By Bailey Harrel, Academics Afield Coordinator, Georgia Southern
On February 28th, I had the pleasure of taking Georgia Southern (GS) Academics Afield participants and GS student mentors on a small game hunt targeting the elusive gray squirrel. We set out for Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area (WMA) about 45 minutes away from the school. This particular WMA is vast with swamps and rolling hardwood bottoms — a squirrel’s dream habitat. One would think harvesting these animals would be easy, but it would be the exact opposite for us. The sun was bright and big, illuminating the treetops. A quick glimpse of springtime was in the air. We got out of the trucks, had a quick safety de-brief to review what we had learned at the prior day’s training, and made sure each participant felt 100% confident holding and using the firearm. As we eased through the woods, the hunter’s eyes were locked on the treetops hoping to catch one of those bushy-tailed creatures hopping from branch to branch. With no luck on our first push, we decided to go back to the trucks, regroup, and refuel with ice-cold honey crisp apples and Gatorade.
Sharing stories around the trucks as we ate our mid-morning snack, we quickly discovered we all had different backgrounds and cultures. But, one thing joined us together — the outdoors. The harvest and getting to be successful in a hunt are things we love to do, but I’m certainly glad that’s not the only reason we hunt. We love the fellowship and building relationships that will last a lifetime as well as sharing a passion for conservation and hunting. I got to share with them how WMAs are funded and that they will have access to these tracks of land for years to come. One of the biggest barriers to entry in this activity is finding land to access. I am extremely grateful for WMAs that provide me and my new friends a place to go and enjoy beautiful creation.
After regrouping at the truck, we decided to go to a different head of woods right down the road. As we were approaching, a squirrel ran across the road and our spirits were lifted. We formed a line and pushed on after it. After about 60 yards of walking without seeing the squirrel, we stopped, sat, and listened for a bit. When we took our first steps, we heard a loud rustle in the trees — a huge eastern gobbler flew off from its roost. It was such an exciting experience. We all have high hopes of chasing down Eastern turkey later this spring.
The Georgia R3 Initiative is a cooperative effort between Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Deer Association, and Safari Club International
Georgia R3 Initiative: https://gwf.org/r3/
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About Georgia Wildlife Federation
Georgia Wildlife Federation was founded as a sportsman’s organization in 1936 and is Georgia’s oldest conservation organization. Today, members include hunters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, educators, and all Georgians who are interested in preserving our natural resources and outdoor heritage.