Most of the hunting in Georgia is done on private land. Groups form hunting clubs and more or less have their own preserves which they protect and try to improve through management methods passed on by the Department of Natural Resources and private organizations such as Quality Deer Management and Buckmasters.
Public land is available, though. The state has bought or leased more than 1 million acres statewide and the land, Wildlife Management Areas, is carefully worked to support a comfortable, if not maximum, wildlife population.
Some of these WMAs are a relatively short distance from Atlanta. Some are acreage leased from timber companies but others encompass some interesting natural areas and they’re accessible year-round, for free, to the non-hunting public except during hunting seasons.
Here are a few:
Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center Wildlife Management Area
If you can visit only one WMA, the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, east of Atlanta off I-20, is the one to go to. Named after the late Charles Elliott, famed writer for Outdoor Life, first Director of Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division (Game & Fish Department then) and extraordinary outdoorsman, the WMA covers over 6400 acres, including 29 ponds and a five-acre granite outcrop. The WMA’s primary goal is wildlife education and programs offered for students, teachers, and the public. The Outreach program brings programs to schools to teach about wildlife topics using live animals. On-site programs for students are conducted at the Brooke Ager Discovery Room. The Discovery Room focuses on grades 4-6 and can accommodate 60 students. Teachers receive training through Project WILD and other educator workshops. A variety of programs are also offered at the Charlie Elliott Visitor’s Center for the general public.
Allatoona Wildlife Management Area (9,300 acres)
On Lake Allatoona, this WMA offers a close-in place to hunt deer, turkey and small game. In the off-season, you can also enjoy fishing, camping, bird watching and a quiet walk in the woods. Boat ramps give access to the lake and there are picnic areas, too.
Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area (25,000 acres)
A straight shot up GA 400 to Dawsonville and turn left near the Outlet Mall. Not many even realize it’s there despite its proximity to Atlanta. In season you can hunt deer, bear, turkey, dove, waterfowl and small game. During the off-season it’s a perfect place to spend a day fishing, hiking, bird watching and horseback riding.
Location: 6 mi. west of Dawsonville
Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area (2,800 acres)
It’s not the largest of WMAs but there is good hunting for deer, turkey, doves and small game. It also has a shooting range where hunters can zero their rifles, pattern their shotguns or just plink. Other activities available are bird watching, horseback riding, fishing and camping.
Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area (6,000 acres)
A prime waterfowl area is a big draw, although there is good hunting for deer, turkey, dove and small game as well. Available in the off-season for bird watching, canoeing, fishing and field trials.
Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area (26,200 acres)