Deer hunting season got underway in Georgia this past weekend. It’s all too easy to forget that in the early part of the 20th century, there simply were no deer to be had in the northern part of the state. Arthur Woody never forgot that, and today’s hunters in Appalachian Georgia owe him a debt of thanks.
Arthur “Kingfish” Woody (1884-1946), served the U.S. Forestry Service from 1911 to 1945, starting out as a surveyor. In 1918 the Federal Government combined various local land holdings into the Cherokee National Forest, part of which extended into North Georgia. A short time later additional land the government purchased was consolidated with portions of the Cherokee into the Georgia National Forest (later renamed the Chattahoochee National Forest) and Woody became the Blue Ridge District’s first Forest Ranger. The district was the first wildlife management area in the South.
In the midst of the depression the CCC began to improve the area around Suches, GA thanks to efforts by “the barefoot ranger,” and he was responsible for the original proposal for a Visitor’s Center at Brasstown Bald.
At the time of Woody’s birth, deer habitat was under tremendous pressure: much of the Georgia mountains had been stripped bare by lumber companies that found it cheaper to simply leave land they’d cleared rather than replant. Woody had gone with his father John on a hunting trip in 1895 when he was a boy, and claimed his dad killed the last deer anywhere in the North Georgia.
“I vowed I would remedy that situation when I was grown,” Woody later told Charlie Elliot, former commissioner of the State Game Commission. In 1927 he started restocking deer in the North Georgia mountains with much of his own money, while managing to raise some money from the U.S. Forest Service. He purchased whitetail deer from a passing show and rounded up more in the mountains of western North Carolina, releasing them in an area near the park headquarters of Rock Creek.
He named many of them. One old buck was named Old Nemo. He had names for others. Finally, the deer did multiply and the state re-opened hunting season in 1941. Among the landmarks in the Chattahoochee National Forest honoring Woody is a trail through the Sosebee Cove, a 175-acre tract of prize hardwood Woody purchased for the Forest Service that is now part of the Brasstown Ranger District.