Cumberland Times-News

March 29, 2014

Cold snaps welcomed by Louisiana deer hunters


Associated Press

— NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Much to the chagrin of Louisiana’s anglers, this long winter that has officially ended but still refuses to die had one distinguishing characteristic: Its cold fronts almost always welcomed the weekends.

If there was any nice day of the week, it would always be on, say, Tuesday, when work schedules protected the fish from free lunches with a catch.

Joe Causer likes to fish, but during the fall and winter, his heart is in the woods, so this winter, for him, was a dream trip to a frozen nirvana. Most years, Louisiana hunters whine about the weather. Hunting deer when temperatures are in the 70s and 80s is a mosquito-plagued exercise in futility.

But in our subtropical climate, that’s a common occurrence in winter. Not this year.

“It seemed like we got a good cold front every weekend,” Causer said. “The rain would come through on Thursday or Friday, and the deer would get up and move on Saturday and Sunday.

“I can’t complain at all. It was the best deer season of my life.”

Causer hunts on Maurepas and Red River wildlife management areas and on private land in the Atchafalaya Basin. He shot his limit this year, and those who hunt with him also fared well.

“All the cold we had this year — especially since it came early — it definitely got the rut going and maybe even prolonged it a little bit,” Causer said. “We saw a lot of good bucks at the camp, and we killed 35, which is great for us.”

Causer’s experience wasn’t unique. According to Scott Durham, deer study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, hunters had success statewide. The data is still raw, but this year’s overall deer harvest is 10 percent higher than last year’s.

Hunter success was the result of a perfect storm of conditions working in their favor, Durham said.

“The weather had a lot to do with it. It was consistently cold, but also there was a really low mast crop pretty much statewide,” he said. “There was some good mast availability in Mississippi, but I heard of none of that in Louisiana.”

The only place Causer found mast was on Red River WMA, but there was lots of competition for it.

“I saw a few good acorns on Red River, but (LDWF) manages that land really well. Almost every tree out there is a nut-bearing tree,” Causer said. “But as soon as the acorns hit the ground, the hogs would get to them.”

The lack of acorns and other mast on the ground forced the deer to be less careful about where they found their food, and the cold weather ensured they had to eat more often.

“A lot of people who were hunting (food plots) did good because that’s where the deer were going,” Durham said. “There wasn’t that much else to eat. Everything kind of came together for hunters.”

That sometimes led to big crowds of deer on the food plots, giving hunters their choice of targets. Durham does much of his hunting near Clinton, and on one post-rut hunt, he saw 11 antlered bucks in a food plot at one time.

Hunters will be hoping for another winter in 2014-15 like the one that just ended. Despite the harshness of the season, the deer that weren’t harvested should have made it through just fine, Durham said.

“Deer can adapt to the cold weather, and it’s already greening up now,” he said. “Surely a lot of fat reserves were depleted. We’ve been collecting deer off the Kisatchie Forest since the season, and the kidney fats are definitely not high, but the deer are doing fine.”