A recent report released by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) shows that hunters are seeing—and harvesting—more deer after nearly a decade of decline. Hunters still say they are frustrated by the lack of deer in the Bayou State, but LDWF officials estimate that sportsmen and women bagged a total of 166,200 deer during the 2013-2014 season, a number much higher than recent years. Hunter interest seems to be up, as more than 270,000 turkey and deer tags have been issued last year.
“The deer harvest improved during the 2013-14 season,” the LDWF stated in the report. “It was one of the coldest winters on record with many sub-freezing temperature days across much of Louisiana. Cold weather increases deer movement as they forage for food resources to maintain the calories they need for body maintenance. A low acorn crop combined with the cold weather made deer more vulnerable to harvest in food plots, where many hunters primarily hunt.”
Biologists stress that increased harvest numbers does not necessarily mean more deer. As it is, wildlife officials say the state’s deer population is reaching stable levels, estimated at around 500,000 animals. That number is still a far cry from what Louisiana hunters were used to in the late 1990s when yearly harvests averaged 250,000 deer. According to The Times-Picaynne, areas in southeastern Louisiana are still suffering after intense river floods in 2011 and 2012’s brush with Hurricane Isaac.
“We have some habitats that are declining and some that have already declined,” said LDWF Deer Program Manager Scott Durham. “We’ve reached a different carrying capacity than we had a decade ago. It’s a little lower than it was, but I think it’s leveled out. We’re at a new stability.”
LDWF estimates that the vast majority—81 percent—of the deer harvested last year were taken by modern firearms, with primitive guns bagging 12 percent, bows taking five percent, and crossbows rounding out the count with 2 percent.
Image courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service