Dig Baton Rouge

In Heat

By Casey Gisclair
@Casey_Gisclair

The 2015 summer has been one of the hottest in the past decade with high temperatures sometimes getting into triple digits.

That’s not necessarily breaking news—that’s the norm in Louisiana and throughout the Southeast. But what might be more worthy of a front-page headline is how the sizzling temperatures could affect the opening months of the 2015 deer hunting season.

Expert hunters and officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries explained this week that deer hunting is a fickle game heavily dominated by weather—one in which a few degrees in either direction could be the difference in a successful hunt and a day where no harvests are made.

The experts explain that deer are most active when it’s cold, and the biggest seasons are usually those with long, harsh winters.

That means that if Louisiana’s current heat continues to burn into September or even into October, the start of the season will could be slower than normal.

“Ideal conditions for your season would be one where there are a lot of cool—if not downright cold days,” LDWF Deer Program Manager Scott Durham said. “Anytime we’re cooler than normal, and we’ve had a good amount of rainfall, that’s when it’s best. So far this summer, it’s been hot and dry, and those conditions are usually not ideal.”

Biology is the biggest reason why deer are most easily harvested in the cold.

Veteran hunter Bo Adams has been harvesting bucks throughout the state for more than 30 years. He said that deer don’t handle heat well, so on hot days, they lay in the grass from sun-up to sundown—using the moisture in the grass to stay cool.

“They’re out of sight all day,” Adams said. “You have no chance.”

But when it’s colder, deer often hunt for food, because they burn calories trying to stay warm. In the quest for food, they often walk the forests, which puts them in the path of hunters.

Tim Moreland, a hunter for more than 28 years, said he has had all of his best luck on the mornings right after a cold front has passed—a time when he said deer are at the peak of their activity.

Adams agreed, and said if temperatures are warm early in the season, hunters should not even go out and make an effort at all. He said hunters will be doing more harm than good.

“You won’t kill anything, and you’ll be giving the deer your scent, which will make it less likely that they’ll come around you when conditions are ripe,” Adams said. “Be patient, wait for the cooler weather, and make it happen on those days.”

Warm weather or not, the sport is growing in huge numbers in Louisiana.

Deer hunting is as popular as it has ever been in Louisiana with hundreds of thousands of hunters projected to make trips this season, according to numbers provided by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Durham said that in 2014, more than 200,000 hunters made trips, which netted in the harvest of well more than 100,000 deer.

Season start dates vary depending on one’s location in Louisiana, but that opening day is a day unlike any other for those interested in the sport.

Assuming that prospective hunters have ideal weather conditions, of course.

“Opening day is one of the best days of the year,” Adams said. “Now, we just need this damned sun to go away so it doesn’t keep us from getting going. Rain and some September cold fronts. That’d make us all happy right about now.”

 

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