Czerny Newland, a 37-year LDWF veteran who is biologist for the Minden Region, said if deer hunters want a shot at a trophy animal, travel to Bayou Pierre WMA or Loggy Bayou WMA. The latter also doubles, along with Bodcau WMA, as an area with the best success rates for harvesting deer.
A mild, wet summer should creates good habitat conditions. Deer quality is excellent, and numbers are good throughout the region, he reported, including sightings of fawns in July.
“If weather conditions continue to be favorable, antler growth, body weights and fawn survival should be good, creating the potential for an above average deer season in northwest Louisiana,” Newland reported.
The region also dodged a bullet when (tropical storm/hurricane) Barry entered and exited the second week of July. “Our area received essentially no impact from Barry,” he said.
What Newland and hunters worry about is drought, the greatest factor influencing habitat conditions in the region, he said. Severe drought conditions often occur in July and August, a time especially critical for deer. Does are under stress from nursing, and drought compounds the stress. The period also is a critical time for fawn growth and antler development. And, he said, if a drought starts late and continues into the fall, it would impact the upcoming season as well as 2020-21. So hunters are crossing their fingers, hopeful a drought doesn’t set in late this summer.
Bodcau WMA, a 33,766-acre area in Bossier and Webster parishes, is a good place to get away from the crowd. The long, narrow area features diverse habitat, from upland pine to cypress/tupelo bottoms.
Last season, the harvest numbers showed that 2,092 hunters checked by LDWF staffers killed 231 deer with a firearm, while 499 bowhunters checked killed 10. In 2017-18, Bodcau WMA gave up 276 total deer to 1,686 hunters.
Newland said the most-successful deer hunters, year-in and year-out, target the transitional zones, the edges of the different habitats.
Newland pointed out all Minden Region WMAs offer deer-hunting opportunities, although only bowhunting for deer is permitted on Bayou Pierre WMA and Soda Lake WMA. The harvest numbers on those areas last season were 18 for the 347 hunters checked on Bayou Pierre WMA and 10 for the 369 hunters checked on Soda Lake WMA.
Newland has said in the past that bowhunters gravitate to those two areas because they like the fact they don’t have to compete against gun hunters.
Waterfowl hunting is very popular, Newland reported, with one of the leading destinations the spacious Bodcau WMA, where last season, LDWF staffers checked 978 duck hunters who harvested 756 ducks, most of them wood ducks, gadwalls, teal and mallards.
Duck hunting also has plenty of potential each season at Loggy Bayou WMA, where 303 ducks were killed by 397 hunters who were checked.
Bayou Pierre WMA’s duck hunting is limited to lottery hunts. In addition to the regular and youth lottery hunts, a blind for wheelchair-bound outdoorsmen is available. For more information, call 318-371-3050.
Waterfowl hunting is not allowed on Soda Lake WMA.
Newland advised hunters that water levels influence duck-hunting success greatly on Bodcau WMA and Loggy Bayou WMA. Water levels are determined by rainfall, he said, noting that both WMAs have water-control structures to assist in holding water, but they have no pumping capabilities. When water levels are favorable and new flights of ducks stop by, duck hunting in those areas is fair to good.
With its variety of habitats — upland hardwoods, piney woods and bottomland hardwoods — the most-popular WMA for squirrels and squirrel hunters is Bodcau WMA, according to Newland.
The variety of tree species ensures that at least one, and possibly several, mast crops are available each season for squirrels, he reported.
How good can the squirrel hunting be? LDWF staffers checked 1,429 hunters and 1,655 squirrels last season.
At Loggy Bayou WMA last season, 397 hunters had 303 squirrels checked in. At Soda Lake WMA, 54 squirrels were checked along with 95 hunters.
The Minden Region’s predominant species is gray squirrel, with a few fox squirrels. All WMAs in the region allow dogs for squirrel hunting during specified periods.
On Soda Lake WMA, however, small-game hunting is limited to falconry only on the west side of the WMA, west of Twelve Mile Bayou, he said, because the WMA is relatively small and close to a residential area. Small-game hunting with firearms is permitted on the east side of the tract.
A tornado earlier this year caused extensive damage to trees on Bodcau WMA. Loss of trees during the June twister, however, will be a blessing, as it results in improved browse production for deer and rabbits for the next few years.
Early field reports indicate good fawn production. A wet, mild summer to date has created good habitat conditions, which benefit antler growth, body growth and fawn survival at a critical time, so there is a potential for an above-average deer season in northwest Louisiana.
The 2018 mast crop wasn’t a complete failure, but it was below average. Squirrel production is largely dependent on the previous year’s mast crop, which means a subpar squirrel hunting season is likely in the region.