LDWF proposes sweeeping changes to 2013-14 deer-hunting season

New hunting zones, designated either-sex days included in hunting season proposal issued by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission

If Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries managers have their way, wholesale changes are coming to Louisiana deer-hunting seasons — one of the most striking being the re-implementation of designated either-sex days.

So-called “doe days” were ended in 2006, the LDWF said.

Changes listed in a notice of intent issued by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission yesterday (Feb. 7) also included the addition of three new hunting zones.“I believe we are experience some rather unprecedented times,” LDWF’ Deer Study Leader Scott Durham said in introducing the proposals. “A return to either-sex days is absolutely proposed until we have more confidence in our reporting system.”

Durham said his department’s harvest-reporting system — which he admitted has experienced some difficulties that are being address — indicate declining deer kills throughout the state. He said this, along with changes in habitat, point toward the need for smaller deer-hunting zones.

Specific season dates have yet to be released by the LDWF, but will posted on LouisianaSportsman.com as soon as possible.

Deer-hunting areas 2, 3, 5, 7 and 8 remain essential the same, with the exception of calendar changes.

However, the current Area 1 will be split into two zones.

The new Area 1 will include those lands in the northern reaches of the current zone, stretching from the Arkansas border in the northeastern portion of the state (excluding West Carroll Parish) southward to the confluence of the Mississippi and Red rivers.

No substantial changes are proposed to the hunting seasons in that area.

The portion of the current Area 1 that is east of the Mississippi River will be designated as Area 4, and managers hope to cut the doe harvest by 30 percent by limiting either-sex hunting to specific days.

If approved, Area 4 hunters would be allowed to shoot does on 33 days: 19 days during the modern-gun season and 14 days during the primitive-weapons season.

“This area really has a high human population density,” Durham said. “The median family forest area is 101 acres.”

He said fragmented forests now compose only 18 percent of this section of the state.

“There also is a coyote and hog dynamic that I think is having a significant impact on the deer herd,” Durham said.

In addition, invasive vegetation has changed the habitat.

Area 6 also would be split under the proposal.

The current zone has for years stretched from the confluence of the Red and Mississippi Rivers southward through the Atchafalaya Basin and wrapping eastward to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The new Area 6 would be much smaller, encompassing lands from the northern reaches of the current Area 6 to upper St. Martin and mid-Iberville parishes.

The only substantial change to hunting regulations within this area would be the dropping of the special season structure implemented in the Morganza Spillway and Atchafalaya Basin following the 2011 flooding after the spillway gates were opened to relieve pressure on Mississippi River levees.

The rest of the current Area 6 would be designated as Area 9, and there would be 16 designated either-sex days within this new zone.

Nine of the either-sex days would fall within the modern-gun season, with the remaining seven being in the primitive-weapons segment.

The final new zone ­— designated as Area 10 — would be carved out of the current Area 3. The new hunting zone would encompass the lands south of Interstate 10 in Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis, Acadia, Cameron and Vermilion parishes. Most of Lafayette Parish and a small portion of Iberia Parish would be inside Area 10.

Hunters within this new zone would have 16 days during which shooting does would be legal. Nine of those days would be open during the modern-gun season, with the remaining seven being held during primitive-weapon season.

Boundaries of Area 7 will remain unchanged if the proposal is accepted, but hunters would be allowed to shoot does for only 16 days: nine days during modern-gun season and seven days of the primitive-weapons season.

Public hearings on the matter will be held:

• March 19 — 6 p.m.,  LDWF Office, Minden
• March 19 — 6 p.m., St. Tammany Parish Council Chambers, Mandeville
• March 20 — 6 p.m., LDWF Office, Monroe
• March 20 — 6 p.m., Chalmette Elementary School Resource Center, Chalmette
• March 21 — 6 p.m., USGS National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette
• March 26 — 6:340 p.m., LSU Ag Center (next to Burton Coliseum), Lake Charles
• March 27 — 6 p.m., Houma Municipal Auditorium, Houma
• March 28 — 6 p.m., Waddill Outdoor Education Center, Baton Rouge

Public comment will be accepted through May 2: E-mail Steve Smith at ssmith@wlf.la.gov or mail comments to Smith at Wildlife Division, Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000.

The seasons will be ratified during the Commissions July meeting.

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Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.