BY JOE MACALUSO
Advocate Outdoors writer
February 09, 2013
If deer hunters who take to fields and swamps around the state’s major rivers were wondering where all the deer were before Christmas, maybe they missed David Moreland’s predictions.
Moreland, the now retired State Wildlife Division chief and State Deer Study leader, posted his “rutting” schedule and the dates came up much later than past years.
Moreland was in a vanguard of wildlife biologists who suggested that whitetail herds living around the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers had much later breeding cycles than deer in more upland areas. His studies over the years proved fawns in the southwest, central and northwestern parishes were born much earlier, maybe as much as two months earlier, than fawns in eastern, southeastern and south-central parishes.
His explanation made sense: Deer were breeding later so that their fawns would have a better chance to survive in areas where there was annual late spring-summer flooding.
Moreland’s studies echoed the changes in whitetail behavior over the years from 1950-2000, and began mapping Louisiana into “normal,” “early rut areas” and “late rut areas.” The normal rut spots included most of State Deer Areas 2, 3, 7 and 8, with early-rut dates for upland areas in State Deer Areas 1, 4, 5 and 6, and a late-rut for State Deer Areas 1 and 6. The last two areas make up the most of the northeastern, north-central and southern parishes along the Mississippi River and the entire Atchafalaya Basin.
Even the early-rut areas had later-than-usual rutting periods — the rut has primary and secondary stages — and hunters in Areas 1, 4, 5 and 6 are finding bucks active in a secondary-rut stage: Moreland’s prediction went through Jan. 11. The secondary stage is the period bucks will breed with the females that were not bred in the primary stage.
It’s the late-rut areas that have extra-late days now.
Moreland’s computations, made by compiling factors like daily periods of sunlight and moon phases, shoved the primate rutting dates for the late-run Areas 1 and 6 locations from Dec. 29-Jan. 12 with secondary-rutting periods beginning with a scraping period (when bucks begin re-marking their territories) for Jan. 13-26 with a secondary rut running Jan. 27-Feb. 9.
That late secondary rutting period will exclude the modern firearms seasons in Areas 1 and 6, and will take in only a few days of the last primitive firearms seasons in both areas. Most of that latter period will be open for Area 6 archery hunters only after the Area 1 archery season closes Jan. 31.
Yo-yos & trotlines
Anglers heading to Black Lake, Clear Lake, Prairie Lake, Caddo Lake, Chicot Lake, D’Arbonne Lake and Lake St. Joseph need to know that a State Legislative mandate for consistent regulations on the use of yo-yo devices and trotlines went into effect in December for those fishing spots.
The Legislative action cleared up inconsistencies in state laws enacted by the Legislature over the years.
For these waters, the main targets for yo-yo regulations include a restriction of no more than 50 yo-yos or trigger devices per person; that except for “those devices that are attached to a privately owned pier, boathouse, seawall, or dock,” each device must be tagged with the name, address, and telephone number of the owner or user; that each device, when set, must be checked every 24 hours and all fish or animal hooked must be removed; and, that any device not attached to a private pier, dock or seawall much be removed when not in use.
For trotlines, the major target for the simplified rules include all lines must be tagged with the name, address and phone number of the owner/user; that all trotlines must be marked on each end with a “readily visible floating object;” no one can set more than three trotlines with a maximum of 50 hooks per line; and, that each trotline must be checked daily and trotlines not in use must be removed from the water.
Back in False River
The state’s Inland Fisheries Section has stocked as many as 300,000 redear sunfish — chinquapin — in False River to help restore that species into the 13-mile-long oxbow lake in Pointe Coupee Parish.
The species was once a mainstay for fishermen, especially during the spring spawning period on the clam-shell beds that lay on the bottom of the lake’s north and south ends.
When the drainage acreage of the lake was increased more than 20 years ago, increased siltation covered the shell beds and reduced the chinquapin population.
“We are all realistic and know that fingerlings will have a hard time to make it to spawning age, but the lake’s condition is gradually improving and my bet is that a large percentage of them will do it,” False River fishing activist Tommy Bryan said.
“A grand plan is now in place with the securing of $500,000 of state money to ensure we get off to a good start with the rest of the restoration plan. A lot is happening, and the public is getting enthusiastically behind these projects,” Bryan said. “Does the word chinquapin conjure up warm memories of the ‘glory days’ of False River? I know it does to me.”
The next seasons
The process of adjusting rules and regulations for the 2013-2014 resident-game hunting season began during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.
LDWF Wildlife Division chief Kenny Ribbeck said he and his staff will begin reviewing hunters’ surveys and other reporting data from the current season to determine if any changes need to be made in seasons for deer, rabbit, squirrel and quail and other native game on private lands and wildlife management areas.
He said the staff will meet with federal agencies to determine if changes need to be made for acreage in national forests and other federal owned lands.
Ribbeck said the U.S. Army has requested that the Peason Ridge area at Fort Polk near Leesville be removed from the hunting lands list. He cited sparse hunter-use for the Army’s explanation for the move and noted only 36 hunters had ventured onto the 33,000-acre are during the 2012 hunting season.
Hunters in the Lake Maurepas area, so named because of extended flooding in the wake of Hurricane Isaac last summer, and in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes can expect to have reduced seasons at least into the 2013-2014 hunting season.
“The hunter feedback from the Maurepas area is to continue the reduced seasons,” Ribbeck said.