A three-buck season limit and deer-harvest reporting system were added to the proposed 2006-07 hunting regulations by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission on Feb. 2.
The notice of intent, which also would set a three-doe limit and end doe days in much of the state, received unanimous support. It will be voted on in May, following a public-comment period.
Actual hunting dates remain much the same under the proposal, with only minor adjustments to conform to the calendar.
The proposed buck limit would allow an individual hunter to kill any three bucks during the season, a change from last year’s proposal to allow two bucks of choice and one buck sporting 6 points or more.
“That’s just the direction we decided to go with this,” Department of Wildlife & Fisheries’ Dave Moreland said. “We just wanted to make it easy, since we couldn’t get into the point-of-sale tags that we want.
“As we get into this, we might decide, ‘Hey, let’s go with one management buck.’”
Moreland said a reduction in the buck limit received overwhelming support (90 percent) from hunters surveyed by his agency, and that the current proposal should please most of those interested in reducing the number of bucks in the annual bag.
“Three bucks seem to be what most of the people supported,” he said. He also pointed out that the annual harvest survey shows reducing the number of bucks that can legally be harvested won’t really affect the average hunter.
“Half the hunters don’t kill a deer,” Moreland said. “Twenty-five percent kill one deer, and 25 percent kill two or more deer.”
Each hunter also would be limited to shooting a maximum of three does, unless hunting on property enrolled in the Deer Management Assistant Program or Landowner Deer Tag System. Does killed on those lands would not count toward the hunter’s three-doe limit.
The trade-off for the lower harvest limits is the abolishing of doe days for most of the state.
The only parishes that will continue to have restrictions on doe harvest would be Orleans, West Carroll, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and portions of East Carroll.
However, West Carroll would actually gain either-sex days under the proposal, with does being open game Nov. 24-26.
Hunters in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, on the other hand, lose 11 days of doe hunting, mainly because of the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
“The storm has resulted in deer being pushed up because some of the habitat hasn’t come back,” Moreland explained. “Those deer have to rely on other habitat. That habitat can utilize only so many deer.”
The proposal would continue to allow DMAP and LADT hunters to harvest does.
“We’re going to utilize those programs to help control the number of deer,” Moreland said.
Orleans will have no either-sex days, but commissioners did agree with the department’s proposal to drop the hunting ban in the parish.
Moreland said his agency has long prohibited hunting in that urban parish, but deer surveys following Katrina revealed a large population of deer that are in need of thinning.
“Those deer are really in bad shape,” he said. “We found 5- and 6-year-old does that weighed 60 pounds.”
Many of the deer are in the Bayou Savage area, but Moreland said they were starting to move into population centers.
“You’ve got a lot of subdivision deer now,” he said. “We looked at one deer’s stomach, and it was just full of some kind of non-native shrubbery.”
Hunting still is prohibited by parish ordinance, however.
Moreland said he hoped parish officials would enact some bow hunting or limited gun hunting to thin the herd.
“Those deer need some help,” he said. Public lands, including wildlife management areas, national forest property and federal refuges, also would continue limiting doe harvests to specific days.
State lands, such as those found throughout the Atchafalaya Basin, weren’t specifically addressed, and Moreland said that was intentional.
“I don’t know how you deal with that,” he said. “There are so many small blocks of state land.”
Included in the proposal is a reporting system, in which hunters must fill out harvest information immediately when a deer is killed.
The harvest-data card must be mailed to the department following the season regardless of whether the individual hunter killed any deer.
“We want people to get in the habit of reporting their hunting success,”
Moreland said. “As we get into this, you may have to validate at that end of the season, and if you don’t, your name will be flagged, and when you try to get licenses the next year, you might not be able to.”
Moreland said the aim is to compile as much information as possible about deer hunting throughout the state to better tweak management practices.
“Getting good data really allows you to know what’s going on on a parish-wide basis,” he said. “Yeah, it gives you some enforcement opportunities, but the main emphasis is on the harvest data.”
The department wants the reporting system to be as non-draconian as possible, but Moreland said more onerous regulations could be implemented if hunters don’t report their kills.
“The more people cooperate, the fewer restrictions will be put on them,” he explained. “If we have 30,000 hunters who report at the end of the season, that obviously isn’t very good compliance when you have 200,000 deer hunters across the state.
“If that happens, we might have to go to a 24-hour or 72-hour validation system, or something like that.”
There is one catch with the report cards, however: They won’t be attached to hunters’ licenses, at least for the upcoming season.
“We were pursuing making it part of the point-of-sale licenses, but the cost was something like $95,000, which we thought was a little extreme,” Moreland said.
The department plans to incorporate the report cards into the point-of-sale licenses after the 2006-07 season when the contract for the system is place out for bid.
In the meantime, hunters will be required to obtain the cards by visiting regional DWF offices or printing them from the agency Web site. Report cards also might be placed in businesses selling licenses.
Dan Nawandy of Baton Rouge expressed concern after the meeting about how the report-card system would work for those hunters not required to carry licenses, but Moreland explained that the cards would be required of all hunters.
Those who do not have license numbers because they don’t have to carry them will be identified through other means.
“I’m sure there will be a space for driver’s license or social security number,” Moreland said.