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Georgia’s Fort Stewart and Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area

These hot public land opportunities should keep Georgia on your mind this spring.

The Peach State has been blessed with high numbers of turkeys and plenty of good places to strike up a conversation with loud-mouthed 2-year-old longbeards.

There are numerous public land hunting locations that provide quick and easy access to prime turkey hunting across the entire state. This season, check out the action at Fort Stewart and the Dawson Forest WMA.

Both of these key public land locations are expected to be red hot this spring, especially after the completion of several habitat improvement projects conducted by the NWTF and its partners.

NWTF Fort Stewart Georgia WMA
Photo courtesy Georgia DNR

Fort Stewart

According to NWTF Regional Biologist Lynn Lewis-Weis and Fort Stewart Wildlife Post Biologist Justin Chafin, the Fort Stewart area is loaded with turkeys.

Many consider the Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield to be a hunter’s paradise with more than 350 different species of wildlife. Biologists have spent countless hours adding a variety of warm- and cool-season food plots to attract and hold turkeys on the property. Controlled burning and timber thinning programs also have improved the entire property.

What To Expect
Hunters looking to bag a longbeard can enjoy hunting the relatively flat terrain of Fort Stewart’s 280,000-acre armor training base. The area is primarily longleaf pine timber stands, various wildlife openings, food plots and hardwoods. Hunters can also find sections of old southern swamps dotted across portions of the terrain. There is an extensive network of roads that provide quick and easy access to key turkey hunting areas. In addition, an automated phone system allows hunters to check in and out of gated sections of the property. This innovative monitoring system helps control hunting pressure by preventing any one section from becoming too crowded during a hunt. To hunt Fort Stewart all you need is a Georgia state hunting license and a $60 Fort Stewart-issued permit.

Special NWTF Projects
The NWTF signed a conservation agreement with the Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield that will initiate a monumental longleaf pine restoration project. As a result, the Fort Stewart area will gain a total of 271,000 longleaf pine trees to help restore one of the South’s most unique ecosystems. Longleaf pines also will enhance nesting and brood rearing habitat for wild turkeys.

Lynn Lewis-Weis is extremely proud of the efforts being made with the restoration project.
“This agreement is an excellent example of cooperative conservation,” Weis said. “No single group can perform the enormous task of conservation, but we can make positive changes to our nation’s resources by working together.”

NWTF Dawson Forest WMA
Photo courtesy Georgia DNR

Dawson Forest WMA

Another Georgia public land treasure for turkey hunters, the Dawson Forest WMA is approximately 22 miles long, with varied terrain. The northern end of Dawson Forest consists primarily of steep mountains covered in hardwoods; the southern sections have rolling terrain with a pine and hardwoods mix. According to biologist Scott Frazier, Dawson Forest WMA holds an excellent wild turkey population and provides hunters with a good chance of filling a spring tag.

“Currently there are a number of designated food plots and wildlife openings scattered across the southern sections of property. These areas seem to hold higher numbers of birds and are generally hit the hardest by hunters,” said Frazier. “On the other hand, hunters who don’t mind the steep terrain can take advantage of the northern sections of the WMA that also have decent turkey populations. The limited access and mountainous terrain really limits the amount of hunting pressure in the area.”

Special NWTF Projects
The NWTF’s Metro Chapter raised $2,000 for a tree planting project to improve wildlife habitat inside the WMA. A variety of perennial shrubs that generate food and add cover for wildlife species like turkey and deer were strategically planted in the area. The NWTF and its partners also are working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to purchase an easement to allow access to nearly 4,000 acres of the WMA that has previously been closed due to a road dispute. All of these projects will ultimately provide better habitat, easier access and improved public land hunting opportunities for everyone. — Travis Faulkner