THEN & NOW - SUMMER 2019
Wildlife Management Hunts 1968 - 1969
By Ray Palermo and Louis Brunett
On November 23, 1968, twenty-one wildlife management areas in Louisiana were opened to deer hunting. These areas were open for varying types of seasons, most of which were for two days “either sex” followed by three days “bucks only,” however some areas had only buck hunting and seasons ran until January 12, 1969.
These wildlife management areas provided more than 40,000 recorded hunting efforts with a total recorded kill of 2,610 deer. Many additional hunting efforts were made using the “season permit” system in which no record of the number of hunters not their kill was recorded, however we know of many deer that were killed on these management areas during these extended open seasons.
Deer hunter participation on wildlife areas has steadily increased from about 2,000 efforts in 1955 to an estimated 50,000 in 1968. Along with this great increase in hunter activity, the management areas are providing about 3,000 deer a year to hunters. Table 1 shows a yearly tally of hunting efforts, deer killed, and hunter success rations since 1955. (None were open in 1956.)
There are several reasons for the continued high interest in deer hunting in Louisiana’s management areas. One is the dwindling acreage of deer habitat, especially in the once productive north and central Louisiana delta country. This woodland has been converted to mostly soybean production. Another reason is that Louisiana now has close to 150,000 resident deer hunters. Thirdly, people like to hunt on management areas. The have good success as evidenced by the success ratios on most areas this year.
Of the twenty-one areas open to deer hunting, nineteen were on a “daily permit” basis. This permit procedure required a hunter to exchange his basic hunting license for a daily permit. All deer killed were checked out at permanent check stations. Information recorded at these check stations included sex, weight, age, antler formation and general physical condition. At the end of his hunt, his hunting license was returned to him. This method is accurate and quick. It gives us much useful information such as number of hunting efforts and deer killed.
Deer Hunting Opportunities Abound on LDWF WMAs
by Trey Iles, LDWF Public Information
It’s often discouraging for deer hunters in Louisiana to find prime territory where they can enjoy the sport. Because private deer leases can be expensive and finding the time to justify the expense can be difficult.
But the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has a great bargain for hunters who may be short on cash and time.
LDWF Wildlife Management Areas, which boast almost 1.6 million acres, offer good deer hunting opportunities, which has been getting better through the last few years. During the 2018 LDWF WMA managed hunts, deer hunters averaged an outstanding 8.8 efforts per deer harvested. That was the same as in 2017 and slightly better than the 10-year average of 10.1.
Since record keeping began on WMA deer harvest in the 1960s, there has been no better decade for hunter effort than this one with an average of 10.8 hunter efforts per deer harvested.
In some years, WMA harvest rates equal or surpass intensively managed Deer Management Assistance Program properties.
“We’ve seen hunter success going up on the WMAs,’’ said LDWF Deer Program Manager Johnathan Bordelon. “In the decade we’re in now, it takes hunters fewer efforts to harvest a deer than at any other point in time. It’s encouraging as a deer manager to see that after all these years not only are these areas still open and available, but they’re also enjoying the best harvest success per hunting effort.’’
There are several reasons for the increase. Habitat management on WMAs has helped improve deer herds. Bordelon also thinks less overall hunter pressure on WMAs has raised the success rate. He said in most cases, the perception that WMAs are over-crowded simply isn’t correct. In fact, during the 2018 WMA managed hunts there were a total of 17,192 hunters and they harvested 1,952 deer for the 8.8 hunter efforts per deer harvested average.
“The amount of hunting pressure is not as great as it once was,’’ Bordelon said. “Hunters can scout out prime locations with less competition from other hunters, which should aid in their success to harvest a deer.
“Most hunters focus their hunting efforts on an opening either-sex weekend in late October or at Thanksgiving. Those may be the most hunted weekends as far as number of hunters per day but many of the WMAs have several weeks of firearm deer season, while the archery seasons on the WMAs are the same as outside. Once you get past that opening day, there are times when you’re out there that you’ll stop and check your pamphlet to make sure the season is open on that particular WMA because there are so few people.’’
Another plus for WMAs is how access has improved through the years. LDWF has made it a priority to improve roads and trails as well as manage the habitat.
“In general, WMA infrastructure has improved tremendously,’’ Bordelon said. “I can remember when four-wheel drive vehicles with winches were required to access most bottomland hardwood WMAs. Now there are all-weather roads on all of them. Infrastructure and access has certainly improved.’’
There has also been a liberalizing of the rules to allow deer hunters to retrieve their game with ATVs on most WMAs.
“We eased that rule solely for the purpose of retrieving game,’’ Bordelon said. “That has made it a little bit easier to get a harvested deer out of the woods, especially for hunters hunting alone or some of our older hunters. That part of the hunt can be a bigger challenge than actually harvesting the deer.’’
Hunting on WMAs is pretty simple. Along with purchasing the WMA Hunting Permit, the basic season and big game licenses, you will need to complete a Self-Clearing Permit. Upon arriving at the WMA, you complete a Self-Clearing Permit or you can do that through the new WMA App on your smart phone or home computer.
You can’t reserve spots so it’s first-come first-serve. But there is plenty of space on the WMAs for you to find your niche. There can be some rule and regulation differences among the different WMAs so it’s a good idea to check the current version of the LDWF hunting regulations, which can be found at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/regulations.
Perhaps most enticing is you get to make your hunting schedule.
“A lot of folks come in and make their hunt that morning and then they’re back home that evening,’’ Bordelon said. “This is possible since 48 WMAs across the state offer deer hunting opportunities. Hunters aren’t necessarily loading up the truck with sleeping bags, tents and over-nighting in the woods. However, with camping areas on most of our WMAs, you have that option. But with the number of WMAs and improved all-weather roads you don’t have to feel compelled to do that. Hunting our WMAs offers a great degree of flexibility.’’
For more information on hunting LDWF WMAs, go to www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma
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