Outdoors notebook: LDWF seeking comments on proposed season dates _lowres

Photo provided by MARK SPARACINO Public lands success Veteran outdoorsman Paul Sparacino shows off the 7-point, 180-pound buck he took during the last days of 2014 on the Richard Yancey Wildlife Management Area in Corcordia Parish. Sparacino said the bucks were in the prime of the rut and this buck responded to a grunt call. "He came out of a thicket about 40 yards behind me and was looking for a fight," Sparacino said. "There are some good deer there, but there's lots of (hunting) pressure. You have to find sign to find a place to set up on. I've been bow hunting that deer since Thanksgiving, but opening day of the bucks-only rifle season another hunter set-up 20 yards from where I left my climbing stand, so I moved on past 150 yards and hunted from the ground. When I shot, two does ran from the same thicket. The rut is on big time."

A series of public hearings has been set to accept comments on the proposed resident-game seasons outlined during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.

The good news for south Louisiana deer hunters is there are no proposed changes in their 2015-2016 season dates.

That can also be bad news, especially if there was, and is, dissatisfaction with the makeup of the dates they were saddled with this year.

During the past handful of years, criticism had been building among hunters who take to lands near the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, notably that their deer-hunting season framework ends long before the rutting period has run its course.

Deer along the state’s major rivers enter the rutting period long after whitetails in other portions of the state, apparently because generations of female deer living in these areas have learned that birthing fawns after the threat of spring and early summer floods is over. The fawn “drop” in these areas can come as late a late August and comes more than two months after fawns have been born in the northern, western and some coastal parishes.

The only major deer-seasons change proposed by the state’s Wildlife Division biologists and game managers is for State Deer Area 5 in northeast Louisiana. For more than 40 years, this has been a heavily managed area, and the management scenarios will pay off with two hunting weeks added to that area for the upcoming season.

Another Area 5 proposal will merge that area into the Area 1 framework for the 2016-2017 season.

Boiling down the near three pages of other changes for private lands and wildlife management areas, other major proposals included:

Adding pistols for approved weapons during the primitive firearms seasons;

Limiting the use of mud boats or air-cooled propulsion vessels on Biloxi WMA to straight shaft, long tail, air-cooled engines (described as “mud motors”) rated at 16 total horsepower or less;

Including bird dog training areas to approved activities on Small Game Emphasis Areas on some WMAs;

Allowing the use of UTVs on ATV trails as long as the UTV does not exceed the already regulated ATV weight, length and tire restrictions;

Adding six days to the either-sex-take deer season on the Sherburne WMA;

Adding a youth-only squirrel hunting weekend (Sept. 26-27) on the Maurepas Swamp WMA;

Adding youth-only ducks, deer and turkey hunting opportunities on as many as 12 more WMAs and federal refuges;

Changing the youth turkey lottery hunt on the Big Lake WMA to an open youth-only two-day hunt;

Moving the Ouachita WMA into the Russell Sage WMA;

And, making the Bussey Brake WMA a fishing-only area.

The full notices of intent for the hunting seasons and regualtions for WMAs and federal lands can be found on the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/action-items.

Interested parties will have the next three months to comment on the proposed changes by contacting Steve Smith via email: ssmith@wlf.la.gov.

The Wildlife Division will also accept public comment at a series of hearings. That schedule includes:

Feb. 23, 6 p.m., LDWF Woodworth Outdoor Education Center, 661 Robinson Bridge Road, Woodworth;

Feb. 24, 6 p.m., Civic Center, 401 North Trenton Street, Ruston;

Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m., LSU Ag Center at Burton Coliseum), 7101 Gulf Highway, Lake Charles;

Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m., Natchitoches Event Center, 750 Second Street, Natchitoches;

Feb. 25, 6 p.m., Caldwell Parish Courthouse, 201 Main Street, Columbia;

And, Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m., Municipal Auditorium, 2056 2nd Street, Slidell.