The Best of SC’s upstate WMAs

Here are several chances to get away from the crowds

Jocassee Gorges WMA

The Jocassee Gorges tract, owned primarily by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources contains 43,500 acres in Pickens and Oconee counties, in the rugged mountains of the Upstate.

Access on the property via a paved road system is extremely limited. SC 178 and Cleo Chapman Road (County Road 143), are the only paved roads that access the property. Paved roads at three adjoining state parks provide access to the boundaries of Jocassee Gorges. Approximately 138 miles of “dirt” roads provide access thru the property.

Biologist Charles Ruth of the SDCNR said the Jocassee Gorges area is unique for South Carolina.

“The Jocassee Gorges WMA offers a unique opportunity for sportsmen to truly get as close to a wilderness hunt as you can in South Carolina,” he said. “But the terrain is rugged, and lots of legwork is required to access some of the areas. It’s not the ideal type hunt for everybody, but for those who do, it’s awesome.”

The Jocassee Gorges WMA offers huntres a chance to square off with white-tailed deer in a true, backwoods environment.

Ruth said the area has a fairly low density of deer, but that translates into an opportunity to harvest trophy bucks. In addition it’s one of a few places in the state where deer, turkey and bear can be hunted during the appropriate seasons.

“The squirrel hunting opportunities are outstanding, and good grouse hunting is available,” he said. “Because of the use of prescribed fire and timber thinning, some good small-game hunting exists in localized areas.

“Except for waterfowl, this WMA offers opportunities for most of the major game species in our state,” Ruth said.

Fants Grove WMA

Fant’s Grove offers a great diversity of hunting opportunities and is highly accessible. The majority of the 8,540-acrea area lies in Anderson County, with smaller portions in Oconee and Pickens counties.

This WMA has been under quality deer management regulations since 2000 and offers archery-only hunting for deer. Ruth said shotguns are allowed for turkey hunting, and although the area receives considerable hunting pressure, the opportunities for excellent deer and turkey hunting exist.

“Some remote areas are not easily accessible, so hunters willing to put in the effort can get away from most of the pressure,” Ruth said.

Small-game hunting opportunities are very good within the specific seasons for this WMA. The key is locating the right habitat for the specific species hunted.

Waterfowl hunting is another popular opportunity at Fant’s Grove. Draw hunts are available at the Clemson Waterfowl Management Area. For information call the Clemson SCDNR office at 864-654-1671.

Ruth said additional waterfowl hunting is available at Fant’s Grove on Class II sites.

“Class II waterfowl sites are not draw hunts,” Ruth said. “These are very good waterfowl-hunting opportunities as a rule. While planting success and water control at these sites will impact hunting success, if DNR has it classified as at Class II, hunters do have a chance for good waterfowl hunting.”

Liberty Hill WMA

Liberty Hill is an 8,000-acre property straddling Kershaw and Lancaster counties that offers excellent deer hunting.

Liberty Hill WMA offers public-land hunters some excellent turkey hunting.

Ruth said the area generally goes by Game Zone 2 hunting regulations, although some of the WMA crosses into Game Zone 4. The habitat and opportunities remain the same, but he said to be sure to check the regulations guide for specific details.

“Liberty Hill WMA does have antler restrictions for deer hunting; however, this increases the opportunity to take good bucks,” he said. “Plenty of deer are found on this beautiful tract of land.

“A great diversity of habitat exists here, because the Liberty Hill WMA borders 17 miles of the northeastern shore of Lake Wateree and the Catawba River. A lot of topographic relief typical of the piedmont area ensures plenty of hardwoods mixed with pines are available,” he said. “Turkey hunting is very good in this area, and like many WMAs, if you hoof it to remote areas, your potential for success increases.”

Ruth said the diverse habitat affords good hunting for small game when the right habitat is found.

Access is easy via SC 97, Singleton Creek Road and Wildlife Road.

Worth Mountain WMA

Worth Mountain WMA has a dove field that is managed by the SCDNR.

Worth Mountain WMA in York County consists of 1,643 acres, providing excellent deer-hunting opportunities. Ruth said antler restrictions apply, and this tract was privately owned and managed for quality deer hunting before SCDNR acquired the land.

“What we’ve done is continue the quality deer management practices already in place,” he said. “”Hunters do have to check in and out when hunting at Worth Mountain.

“Part of the property boarders the Broad River, creating more diversity in habitat types, and in addition to deer hunting good small-game hunting exists.

A dove field is maintained by the SCDNR that typically offers excellent dove hunting on specified dates and times.

SC 211 near Hickory Grove provides access to this property.

About Terry Madewell 812 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.