It's a return to doe days for St. Mary Parish deer hunters
By JOHN K. FLORES
Ask any deer hunter if they would prefer harvesting an antlerless deer on a day of their choosing throughout the season or be restricted to designated either-sex days and chances are they would say the former.
But, what local firearm hunters have to work with this year is a return to doe days.
According to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Deer Study Leader Scott Durham, what led to the change in this year’s regulations was department concern with a continuous series of natural events, such as hurricanes and flooding, and an increasing population of hogs and increased hunting pressure on public and some private lands. The result has been a steady decline in deer harvest numbers that once exceeded 200,000 where today 150,000 is the new norm, Durham said.
Durham said, “In the coastal zone, it’s vulnerable to repeated hurricanes. Since the beginning of 2000 we’ve had hurricanes in 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2012. Some of those hurricanes have had more impact than others, but we’ve just had a lot of hurricanes. Additionally, hogs seem to be more abundant than ever. So, we kept liberal bucks only opportunity, where everybody can keep hunting, and we’re going to protect the females a little more. But, because of hurricanes, hogs and declining deer harvest numbers, our department felt that this would be the most acceptable way to do a pull back.”
Durham also pointed to repeated high water events that impact deer populations, stating public lands in the Atchafalaya Basin, such as the Attakapas Wildlife Management Area, already went to doe days last year.
“When that basin fills up, not only does it impact the basin but it circles around and starts putting water back up in Assumption Parish up through Pierre Part and that country,” Durham said. “Hunters in that area are (a) little different in that there is a highly subsistence-type hunting culture there. A lot of people hunt for food down there. They’re not worried about trophy management. It’s more like, ‘how many deer can I put in the freezer.’ Some areas are low productivity — not all of it — but some. Some guys are doing fine. But, there are definitely areas where there are problems that we’re not managing on that fine of a scale, where I wish everyone was DMAP.”
Hogs seem to be of great concern to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Durham says annual mail-in deer harvest surveys pointed out that by all estimates, more hogs were killed in Louisiana last year than deer.
Durham said, “Out mail survey showed a harvest of over 161,000 hogs last year. And we know that deer don’t like hogs. They are a stressor, and they carry diseases like leptospirosis, swine brucellosis, and pseudo rabies. And there is a potential for swine diseases to spread to deer. Leptospirosis can cause abortions, and it does cause abortions in every species of animals that get it. They’ve never really documented that in deer, but it is a concern for us.”
As the LDWF assesses the deer herd condition and develops future objectives, coastal hunters will have plenty of opportunity to harvest their deer. Area 7 and 9 hunters will not see any reduction in hunting days and have 16 either-sex days. They also will continue to have the opportunity to harvest four antlerless deer — instead of three as in previous years — as a result of action taken last season by the Louisiana Wildlife Commission.
The vast majority of St. Mary Parish’s coastal marsh that encompasses much of Area 7 is privately owned and managed. And because the firearms seasons — primitive and modern — open the earliest in the state, since Labor Day weekend, hunters have been busy breaking deer roads with air boats where allowed, preparing for the Oct. 13 opener.
When the doe day regulations were promulgated earlier this year, no one could have predicted weather-wise we would have no spring flood concerns or a quiet hurricane season.
And by the look of the abundance of cowpeas, dewberry and a modest acorn crop in the marsh this fall, there are plenty of food resources to support coastal whitetail populations.
Hunters may not prefer restrictive either-sex days, especially where work schedules quite often prohibit hunters from taking advantage of them on designated weekends, when most occur. But, for 2013-14, it’s what St. Mary Parish Area 7 hunters have to work with, so they might as well make the most of it.