Combine that with the fact Mother Nature, although she took her time, cooperated with ample rainfall amounts in most of the state, and the table is set for some fair to good hunting for rabbits, squirrels and deer on wildlife management areas in Louisiana.
Area for area, acre for acre, it's hard for neighboring states to hold a candle to what is offered in the Sportsman's Paradise.
There are great deer roaming like ghosts through the woods on many of the state's WMAs, like the 250-pound, 9-point buck with an 18-inch spread that was taken last season on Thistlethwaite WMA in Region 6. Bucks on that WMA should benefit from the "four on one side" rule that goes into effect for this season.
Squirrel hunting can't be rivaled on some of the WMAs notorious for giving up the bushy-tailed small game, such as Bodcau WMA in Region 1, where 2,035 squirrels were recorded in the harvest last season, Dewey-Wills WMA in Region 3, where more than 2,700 squirrels were bagged in 2004-05, and the awesome Three Rivers/Red River WMAs in Region 4, where approximately 4,000 squirrels fell last season.
That rabbit hunting is a "dying sport," as one wildlife manager said recently, in the state is a shame because some of the best rabbit habitat in the South is in Louisiana.
Rabbit hunting with dogs is a fading tradition, John Leslie of Region 4 lamented as he recalled the days he spent with his father and brother in the woods going after cottontails.
He noted few rabbits harvested last season in his region despite a long season and huntable acreage that is growing by leaps and bounds.
To get and keep people interested in hunting, more and more attention is being put on youth hunts on WMAs in so many regions. Special deer hunts and even duck hunts are scheduled, including promising deer hunting on choice public land in Region 1 and Region 3, and duck hunting in prime habitat in Region 6.
And guided deer hunts for disabled hunters will be the order of the day on at least one WMA, the Sabine WMA in Region 3, where the Wheeling Sportsmen group has helped organize a special lottery hunt for Oct. 8-9.
Wildlife managers are working hard in their respective regions to make hunting as appealing as possible for the public. For example, either-sex deer hunting has been switched from the Thanksgiving holiday on Dewey Wills WMA in Region 3 to Dec. 17-18.
Czerny Newland, veteran biologist and wildlife supervisor for Region 3, said declining participation during either-sex deer hunting there over last Thanksgiving prompted him to try mid-December.
"The last three years there, the numbers were half of what they were. We're trying to keep the hunting numbers up there," Newland said.
The later date should offer better deer hunting, weather permitting, of course.
Region 4 wildlife supervisor John Leslie has scheduled a season for hunting feral hogs with dogs on the Three River/Red River WMAs. It will be allowed for the first time there, Leslie said.
"They are becoming quite a nuisance animal for us. We had quite a discussion recently with the general public about having a new hog hunting season on Red River/Three River WMAs," Leslie said.
He pointed out there have been numerous landowner complaints about the crop damage the wild hogs have done over the years.
"I wouldn't classify it so much as out of control. But there is a distinct interest in hunting hogs with dogs, something we're going to allow for the first time," he said.
Game biologists and hog hunters overcame flak by animal-rights representatives before getting the season on line for 2005-06. It's Feb. 11-28.
Perhaps the biggest story of the "offseason" was what happened on the former Boise-Vernon WMA in Region 5. Thanks to Forest Capital Partner LLC, which this past spring bought all property owned by Boise Paper, WMA hunting is alive and well still on Clear Creek WMA (the former Boise-Vernon WMA), Sabine WMA and West Bay WMA.
There's clear-cutting going on at Clear Creek WMA that has really improved the habitat, according to Region 5 wildlife supervisor John Robinette. He is so thankful and appreciative.
"LDWF leased 92,000 acres from Boise Paper (Boise Vernon WMA, Sabine WMA and West Bay WMA). LDWF was able to work out an agreement with the new landowners, and has leased all 92,000 acres from Forest Capital Partners LLC free of charge for the next 25 years," Robinette said in July. "With this 25-year lease and the 25-year leases with Roy O Martin and Forest Investment (all free of charge), we have ensured the future of the WMAs for the general public to pursue outdoor activities well into the future."
A week after that happy announcement, Robinette gushed, "We were scared we were going to lose all those acres. But the new companies went on board and signed a 25-year lease agreement.
