Hunters in Areas 1 and 6 could be hunting into February if a proposal put forth by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission today is ultimately approved.

Under the proposal, the season structure for Area 1 hunters would be:

• Archery – Oct. 1-31 (bucks only), Nov. 1-Feb. 15 (either sex)
• Primitive weapons – Nov. 13-19
• Still hunt – Nov. 20-Dec. 3
• Closed (except for archery) – Dec. 4-10
• With/without dogs: Dec. 11-Jan. 2
• Still hunt – Jan. 3-31
• Primitive weapons – Feb. 1-7, Feb. 11-13

The season in Area 6 would be:

• Oct. 1-31 (bucks only), Nov. 1-Feb. 15 (either sex)
• Primitive weapons – Nov. 13-19
• Still hunt – Nov. 20-Dec. 3
• Closed (except for archery) – Dec. 4-10
• With/without dogs – Dec. 11-Jan. 23
• Still hunt – Jan. 24-31
• Primitive – Feb. 1-7, Feb. 11-13

The proposal was one of three alternatives provided by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Biologists were asked last month to provide ways to allow hunters throughout Area 6 to kill deer through mid February because of concerns part of the rut was missed under the historical Jan. 31 season closure.

State Deer Study Leader Scott Durham said commissioners also could have created a new area composed of Iberville, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes – the parishes for which the most data is available to show late breeding dates for deer.

However, Durham's recommendation was to use hunting clubs enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program to experiment with February hunting.

"Our challenge is to balance the traditional hunters' needs with the trophy hunters and the small-game hunters," he explained. "The DMAP option, in my opinion, would be the least intrusive to rabbit hunters because (clubs) could opt out."

However, commissioners without comment or discussion voted to amend their previous hunting-regulations proposal to include altering Areas 1 and 6.

During the ensuing public-comment period, Commissioner Patrick Morrow of Opelousas responded to questions about how Area 1 was thrown into the mix when the last month's request was for Area 6 options.

"People questioned including Area 1," Morrow said. "The request was made that we would include it, and we'll see based on the public input that I'm sure we'll receive if that's what happens."

The biggest complaint heard was that it would interfere with rabbit hunters, however, speaker Larry Robichaux pointed out that clubs make their own rules.

"This does not end rabbit hunting," Robichaux said. "It simply turns that responsibility over to the (hunting) clubs. The rabbit hunters would have to voice their opinions to their clubs, and then they can make the rules."

Public comment is being accepted through the Commission's May meeting on the proposal. In addition to written comment, public-comment hearings will be held throughout the state.

In other deer-hunting news, commissioners adopted a proposal to allow leashed dogs to be used to track deer on wildlife management areas. However, no weapons are allowed when tracking dogs are used outside of legal shooting hours.

Also, the National Forest Service announced it still has not decided how to handle the issue of using dogs for deer hunting on Kisatchie National Forest.

The Service's Michael Balboni told commissioners the decision should be made this month and presented for Commission consideration during April's meeting.

Baldoni said officials are considering three options:

• No action – dog hunting would continue without change on the roughly 400,000 of the national forest historically open for dogs.
• Eliminate dog hunting throughout the national forest.
• Reduce the acreage available to dog hunting – Balboni said this would cut the property available to dog hunters roughly in half.

"We are taking this very seriously," Balboni said. "We know how important this is to hunters and to landowners."

If one of the options allowing dog hunting to continue is ultimately chosen, however, dog hunters will still face a big change.

"If dog hunting is to continue on Kisatchie National Forest, we would persue using a permit system," Balboni said.