Youth Hunters Find Success
Photos and Story by Todd Baker
At the southern end of America’s largest swamp lies Louisiana’s largest public outdoor recreation area, the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area (ADWMA). Here the muddy waters of the Atchafalaya River mingle with the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico to create one of the largest river delta systems in the country and the only significantly accreting property in coastal Louisiana.
This 137,695-acre WMA is dominated by fresh emergent marsh and shallow mud flats created by the Atchafalaya River. It is home to a wide diversity of wildlife and each winter is home to impressive numbers of migratory birds including hundreds of thousands of waterfowl.
Like most isolated areas along the Louisiana coast, ADWMA hides many secrets known only to a local few. While this WMA is primarily known for its excellent waterfowl hunting opportunities, it is also one of the best public deer hunting areas in south Louisiana. For those hunters willing to brave the Atchafalaya River and make their way through the winding marsh, ADWMA provides an opportunity to hunt in a primitive setting, without firearms, corn feeders, or noisy neighbors, for deer that never hear or see automobiles and rarely a human. It is an opportunity to hunt deer in a truly wild setting.
The deer herd is closely managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), and recent hunting statistics demonstrate an annual harvest in excess of 100 deer taken by archery hunters. Each year hunters harvest bucks, weighing nearly 200 pounds, with impressive antler quality. Year after year, trophy bucks are harvested on the WMA, with several being included in the state record books. Last year’s harvest totaled 154 deer including, a 190-pound 11-point buck, a 200-pound 10-point buck, and a 175-pound 13-point buck.
Every year LDWF provides youth hunters an opportunity to apply for the youth lottery deer hunts on several WMAs operated by the Coastal and Nongame Resources Division. LDWF staff prepare food plots of various food mixes including iron clay cowpeas, soybeans, and select wildlife mixes to provide a diverse diet for the deer herd, as well as an enhanced opportunity for young hunters to observe and possibly harvest a deer. During these hunts, youth are allowed to use firearms in areas generally reserved for archery hunting. LDWF staff clear viewing lanes and maintain deer stands for the exclusive use of youth lottery deer hunters and their chaperones. New stands were constructed this year and erected on ADWMA for the participants.
Participants in the 2011 youth lottery deer hunts on ADWMA included 27 young hunters who observed 40 deer and harvested 10; six bucks and four does. An additional youth hunt on Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA attracted 19 young hunters who sighted a dozen deer.
Applications are available for interested youth hunters in August preceding the October hunts. Contact the New Iberia Field Office at 337-373-0032 for more information or visit www.wlf.la.gov/hunting/lottery-hunts.