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Spring 2002 Issue

The Oconee Waterfowl Area

By: Nick Nicholson, Sr. Wildlife Biologist - Region III

The Oconee Waterfowl Area is located at the Oconee River on either side of GA Highway 16 between Sparta and Eatonton. It was created as part of the Wallace Dam project which impounds Lake Oconee. The waterfowl area consists of three impoundments,  two of which can be seen from the Oconee River bridge. The area is managed with a combination of summer draw-downs and plantings for waterfowl, and controlling water levels to promote natural waterfowl food plants.

Waterfowl hunting is allowed in impoundments one and two through quota hunts and in impoundment 3 (south of Hwy 16) on a first come - first served basis, Saturday mornings only during the state waterfowl season.  Competition for quota slots is high, and it normally requires a rejection notice to be selected for impoundments one or two. All hunters are required to sign in at the sign in board on the north side of GA Hwy 16. Blinds are not provided, however there is a handicapped accessible blind available on impoundment one. Small boats without motors are allowed.

Impoundment one is north of GA Hwy 16 on the west side of the river. It is flooded from the Oconee River using a permanent pumping station. It is managed by summer draw-downs and planting waterfowl food plants.  Natural duck foods are encouraged where possible. Impoundment two also is north of the highway but it is on the east side of the Oconee River. It is managed completely for natural vegetation and is flooded by rainfall run-off from the surrounding lands. Impoundment three is on the south side of Hwy 16 on the west side of the river. It is managed by plantings and by favoring natural vegetation.

Reports from local duck hunters indicate that this winter''s flight of ducks in the Lake Oconee area was lower than expected. Duck hunting at Oconee Waterfowl Area also was poorer than normal. Continuing drought conditions kept impoundment two dry. All quota hunters throughout the season had to hunt in impoundment one.

Summer draw-downs in impoundments one and three will be modified to help control a weed problem that developed during prolonged corn cultivation. Soil moisture will be maintained for a longer period of time to favor barnyard grass (Japanese millet) and other natural waterfowl foods. We normally are able to provide enough food to make the area attractive to ducks. Duck hunting success on the Oconee Waterfowl Area depends to a large extent on the number of birds that make their way down from further north.

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