gray squirrel are common. They are usually found in hardwood or mixed hardwood and pine forests. They are not usually found in dense pine forests. Stands of hardwoods make for good squirrel habitat in part because many of these trees are good mast producers. Mast refers to the nuts produced by woody plants and consumed by wildlife. An oak tree, for example, is a mast producer because it drops acorns.
Like many game animals, their major activity time is in the morning and the late afternoon. Though they will be out and about during the day, too, they will not be as active and prevalent.
Look for big leafy squirrel nests in trees. These are a good indicator that squirrels are in the area. Note that it is illegal to shoot into a nest.
Hunting Community
Most people get involved in the sport of hunting through family and friends who guide them through the process.
If you’re going to hunt small game before the end of the season, the guidance of a hunting mentor will be invaluable. If you can, reach out to an experienced hunter and see if they can mentor you. Depending on the hunter, they may also be able to let you use some of their equipment. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Hunters are generally passionate about hunting, and many would love the opportunity to share this experience with someone else.
You may also consider joining a hunting club. Joining a non-governmental organization (NGO) that relates to game (such as the National Wild Turkey Federation) is another way to get involved in the hunting community.
At WRD, we have Hunter Education Field Days that help supplement the teaching provided by Hunter Education courses, and Hunt and Learn programs that provide hands-on learning for young novice hunters (ages 10-17).
If you’re ready to learn how to hunt, you will need to commit time to it. You’ll need to, hopefully, find an experienced hunter who can help you through the process and start searching in your area for ways to get involved in the hunting community. You’ll need to set aside the time, energy and money over the next couple of weeks to take Hunter Education (can be done online), get a hunting license (can be done online/by phone), get equipment, practice, and learn the land you can hunt on.
We’ll guide you through these steps, starting tomorrow with the license and materials you will need to get started.
Other Posts in the Series
Post 2 — What You Will Need
Post 3 — Considering Land