It wasn’t a surprise, but the numbers confirmed what most hunters suspected: This past deer season was one of the worst in history at the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area.
I personally had a very poor season, as did my hunting buddies and pretty much everyone else that I spoke with. It also seemed to be a poor season on nearby leases, as well.
The big question is why. There are plenty of guesses and opinions, but no real solid answers that I know of.
We just didn’t see the normal amount of deer during the season. I only found one dead deer, and that was during hog season. None of the deer I have on game cameras looked in any way diseased or malnourished. Speaking of that, we did have a lot of deer on those cameras and for the entire season most of the pics were at night. I received no other reports of hunters finding dead deer, so it would appear that the Delta herd is healthy. There was plenty of browse throughout the season, as we had such a mild winter. And there were no tidal surges to kill the coveted wild peas the deer like so much.
The hunter pressure was not a factor, as I will explain in the following paragraphs. But there was some dredging operations ongoing with rather loud machinery and radio conversations that probably didn’t help at all.
In reviewing the statistics provided by Lance Campbell, who runs Atchafalaya Delta, there was 122 total deer harvested.
This compares to 188 in 2015, 215 in 2014, 173 in 2013 and 160 in 2012. It has been a two-year decline since the all-time high harvest set in the 2014-15 season. Hunter efforts were 3,383, which was a bout 400 less than the record amount of efforts two years ago.
What is very different is the hunter kill-per-effort ,which was 27.7 last season, compared to two years ago when it was 16.7.
The buck-to-doe ratio was average at 58 percent to 42 percent. Eight-point or better bucks predictably were down to only 13 for the season. There was a 12-point taken, an 8-point with a 16 1/2-inch spread for the widest spread and another 8-point that was 180 pounds for the heaviest body weight.
We are all hopeful for a bounce-back season this fall. I’m getting ready to start scouting within the next few days. We had some very nice bucks on our cameras last year that weren't killed, and they should be even bigger this season.
The factor that we hope changes for the better is more daytime activity. Being a public area, we personally try to keep the pressure low by using many different stand locations on different islands, but of course we have no control over what happens when we aren't out there.
While hog hunting last season, we did find some interesting areas to scout this season. But after 27 years of hunting those islands, any new area to us usually involves quite a bit of walking through some nasty, soft swampy mud. All the “easy” spots have way too much hunter foot traffic for my liking. So to find an isolated area without too much hunter pressure is always nice — no matter how difficult it is to access.
As I go out each day and prepare this old body of mine to get ready for the rigors of scouting and hunting, I remind all of you guys this weather in August, September and even October is nothing to take lightly. Hydrate yourself before you start your scouting. Keep it short the first few trips. Go early in the morning to beat some of the heat. And always tell someone where you are going and have supplies in case you break down and can’t return right away.
I wish each of you much success this hunting season and my prayer is that we treat each other with respect and that we all return home safely to our families.