Local & Outdoors Info
Hunting vs. Hiking in the National Forest and Wilderness Areas
Before going into our national forest and wilderness areas, you should be aware that these areas are open to hunting during the hunting season (fall and winter for most species, March and April for turkey). National forest areas are generally open to hunting all season long (including along the Appalachian Trail). But in Georgia and Tennessee, there are also Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) that are open to hunting on a specific schedule. North Carolina has Game Lands that are similarly managed. Big game hunts – turkey, deer, bear, and boar – will be scheduled for specific dates. It is a good idea to avoid these areas during big game hunts, because they are very heavily used. Most of these same areas are very lightly used during small game hunts, and can safely be used for other recreational activities. It’s a good system, because there are only a few days each year of heavy use, but people need to be aware of the system.For instance, if you are planning to hike in the Cohutta Wilderness, you should check the schedule for the Cohutta WMA. If a big game hunt is scheduled, I would strongly advise choosing an alternate area that is open to small game hunting only. See the links below to obtain this information.
Please be aware that hunters pay a substantial use fee for the right to use these areas (Georgia resident $19/non-resident $73, in addition to the normal license fees) and that these fees support conservation and land restoration efforts that benefit us all. Remember that the hunting tradition is still strong in the mountains, and everyone wants to be left alone to enjoy their day in the wilderness. In addition to avoiding deer hunts, I very strongly advise avoiding areas where hog or bear hunting with dogs is underway. This is very popular in North Carolina and in Tennessee. There are several signs that indicate that a boar or bear hunt is underway. You will see hunters along the road or in their trucks with tracking devices. Their trucks usually have a dog box. Dogs used for this type of hunting usually wear special collars with transmitters. During the hunting season, they often become lost, and can be seen along the roads, waiting for their masters to find them. By all means, you should keep your companion dogs strictly away from these dogs.
To check on big game hunts in Georgia WMAs, for Gilmer and Fannin counties:
For Union County:
For Tennessee WMAs, http://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife.html
For North Carolina, http://www.ncwildlife.org/Hunting/SeasonsLimits.aspx
Wear a Blaze Orange Cap!
Probably the best single piece of safety equipment you can purchase is an inexpensive blaze orange hat. This fabric can be seen for up to ten miles, and with it on your head, the highest point on your body, you will be visible to other folks in the woods. They are easily obtained from sporting goods stores, hardware stores, and some gas stations. The cost is $7-15. I would not go into the field without one during any hunting season. The Bargain Barn, on the four-lane in Jasper, is a good source, as is any mountain hardware or sporting goods store.
Never, never, never …
- Don’t wear, carry, or use anything white during deer season (fall and winter). A flash of white in the woods can be mistaken for a startled whitetail deer raising its tail. Be very cautious with handkerchiefs or toilet paper. Don’t wear white T-shirts.
- Don’t wear, carry, or use anything purple during turkey season (March, April).
- Don’t allow your dog to confront bears, hogs, or hunting dogs.
- Don’t get too close to bears or hogs. Bears with cubs are especially dangerous, because they are very protective of their young.
- Don’t feed the bears. If bears develop a taste for human food, they often become nuisance bears, and may have to be destroyed. Remember that feeding a bear is like signing its death warrant.
- Don’t go into the woods without telling someone reliable exactly where you are going and when you expect to return. Be sure they know the color, make, and model of your car and your license number. If the authorities are asked to search for you, the first thing they will do is to try to locate your car at the trailhead or other point of entry. If it’s there, and you aren’t, they will likely mount a search. If they don’t find it where they are told to look for it, they may well conclude that you are safe in a barroom somewhere. When I go into the woods alone, I tell someone exactly where I plan to park and set a firm time to call her to report that I am out of the woods. Remember that your cell phone isn’t likely to work when you are in the wilderness. As you approach the area you plan to hike, it’s a good idea to note where your cell service terminates, in case of emergency. Obviously, high points of land are a better bet than lower areas.