FORT POLK — Most hunters have experienced the agony of seeing plenty of game — out of season — and when opening day arrives, every potential quarry has mysteriously vanished.

But what if you know a hot spot for game at Fort Polk? Perhaps you’ve seen fresh tracks during PT or encountered a small herd during a field exercise? Wouldn’t it be great to revisit those areas during hunting season and harvest a buck?

Before you don that hunter orange vest and hat (blaze pink also permitted), you should familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations about hunting at Fort Polk, the ranges, Peason Ridge and the training area known as “the box.”

Capt. Robert Baldwin, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk game warden, said anyone who is legally licensed can hunt at Fort Polk, but civilians that are not affiliated with Fort Polk must be vetted at the Visitor’s Center at the main gate.

“They can get a hunting pass for the season, and for the cantonment area, it’s bow hunting only. You do not have to register your bow,” said Baldwin. “Shotgun usage is allowed at Peason Ridge, the ranges and the box for small game and hogs, and Wildlife Management Area (WMA) rules apply for those sites. Hunters should check the 2018-2019 hunting regulation booklet under ‘Fort Polk WMAs’ for complete information.”

The booklets are free and available anywhere licenses are sold, including Alligator Lake Recreation Area and the Fort Polk Army and Air Force Exchange Service store in the hunting section, or you can read or download the electronic version online atwww.wlf.louisiana.gov.

One important difference for hunting Fort Polk areas compared to other WMAs is the potential for encountering unexploded ordnance, said Baldwin.

“If you see something unusual on the ground, especially if it’s metallic in nature, leave it there and report it,” Baldwin said. “You will come across (unexploded ordnance) from time to time if you hunt Fort Polk long enough. Please leave it alone!” Report suspected UXO to local law enforcement, Fort Polk military police (531-2677), Range Safety (531-7527) or Game Enforcement (531-5222).

Baldwin said it’s important to check the booklet for other information too, like what animals and birds are in season, when you have to wear hunter orange or blaze pink, and what licensure is needed for the area you plan to hunt.

“For example, if you are a bow hunter hunting deer from a tree stand, you don’t have to wear the orange, but you do have to wear an orange hat when traveling to and from your stand,” he said. “Ensure you have the right Louisiana hunting license (for the game you are pursuing), any tags needed and a WMA permit.

The cost for a member of the military is the same as for state residents.”

That cost ranges from $2.50 to $15 depending on what animal you plan to hunt and which weapon system you want to use.

Complete licensing prices are listed in the booklet and online.

For WMA hunting, there are a number of clearing stations where anyone using the area for any reason must check in — this includes purposes such as tracking, berry-picking, hiking and hunting — and you will also need to check out.

The process is easy, said Baldwin. “You will put your name and phone number on the top portion of the card (available at the clearing station), put that in the slotted box and keep the bottom part.

“When you check out, you fill in the bottom portion with what you harvested, if anything, and place that in the slotted box as you exit the WMA,” said Baldwin, adding that you do not have to use the same clearing station to enter and exit, but it does have to be on the same WMA.

At times, the clearing stations will be manned with officers to check your harvest, said Baldwin.

“During the last weekend in October and the three days after Thanksgiving, we have what’s called ‘either sex hunt,’ which means you can kill a buck and a doe on the same day — but not at the same time,” Baldwin said. “There will be a mandatory check out on those days and those check out locations will be listed at the clearing stations.”

No other hunting (such as rabbit, squirrel) is permitted at Fort Polk during either-sex hunt days, said Baldwin.

Do not enter the box, ranges or Peason Ridge without first checking the maps posted at the clearing stations — they show areas that are off-limits due to military training, and these areas change from day to day.

“A map is specifically generated for every day of hunting season, and if there is no map posted, please call Range Control or Game Enforcement to let them know (both numbers are posted at the clearing stations).

You can also check online with a Google search for ‘Fort Polk hunting maps,’” said Baldwin. “Anything in white on the map is open, and the weapon system authorized for that area is also listed on the map. If an area is marked in red, it’s off limits. If it’s marked in peach or pink, that’s an area where training is taking place that day. It can change from one day to the next, so you always have to check.”

For hunters that may be trying Fort Polk for the first time, Baldwin said to make certain you understand how to hunt a WMA and that you look for the regulation specific to Fort Polk, listed in the booklet.

“I highly recommend that first-timers call my office or look up the regulations for Fort Polk and Peason Ridge for hunting dates and other information,” he said. “Deer hunting dates are different than for rest of the hunting areas.”

Deer season starts Sept. 15 at Fort Polk.

For more information call 531-5222/5715.