"That's a big deal. You're probably looking at right at 270,000 acres. If the companies had said, 'No, we're going to private hunting clubs,' that would have been close to a quarter million acres the public would have lost to hunting."
The biggest change on WMAs involves regulations on the use of ATVs. The off-road vehicles will not be allowed on any roads open to highway vehicles.
Hunters who frequent Jackson-Bienville WMA should take particular notice, according to Region 1 wildlife supervisor Steve Hebert. Previously, ATVs were allowed on roads made by companies and fire lanes.
That's no longer the case, Hebert said recently. ATVs will be restricted to marked ATV trails only on J-B WMA.
"That's something we'd like to get out to the people in South Louisiana because they come up hunting a good bit," he said. "Since we have ATV trails in place, they're going to have to start using them, just like any other WMA."
Hebert emphasized that no ATVs will be allowed on non-public-maintained gravel roads.
Also in Region 1, new and unique to Bodcau WMA, is a special area designated by signs and on a 2005 map as a Bird Dog Training Area (BDTA), Hebert said. The LDWF has recognized a growing interest in upland bird dog training and field trialing.
The state agency hopes to encourage renewed interest in quail and woodcock hunting in Louisiana through the BDTA, he said. Those wanting to use the site should contact the Region 1 office in Minden at (318) 371-3050.
To hunt successfully this season on Jackson-Bienville WMA, don't let increased oil drilling and related work discourage you, said Region 1 wildlife supervisor Steve Hebert.
"Jackson-Bienville has undergone several changes over the last few years, from major changes in ownership and timber management to ATV rules," he said several weeks ago. "This year will bring another major change. Discovery of a major natural gas field is resulting in extensive drilling and pipeline construction in the WMA.
"I would like to ask all the hunters to be considerate of the workers associated with the drilling activities. Hunters will find major changes — new roads and pipelines, road improvements, heavy truck traffic and drilling-related noise — on the WMA.
"Hunters should be defensive drivers when driving their vehicles on J-B WMA, and should be cautious of what is behind the game they are shooting."
Most important, Hebert said, hunters shouldn't let the activity and changes discourage them from using the WMA. Wildlife on the area has adjusted to the activity, so hunters should do the same on the property provided free to the LDWF by Weyerhaeuser and several private individuals, he said.
The biologist was proud to announce dates for youth hunters to squirrel hunt on 32,000-acre Bodcau WMA as Sept. 24-25. Also, on Sept. 24, in conjunction with National Hunting and Fishing Day, activities will be held at the Tom Merrill Camping area near the dam.
Youth hunters and their adult hunting partners can make an early hunt, then stop by to check out outdoor-related displays and exhibits.
Another special weekend for youth hunters is Oct. 15-16, when a portion of Bodcau WMA will be open for either-sex deer.
Youth hunters also have two special weekends in store for them on Jackson-Bienville WMA, with squirrel hunting Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 15-16 for either-sex deer on a portion of J-B WMA. Handicapped deer hunters also can hunt either-sex deer in that area on that weekend.
Overall, weather conditions this year appear favorable for wildlife, although a May/June drought hurt the browse some. Last winter was fairly mild followed by a good spring green-up. Rainfall is below normal for the year, but late June and July showers have helped the browse improve.
The mast crop looks at least fair or better, reports Hebert. Red oaks look good where trees are in good health. White oak looks promising, while hickory appears spotty and the pine mast crop looks good.
"If we continue to receive rain through the rest of the summer, wildlife should be in excellent condition when the hunting seasons start," he said. "At the present time, mid-July, the farther northwest you go in Region 1, the drier the conditions and poorer the browse and mast potential."
On a closing note, Hebert urged all hunters to scout before hunting trips and, most of all, not to take it too seriously.
Region 1 Deer
How does deer hunting shape up for Region 1 WMAs for 2005-06?
First, take a look back at last season. J-B WMA had 309 deer reported, Bodcau WMA had 119 deer reported, and Loggy Bayou WMA had 103 deer reported. (Hebert cautioned that numbers are based on volunteer self-clearing and daily permit data.)
The harvest was slightly better than that of 2003-04, he said. J-B WMA deer hunters saw and harvested more adult bucks with several topping the 200-pound mark. However, big deer reside on other WMAs in Region 1.
