Deer crosses

More than average rainfall has meant more supple food sources across Louisiana for whitetail deer, and, said veteran wildlife biologist David Moreland, a more healthy herd for the upcoming hunting season.

Among the many nuisances of this pandemic is what can only be called “calendar creep.”

Come on, admit it, more than once you've asked what day is it from yourself, or, more embarrassingly, someone else, during the past 18 months.

Check it out! We’re less than two weeks away from the opening of the dove season, less than three weeks away from the 16-day teal season, and less than a month from the first day of the archery season for deer in four of our state’s 10 deer hunting areas.

It’s time to check out your shotguns to make sure they’re working, and maybe a trip to the gun club to sharpen you eye. That frayed bowstring you meant to change in January might be lingering in storage, too.

For deer hunters, it’s time to start paying attention to food plots, and turn ears to the sage advice of veteran wildlife biologist, “Louisiana Whitetails” author and avid hunter David Moreland.

“The parade has already started down (La.) Highway 10,” Moreland said Thursday. “Some are getting a jump on working their food plots.”

Moreland said this year’s record rainfall has left vast areas of forest and field green and lush. He said the plots where he planted clover last summer continue to flower with help from more-than-ample moisture.

Other plots might not be so forage-rich.

“Hunters should be bush-hogging now on food plots to get rid of weeds,” he said. “Most of the winter forage, winter peas and the like, have dried up and weeds have been growing.

“But, what you do now depends on what you did last year.”

Moreland said he planted clover and chicory and those have done very well because the rain helped to extend the growing season.

“So the decision will be to cut and fertilize and not till the ground, because tilling will destroy the root stock. If your food plots are established the last thing you want to do is destroy the root stock,” he said. “Maybe the best thing to do is to clip and fertilize and hope it will come back as healthy as it did last year, but if you’re plowing, you want to let the area dry then plow again.”

  • Fertilizing is always the next question, and Moreland said Louisiana soils need more than nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the composites of fertilizers.

“It’s important is to make sure you have enough lime in your food plot. Our soil here is acidic and you need lime to improve the pH. Adding lime is necessary in a new plot or in a very old one,” he said.

“If you planted legumes, then all legumes add nitrogen to the soil, so if you planted legumes, then go with 8-24-24 (fertilizer) at planting. Of course, 13-13-13 is good, too.”

  • What to plant is the next step.

“You have to be careful about what you put in that field,” Moreland said. “Winter wheat and rye grass are two staples for a food plot, but you have to be careful about how much seed you sow.”

That’s especially true if you plan to hunt doves over that food plot.

Doves take to a tilled field like ducks take to water, and sowing too much seed or sowing at the wrong time can get you in a bind if you’re planning to hunt doves in that field. Too much seed, and you risk a federal violation for baiting.

The general rule the feds use is “normal agricultural practices,” and sowing too much seed or sowing at the wrong time — Sept. 1 is recognized as the earliest planting/sowing date — takes you beyond “normal practices.”

“Rye grass is good, but not a high-quality food source, but deer will eat it,” Moreland said. “Crimson clover, perennial red clover — La S1 — and some white clovers along with chicory is a good combination. Planting mustard and turnips are good too, and, when it gets real cold, you’ll see deer digging up the turnips to eat them.”

“And, if you like to hunt turkeys, clover is a must. Turkeys need good forage in the spring and clover provides that. It’s also good to diversify in your planting,” he said stressing, again, the benefits of clovers.

  • Moreover, it appears you’ll have competition this year for the forage available in any food plot.

“If you’ve been in the woods lately, you’re seeing a lot of pecans and lots of acorns — a good mast crop,” Moreland said.

So, with acorns a preferred food for deer, food plots might be a secondary food source during the upcoming hunting season. Hunters scouting for the start of the archery season might want to walk around in the woods to find these hardwood stands and the acorns that will attract deer.

“With all the rain and all the natural forage the rain has provided, I expect this to be a good year,” Moreland said. “A lot of native plants have provided lots of food for deer throughout the spring and summer, and the deer I’m seeing are nice animals.”

Red snapper

With the only four-day private recreational red snapper season wrapping around the Labor Day holiday, it appears there will be enough of Louisiana’s annual 832,493-pound quota for fishermen to get offshore.

Through the Aug. 8 weekend, the 11th Friday-through-Sunday seasons this year, Wildlife and Fisheries’ LA Creel data collection system, estimated anglers have taken 555,985 pounds, 66%, of the allocation.

No NHFD

State Wildlife and Fisheries secretary Jack Montoucet announced all National Hunting and Fishing Day events scheduled for Sept. 25, around the state are canceled because of the resurgence of COVID-19.

Another Mini BOW

State Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation have scheduled another “mini” Becoming an Outdoor Woman Workshop-Fowl Language for Oct. 2 at the Waddill Wildlife Refuge in Baton Rouge. Women must be at least 18 years old.

This workshop will concentrate on waterfowl identification, blind building, hunting areas, safety, duck calling, wing shooting and preparing waterfowl for the table. All equipment will be provided, and there’s a $35 fee.

The reason for the advance notice is these workshops fill quickly. Go to the LDWF registration website: lawff.org/bow. For more info, email Dana Norsworthy: dnorsworthy@wlf.la.gov.

For OGT

The Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association is raffling a guided two-day duck hunt for two on the Big Burn Marsh to benefit Louisiana Operation Game Thief, the organization dedicated to rewarding tips for reporting possible game- and fishing-laws violators.

The trip includes lodging and meals. The winner needs to provide shotshells and hunting gear.

Raffle tickets are $5 each. Make checks payable to Operation Game Thief, then mail to me at P.O. Box 53972, Lafayette, LA. 70505-3972. The drawing will be held in October.