The Georgia Wildlife Management Areas Continue to Deliver

After my last activation at Oliver Bridge Wildlife Management Area (K-3764), I considered heading to South Carolina for park #16 toward my 2024 goal of 60 new-to-me parks. However, after looking at the weather forecast, I reconsidered. I’d need to activate earlier in the day due to my schedule and, given the chilly weather, I’d prefer to sit in the car for the activation. That would not be a good option for the park I considered.

So, I began looking at more wildlife management (WMA) areas in Georgia not far from home. I chose Hiltonia WMA (K-8794) which is an hour’s drive for me. This WMA is 500 acres mostly of hardwood and long-leaf pines and is owned by the State of Georgia. The property offers hunting of deer, turkey, dove, and small game.

I did not know before my visit that longleaf pines existed on the property but figured it out when I discovered their needles while walking with Daisy after the activation. You know longleaf pine needles when you see them because they are much longer than other pine needles. In fact, they have the longest needles of the eastern pine species and can grow up to 18”. The needles I found were 14” in length!

Longleaf pine forests are special because they are rich in bio-diversity and provide habitat for the threatened gopher tortoise, a keystone species because it provides burrows in which other species, like the threatened Indigo snake, live or shelter. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker is another species that benefits from longleaf pine forests because it lives in the cavities of mature longleaf pine trees. The species dwindled when many of the old-growth longleaf pine forests were felled and/or replaced with commercial forests of loblolly or slash pine in the southeastern US.

Gopher Tortoise. Source:
Indigo Snake. Source:
Red-cockaded woodpecker. Source:

You access the Hiltonia WMA via a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The property has an information kiosk right near the entrance with a map giving you the lay of the land. I usually look at whatever maps are available online from the state of Georgia or Google beforehand. For Google maps, I usually use the topographic layer as this is the default and shows me roads to access the property. But before this trip, I played with the layers setting and discovered the imagery layer will give me a better idea of what is forested and not. Hence I could easily locate an open area to set up my antenna.

The dirt road to the park
Google Maps – imagery view

Just past the information kiosk is a dove field and it was there my Subaru Crosstrek Kai and I set up shop. What a gorgeous day! Crisp air under clear, blue skies. Daisy explored and sniffed to her heart’s content while I installed the Tufteln EFRW antenna in the perfect pine with one toss!

The perfect pine tree!

It was not long before Daisy and I were installed in Kai and ready to get the party started. And what a party it turned out to be! Not long after I called CQ on 20 meters, Joseph KB1WCK responded. After we finished our QSO, I was buried under a massive pile-up. However, pile-ups do not intimidate this POTA Babe! I did the best I could to pick up bits and pieces and work through it. Did I make mistakes? Sure I did, but there are no CW police and this is how we learn, through challenges.

I continued to work through the contacts on 20 meters and then switched to 17 meters. I’ve become fond of that band partially because of the DX I might pick up but also the clarity and strength of US signals. The band did not disappoint as I picked up contacts in Spain and Italy as well as Sweden (Peder SM2SUM) and France (Jean Baptiste F4ILH), the latter two with whom I’ve had previous contacts. (Thank you, gentlemen.) Finally I switched to 40 meters and, surprisingly, only picked up two contacts before I heard no more responses to my CQ. At this point, nearly an hour and a half after I started, I was ready to call QRT.

Hiltonia WMA QSOs on 20 meters

However, I remembered my commitment to hunt other activators before I leave a park if I have time. Being on the other side of the pile-up isn’t as much fun admittedly, but it is does feel good to assist other activators. I was able to hunt and work two US, one Canadian, and one British op. One thing I learned is that I have the POTA exchange down as an activator but I need work on sending park numbers when I am hunting. The first two P2P exchanges I stumbled a bit but by the last two, my sending had improved. So note to self – continue hunting other activators as it is good practice with sending numbers!

Hiltonia WMA QSO Map – all bands

Feeling good about the activation, it was time to take Daisy for a walk. She again explored while I packed up my equipment under now cloudy skies. Then we headed up the road near the kiosk. On our way back to Kai, we walked through the longleaf pine plantings. You could see where controlled burns had taken place as per marks on the trees. Longleaf pines require controlled burns every two to ten years. They are a fire-resistant species and the burns prevent other plant species from invading their canopy.

The clouds have rolled in!
An easy walk

The carpet of needles under the trees provided a springy and hushed surface on which to walk. Some landowners grow longleaf pine for their straw which is used as mulch in landscaping. They can earn 40 cents to a $1.00 per bale whereas loblolly pine straw brings only 20 to 30 cents per bale.

After stretching our legs for 40 minutes, Daisy and I headed back to Kai and then home. During the drive, I reflected on the day. I found another WMA to which I could easily return for activations. I had 64 QSOs today, including five DX, in two hours. And, I now had 16 valid activations toward my 60 new-to-me park activations goal for 2024.

As I mentioned at the end of my Oliver Bridge WMA article, I need to pause the pursuit of my goal during early February. Given all I have going on in my life right now, it is time to stick close to home the next two weeks while I settle into my new home. However, President’s Day weekend presents an opportunity for an overnight trip and this POTA Babe will be restless by then. Where will I go? Stay tuned…

Equipment Used

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6 thoughts on “The Georgia Wildlife Management Areas Continue to Deliver”

  1. I love it when a Plan B activation comes together so well!

    Wow–just look at that QSO Map of yours including a DX P2P! So incredibly impressive, Teri.

    And I think Daisy is enjoying her POTA Pooch status.

    You’re going to enjoy the challenge of hitting your 60 new-to-you parks by the end of the year. I foresee camping, traveling, and a lot of radio play!

    Thanks for the wonderful report and photos, Teri!


  2. Teri,
    You really rock an activation and your writeups are so full of information!
    Such an inspiration.

  3. Teri, you’re my inspiration. If you can go out in the game lands then so can I even though I feel uncertain in some. I found a spot where 3 entities combined, not knowing the Mountain-to-Sea trail came through two other spots with my radio kit to catch it. My QRPLABS QCX 40m Mini was all that could stop it. Everyone else was on 20m. I only brought the 40. I have a QMX but the build isn’t done yet. After 4 QSOs I didn’t think we would make it. But after about 3:30 local time the propagation seemed to improve and I started to get some more. I ended up with 14 QSOs for success!
    I asked myself, what would the POTA Babe do?? Lol. Well, it’s a good line haha. And today I headed to the VOA Game Land Site and got 20m rolling. Great, great stuff.
    Thanks Teri. Your blog posts do inspire me. 73 de NG9T Gary

  4. Gary:

    Way to go! I’m glad you hung in there for the activation. I had never considered going to game lands before I began this new goal of 60 new-to-me parks for 2024. Just a quick word of caution – another op reached out to me to discuss safety. As you saw in the lead picture, Daisy had her blaze orange vest on and I did as well as it was the last day of dove season. Even out of season, it is a good idea to wear highly visible clothing in game lands to avoid an incident in case there is someone hunting illegally on the property. We ops, whether POTA Babes or POTA Dudes, need to be fearless in getting on the air and enjoy our hobby! Just be safe in the process so you can tell everyone about it afterwards!

    Teri KO4WFP

  5. Teri thanks for the tip re using the foam pipe insulation to seal the gap in the car window while also protecting your coax. I will definitely be doing that in the future.

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