Grunts, gobbles and whistles? Bobwhites responding to habitat work

If the quail keep multiplying on our property I might need to add another call sound to the column title.

The 2015-16 Louisiana Hunting Regulations booklet is now available at stores and from LDWF, and let me suggest that you obtain one and take the time to read it to become familiar with the season dates, along with any changes that have occurred since last season.

The agecy printed 300,000 of them at a cost of $61,000 so it is in our best interest to make use of this publication — especially since we paid for it.

The deer-season regs are the same as last year, except that some pistols are now legal for the primitive season.

The LDWF’s Deer Section continues to struggle to get a good grasp on the annual deer harvest; it seems we hunters are not doing a very good job with our deer reporting, and for some reason the Annual Harvest Survey doesn’t jive with the actual reporting.

All deer hunters must obtain tags and both tag and report their kill, unless you are hunting on DMAP lands that requires the use of DMAP tags.

Let me encourage you to report your deer harvest: This information is vital for deer biologists to make sound harvest recommendations each year.

Speaking of which, the LDWF will be formulating the 2016-17 hunting season proposal this fall and winter. While it is strange that proposals are made without actually knowing the harvested, that is the way the system works. So if you feel changes need to be made in the season structure, and with the rules and regulations, now is the time to let LDWF know what is on your mind.

I hunt in Area 4, and this is the third year for this region and Area 9 to operate under the system that incorporates doe days in the season framework.

The other larger areas — Areas 1, 2 and 6 — allow either-sex hunting during the entire season.

This alone is reason enough to get a hunting regulations book and know when these doe days occur.

The reason for these doe days was to reduce the hunting pressure on the deer in these two areas and allow for herd expansion. Based on the harvest results, not much has changed in the harvest over the past two years.

Perhaps the changes in the forest landscape over the last 20 years, along with the changes in the landscape due to Hurricane Katrina, has simply reduced the potential of the land to maintain a deer herd with which hunters are satisfied with — one where you see deer all the time.

Maybe the herd has simply reached its reproductive potential, which is lower than what we like, and we need to be satisfied with what the habitat produces.

While many put the blame on coyotes and hogs, I cannot buy into that. On our small property in East Feliciana Parish, we have plenty of hogs and more than enough coyotes, and we still have enough deer that they ate up my strips of purple hull peas over the summer and right now are feasting in the jointvetch strips.

Even though we do not kill many deer — just two in eight years — camera photos indicate we have about a deer for every three acres, which is more than enough deer.

One of the reasons we do not kill many deer is because we are trying to hunt deer with Area 2 genetics — the October/November breeding deer — with Area 4 season dates.

Area 4 is designed for deer that breed in December and January, so the late season does us no good at all. If we are going to kill a buck it has to be in October and November, when they are breeding.

I work hard to keep the property suitable for wildlife, both large and small game.

Turkeys have responded well to the management work, but after eight years I thought I had totally failed with the bobwhite quail.

However, last February I jumped a small covey in one of the strips managed for turkeys. I heard whistling on only one occasion this spring, and did not think I had any nesting going on.

The turkeys on the place had a great hatch.

But the last week of August, I was walking around looking at cameras and jumped a big group of quail — over 20 birds — so they must have had a successful nesting season too.

The limit on quail is 10 a day, but there is no way I would try to kill that many. I would like to sample two or three of them this fall.

Hopefully the birds will continue to have nesting success and be frequent visitors on our property. It would be nice to have a few coveys scattered around to regularly encounter.

Both turkeys and quail respond to sound management work. Prescribed burning helps both species, but our property is too small to burn, although I could torch a few acres each year.

Instead I use the bush-hog and plow to keep the vegetation under control, seeds on the ground and plenty of insect habitat for young birds to feed on.

It takes a lot of work and effort, but when a covey explodes next to you it sure makes it worthwhile.

The late Dewey Wills would always ask us young guys when he saw us at the office, “What have you done for wildlife today?” Having produced quail in a world that seems not to have any is a great answer to this question.

A real fish story

Last year I wrote a few times about my fishing exploits, and shared that I had broken my personal bass record of 5 ½ pounds with one that weighed 10 pounds, 4 ounces.

I have not fished as much as I did last year, but when I have the fishing has been great and I have released several in the 5-pound category to hopefully grow larger.

On my last expedition I had something happen that is worth sharing with you — maybe it has happened to you.

I was fishing with a Ribbet Frog and doing quite well. My plan was to fish until dark, and then switch to a plastic worm and fish a few hours after dark.

At 9 p.m., it was getting dark and hard to see. I had just landed a bass and had unhooked it from the frog. Thinking I needed to paddle to the bank and get the light if I was going to keep fishing, I picked up the rod and just tossed the frog in the water and set the rod down; there was about 4 feet of line from the rod tip to the frog.

I picked up the paddle and made a few strokes when I heard a splash at the front of the boat. I stopped paddling and tried to figure out what it was when I glanced down and saw the line on the reel had tightened and the rod was moving forward.

It suddenly hit me that a fish had attacked the frog in the water, and was pulling the rod and reel out of the boat — and I had better grab it before it went overboard because it was starting to move pretty quickly.

I leaned forward and reached out with my left hand to grab the rod: Oh no, too late.

Over the side of the pirogue went the rod and reel.

I just sat there in the dark, trying to figure out what I could do, but it was gone. I then started laughing to myself, which is about all one can do in this situation.

I hope the 2015 season is productive for you — and, by all means, report your deer harvest.

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About David Moreland 239 Articles
David Moreland is a retired 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 rural East Feliciana Parish.

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