What does the season hold for public- and private-land hunters in the Coastal Lafayette Region who pursue deer, ducks and small-game species this fall and winter?
LDWF biologists, hunters and others have been working, readying public and DMAP private lands for the 2020-21 hunting seasons for big game, small game, ducks, doves and woodcock. Overall, the preseason has been fair to good as far as habitat conditions, food supply and the health of wildlife on DMAP private lands and WMAs.
Before hunting this season, check out the 2020-21 hunting seasons, rules and regulations approved in May by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/seasons-and-regulations. Hunters are urged to contact their local LDWF field office for assistance or clarifications of seasons, rules or regulations at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/contact-us.
The deadline to apply for lottery deer hunts is Aug. 31; the deadline to apply for lottery waterfowl hunts is Sept. 30. Also, lottery hunts for deer and waterfowl are scheduled for outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen with disabilities on select WMAs. And lottery hunts for deer and waterfowl will be held for boys and girls between ages 10 and 17 on select WMAs. A youth under 10 may apply, provided he or she will be 10 on or before the date of the prospective hunt. All lottery applications are available https://la-web.s3licensing.com/.
Coastal Lafayette Region
Biologist Vaughan McDonald shared his views on habitat conditions awaiting the fall flight of migrating ducks across the Coastal Lafayette Region and was upbeat about them in mid-July.
“The table is set. It’s just whether they come to the table or not. The groceries are there. It’s whether they come down or stop” McDonald said.
Submerged aquatic vegetation was in good shape, he reported, on the region’s duck hunting WMAs.
How the table is being set
For WMAs, the lack of any major storm is a plus, as favorable weather conditions won’t negatively impact habitat conditions, McDonald reported. While deer can be found in marsh habitats, that terrain isn’t optimal to support a significant herd due to a lack of abundance of preferred forage plants, habitat deterioration and storm-related impacts.
Just like last year, the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers remained above flood stage into late June, affecting submerged aquatic vegetation production on Pass-a-Loutre and Atchafalaya Delta WMAs. However, those areas should rebound once the rivers fall to normal levels and water clarity improves. Remaining WMAs are showing average SAV production, and barring any weather events, the status should hold throughout the growing season and into the early part of the hunting season.
Overall deer outlook
McDonald rates deer hunting in the region a 6 out of 10. While deer can be found in marsh habitats, McDonald points out that most of the public areas are relatively close to forested areas with higher natural ridges and spoil banks, but even those areas limited. At the Atchafafalaya Delta WMA, where it’s archery hunting-only, 11 of the 57 deer killed last season were taken during the youth lottery hunts on the second and third weekends of October. The WMA’s five-year average harvest is 170 deer, a number that has been trending lower each of the past few seasons. At Pass-a-Loutre WMA, deer-hunting participation can be low because of its remoteness and accessibility, but it is a “great place to hunt deer” for those who are willing to put in the effort on an area where shooting lanes are maintained at the reservoir and wildlife openings across the WMA.
Quality deer outlook
Some quality bucks are harvested every season on the Atchafalaya Delta WMA. Last season, an 11-pointer and two 10-point bucks were harvested. In 2018-19, six deer had at least one antler base circumference of 4 inches-plus, and 12 deer were 8- to 10-pointers. Pass-a-Loutre historically is the second-best bet to harvest a trophy deer; only bucks can be harvested there.
Duck hunting outlook
McDonald reports that waterfowl hunting is by far the most-popular hunting activity on his region’s WMAs, namely Pass-A-Loutre, Salvador/Timken, Lake Boeuf, Pointe-aux-Chenes and Atchafalaya Delta. Overall, there have been few, if any, environmental events affecting the region this spring to have a significant impact in those areas, the biologist manager said.
Squirrel hunting outlook
Favorable habitat conditions continue to improve each of the past few years on Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA and Lake Bouef WMAs, the only coastal WMAs with significant squirrel populations. The squirrel hunting hotspot on the former is the Point Farm Unit, which covers almost 1,500 acres and features forested habitat and more than 500 acres of hardwood trees planted in previous mitigation projects. McDonald and other LDWF personnel also maintain shooting/access lanes to enhance conditions for squirrels and squirrel hunters.