"If I was going to bow hunt for a Pope and Young class deer, I would go to Loggy Bayou WMA, especially the week prior to Thanksgiving, and then late December and early January," Hebert said. "Gun hunters should be successful hunting early November on Bodcau WMA and after Thanksgiving on Jackson-Bienville WMA.
"Hunters should look for areas with dense bedding cover with mast and good browse nearby. Hunting pressure the last year or two has gotten pretty heavy on weekends on Bodcau WMA. Hunters should try to plan their hunts on weekdays when hunting pressure really drops off."
In other words, if you can, plan vacations to coincide with midweek deer hunting.
A special muzzeloader season for deer is set for Bodcau WMA for the Monday after Thanksgiving. It will last for seven days and will be for either-sex deer (modern firearm hunters should note their season has been shortened by seven days to allow for muzzleloader deer hunting).
Region 1 Squirrel
Again, last season's numbers give an indication of what's out there. On Jackson-Bienville, 1,207, on Bodcau WMA, 2,035, and on Loggy Bayou, 97.
Squirrel hunting harvest was average or slightly above average in 2004-05, Hebert said, on two of the region's WMAs (J-B and Loggy Bayou).
"Reports at the end of last season and so far this year indicate a good upcoming squirrel season," he said.
Region 1 Rabbit
Last season's harvest numbers are pretty low: Eight rabbits on J-B WMA and on Bodcau WMA and 58 hares on Loggy Bayou WMA.
"2004-2005 season rabbit hunters didn't fare too well as indicated by the self-clearing permit reports. Hunters reported rabbit harvest varied little from the previous years," Hebert said. "Rabbit harvest was up on Jackson Bienville and Loggy Bayou WMAs and down slightly on Bodcau WMA.
Hunters have not taken advantage of the rabbit-hunting opportunities on the WMAs in Northwest Louisiana even though Wildlife Division personnel continue to see good numbers of rabbits while working on the areas."
Later, he said that rabbit hunting should be at its best on Loggy Bayou WMA. But, he said, rabbit hunters may want to check out Bayou Pierre WMA during the special rabbit dog season.
"While Bayou Pierre WMA is relatively small, it does have a fair rabbit population. Hunters should concentrate on the portion west of Bayou Pierre in Desoto Parish," Hebert advised.
Region 1 Duck
Waterfowl hunters last season on Region 1 WMAs experienced the same type of success as most of Louisiana, Hebert reported. The first split was somewhat successful region-wide based on phone reports to the Region 1 office in Minden.
Late-season reports indicated very limited success with very few mallards and diving ducks harvested or, even, being seen.
On Bodcau WMA, 1,488 waterfowl hunting efforts produced 1,026 ducks from the greentree reservoir.
Loggy Bayou WMA duck hunters put in 330 hunting efforts and harvested 321 ducks.
When Jerald Owens thinks about the last hunting season, particularly for deer, in Region 2, he remembers how unfavorable weather conditions plagued the early part of the season.
"I'm just hoping this year we get cooperation from the weather because most species are doing pretty good right now. If we don't have the right weather conditions, we may not have activity," the Region 2 wildlife supervisor said the last week of July.
"The deer season last year, especially on WMAs, the Thanksgiving WMA hunts, we had rain. And Union (WMA) was affected by hot weather. We just had some really warm weather in late November, December."
Habitat conditions are good heading into the next hunting season, he said. The region experienced a late spring and early summer dry spell, but recent rains had vegetation in good condition, he said.
Owens also reported there was a good mast crop around the region last fall, and that it looks fair to good this year.
The veteran biologist noted that "good quality deer" came off several of the region's WMAs in 2004-05. Bayou Macon WMA and Russell Sage WMA had some bucks in the 220-pound-plus range with 10-point racks, he said, and some large deer were harvested on Union WMA, too.
"Union produces some pretty good ones every year. Last year was no different," Owens said. There were some bucks weighing 190, 195 pounds with good antler development, he said.
Region 2 Deer
Weather permitting, deer hunting should be pretty good on Union WMA and Bayou Macon WMA, where there is abundant browse and well-balanced deer herds due to the region's deer management program, Owens said.
