Sherburne WMA deer recover from 2011 flooding
|Courtesy Lyle Savant|
The Morganza flood of May 23, 2011 resulted in about a 30-percent loss of whitetails within the Sherburne Complex interior.
Although periodic flooding actually enhances wildlife habitat in the long run, it can negatively impact wildlife populations (whitetails in this case) during the immediate period it occurs.
"Our surveys indicate we lost about 30 percent of the deer herd in Sherburne," LDWF biologist manager Vidrine said. "Some Mississippi researchers actually lost 33 percent of their radio-collared bucks north of here in a study, so we are pretty sure about that the 30-percent loss in Sherburne."
As a result, managers of Sherburne Wildlife Management Area and the adjacent Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge restricted either-sex hunting on the areas, offering only six days during the 2011-12 seasons compared to the 24 days of either-sex hunting the season before.
"We cut it back to just one weekend of either-sex hunts last year and cut all the weekdays out," Vidrine said. "We had 16 days of bucks-only hunting, and seven days of hunts with primitive weapons (bucks-only)."
As a result, there were 150 bucks and 71 does taken. By comparison, 321 bucks and 213 does were taken the season before the flooding occurred.
Vidrine said the season was being opened up a bit this year.
"We will have 12 days of either-sex hunting on Sherbune and the Atchafalaya NWR," he said. "Last fall, we had one of the best acorn production years here, even though harvests were down. And I think the kill was down mainly because of the loss of hunting days we had last year."
"We should have wintered a good number of deer, and I am optimistic that hunters will have a good season here."
In terms of antler development and deer weights, the Sherburne WMA and the Atchafalaya NWR boasts only one Pope & Young buck since Louisiana trophies have been recorded.
In 2011-12, harvest records indicated average weights were as follows:
• 1 1/2-year-old bucks — 103 pounds
• 2 1/2-year-old bucks — 139 pounds
• 3 1/2-year-old bucks — 152 pounds.
These weights did not differ significantly than the average weights of all three age classes of bucks taken in 2010-11.
The average number of points of bucks taken in both seasons also did not differ. In 2011-12, bucks at 3 1/2 years averaged 7 points, whereas in 2010-11 the same age class of bucks averaged 7.4 points.
"I also think we’re going to see the weights go up this year due chiefly to the great mast production of last year," Vidrine said. "And this year it certainly looks like we have another good year of acorn production, based on our surveys in the woods."
And season are likely to become more liberal in the coming years, he said.
"We are looking at possibly gradually increasing either-sex days, depending on the harvest data," Vidrine said. "Eventually we would like to get back to where we were before the floods occurred, as we want to give the public even more opportunity than we have now."
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