Louisiana's 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 1

This season, Bayou State hunters will confront changes in regulations, season dates and schedules -- but we can still tell you where to find the whitetails. (October 2007)

Photo by D. Robert Franz.

Changes in regulations are in store for Bayou State deer hunters for 2007: This fall, hunters will have to attach actual tags immediately upon taking whitetails in Louisiana.

Here's David Moreland, wildlife division chief with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, explaining the new tagging system: "All deer hunters regardless of license type" -- big-game, lifetime, senior hunter -- "will have to obtain three antlered and antlerless tags at point-of-sale sites around the state. Hunters purchasing big-game and senior licenses will obtain tags upon purchasing their licenses.

"No one pays anything extra for these tags. These tags will be printed for all license holders at the site of transaction."

Upon harvesting a deer, hunters must tag the deer with the appropriate carcass tag and document the kill on the deer tag license. Within 72 hours, the hunter must validate the kill and record a validation number on the license. The validation number will be obtained by calling a designated number or entering data online. "You will have to enter your LDWF ID number, the tag number, antlered or antlerless kill, the harvest date, the parish, and the type of weapon used," explained Moreland.

Moreland also remarked that hunters harvesting deer under the Deer Management Assistance Program or Landowner Antlerless Deer Tag Program can validate deer per instructions by the LDWF using DMAP and LADT harvest data sheets.

"This tagging program should be a better solution to estimating accurately our statewide deer harvest each and every season," he said. "Our biologists will be in a much better situation to make management decisions with the use of such data."

According to Moreland, LDWF field surveys continue to estimate deer numbers at somewhere near 1 million animals statewide. However, according to the LDWF's deer study leader Scott Durham, Louisiana is losing much of the beloved whitetail's precious habitat in areas such as the Florida Parishes (across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans) and central Louisiana parishes like St. Landry.

"Hunters have blamed many agencies for the lack of deer on our public lands over the last few years, but the major culprit here is loss of habitat due to development," said Durham. "People desire both numbers and quality, but many don't realize the type of habitat necessary for both. As a result, management options will become difficult in the future."

On statewide public lands, approximately 5,000 whitetails are harvested each year during managed hunts, which typically occur on holidays and weekends in October, November and December. Access to some of these hunts is to be had by lottery only.

According to Scott Durham, deer hunters using these lands should find at least as many deer as last season -- with the exception of Region V, whose hunters may actually see an increase in their harvest numbers this season.

REGION 1

According to Durham, deer habitat here is extremely favorable in terms of producing big numbers of whitetails. The records of private lands under the DMAP and of WMAs demonstrate deer harvests to be above average. The habitat type in this district consists chiefly of pine and mixed pine-hardwood habitat types managed by various timber companies and the LDWF.

The very popular Jackson-Bienville WMA is 12 miles south of Ruston in north-central Louisiana. This public area's 32,185 acres contain rolling, pine-blanketed hills and hardwood stands scattered through bottomland areas. The major landowner, the Weyerhaeuser Company, leases these lands to the LDWF without charge. Chief strategies during managed hunts here include hunting deer corridors leading to food in the early season.

Dates for gun hunting begin in mid-November and progress through December, with many either-sex days. Last season, managed hunts here produced 131 whitetails for 988 efforts, or 1 deer per 7.5 efforts.

Another area, 4,084-acre Loggy Bayou WMA, is a special favorite of local bowhunters. The 2006 harvest records at this tract in the southernmost part of Bossier Parish indicated that 255 hunters took 59 whitetails. Managed gun hunts for whitetails usually occur in the three days following Thanksgiving; a special muzzleloader segment usually follows the gun hunt, and archery hunting makes up the balance.

For maps or more information regarding Jackson-Bienville and Loggy Bayou WMAs, write contact the LDWF, 1401 Talton Street, Minden, LA 71055; (318) 371-3050.

REGION 2

Private and public lands in this district offer hunt participants solid numbers of deer.