Union WMA led the way last season with 142 deer harvested during the either-sex gun season, he said.
Region 2 Squirrel
If last season was any indication, squirrel hunters should enjoy an average or above average squirrel hunting season, particularly on Russell Sage WMA, which is all hardwood and has a good mast crop, Owens said.
Last season, Russell Sage WMA gave up 2.1 squirrels per hunter effort, he said.
"Squirrel hunting has picked up. We had several years there, at least three years in a row, where we had poor mast crops," he said. "But then the last couple of years were reasonably good mast years. We're hoping for another good mast year. Right now, it looks good."
With "decent rainfall" the next few months, he said, squirrel hunting prospects will be good.
Region 2 Rabbit
Reforested areas have abundant food and cover on both the Union WMA and Ouachita WMA, according to Owens. Mid-summer rainfall has helped even more, he said.
Last season, Union WMA gave up 2.7 rabbits per hunter effort.
Region 2 Duck
How does waterfowl hunting shape up for Region 2 WMAs for 2005-06?
Managed impoundments look good in the preseason on the Ouachita WMA, Owens said.
A special area will be open for youth deer hunting on Dewey Wills WMA, a popular period for the last three years, says Region 3 wildlife supervisor Czerny Newland.
What will be in store for the youth hunters who get lucky enough in the lottery and other hunters on WMAs in Region 3?
Well, Region 3 was suffering from drought conditions early that threatened the browse production. However, Newland said the third week of July, recent rains helped the region, and conditions were brought up to average for that time of year.
He reminded ATV owners that in a major departure from past policy, ATVs won't be allowed on any roads that are open to highway vehicles — they will be confined to ATV trails-only.
Region 3 Deer
Best bets for this season are Camp Beauregard WMA, Alexander State Forest WMA and Sabine WMA. Why?
Newland said all three had good fawn crops in 2004. He believes good weather during the upcoming season should produce above-average harvests on those WMAs.
Leading the way for reported either-sex harvest last season was Dewey Wills WMA with 91 deer. Alexander State Forest WMA had yielded 45, and Camp Beauregard gave up 50.
Numbers could go up this season on Dewey Willls WMA, where the either-sex season has been changed from Thanksgiving to Dec. 17-18. Favorable weather conditions combined with the later dates could mean a big boost for deer-hunting success.
And Sabine WMA will be the site of a special deer hunt for handicapped hunters Oct. 8-9. The area enjoyed its first such hunts last season.
Region 3 Squirrel
Dewey Wills WMA and Little River WMA are the best the region has to offer for public hunting for squirrels. Sabine WMA is right behind them.
All three areas have prime habitat for squirrels, Newland said.
Last season, Dewey Wills WMA had 2,743 squirrels reported harvested, while Sabine WMA had 544 and Little River WMA had 201.
Region 3 Rabbit
Sabine WMA should be the place to be because it's head and shoulders above other upland WMAs as far as habitat conditions, Newland said.
Dewey Wills WMA, however, has some good swamp rabbit reproduction.
Last January, there were 222 rabbits reported harvested on Dewey Wills WMA and 36 on Sabine WMA.
Region 3 Duck
Newland said Dewey Wills WMA has the best waterfowl habitat.
Preseason habitat conditions were rated "very good" in mid-July by Region 4 wildlife supervisor John Leslie.
"Spring and early summer rains have been consistent. Browse conditions are excellent," Leslie said, "and preliminary mast production is good."
Leslie noted that early Mississippi River flooding caused some problems during the 2004-05 hunting season for batture hunting clubs and bottomland WMAs. And cold front passages occurred during full-moon periods, resulting in nocturnal deer rutting activity.
Leslie is hopeful that a special season Feb. 11-28 for hunting hogs with dogs on Red River/Three Rivers WMA won't create a conflict with the small-game seasons that will be winding down at that time. But it's high time to try to rid the public area of the feral hogs that damage habitat as well as wildlife populations, he said.
Region 4 Deer
Red River/Three Rivers WMAs offer a mixture of timber types, plus natural soil and vegetation fertility that traditionally produces heavy deer, Leslie said. Also, he said, there are very good genetics in the native herd.
