Step 1- Pick up a copy of the current Guide to Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations (hereinafter ďGuideĒ) or look at the guide on the web at www.georgiawildlife.com
Step 2- In the Guide, find the General WMA Regulations. Read this whole section 3 times. There are several things you may not be aware of such as not possessing buckshot on public land, except during designated dog-deer hunts.
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 to help you choose areas near you. Look the chosen area up to see the specific regulations for that area, they may differ widely. Federal areas are typically listed in a separate section after WMAs in the Guide.
All WMAs are partly or wholly managed by GA DNR-WRD, 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.
Step 4- Choose a species or group of species to hunt (deer, turkey, bear, small game, waterfowl, etc.) and choose a weapon type (archery, firearms, or primitive weapons) Under the WMA heading you will see the available dates for each species or group of species and weapon along with some additional and very important information. Most areas have far more restrictive dates than state seasons. Iíll define some terms now:
Quota (Q)- This means you have to apply online by a certain deadline and be selected in order to attend the hunt. The number indicates the number of slots available. There are no ďstand-byĒ programs for most hunts, the number of selected hunters is already adjusted for ďno-shows.Ē
Check-in (C)- This means you must first visit the check station and sign up for the hunt prior to hunting. For deer, you have to bring any deer you kill back to the check station to be weighed and measured by DNR personnel. DO NOT mark deer on your harvest record on Check-in hunts; you will be given bonus tags. Unless otherwise specified, there is a limit of 2 deer on Check-in hunts; only one of them may be a buck if there are antler restrictions on the particular WMA.
Sign-in (S)- This means you have to visit the check station and sign up for the hunt prior to hunting and you must sign out any game you kill yourself at the check station. Your deer harvest record and season bag limit applies on these hunts, carry a pen and mark your harvest record before moving the deer from where it fell. You may kill only 2 deer on hunts lasting fewer than 7 days.
Buck Only- This means you can only shoot antlered bucks, button-heads will get you a ticket.
Buck Only/Either Sex Last Day- This means you cannot kill an antlerless deer until the last day of the hunt. There may be several variations to this such as either sex last 2 days or last 3 days.
Quality Buck- This means the area has antler restrictions, so you need to check the special regulations for that area to see what they are. Some have a minimum of 4 points on one side, others must have a 15Ē spread or 16Ē main beam length to be legal. Typically you will have a one-buck limit on these hunts.
Either Sex- This means you can kill any type of deer for the duration of the hunt, but you are still subject to the bag limit.
Step 5- Read the special regulations. This section under each area heading will include site-specific rules that may not apply to other areas, such as antler restrictions on bucks.
Step 6- Purchase all required licenses. You will need a hunting license, WMA license (if hunting a WMA), Big Game license (if hunting Big Game), HIP permit (if hunting migratory birds), Federal and State Duck Stamp (if hunting Waterfowl), and any additional permits required for land outside of WMAs (some USACOE land requires a permit). A Sportsmanís or Lifetime License will cover all these except for the federal duck stamp, other federal permits, and state park quota hunt fees.
Step 6- Head to the check station and read all available signs. This is where you will find current information about any issues that have come up since the Guide was printed. You probably have to sign up anyway unless youíre small game hunting.
Step 7- Public Land Etiquette. There are no designated spots on public land, with only a few exceptions (such as blind areas on some waterfowl hunts or the island deer hunts). Because everything is ďfirst come, first servedĒ you need to do plenty of scouting in advance of a hunt and pick out several good spots (5 or more preferable). This will save you a heap of heartache in the wee hours of the morning when thereís a truck parked in your only spot. It should be widely known and accepted that if someone beats you to an area, you gracefully bow out and move on; that doesnít mean walk another 100 yards and start climbing a tree. If you can still see another hunter from the stand, youíre probably too close. Likewise, always expect the possibility that another hunter will walk in on you. In this case, politely flash your light or whistle if itís daylight and the other will likely move on. There will sometimes be the occasion that someone is not aware of these common courtesies or simply doesnít care; just remember that you have access to hunt 1 million acres of prime land for the nominal fee of $19. If itís daylight and someone walks past you donít get discouraged, Iíve seen tons of huge bucks killed because a late hunter arriving in the woods jumped the buck out of cover and he ran past the next guy that was already set up. A good rule of thumb for avoiding other hunters is to stay away from trucks. Unless itís a large parking area that is a single access point for hundreds of acres, you shouldnít park next to anyone else and risk disturbing them. Here are a few other little ďDos and DonítsĒ:
-Donít skybust, you will not kill a duck or dove from 100 yards away, wait until you think you could hit it with a rock.
-Do sight in your rifle, some days Iíve been at a check station and seen as high as 50% of deer gut shot or shot multiple times.
-Do bring a deer cart; it will make your life much easier unless youíre Paul Bunyan or a glutton for punishment. Hand trucks and dragging tarps make adequate substitutes for the budget conscious like myself.
-Do bring a climbing stand (w/ harness), mobility is key to being successful and your risk of having a stand stolen is higher if you leave it in the woods.
-Donít cordon off spots with signs and tons of flagging tape that you have no intention of picking up when you leave. This is litter and there are no designated spots. In fact, some hunters will target those spots thinking they are better and try to beat you there or deliberately walk in on you.
-Donít gut your deer and throw the guts or carcass on the roadside or campground. Gut it where it drops, or drag any unusable parts into the woods 30 or 40 yards away from other hunters.
-Donít knowingly try to cut someone off to a bird when turkey hunting. Thereís nothing worse than working a bird and have someone run in and spook him. If you hear 5 owl tooters and crow cackles all honking at the same gobbler, itís best to move on to another spot.
Step 8- A few other little odds and ends.
-Dove dates are typically only listed for WMAs that have dove fields. You can still hunt doves on other WMAs when small game dates and state dove season coincide.
-For small game animals not specifically listed, they may be hunted when WMA small game dates for the area you are hunting and state season for that animal coincide, unless otherwise specified. This generally applies to rabbits, quail, squirrels, woodcock, snipe, grouse, waterfowl, foxes, bobcats, crows, alligators (quota only), marsh hens, and raccoons.
-You can only kill bears on WMAs that specifically list a season for them.
-Coyotes and feral hogs can be taken during any open season only with the legal weapons for that season, unless otherwise specified.
-Nongame unprotected species may only be taken during small game dates. This generally includes armadillos, groundhogs, beavers, starlings, English sparrows, and pigeons. Youíll have to resist the temptation to blast an armadillo with your 30-06 during deer season.
-Bicycles are great tools for accessing remote areas for turkey and small game seasons.
-You canít take ATVs off-road, so they donít do you much good even where they are allowed.
You should already know all the information in Step 8 since you read the General WMA Regulations 3 times.