The South Louisiana Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association hosted its Annual Summer Seminar at the Wildlife & Fisheries Office in Baton Rouge on Aug. 14. Those attending listened to topics concerning several issues regarding deer and feral hogs.
Jonathan Bordelon, Deer Program Manager for the LDWF, spoke about the upcoming 2019-20 deer season, its changes and the season outlook. There is concern among the department’s game biologists regarding the intense flooding of 2019 and its impact on the states deer herd.
Record flooding occurred in the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River. While flooding is nothing new to the deer herds in this state and generally deer have adapted to high water problems, there is concern regarding the duration of the flood in the Atchafalaya River Basin. Both the timing and the length of the high water present problems of concern for this region because the river stayed at flood stage for over 200 days and above flood stage for 2/3 of that time. Bordelon showed a photograph of a large racked adult buck swimming the river last fall. This buck had eluded hunters but was now having to deal with the heavy flooding.
Spring and summer are the months for growing antlers and for fawn production and the high water occurred at these times. DMAP data from past seasons when flooding occurred during the fawning season indicates poor fawn production and recruitment. Lactation rates during the season normally indicates that 60-70 percent of the adult does produced fawns but during high water events lactation is only around 30%. Because of this it is imperative that hunters manage the harvest and generally a reduction in the deer harvest is necessary to avoid an immediate decline in the total population.
Consequently, the state’s deer biologists will be taking a close look at the habitat and herd in Area 5 and hunters may see changes in the deer season schedule for the 2019 season. This could come in the form of reduced hunting days or perhaps a reduced deer limit such as found in Area 4. This action would be taken by utilizing the Declaration of Emergency Procedure that the department has often used in the past. Deer hunters in Area 5 should pay attention to any upcoming news releases regarding such action. As always the public is allowed to comment on such action at the commission meetings.
Flooding produces stress both on the animal and habitat, impacting the antler growth of bucks. Hunters may see a decrease in antler quality for the 2019 season and clubs and landowners practicing quality deer management may want to adjust their harvest on the adult buck population. Clubs and landowners also need to look closely at the pre-season fawn/doe ratio on their landscape and adjust their total harvest also if recruitment appears to be low.
Bordelon does not foresee any changes in the Area 1 or Area 6 deer season, but again, clubs and landowners should work with the department biologists to identify possible problems on the land where they hunt. Generally once the water recedes, plant growth will explode and browse will become readily available to the deer again. However, the deer herd may have already been affected, particularly antler growth and fawn production, but a herd can quickly recover providing that the necessary management actions are taken during the current season.