Last season, there were 381 deer reported harvested during the Thanksgiving deer hunt on Red River/Three Rivers WMAs. Also, 112 were reported harvested during the bucks-only season, 152 during the muzzleloader season, and 110 during the bowhunting season.
Bowhunters may want to try Buckhorn WMA, too, which has small acreage but very dense habitat that creates excellent deer numbers, according to Leslie. It is a growing favorite for archery hunts.
Region 4 Squirrel
A mixture of mature and cut-over timber types produces excellent habitat conditions for both species of squirrels on Red River/Three Rivers WMAs.
Also, Bouef WMA has large timbered tracts of land and good access to squirrel hunters.
And as of the last week of July, preliminary mast reports on those WMAs indicated a good amount of production, a development that also helps the deer and turkey populations.
Last season's squirrel harvest from Red River/Three Rivers WMAs was approximately 4,000 squirrels, according to Leslie.
Region 4 Rabbit
Despite long seasons and increasing acreage to hunt rabbits, the sport is on a serious decline, Leslie noted with regret. He pointed out that programs have created thousands of acres of habitat over the years for rabbits, and now the species is the least hunted.
For example, last season no Region 4 WMA reported more than 35 rabbits harvested, he said. And 95 percent of those were bagged by squirrel hunters as incidental harvests.
For 2005-06, potential hotspots include Bouef WMA, Red River WMA, where reforestation of agricultural lands has produced excellent rabbit habitat, and Buckhorn WMA, where timber-cutting activities and reforestation of agricultural lands also have increased habitat.
Region 4 Duck
Best bets are Bouef WMA and Red River WMA, both with greentrees and managed waterfowl habitat. Leslie called it a toss-up between the two WMAs.
"We're hoping for a much-better waterfowl season. We haven't heard any preliminary figures coming out of Canada," Leslie said. "But our biggest problem the last couple of years is just the lack of winter. I'd like to see some cold weather."
Overall habitat conditions for WMAs in Region 5 were good as of the third week of July, according to wildlife supervisor John Robinette.
The 31-year LDWF veteran said the region experienced a mild winter, a cool spring with ample rain and a hot summer with scattered rainfall.
Timber cutting continues on many of the region's WMAs, particularly Clear Creek WMA (formerly Boise Vernon WMA), which is under new ownership by Forest Capital Partners LLC.
Robinette was excited by what he's seen there because of the timber-cutting practices.
"You've got to give a lot of praise to Boise Vernon. We've had some people already start to scout, and they're seeing deer everywhere," he said.
And on West Bay WMA, every fifth row of pines is being stripped to prevent stunting, he said. As a result, the opening up of the forest creates tremendous browse.
Last year the region experienced excellent mast production, Robinette said, and the same could be said for this year. But he noted that while bountiful mast production was good for wildlife, it made it difficult for hunters because it scattered deer. As a result, deer harvest was down in most of the area, he said.
Region 5 Deer
Many bucks have been seen with well-developed antlers on all WMAs in Region 5, Robinette said. Good fawn production occurred, and deer are being seen daily, he added.
Robinette, who predicted a good season for deer harvest, advised hunters to pick any WMA and scout early.
Last season's harvest numbers might help deer hunters choose. At Clear Creek WMA, 284 deer were reported harvested, while Fort Polk WMA had 358, West Bay had 121 and Sabine Island had four.
Region 5 Squirrel
Squirrel hunting should be excellent on most areas due to the heavy amount of mast that was produced last year, Robinette said.
Sabine Island WMA, Fort Polk WMA and West Bay WMA will be the prime areas to hunt squirrels, he said.
Don't let the harvest numbers from last season fool you, though, he added. On Fort Polk, the reported harvest was 675, on Sabine Island WMA, 635, on West Bay WMA, 565, and on Clear Creek 152.
Robinette still believes Sabine Island WMA is the top spot for squirrel hunting in Region 5. He pointed out that harvest numbers are gathered from self-clearing permits.
On the other hand, Fort Polk WMA and Pesson Ridge WMA are on military land, where strict compliance is necessary for harvest reports, so there is a little better idea of what squirrel hunters are doing on those WMAs.
Region 5 Rabbit
Robinette said rabbit hunting should continue to be good on West Bay WMA, where 116 rabbits were reported bagged last season, and Clear Creek WMA, where 100 rabbits were reported harvested in 2004-05.