That the land along the Mississippi River is a haven for high numbers of first-quality whitetails is due largely to varying habitat types, including hardwood bottomland forests. Other areas of private and public lands consist of mixed pine and hardwoods managed by timber companies throughout the region.

According to the LDWF's deer study leader Scott Durham, Louisiana is losing much of the beloved whitetail's precious habitat.

Union WMA's 11,113 acres delivered grand numbers of whitetails to public hunters in 2006. This WMA is in Union Parish, approximately four miles west of Marion, is leased from Plum Creek Timber Company and managed by the LDWF.

The habitat here is chiefly rolling hills with several streamside management zones. The forest cover is dominated by loblolly pine mixed in some stands with hardwoods consisting of Southern red oak, white oak, hickory, post oak, sweetgum, cherrybark oak, Arkansas oak, cow oak, and red maple. Beech and water oak occur along SMZs.

"We had the highest harvest rates ever recorded here during managed gun hunts in 2006," said deer study leader Durham. "This area was due, especially since we have conducted much research here regarding deer management and prescriptions that have generalized to our DMAP programs."

Last season, managed hunts here produced 294 whitetails for 1,836 hunting efforts -- statistics approximating an incredible 6.2 hunting efforts per harvested deer. Managed hunting dates here begin usually at the end of October, with days scattered in November and December.

Deer hunters in Region 2 will also see season framework changes on Bayou Macon's 6,900 acres. The general deer lottery hun

ts had been eliminated, and either-sex gun hunts will occur here in mid-November.

Historically, Bayou Macon WMA's bottomland hardwoods have been great in delivering good numbers of deer to public hunters. During the WMA's 2006 lottery gun hunt, 63 whitetails were taken by 318 hunters, or 5.1 efforts per harvested deer.

Russell Sage WMA's 16,835 acres lie just east of Monroe in Ouachita, Richland and Morehouse parishes. This area also conducts a three-day either-sex gun hunt just after Thanksgiving. LDWF records here indicate that 79 whitetails were taken by 604 hunting efforts, or approximately 1 deer per 7.7 hunting efforts.

For more information regarding Union WMA, Bayou Macon WMA and Russell Sage WMA, contact Region 2 at (318) 343-4044.

REGION 3

Alexander State Forest WMA, near Alexandria in central Rapides Parish, covers 7,875 acres consisting of loblolly pine forests with scattered hardwoods in creek bottoms and SMZs.

In 2006, two blackpowder-only hunts resulted in the taking of 12 and 21 deer respectively by 117 and 144 hunters on two different weekends in October and November, which works out in efforts per deer to 9.7 and 6.9, respectively.

The season at this public parcel is rather short, with a three-day bucks-only gun hunt after Thanksgiving and four days of muzzleloader hunting for deer of either sex in October and November. Bowhunting makes up the balance of the season.

Camp Beauregard WMA, in Rapides Parish, contains 10,000 acres of mixed pine-hardwood habitat owned by the Louisiana National Guard. In 2006, 54 whitetails were taken by 334 hunters, which comes to 6.2 efforts per harvested deer. This area schedules two muzzleloader-only weekends in late November and mid-December. A bucks-only gun season starts after Christmas and runs through early January.

For more information on District 3 WMAs, contact the LDWF in Pineville at Region 3, 1995 Shreveport Highway, Pineville, LA 71360; (318) 487-5885.

REGION 4

This area arguably encompasses some of Louisiana's finest habitat for high-quality white-tailed deer. Private hunting clubs along the Mississippi River here have historically been leaders in terms of managing for whitetails.

In the public-land category of venues, 68,000-acre Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, in Tensas and Madison parishes, offers outstanding deer hunting. According to refuge biologist Stanley Howarter, approximately 676 whitetails were taken last season, a figure including lottery, blackpowder, physically-challenged and archery efforts.

"There is continued concern over the perception of less deer here than ever before," he conceded. "Many local, experienced hunters here report seeing fewer deer here than what was observed in the last 10 years.

