Say goodbye to the 13,044-acre Ben's Creek Wildlife Management Area, which ceased to exist June 30 when the Department of Wildlife & Fisheries alerted outdoorsmen four that the Washington Parish property lease would not be renewed.

The property is owned by the Weyerhaeuser Corp. Ben's Creek WMA, and was leased to the state since 1987. It is known best, perhaps, for its turkey success story in a piney woods habitat.

Apparently, Weyerhaeuser, which also owns Jackson-Bienville WMA, was seeking too much money per acre to keep Ben's Creek WMA in the public-lands system.

"After a prolonged negotiation, LDWF has determined that renewal of the property lease is not financially feasible," LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said. "Beginning July 1, Weyerhaeuser will once again assume full management of the property.

"While this loss of the WMA is regretful, we appreciate the past generosity of Weyerhaeuser in providing these lands for public use."

According to sources, two more WMAs in another region of the state could suffer the same fate before hunting begins for 2012-13. A decision one way or another was expected in mid-August, sources said, after the deadline for the September issue of Louisiana Sportsman.

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Ben's Creek had been a part of the state's WMA system for almost a quarter of a century.

C.R. Newland, Gulf Coastal Plain WMA manager who lives near Minden, was with the state agency since the birth of Ben's Creek WMA.

"We hate to lose anything that provides public access. It's a big loss to people in Washington Parish."

What Jimmy Stafford and his staff did over the years to make it a viable turkey hunting area is one of the biggest success stories on public lands, he said. Stafford now is the upland bird study leader for the LDWF.

"They had done a real good job getting turkeys established there," Newland said. "Jimmy Stafford was responsible for the work they did there."

Ben's Creek doesn't look like turkey woods, he said, but there are "turkeys there because of what they did."

By the same token, the habitat isn't conducive to squirrel hunting. But, deer, rabbits and, of course, turkeys roam the once-public land.

Ben's Creek WMA was one of the leading public areas in the Southeast Louisiana region last season for two of three highly sought-after species: rabbits and deer.

For example, there were a reported 106 rabbits killed in 468 hunter efforts in last season, plus a reported 90 deer in 3,160 hunter efforts in 2011-12.

In 2010-11, Ben's Creek WMA gave up a reported 78 rabbits during 2,516 hunter efforts and 90 deer in 2,805 hunter efforts.

It was known by hunters and state biologists alike as probably the most-accessible public areas for hunters due to the number of maintained roads on the WMA.

The Weyerhaeuser Corp. managed it for pine production, and it featured a mix of clearcuts, various-aged pine stands and hardwood drains.

Those clearcuts also provided excellent rabbit habitat. Most rabbit hunters utilized the WMA with beagles once the deer gun season closed in January.

After Ben's Creek WMA's abrupt exit from the public eye, other popular WMAs remaining in the Gulf Coastal Plain include Maurepas Swamp WMA, Pearl River WMA, Sandy Hollow WMA and Tunica Hills WMA.