BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Deer hunters concerned about when to schedule hunt-season vacations can get a head start this year after state biologists and game managers outlined the proposed season framework for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons during Thursday's Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.
After establishing three new areas, new bucks-only and either-sex hunting dates for deer last February — a move that broke a 10-year string of consistent deer dates and areas — hunters won't have to wait to schedule their time-off for the last three months of this year and next.
"There were no major modifications to dates nor areas," Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Tommy Tuma said. "We added seven days in Area 7, but that was a late-season addition in 2013. The only other change was to move a small portion of Iberville Parish from Area 9 to Area 6 because that piece of Iberville was more biologically like Area 6 than Area 9." The moved area will be still-hunt only.
Tuma said the latter move came from landowners and hunters.
In an attempt to clarify the season structure for deer, squirrels, rabbits and quail, The Advocate Outdoors took the pages of proposed seasons and referenced them to calendar dates. For instance, the proposed Deer Area 4 season, which takes in the Capital City area and lands through the Florida Parishes, has a proposed primitive weapons season "opening on the second Saturday in November and closing on the Friday after the second Saturday in November." For next season, that's a Nov. 8-14 period. All other dates listed used the same procedure.
The biggest changes in the proposed 2014-2015 resident-game hunting seasons package is for small-game hunters.
The move establishes "Small-Game Emphasis Areas" on 11 wildlife management areas, which will allow small-game hunting, namely for rabbits and squirrels, with dogs in specific areas while the rest of the WMA is still-hunt only for deer.
Tuma said rabbit and squirrel hunters requested these areas after the hunters said they believed expanded deer seasons limit their ability to use the WMAs. The move also will allow offseason training for squirrel and rabbit dogs.
For south Louisiana hunters, Sherburne, Sandy Hollow and the Richard Yancey WMAs are among the 11 WMAs in this program.
Another new rule will allow small-game hunters to carry buckshot on private lands. Tuma said squirrel and rabbit hunters are encountering feral hogs in the field, and this will allow hunters to remove the feral animals on their hunts. The old rule banned all but smaller shotshells while hunting small game.
Tuma said the LDWF will publish specific dates when the proposed notice clears the State Legislature's Joint Natural Resources Committee and after LWFC ratification.
The other major move offered Thursday was offering the 2015 Spring Turkey season dates.
Other notable hunting season and WMA changes include:
— Moving a part of St. Mary Parish from Deer Area 7 to Deer Area 9;
— Eliminating the requirement for an annual military permit to hunt Camp Beauregard, Fort Polk, and Peason Ridge WMAs;
— Adding a general turkey lottery hunt on Pearl River WMA, and a youth turkey lottery hunt on Richard K. Yancey WMA;
— Using self-clearing permits for turkey hunters on the Catahoula and Red Dirt National Wildlife Preserves in the Kisatchie Forest;.
— And, more fishing opportunities on the Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA.