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Major hunting issues dominate meeting

Advocate outdoors writer

Louisiana duck hunters will get an eighth consecutive 60-day season, deer hunters in State Area 6 had their season dates changed again and dove hunters will get a nine-day first split to start a 70-day season in major moves approved during Thursday's Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.
The Area 6 and dove hunting items turned aside votes from the July meeting when sweeping proposals by Lafayette Commissioner Henry Mouton added 14 days to the Area 6 firearms season and reduced dove hunters' first split from nine days to three days.

Instead of a Sept. 4-6 statewide first split, dove hunters will have a Sept. 4-12 split to open the 70-day season. Second and third splits will run Oct. 9-Nov. 14 and Dec. 18-Jan. 10.

For Area 6 deer hunters, Thursday's vote, instituted by commission member Dr. Jerry Stone from Baton Rouge, called for a return to a Nov. 20-Dec. 5 modern firearms/still-hunt only season and a Dec. 6-10 muzzleloader-only season. The July vote had pushed a muzzleloader season to Oct. 30-Nov. 5 with a Nov. 6-Dec. 10 modern firearms/still-hunt season.

Area 6 archery hunters continued to voice objections to a change that pushed their season from the usual Oct. 1-Jan. 31 dates to an Oct. 15-Feb. 15 season. Those dates were not changed.

Only chairman Bill Busbice was absent from the seven-man commission, and new members Robert Samanie III of Houma and Earl King Jr. of Amelia were introduced.

Other LWFC action included:

· A call by Mouton to change the black bass size limits in the Atchafalaya Basin. Current regulations mandate a 14-inch minimum size limit on the species in the Atchafalaya area, which includes Lake Verret and adjacent waters. Mouton's plan calls for a maximum allowance of five bass measuring less than 14 inches long in a daily creel of 10 black bass. A Notice of Intent will come at the LWFC's Sept. 2 meeting;

· A 6-0 vote approving proposed 2005 spring turkey hunting seasons. Dates included March 25-April 24, 2005 in Area A, March 25-April 17 in Area B, March 25-April 3 in Area C and a March 19-20 special "private lands youth hunt," with a daily limit of one and a season limit of two gobblers. The major change for Capital City area hunters is moving Ascension and eastern Iberville parishes from Area C to Area B;

· Approved an Aug. 9 opening date for Zone 3 and an Aug. 16 opener for Zone 1 in the state's fall inshore shrimp season. Wildlife and Fisheries secretary Dwight Landreneau was given the power to open Management Zone 2 early. Zone 2 opened Monday. The fall inshore season will close Dec. 21;

· A discussion of plans to present proposed seasons on resident game -- deer, squirrels, rabbits, quail and nutria -- to the LWFC during the fall, a move that would complete the public comment period earlier in the year. The usual process has the LWFC ratifying the seasons in July. The proposed procedure would have the seasons posted in January and would establish those seasons for three years with appropriate calendar changes to allow for most seasons to open on Saturdays;

· An explanation of Act 865 of the 2004 Legislative Session which established the Louisiana Aquaculture Coordinating Council, a move supported by state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom and signed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The act effectively removes Wildlife and Fisheries from unilateral control of aquaculture operations and labels species in fish-growing farms as "aquatic livestock;"

· A vote to open state-owned public oyster grounds on Sept. 8, Sept. 15, Oct. 1, Oct. 11 or Oct. 15 and keep Hackberry Bay and Sister Lake oyster-seed reservations closed throughout the 2004-05 season;

· Approved a move to follow a National Marine Fisheries Service closure on commercial catches of deep-water grouper, to include misty, snowy, yellowedge and Warsaw groupers and speckled hinds in the Gulf of Mexico;

· Learning that state enforcement agents issued 1,311 citations, including a record 40 to shrimpers engaged in alleged early trawling in inshore waters, during July;

· and, set its December meeting for Dec. 2 in Baton Rouge.

The LWFC put the stamp of approval on the 60-day, six-ducks-per-day season the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outlined last week for Mississippi Flyway states. The state's West Zone hunters will get the first crack at the migrants when its first split opens Nov. 13. The zone includes all coastal parishes.

The East Zone opener comes a week later on Nov. 20. Both first splits run through Dec. 5 and both zones' second splits open Dec. 18. The balance of West Zone days runs out Jan. 23. The West Zone's season ends Jan. 30, the latest day ever for duck hunters since seasons were implemented more than 50 years ago.

Because of declining populations, restrictive 30-day. one-per-day seasons on taking pintail and canvasbacks were included in duck-season package.

Hunters will get the usual 86 statewide goose seasons, a special Jan. 15-23, 2005 Canada goose hunt and a two-split 42-day Conservation Order on taking blue, snow and Ross' geese.

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