LWFC sets dates for spring turkey season

A new protocol for setting hunting season on public and private lands, and ratification of the 2014 spring turkey season took a backseat to issues among landowners and users of the Comite River during Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.

After hearing comments from more than 50 among a crowd jamming the commission’s meeting room in Baton Rouge, the commission voted 6-0 for a Notice of Intent that would ban the use of all-terrain vehicles, including four-wheel drive trucks, in streams and rivers enrolled in the state’s Scenic Rivers Program. The commission will accept public comment on the proposed rule changes through November.

For the tens of thousands hunters in the state, the change in the protocol moves the procedure for setting state regulations, season dates and bag limits ahead by one month.

Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Wildlife Division chief Kenny Ribbeck said the move is designed to get the upcoming year’s rules and regs printed “in a timely manner before the hunting season.”

The change means that state wildlife biologists will set out proposed changes to the commission during its December meeting, then present the packet of hunting regulations combined with wildlife management area rules in January.

From then, public comment will be accepted into April before the document is forwarded to the State Legislature for oversight. Final commission ratification will come in June to give enough time for the hunting regulations pamphlet for that hunting year to be published by early August.

If all goes according to past years, the 2014-2015 hunting season is scheduled to open Sept. 6 for the dove season with the archery-for-deer seasons getting underway Sept. 20 in three of the state’s 10 deer areas.

There were no amendments to the June proposal for the 2014 turkey season.

After a private lands-only youth and physically challenged hunter weekend March 15-16, 2014 in state’s three turkey hunting areas, there will be a statewide March 22 opener. Dates for lands in Turkey Area A will run through April 20, through April 13 in Turkey Area B and through April 6 in Turkey Area C lands. The only major change from the 2013 season is that a portion of Caddo Parish in Area B will be closed.

Other commission action:

Adding the Boyce Tract consisting of 4,960 acres in Ascension and St. James parishes to the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area, and adding 480.31 acres in the Gewalt Tract in Tangipahoa Parish to the Sandy Hollow WMA;

Learning that LDWF Enforcement Division agents issued 880 citations and 315 written warnings during September;

Learning that there were no boating fatalities in September to leave the 2013 boating fatalities toll at 9 compared to 28 fatalities during the first nine months of 2012;

And, voting its February 2014 meeting for Feb. 6 in Baton Rouge.