Timber management and timber cutting have created excellent habitat for rabbits.
Region 5 Duck
The Region 5 wildlife supervisor said Sabine Island is the only area that offers waterfowl hunting. It usually holds a high number of wood ducks, he said.
Some of the best duck hunting on WMAs in the state last season was enjoyed in a region known for its good to excellent hunting for deer, squirrels and rabbits.
Grassy Lake WMA and Spring Bayou WMA, both in Avoyelles Parish, are duck-hunting hotspots in Region 6. Sherburne WMA is right behind them.
"Even with the duck hunting being as poor as it has been over the last few years, these areas are consistent with a better-than-average harvest. They have big, open-water areas with good duck habitat that seems to draw ducks every year," Vidrine said.
Hunting prospects for deer, rabbits and squirrels are bright for this season, Vidrine reported in mid-July. He said rainfall in the spring and early summer was below normal, but the little rainfall that was recorded helped natural browse plants grow.
And according to surveys taken in early and mid-summer, browse plants were plentiful and not affected by a shortage of rain, he said. Looking at some of the oaks during the summer surveys, there were many acorns being initiated, he continued, which means another good mast crop is on the way.
"Everything's lush and green. We're getting the rains at the right time. All food plots are doing good. There's plenty of food right now," he said the last week of July.
Vidrine said the 6-point rule, implemented last season, has been scrapped at Sherburne WMA.
As a result, he said, "This should be an excellent year for deer on Sherburne WMA, due to the fact that the 6-point rule helped to let a few 1 1/2-year-old bucks walk. The number of hunters was also down last year due to that rule, so the overall harvest numbers were down slightly."
He emphasized that all bucks are legal this season, which should lead to a high harvest.
Thistlethwaite WMA, on the other hand, will have a "four-on-one-side" rule this season in an effort to decrease the number of young bucks harvested on that WMA. Vidrine said the four-on-one-side rule (a 10-year plan) should help improve the age structure on the bucks in the herd and lead to the harvest of more quality bucks in the future.
"By taking pressure off some of the young bucks, we're hoping to get a couple more years of age on them," he said.
Youth deer hunts and youth duck hunts (over the Christmas holidays) are lined up for Sherburne WMA in 2005-06.
Region 6 Deer
No matter the regulations in place, there always are big bucks taken off Sherburne WMA and Thistlethwaite WMA, and a quantity of bucks off Attakapas WMA, Grassy Lake WMA, Pomme de Terre WMA and Spring Bayou WMA.
But none of the Region 6 WMAs hold a candle to Attakapas WMA in the Atchafalaya Basin, where 101 deer were reported harvested (one deer per eight hunter efforts) during the either-sex season and 300-plus deer taken overall in 2004-05.
"Even with this high number of deer taken last season, we should see another good year for deer on Attakapas WMA. The habitat conditions that occurred some 10 years ago still persist on Attakapas," Vidrine said.
Pomme de Terre WMA had 47 deer reported harvested (one per nine hunter efforts), while Grassy Lake WMA had 71 deer reported harvested (one per 15 hunter efforts).
Quality deer were shot on Sherburne WMA, including a 180-pound, 10-point (with a 16 1/2-inch spread) buck taken during the muzzleloader season there.
At Thistlethwaite WMA, during the either-sex season, a 242-pound, 8-point buck with a 14 1/2-inch spread was among the giants killed there. Also taken were a 250-pound 9-pointer, a 225-pound 8-pointer and a 175-pound 8-pointer, according to Vidrine.
Region 6 Squirrel
The place to go, as usual, is Thistlethwaite WMA. The table is set there habitat-wise for another great squirrel hunting season, Vidrine said.
Thistlethwaite WMA had the highest recorded squirrel harvest in the region last season with 1,112. Sherburne was second with 934 squirrels recorded, while Attakapas WMA had 272.
While Thistlethwaite WMA normally has the highest squirrel harvest annually, Sherburne WMA does very well, too, according to the wildlife supervisor for the region.
"Thistlethwaite WMA, year after year, has always been a very productive squirrel area, in part due to the hard mast-producing trees. Acorns were very plentiful last year, which should have helped spur more production of squirrels for this season," Vidrine said.
