Two amendments that passed during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission monthly meeting will alter the face of deer and duck hunting for the 2017-2018 season and future seasons.

Bordering on the final days of public comment on the deer and duck frameworks offered in February, the 11th-hour changes will move a major portion of State Deer Area 8 into State Deer Area 3 and expand the limited access areas on the two major duck hunting areas in the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area.

Deer Area 8 was the only divided area in the state, and commission member Pat Manuel of Eunice raised this issue earlier this year. This area encompasses portions of Allen, Beauregard and Vernon parishes.

Historically, the area included hunters who used dogs for deer during the latter stages of the season. The deer-dog season was the only difference in the season structure between Area 8 and Area 3. Manual was assured he could offer the amendment at this late date in the discussion of the proposed hunting seasons. The proposed seasons will go to the State House and Senate House Natural Resources committees for oversight in April before the commission final ratification at its June 8 meeting in Baton Rouge.

“Generally we do not make changes like that without public comment,” state Wildlife Division manager Kenny Ribbeck told the commission. The division’s managers and biologists completed a series of statewide public hearings in late February.

Ribbeck said Department of Wildlife and Fisheries staffers surveyed landowners in the discussed eastern segment in Area 8. He reported 75 percent of the landowners in this segment did not allow the use of dogs to hunt deer.

Manuel concluded the change would affect fewer hunters and provided continuity to Area 3 hunters.

The amendment passed 5-0. Commission members Robert Samanie of Meaaux and Bill Hogan of Ruston did not attend the meeting held in Natchitoches.

Lake Charles commission member Bart Yakupzack said he was reacting to a report on duck hunting in the state’s four major waterfowl wildlife management areas.

Yakupzack said his offering to expand the two limited access areas on the Atchafalaya Delta WMA came from concerns about the increased use of surface-drive boats and the decline in the quality of duck hunting on a WMA that, in years past, was among the nation’s top public duck-hunting locations.

Limited access areas prohibit the use of gasoline/diesel-powered engines inside the LAA boundaries. Hunters can use electric-motor powered devices, most paddle or pole pirogues into the LAAs.

Yakupzack said March’s report from the LDWF’s Waterfowl Study group indicated the need to increase resting areas for ducks in places where there is “decreased disturbance.” He called for LDWF waterfowl biologists to come up with maps outlining the increased LAA areas inside the WMA.

“I think we need to take another 30-day look at this issue,” Yakupzack said. “If there is overwhelming opposition to this concept, then we’ll open the bag and see what the user groups want for the LAAs.”

The amendment also passed 5-0.

Other meeting agenda items included:

  • Learning from the Enforcement Division of a single fatality among six boating accidents in February and that agents issued 744 citations and 285 written warnings;
  • Hearing a report from LDWF attorney Cole Garrett that the agency came through the special Legislative Session “unscathed,” except for a possible taking of $384,000 from the Artificial Reef Fund, but a move to take 3 percent of every dollar coming into the department to help balance the budget could cost the LDWF as much as $22 million from three federal funds distributed, according to the number of fishing and hunting licenses sold in the state;
  • Hearing Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership spokesman Chris Macaluso’s “Possible Alternative Approaches to Recreational Red Snapper Management” offered after months of interviews and debate in the Gulf Angler Focus Group;
  • Hearing an update from he February Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council from LDWF assistant secretary Patrick Banks;
  • And learning from state Inland Fisheries biologist about efforts to control giant salvinia with the use of weevils and herbicide spraying in several northwestern parishes waterways.