IF your objective is to fill out the six deer tags available to you in the state’s new format this season, there are deer herds capable of satisfying that quest on many wildlife management areas around the Sportsman’s Paradise.
Those opportunities await deer hunters all over the state. Yes, that even encompasses some of the hurricane-ravaged areas, including local public hunting areas Salvador and Timken. The Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area didn’t fare as well.
• Salvador/Timken WMAs — Some of the best public deer hunting in Southeast Louisiana, probably will take place on either Salvador WMA or Timken WMA. Both suffered little damage from Hurricane Katrina. The Davis Pond Diversion, which empties into them, increased this spring, has helped buffer the negative impacts of this year’s drought. Marsh vegetation is expected to be in good condition. Deer and rabbit hunting should be good, too.
“Salvador WMA is expected to have a good season this year. Quality deer browse is in abundance, and there have been little impacts from storms or droughts,” said wildlife and fisheries biologist Todd Baker. Baker said Salvador saw 140 hunters harvest seven deer (20 hunts for each deer harvested) last season.
• Maurepas Swamp/Manchac/Joyce WMAs — All of these Southeast Louisiana Wildlife Management Areas experienced high water during both Rita and Katrina. Hunting season last year was closed at Maurepas Swamp WMA for a few weeks because of high water from Rita.
There was, however, no significant impact to wildlife. The area suffered only minor habitat damage related to blown-down trees and erosion.
Overall, said wildlife and fisheries biologist Randy Myers, most of the habitat on the region’s WMAs should recover over time from storm-related damage.
On top of the hurricanes, this region has experienced a severe drought. The most obvious drought-related stress signs have been pine trees dying, hardwoods dropping leaves, water holes drying up and wilted or dry browse on most of the WMAs.
Myers is concerned about high salinity levels on Maurepas Swamp, Manchac and Joyce WMAs, where the drought has doubled the impact of the storms. Without freshwater input, salinity levels increase and add more stress to the habitat, he said.
“We are concerned about the long-term effects from the salinity, particularly on cypress/tupelo. However, in areas with dense salvinia, salinity will actually help to control and reduce salvinia, thus providing better habitat for waterfowl,” Myers said.
“Recent rains should help in the recovery from the drought. However, if the dry period continues, we may see significant impacts to many plant species that are important to wildlife.”
Reprinted with permission of Louisiana Sportsman magazine.