Was the 2013 deer season one of the best ever?

The LDWF Big Game Harvest Survey that will be mailed out shortly should provide an answer — but from what this hunter saw, it was a great season!

As you may know, the Louisiana annual deer harvest has been on the decline for the past few years and the reported kill last year was low enough to make LDWF change the deer hunting areas and reduce either-sex seasons in some of these areas.

Coyotes, hogs, hurricane damage, the drought of 2010 and 2011, low hunter reporting of harvested deer, along with commercial forestry activities have been suggested as possible reasons for this decline. 

The 2012 season was exceptionally poor. From what I saw in my travels around the state, the drought years certainly had an impact on habitat and subsequently on deer productivity. I suggested that the extremely mild winter of 2012 was a major factor affecting deer movement and hunter success.

However, the 2013 deer season has been exceptional based upon my hunting success and the success of other hunters.

In my opinion the major difference between the 2012 deer season and the 2013 deer season was the weather. In 2013 Mother Nature blessed us with some great winter weather beginning in mid-November and was still sending us cold fronts in mid-January.

Spring and early summer habitat conditions were good, and deer production was back to the level it was prior to the drought years. While we had acorns in 2012, the mast crop in 2013 was limited, and the cold weather had the animals feeding fast and furious, and the nuts were basically gone by mid-December. Some areas had no acorns at all, and so 2013 was a year that the food plots and feeders probably paid off.

November 2013

In 2012, my November hunts averaged a deer seen every two hours of hunting. In 2013 I was seeing 1.2 deer every hour.

Normally if I kill a deer or two in November I am doing good. This year I had three deer validated with LDWF prior to the end of the primitive season in Area 4.

If you looked at the December issue of Louisiana Sportsman, and hopefully you did, you probably saw page after page of big bucks being harvested by hunters around the state. The front cover was a huge buck that might be the new state typical record (although it looks like there are too many deducts to me), and no doubt there will be plenty of bucks to measure at the Louisiana Sportsman Show this March.

I counted 15 exceptional bucks in that issue of the magazine. On one of the properties I hunt, we are loaded with some low-end bucks and, after shooting a 4 ½-year-old 5-point during the primitive season, I would not shoot any more even though I was seeing one to three on every hunt. I had too much other deer hunting to do during December and January, and did not want to end my season too soon.

December 2013

Our warm coastal weather returned for the first week of December, and deer movement went to zero, just like in 2012. But the cold returned for the next two weeks and deer activity skyrocketed.

I hunted on some DMAP land in the Morganza Floodway on Dec. 9 and saw deer all day, even grunting up a nice 2-year-old 8-pointer. The buck came into me like it was on a string; this property is managed to produce quality deer and, while this was a nice buck, it will only get better and bigger with time.

On Dec. 16, I was back in Clinton during another cold front, and deer activity that morning was non-stop. I saw more than eight deer and, had I had my muzzleloader rifle with me, I probably would have shot an adult 6-point.

During December of 2012 I don’t think I saw eight deer during the whole month.

Now, we didn’t just have this explosion of deer on this property in 2013; this population has been high for several years — it is simply the exceptional weather that was making them move, and when they move, you get to see them if you go hunting. One usually does not see many deer sitting at a desk in an office somewhere.

I returned the next day (Dec. 17); there was a full moon that night and another good freeze. I watched the moon and the sun race to see who would disappear and appear before the other, and at 7:30 dropped a fork horn with my Isaac Rifle, a 50-caliber TC muzzleloader that I used on Pearl River earlier in the season. It has open sights, and I had attached a fluorescent dot on the front blade to aid in sighting. I killed a doe with it last year and decided one of those low-end bucks would be a suitable buck for this rifle, and perhaps make a gun rack for it when I retire the rifle.

The buck was a 105-pound 2-year-old that was not showing much promise for future growth and development.

My son Ruffin went hunting with me on Dec. 11. I put him in my climber in the middle of a cutover on this frosty morning (I had only hunted here once), and at 9:30 he shot his best buck ever — a fine East Feliciana 8-point, 16-inch inside, 160 pounds. This was one of the adult bucks that we had photographed prior to the season.

Ruffin did not kill a deer at all in 2012, and I bet if you ask him how good the 2013 season was he will probably use the word outstanding.

2013 managed deer hunts

There are two requirements for a successful managed deer hunt on the wildlife management areas: good weather and a good turnout of hunters.

Scott Durham, the state deer biologist, reported that these conditions were ideal around the state, and he reported a harvest of one deer per 9.3 hunter efforts, which is excellent.

Tony Vidrine, the biologist supervisor for the Lower Mississippi River management areas, echoed Durham’s comments about the managed hunts being a success. He reported that on the Richard Yancey WMA there were eight deer that weighed over 200 pounds, with two of them weighing in at 230.

On Sherburne WMA, a youth hunter killed his first deer, a 230-pound 9-point; another hunter killed a 220-pound 8-pointer. A 250-pound 11-pointer was killed on Grassy Lake, along with a 210-pound 10-point on Pomme de Terre.

These areas should offer some excellent hunting during the rut when the bucks-only and the next primitive open up.

My buddy McElroy and I hunted Pearl River, and saw deer and hogs but took no shots.

Louisiana has some of the best public land deer hunting in the country. 

No doubt about it, the 2013 season has to rank as one of the best deer season in years.

Dave Moreland
About Dave Moreland 220 Articles
David Moreland is a former wildlife biologist with LDWF, having served as the State Deer Biologist for 13 years and as Chief of the Wildlife Division for three years. He and his wife Prudy live in Baton Rouge and own property in East Feliciana Parish.

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