"We have plans to be a bit more aggressive with regard to managing timber here. Yet hunters also have to realize that farming practices have been reduced in and around the refuge. We have harvested timber here recently in the Crystal Road area as well as portions near Little Fork. We are planning another timber harvest for 360 acres in 2007."

Lottery gun hunts here admit 2,500 for either-sex deer hunts offered during two separate weekends; as a matter of course, fewer than that 2,500 actually show up for the lottery weekends.

"There will be changes in our calendar this year," said Howarter. "We are moving our lottery gun hunts to the first and third weekends in December, and our muzzleloader segment is scheduled for early January."

For more information, contact the Tensas River NWR, 2312 Quebec Road, Tallulah, LA 71282; (318) 574-2664.

On state Highway 128 in Tensas Parish, Buckhorn WMA delivered 58 whitetails to approximately 576 deer hunters in 2007. This 11,262-acre hardwood bottomland is noted for substantial numbers of whitetails and enjoyable hunting opportunities. The gun season here runs for three days following Thanksgiving.

For maps and more information regarding Buckhorn WMA, contact the LDWF office at P.O. Box 1640, Ferriday, LA 71334; telephone (318) 757-4571.

REGION 5

Private lands in this district have historically been ranked in the moderate range for deer harvests, but changes are in store for deer hunters in southwest Louisiana.

"Hurricane Rita's effects will probably be great for increasing the habitat available for our deer herd here," said biologist manager John Robinette at Region 5 headquarters in Lake Charles. "Although we had severe hardwoods damage in the area, the forest canopy has opened up as a result, with hunters already reporting seeing many more whitetails than ever before."

West Bay WMA, in north central Allen Parish three miles west of Oakdale on Highway 10, has always been a popular WMA for the state's western pine woods deer hunters. During managed gun hunts in 2007, some 80 whitetails were taken in 1,226 efforts, or 15 hunting efforts per deer. Harvests here were up from last season's, and hunters may find even more deer at this popular WMA in 2007.

Clearcuts with pine and hardwoods intermingled throughout should have this WMA all but crawling with deer. Managed hunts here are usually scheduled during late October and run through November and parts of December. For maps and more information regarding West Bay WMA, contact the LDWF Region 5 office, 1213 North Lakeshore Drive, Lake Charles, LA 70601; (337) 491-2575.

REGION 6

America's greatest river basin swamp is home to both Sherburne WMA and the adjacent Atchafalaya NWR, its 44,000 acres lying in portions of Pointe Coupee, St. Martin and Iberville parishes in south-central Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin.

The gun seasons here usually begin the weekend after Thanksgiving, with a couple of other either-sex days in December. A bucks-only season is usually scheduled in late December through mid-January.

Last season, hunters harvested 283 whitetails here for approximately 11.7 hunter efforts (combined hunts).

According to LDWF biologist manager Tony Vidrine, the usual 2 1/2-year-old deer harvested on these lands averaged 145 pounds or so. Harvested bucks a year older average about 175 pounds.

Hunt food sources in October and November; hunt active scrapes during the later rutting period, usually observed here in December and January. In these locations little visited by the public, deer numbers can really be high.

For more information regarding maps or any other concerns, contact the LDWF Region 6 office, 105 Avenue of the Acadians, Opelousas, LA 70570; (337) 948-0255.

REGION 7

Consisting of 5,783 acres in West Feliciana Parish, Tunica Hills WMA is very popular with primitive-weapons hunters in the a

rea. Last season, some 12 whitetails were taken by 371 hunter efforts.

The managed either-sex muzzleloader hunt is ordinarily scheduled for the weekend after Thanksgiving running into early December.

Pearl River WMA, six miles east of Slidell, covers roughly 35,000 acres. In 2007, nine whitetails were taken in 330 hunting efforts. Managed hunts here begin the day after Thanksgiving. You'd better have a boat to access much of the huntable area at this WMA.

For more information on Tunica Hills WMA and/or Pearl River WMA, contact the LDWF, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000; (225) 765-2360.

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