Ben Prescott, reporter
The Berry College Wildlife Management Area (WMA) serves as a hunting ground for students at Berry and people in the Rome community. The 15,609-acre property provides ample opportunity for students coming to Berry to still engage in the sport they love.
Within the WMA at Berry, hunters are allowed to participate in deer archery season, deer firearm season, turkey season and small game season during their respective times. Along with hunting, there are biking, equestrian and hiking trails within the WMA.
One of the first things that hunters who are new to Berry do is find new hunting partners and find out where they can hunt. That is exactly what senior Jake Lewis did when he walked on campus three years ago. Through his new hunting buddies, he was able to hunt as he would in his hometown.
One of the hunts that many people participate in is the deer quota hunt. In order to be in this hunt, people must submit their names into a lottery to be chosen. According to Lewis, Berry students get an automatic bid to go hunting, along with other benefits for hunters as a whole.
“You can use a rifle for three days,” Lewis said. “I think it’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday hunt. Once Monday rolls back around, it’s back to using bows and crossbows.”
In terms of the size and quality of the animals at the WMA, Lewis said that the WMA provides good game to hunt. On a quota hunt for 2021, one of his friends killed a six-pointer buck. The number of points on a buck indicate how large the antlers, and the deer is.
Another hunter that has made use of the WMA is senior Joel Alcarez. Alcarez said the process of getting onto the land includes talking to the Berry WMA office and having the appropriate hunting licenses and WMA land permit stamp. Once approved, hunters are required to sign in with the office one time per hunting season. The only time a hunter would need to check out or sign out is whenever the hunter makes a kill, making for a relatively simple process for anyone that wants to get involved in hunting.
In his time at Berry, Alcarez has had a good experience hunting within the WMA. With there being an abundance of land to hunt on, Alcarez said it is a rare occurrence to run into other hunters. Even though running into other hunters and their spots can be problematic, Alcarez mentioned that the tight-knit community of the surrounding Rome area does not make it an issue and can even lead to new friendships forming.
“Most of that land is out in the Summerville and Armuchee area, so everyone kind of knows each other out there,” Alcarez said. “So the times that we did run into other hunters, they were very respectful. I actually ended up making a friend out of it one morning.”
Running into other hunters is rare on the large piece of land, something that Alcarez praises the WMA for. Alcarez noted that Berry owns land that stretches toward Alabama and owns land north of Berry in Armuchee and Summerville, making for a great hunting experience.
“Their land is really spread out and is readily available for anybody to hunt,” Alcarez said. “I think that’s pretty cool because it allows people to spread out more and keeps everybody a little bit safer than having everybody funnel into one spot. Plus, it’s different terrain. You can hunt any animal you want in any different type of terrain that you want.”
In order to keep students and others safe on campus, the WMA has strict regulations. The Berry College website details when certain hunts are held and what type of weapon can be used. To prevent non-hunters from being in the area during a hunt, the website states that “horse, bicycle, and foot trails are closed before 10 a.m.” during deer season, which is for both archery and firearms, and turkey season. Other regulations include prohibiting the use of main campus for access to the WMA, no open season for hunting on Berry’s campus or refuge, which is a buffer zone around the main campus, and no use of motorized vehicles in the WMA. Hunting coyotes or wild hogs are prohibited as well. Also, prior to the beginning of the seasons and hunts, Gary Will, assistant vice president of campus safety and land management, sends out a campus-wide email notifying all students, faculty and staff of the trail closures and when the hunts are being held.
The remaining hunts within the WMA include deer firearm season, turkey season and small game season. The dates for the designated deer firearms hunt for both bucks and does are from Dec. 1 through 4 of this year. Jan. 8 and 9, 2022 are designated times for female hunters and children. Turkey season begins on April 9, 2022 and ends on May 15, 2022. The small game season is currently in season and ends on Nov. 30, with the final small game season picking back up on Dec. 5 and ends Feb. 28, 2022. If interested in hunting within the Berry College WMA, call the Region 1 Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office at 706-295-6041.