The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission received a report today on the 2011-12 deer season as compiled by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ (LDWF) Wildlife Division.
The 2011-12 LDWF mail survey deer harvest index was down13 percent when compared to the 2010-11 deer season. A record mast crop and reduced hunter effort are considered the primary reasons for the decline in harvest, and a season that left many hunters with fewer than normal deer sightings.
Other contributing factors to the decreased harvest included; a relatively warm January resulting in limited deer movement; the second historic opening of the Morganza spillway which caused deer and other wildlife mortality and prompted a season reduction in those affected areas; and two very dry summers in a row. Research has shown that especially dry Junes are thought to increase the prevalence of hemorrhagic disease, the most significant deer disease and non-hunting source of mortality in Louisiana.
In his report to the Commission, LDWF’s Deer Program Manager Scott Durham also noted reduced forest management practices and potentially reduced fawn recruitment, critical factors for sustaining populations, as additional factors contributing to the reduced harvest. Referencing the summer droughts, the report underscored the very negative impacts on browse availability, palatability and nutrient content at a time when doe health and fawn growth, development and survival are most critical.
Other factors presented that would have affected the 2011-12 harvest included hunters who only hunted permanent stands over food plots or bait and did not have a lot of success, and gas prices during last year’s hunting season which prompted many hunters to stay home. This factor is substantiated by the mail survey which showed the number of days hunted (2,989,600) was down 8.6 percent.
Hunter survey data indicated a 10 percent increase in hog harvest (98,200), verifying more hogs on the landscape. Recent research shows that deer and hogs do not mix well and that deer can be displaced by hogs, reported Durham. Hog populations are high enough in some areas of the state to affect deer numbers through direct competition for food resources.
The presentation to the Commission included data from the deer harvest reporting system and the long term mail out survey. The mail survey is sent to six percent of licensed hunters between the ages of 16 and 59. The mail survey index for the 2011/12 season indicated 158,600 deer hunters harvested 133,000 deer. The deer hunter number index has been relatively stable the last few years, according to Durham. The deer harvest index was down 13 percent and is the lowest estimate since 1984. The harvest sex ratio according to the mail survey was 56 percent male, 44 percent female.
The harvest allocation by weapon type revealed that modern weapons are still by far the most effective method for harvesting deer in Louisiana and a four percent increase in bow hunters resulted in a bow harvest higher than the primitive firearms harvest.
For more information on LDWF’s Deer Program, contact Scott Durham at 225-765-2351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.