Boeuf Resolution Regarding a Refuge Area Within The WMA

Recent (Feb.) Meeting of the LWFC

FYI for all LWA Board members and anyone else who’s interested. I attended the recent (Feb.) meeting of the LWFC and spoke on the topic of rest areas for waterfowl and the broader question of hunting pressure in WMAs. I spoke extemporaneously but the attached written statement is a summary.

With Melancon coming in and with some new staff at LDWF, I think there will be a chance of getting some changes in WMA management, but we will need to keep pushing on this. LDWF staff will go the way the wind blows and I feel we are getting somewhat of a change in wind direction.

At the meeting there was an update on the status of the Fish and Game preserves and their waterfowl hunting regs (or mostly lack thereof). Apparently, LDWF’s outreach to local governments and communities has produced a flurry of activity that will probably lead to formation of some commissions for purpose of governance of the preserves so the impact on private blind owners and hunting traditions will not be as great as it originally seemed. At Catahoula Lake, there is talk of a commission for that lake bottom, and there are also rumors of the situation being addressed in the upcoming Legislative session. We should have this on the agenda of our March 3 meeting to decide if LWA wants to take an official position.

Also, note that LDWF this month has hearings around the state on WMA rules and regs. Jay will attend the Alexandria session and I will attend the Monroe session.

Charles Williams

Summary Of My LWFC Statement

The La. Waterfowl Alliance is a small group of long-time waterfowl hunters from throughout the State, and we are concerned about the future of our favorite outdoor recreation. We’ve just come off a relatively poor season and we continue to see the effects of some uncontrollable factors like climate change that seem to be working steadily against us. In this adverse situation, as we think about our management of public hunting areas like the WMAs around the state, we believe management should place more emphasis on sustainability.

Our members hunt throughout the state on both leased land and on public land, and we would suggest that lessons can be learned from the three best duck hunting areas in the state: the mouth of the river, Cameron Parish, and Catahoula Lake. The common characteristic of these three areas, besides the presence of extensive good habitat, is the presence of substantial refuge areas that hold large numbers of ducks in each vicinity. Delta NWR at the mouth of the river, Sabine NWR in Cameron Parish, and the mid-lake refuge and Catahoula NWR at Catahoula Lake. In addition, private land in all these areas is usually managed to keep hunting activity at a reasonable level and includes, in the case of my leased area in Cameron, non-hunted areas of the marsh and a requirement to quit hunting by noon.

In spite of the positive role of refuges in our best hunting areas, we have steadily reduced, over recent decades, the refuges and waterfowl rest areas in our WMA. Now we hunt most WMAs 7 days a week until 2 p.m. Couple this with the spider’s web of ATV trails going into every nook and cranny of many WMAs, the provision of boat landings for large boats at even the smallest potholes, and the proliferation of ATVs and mud boats and we are leaving few places for our ducks to get away from the intense hunting pressure we put on them. And so what do they do? Increasingly, they go elsewhere, often back to Arkansas.

So what does Arkansas do? For starters, they have waterfowl rest areas within all their major WMAs of the bottomland section of the state. They manage those refuge areas by regulating water levels and promoting vegetation that puddle ducks like. In addition they take other steps in their most popular WMAs: a quitting time of noon, a limit on the number of shells that may be taken in, a lower bag limit, opening for less than seven days a week, and provision of LAAs which must be walked, waded, or paddled into. But most hunters in Ark. (and I know quite a few) will tell you that the refuges play a key role in keeping huntable numbers of ducks in the vicinity of WMAs such as Bayou Meto, Cutoff Creek, and Black River.

Here in Louisiana, at Boeuf WMA of Caldwell and Catahoula parishes, ten years ago LDWF did away with a refuge that had held thousands of ducks in the area. In the opinions of many long-time Boeuf hunters, including myself, this has hurt what was once an excellent WMA for waterfowl. Even more aggravating, upon inquiry we learned that this closure of the refuge was not initiated by the LDWF staff but was done on the demand of private blind owners on a nearby water body (Turkey Creek Lake), where hunters blamed poor results on the existence of the Boeuf refuge. We believe this decision needs to be revisited, along with all the others that have increased hunting opportunity at the expense of sustainability. We recommend that the Commission and LDWF consider reestablishing refuge areas within all WMAs especially in areas where there is no NWR or extensive lightly hunted private land to hold ducks.