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Hunting season source of concern
Gannett News Sevice

July 18, 2004

The first hunting season of 2004-05 is still more than a month away, but sparks already have started flying over what officials — including Gov. Kathleen Blanco — say is unfair to northeastern Louisiana dove hunters.

On July 1, six of the seven state Wildlife and Fisheries commissioners set the dove hunting dates for Louisiana. Former commission president Terry Denmon of Monroe was unable to attend the meeting.

So the other commissioners — all who live below Interstate 10 in southern Louisiana — decided to set the first split of dove season in their favor. They determined Sept. 4-6 was enough time for the opening split, limiting the early shooting that benefits northern Louisiana hunters.

Denmon said he hopes to get the first split, which is usually nine days long, extended at the August commission meeting.

“Dove hunting is a big deal early in North Louisiana,” said Denmon, a Monroe engineer. “There are a lot of people who have spent a lot of money getting ready for dove season. And they (southern Louisiana hunters) don’t have doves early in September.”

Mer Rouge dove hunter John Shackelford said he believes the commissioners failed to take the state’s hunters into account.

“The people that represent that thing are supposed to be at-large,” Shackelford said. “But there seem to be regional differences.”

Blanco agreed, promising to make changes.

“I intend to do something about that,” Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Thursday.

“This is a board I didn’t appoint, and clearly this isn’t equitable for every region.”

In addition to Denmon, the other commissioners are chairman Bill A. Busbice Jr. of Lafayette, Dr. H. Jerry Stone of Baton Rouge, vice chairman Wayne Sagrera of Abbeville, Henry M. Mouton of Lafayette, Bobby Samanie III of Houma and Earl P. King, Jr. of Amelia.

Because mourning doves are a migratory bird like ducks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes a framework that states must follow to set hunting seasons. Denmon said the dove seasons usually are worked out between the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the commission.

“In the last several years, a compromise is negotiated,” he said. “We take the options that the framework allows. A compromise is recommended to the commission.”

The options have been (1) a 70-day season with a 12-dove daily limit or (2) a 60-day season with a 15-bird limit. Louisiana usually has chosen the 70-day season, which the commission did this year.

But northern Louisiana sportsmen effectively will have only three days of dove hunting. The second split is Oct. 16-Nov. 28 (43 days), when most hunters will be concentrating on the upcoming deer season. The third split is Dec. 18-Jan. 9 (22 days).

Because the first split is so close, Shackelford said he feared that nothing could be done in time.

“It may be too late to do anything this year,” he said. “I am aiming to do something that will hold up for next year and after.”

Both Denmon and Shackelford said they would like to see the state divided into two zones based on the dove migration. Texas has three dove-hunting zones.

“There are two different types of dove hunters,” Shackelford said. “So why not two zones?”

Denmon said he hopes to get two things accomplished: “I hope we get the season changed this year in the August commission meeting, and get the feds to approve two zones. But that could not reasonably happen this year.”

Denmon also worries that several dove hunters are not aware of the change in seasons, especially those hunters who have planted sunflowers in preparation for the season.

“I believe a great majority of hunters do not even know about the season change,” Denmon said.

Shackelford, who has been hunting doves since he was about 8 years old, said he doesn’t have as much invested in preparing his field.

“It’s nice to have a dog, and there’s not a lot of high-priced equipment involved. I farm, so it makes it easier to set up a field,” Shackelford said.

Denmon, however, said many hunters who already have planted sunflowers for the season will be disappointed with just three days.

“These hunters will be hurt by the short season because their fields won’t be valid by the time the second split comes around,” said Denmon, who was notified only two days before the July meeting that action would be taken on the dove seasons.

An amended agenda for the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission’s July 1 meeting was issued June 28. The ninth item on the agenda calls for “Tentative Dates for Early Season Migratory Birds;” however, the commissioners decided to set the dates then.

Buster Wolfe

Outdoor Writer

The News-Star

P.O. Box 1502

411 N. Fourth St.

Monroe, La. 71201

(318) 362-0293

(800) 259-7788, Ext. 293

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