Author: Rob Pavey
Published: March 1, 2019
Outdoor-minded Augustans are blessed with an abundance of public hunting lands that include a quarter of a million acres on both sides of the Savannah River.
Most sites are within an hour’s drive from downtown, and require little more than a hunting license and wildlife management area permits. Permits are available through the Georgia or South Carolina departments of natural resources.
Georgia’s whitetail herd, estimated at more than 1 million animals, allows a lengthy season with designated periods for archers, black powder fans and those who prefer conventional firearms. The state’s generous 12-deer bag limit includes opportunities for two bucks (of which at least one must have four or more points on one side).
Almost as popular are the spring seasons for Georgia’s wild turkey gobblers, which are abundant on most public lands open to hunting.
If you’re after a trophy buck, your best bet on public land might be Di-Lane Plantation in Burke County. Di-Lane is an 8,100-acre preserve, formerly a private quail plantation, that operates under a strict management program. Di-Lane was part of the empire of the late Henry Berol, heir to the Eagle Pencil Company. The Georgia Field Trials gained national prominence on the plantation Mr. Berol named for his daughters, Diane and Elaine. The plantation was purchased in 1992 by the Corps of Engineers as a public wildlife area managed by Georgia DNR.
Not far from Di-Lane is another, much smaller wildlife management area — called the Alexander Tract — open for bowhunting only.
Closer to downtown Augusta is the 1,500-acre Phinizy Swamp Wildlife Management Area, purchased by the Department of Transportation decades ago as part of the Bobby Jones Expressway extension.
Although open only for bowhunting, the dense cover, rich food supply and light hunting pressure offer big buck potential for archers willing to brave the snakes and mosquitoes and mud. It also has a reputation as one of the best public waterfowl hunting spots.
One of the largest WMAs on the Georgia side is Tuckahoe, located in Screven County – more than 15,000 acres of dense swamps, upland pines and other types of terrain. In addition to fat whitetails, the area also has feral hogs.
The Yuchi WMA, barely 30 minutes from downtown and located in Burke County, also offers quality deer and small game hunting, and has a rifle range and other facilities.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Thurmond Lake, allows hunting on much of its “collarlands” that include several large parcels. One of them, Bussey Point Wilderness Area in Lincoln County, produces some quality bucks almost every year.
In South Carolina, more than 140,000 acres of public lands are available in McCormick, Edgefield, Abbeville and Saluda counties, much of which lies in the state’s Western Piedmont Hunt Unit. Many parcels are part of Sumter National Forest and are managed both for timber production and wildlife.
Georgia also has an alligator season, created in 2003, that has become both popular and highly competitive. The inaugural season offered just 184 permits, drawn by lottery, and yielded just 72 gators. Since then, the quota has been raised to 850 permits, but there are typically more than 11,000 applicants. The counties south of Augusta in the Savannah River area are included in those hunts, with an allocation of 80 permits.
For more information on Georgia hunting opportunities, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting and South Carolina details are available at www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting.html.
Public Hunting Lands (Wildlife Management Areas) Near Augusta
Alexander Tract WMA in Burke County, 1,300 acres.
Broad River WMA near Lincolnton, Ga., 1,500 acres.
Clark Hill WMA (near Thomson-Appling), 12,703 acres.
Di-Lane Plantation, (near Waynesboro), 8,100 acres.
Germany Creek WMA, (near Thomson), 1,200 acres.
Keg Creek WMA (near Appling), 800 acres.
Phinizy Swamp WMA (Augusta), 1,500 acres.
Soap Creek WMA (near Lincolnton), 1,050 acres.
Fishing Creek (near Lincolnton), 2,903 acres.
Tuckahoe WMA (near Sylvania), 15,105 acres.
Wilkes County WMA (near Washington) 1,910 acres.
Yuchi WMA (near Waynesboro), 7,800 acres.
Crackerneck WMA (Aiken County) 10,012 acres.
Western Piedmont Hunt Unit (Edgefield, McCormick, Greenwood, Saluda and Abbeville counties), 140,000 acres