I was fortunate to hunt NW Georgia this year for the first time since moving here in early 2015. I’ve spent most of the last year & ½ remodeling the home we bought – but that is another story!
I’m use to hunting Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s) and have had mixed luck in these public hunting grounds. That being said this year was a brand new experience with all of the hills & hollers. Previously I hunted flat lands mixed with swamps and palmetto’s. I did some pre-season scouting but couldn’t get back in where I knew I wanted to hunt due to distance and locked gates on WMA roads.
Google maps is a great source for visually looking at potential hunting areas and I didn’t hesitate to use that tool again this year. I was able to find hardwood stands easily mixed upon the evergreen pines that far outnumber the hardwoods here. The WMA we decided to hunt was a short 45 minute drive from the homestead called the Paulding Forest WMA. It’s a 25,707 acre paradise for a deer & bear hunter.
I wasn’t sure what to expect regarding hunting pressure during season, some WMA’s are filled to the brim with hunters leaving you with small “shooting lanes”. More often than not while sitting in a stand I have experienced hunters walking through “my zone” busting any chance of seeing a deer. That in and of itself is why many folks won’t hunt a WMA. Not knowing any land owners yet up here I had to hope for the best and just go at it.
I’m not sure why however this particular WMA we chose to hunt only has two seasons, one 4 day season in November and a 3 day season in December so opportunity is limited in tagging out. My BIL and I picked a spot for the first four days next to some food plots planted by the Georgia game commission. Although there was plenty of sign we only heard deer in the dark while sitting in stands never getting the opportunity to see any during daylight.
We left a bit disappointed after those first four days in November with hopes of a better December hunt. We both knew that we would have to change our plans based on what we experienced with hunting pressure at our first choice for the stands.
We did some more Google Earth scouting during the wait for the December hunt and found a spot we were both very excited about. We knew we would have to get there early the day before the hunt when they open the gates to stake out our claim, and the plan came together.
Early that December morning I met my BIL at the grocery store and we proceeded to buy groceries for camping. When we were convinced that we bought enough to survive we headed on the road to our destiny. Lo and behold we got there in time to drive in to the hallowed hunting grounds. You know the funny thing about Google Earth is it doesn’t show boundaries of the WMA. We found this out after setting camp, heading into the woods to scout for the next morning only to come across posted no hunting signs. Depression can come quickly.
I quickly downloaded a free app on the iPhone that did show the WMA boundaries and confirmed the signs. This quickly forced us to change direction and Wala – an even better place to call my hunting zone! This only four hundred yards of hiking from camp. You know, sometimes things happen for a reason.
I decided to hunt from the ground for these three days versus using my tree climber. I did say that the hike was only four hundred yards however I didn’t mention it was almost straight up and down did I? This being a new thing to this sixty year old hunter coming from the flatlands of Florida. Now I confirmed why I chose to hunt from the ground. Saved me from hauling that on my back up & down the hills and hollers. When I got to what I thought looked like an excellent spot to stop I was winded but enjoyed the exercise since it was 23 degrees that first morning. This spot was overlooking a holler that was close to 300 foot deep with three ditches running into one big dip – all hardwoods with nearly every leaf on the forest floor. When daylight came on opening morning I knew I was by myself with nature. No signs of anyone else for a loooong way off. Nobody else had hiked into this zone and as I thought of how I would try to haul a deer out of this holler; it came to me why nobody else was around.
I’ll end this by stating that this was a buck only hunt and all that I saw were does but I had the hunt of my life and intend to go back to this exact spot next season. What a beautiful place. At one point I had three does trot by me within seven yards without ever seeing me.
This brings me to what I wanted to get across to the reader. There is nothing better than being one with nature while hunting. Your senses are at their highest while trying to hear deer walking in the leaves and the smells of the forest are not quantifiable. I find myself totally at ease regardless of what is going on in the world. I recommend getting out there even if not to hunt. Just go and enjoy the sights & sounds and smells. Life in a forest couldn’t be any better.