LDWF regulations to impact St. Mary Parish

By JOHN K. FLORES

At the Feb. 8 Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting, the LWFC adopted notices of intent for the upcoming deer season that will no doubt impact many St. Mary Parish hunters, particularly those who hunt Area 7 this fall.

The biggest change Area 7 deer hunters will face is the return to doe days. Moreover, these regulations will run through the 2015 season.

And according to the LWFC framework for the upcoming seasons, hunters who hunt with modern weapons will have only nine either-sex days or 54 less days than last year and primitive weapon hunters will lose seven either-sex days. These regulations are designed to potentially reduce by as much as 50-percent female harvest pressure.

In spite of how you may manage your hunting property, what you see on your trail cameras or what you may pass looking for that wall hanger, numbers don’t lie.

Starting with the 2009 baseline year, when the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reporting requirements for the tagging system began, St. Mary Parish deer hunters harvested 1,235 deer in 2009, 1,264 in 2010, 1,093 in 2011 and 794 in 2012.

In 2013, harvested numbers are down for the third consecutive year with 689 deer reported.

Scott Durham, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Deer Study leader, when explaining the department’s position of the return to doe days said, “I had a strong recommendation from field staff working that area who is in touch with a lot of hunters that felt a pull back was needed. I have been concerned about how we seem to be getting more and more storms and high water events and also just decline in a lot of wetland systems in general. Hurricane disaster events, more hogs, etc. — I am definitely trying to be on the safe side.”

Durham mentioned that there are obvious higher productivity areas that are fine within Area 7, where hunters are more conservative and set self-imposed antler or harvest numbers on themselves that might not need doe days. Durham encouraged those hunters to get enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program. But, pointed out there are hunters in the coastal areas that are hunting for food where perhaps a regulation change is necessary.

Durham said, stressing, “DMAP hunters will not be affected by doe days. They will have the full season to use their tags. Anyone with 40 acres or more can enroll in DMAP.”

The biggest impact doe days will have on local hunters comes down to reduced opportunity. The average deer hunter tends to be a weekend warrior who puts in long hours at work and has a full schedule when not working.

Many in St. Mary Parish work Saturdays. And though the department has tentatively set doe days on weekends, they basically boil down to only a handful of days available to hunt either-sex, thus making it harder for hunters to fill their tags.

There is no doubt the “Great Flood” of 2011 had an impact on deer numbers in the Area 7 coastal marsh now that we’re two years removed from the event and can see the decline. Reduced fawn numbers during the spring of 2011 would have had an impact in recruitment, or in other words, mature does that could have been bred in 2012.

With unchanged harvest regulations during this period, where does had no protection during low recruitment, no doubt hunting pressure could have had an additional impact on the overall harvest where officials felt there was a need to act.

“Doe days are not necessarily a permanent deal,” Durham said. “I am working towards more area-specific seasons and limits. I’m thinking in 2 to 3 years we can look at it again. By then, we will have a live person on the phone for the reporting, with much higher confidence in our data. And possibly a tagging system set up that could allow different harvest levels for different areas.”

Other changes impacting local anglers are the adopted notice of intent to remove the 14-inch minimum length on black bass in the Atchafalaya Basin and Lake Verret Complex. The commission also has recommended reducing the daily creel limit from 10 to 7 bass for a two-year period. After two years, black bass regulations for the basin and other areas would be consistent with statewide regulations with no length limit with a 10-fish daily creel limit.

Anglers will recall the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ report last fall that determined a 14-inch minimum length limit would not produce larger bass. Moreover, environmental factors, water fluctuation, and tropical storms, rather than angler harvest, had more impact.

The LDWF study included more than 450 responses from Atchafalaya Basin anglers, where 91-percent approved of removing the 14-inch minimum.

Local sportsmen can call the LDWF offices or submit public comments online before the intents become official. The department values all input from the public and incorporates opinions in their decision making processes.

Finally, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association have announced the 2012 Youth Hunter of the Year Contest. Any youth 15 years of age and younger is encouraged to enter.

The contest requires youth hunters to submit a story about their hunting experience along with photographs of the hunt. The LDWF and LOWA then will select a male and female youth hunter of the year based on the stories and photos received.

For more information on the 2012 Youth Hunter of the Year Contest visit the LDWF website www.wlf.state.la.us/hunting/youth-hunter-registry-program.

To comment or submit anecdote, recipe or story to share, contact Flores at 985-395-5586 or gowiththeflo@cox.net

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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