"Sherburne WMA runs a close second behind Thistlethwaite WMA for squirrel production, and should have a good harvest this season. Find a producing oak on Sherburne, and you should find some squirrels. Attakapas WMA normally has a good squirrel harvest despite the lack of many acorn-producing trees."
Region 6 Rabbit
Attakapas WMA, Sherburne WMA and Thistlethwaite WMA usually give up the most rabbits. Vidrine sees nothing to change that this season.
With a high Atchafalaya River pushing rabbits on to higher ground last season on Attakapas WMA, 67 rabbits were reported harvested. Sherburne WMA had 50, while Thistlethwaite WMA had 21.
Vidrine pointed out, however, that the department relies on self-clearing permits for hunter and harvest information. Compliance isn't up to snuff, so some areas may have more harvests game than reported.
"Habitat improvement, due to timber harvest on Thistlethwaite and Sherburne WMAs, has improved available habitat that is needed for good rabbit production," he said. "The habitat on Attakapas has remained good for the last several years.
"If we get another high-water year, like the one that occurred last season, this pushes rabbits up to higher ground and concentrates them more, making for a better harvest."
Region 6 Duck
Duck hunting looks promising on selected WMAs in Region 6.
Last season's harvest numbers are eye-opening: Spring Bayou WMA had 1,099 ducks reported harvested; Sherburne WMA had 974 ducks reported harvested, and Grassy Lake WMA had 723 ducks reported harvested.
Sherburne WMA has had an above-average harvest of ducks due to the management practice and the slight amount of pressure that is put on the ducks on the South Farm, Vidrine said.
Ducks are shot there even when ducks aren't getting gunned down elsewhere.
Like the other regions, Region 7 weathered an early dry period in mid to late spring, but had above-average rainfall later this year, according to wildlife supervisor Randy Myers.
Myers said deer browse appears to be in good shape after very timely rains helped maintain plant vigor. And, he said, food plots planted on several WMAs appear to be in tip-top condition, as well.
Hunter outlooks are fair to good for rabbit, squirrel and deer. Top spot for rabbit should be Ben's Creek WMA; for squirrel, Pearl River WMA; and for deer, it's a toss-up between Tunica Hills WMA and Ben's Creek WMA, Myers said.
Pass-A-Loutre WMA has the best waterfowl hunting opportunities in Region 7.
Region 7 Deer
Myers reported that both Tunica Hills WMA and Ben's Creek WMA experienced an increase in the deer harvest last year. He anticipates a decline in the deer harvest, but the two WMAs still should give up the highest harvest in Region 7.
The two areas provide adequate deer habitat compared to other WMAs in the region, he said.
Pearl River WMA is the third top deer producer in the area because it provides a variety of habitat conditions where deer can be found. Additional days have been added to the hunting season on Pearl River WMA to provide more opportunities.
Also, he said, Pearl River WMA has an abundance of wild hogs that may be taken.
Last season, Tunica Hills WMA, Ben's Creek WMA and Maurepas Swamp WMA boasted the highest reported deer harvests.
Region 7 Squirrel
Pearl River WMA's mast crop should be busting at the seams after last year, which means there should be an abundance of squirrels on the area. The WMA consistently gives up more squirrels than other areas in Region 7.
Tunica Hills WMA does provide the opportunity to go squirrel hunting. The rugged terrain may limit some from trying there, but the hardwoods provide excellent habitat for squirrels.
Squirrel hunting on a limited basis is available on both Ben's Creek and Sandy Hollow WMAs.
Last season, recorded squirrel harvest leaders, in order from the top, were Pearl River WMA, Tunica Hills WMA and Ben's Creek WMA.
Region 7 Rabbit
Habitat is best for rabbits on Ben's Creek WMA, according to Myers. That's where most of the rabbits will be bagged this season in Region 7.
To a lesser extent, because of less rabbit habitat, Sandy Hollow WMA and Pearl River WMA are alternate rabbit hunting destinations. They do provide some opportunities, Myers said.
Region 7 Duck
Myers said Pass-A-Loutre WMA has the best waterfowl opportunities due to the habitat that exists on the WMA.
Others include Biloxi WMA, Manchac WMA, Pearl River WMA and Maurepas Swamp WMA, he said in his report on the region. n