Most deer hunting done on company leases

By Stella R. Jones
Journal Correspondent

The following is the conclusion of an article by Mrs. Jones from the September edition.

Preparation is only one facet of deer hunting. Today, those who lease land from timber companies to hunt also play a role in contributing to their environment. Until the mid-80s, sportsmen could hunt on open land, according to Woods.

He said, "People hunted close to their homes. Hunters no longer have open access to land." Today, they must have written permission to hunt individual land or on a lease. "In fact, 97% of Weyerhaeuser's land is leased to hunters. Weyerhaeuser, like other timber companies, requires hunting or recreational leases," Woods said. These companies set rules in their contracts as guidelines for hunters.

Ricky Howard, Raw Materials Representative for Weyerhaeuser, explained some of these guidelines, beginning with road maintenance. "Weyerhaeuser expects hunters on the lease to keep up its roads. They can use farm tractors but not bull dozers for this purpose," he said. To avoid erosion, he suggested planting food plots in open areas that Weyerhaeuser has cleared. He also advised hunters to contact oil, gas, and water companies before digging to plant their food plots.

Woods added to Howard's suggestions by emphasizing that Weyerhaeuser expects hunters to follow all game laws. He talked about hunters setting up stands that damage seedlings planted by Weyerhaeuser.\par }{\plain "Each seedling is costly. For this reason, hunters should take care when putting up their stands," he said.

"Weyerhaeuser also expects hunters to report any abuse of the property such as illegal garbage dumping, fires, road damage, and trespassing as well," Woods said. "We ask that the president of the club make his members aware of Weyerhaeuser's rules and expectations," he added.

In addition, Woods said, "A recreational lease should be considered a privilege because of our long waiting list of hunters who want to lease our property for the upcoming hunting season." He recommends that hunters go to Weyerhaeuser's website to bid on properties. However, hunters who currently lease the property have first choice to either renew or terminate the lease for the next hunting season. Weyerhaeuser land management helps hunters as well. "Although Weyerhaeuser focuses on the business of growing trees and selling timber, it values its relationship with hunters," Woods said. He also emphasized that Weyerhaeuser's strategy for maintaining a healthy forest enables hunters to have more productive hunts. For instance, Weyerhaeuser thins stands of timber and has sets that are left behind. These sets, areas where equipment was set up to thin timber, provide hunters cleared areas for food plots. Howard mentioned another example. He said, "Dense forest hardly allows any sun to hit the ground. We promote tree growth by thinning out our woods, which also increases sunlight on the forest floor and spurs plant growth on the ground." As a result of this method for managing a productive tree crop, deer have another food source available to them, in addition to food plots. This tree management strategy and food plots are important, according to Howard, because, acorns, another food preference for deer, is not always available. He explains that oaks often lose acorns as a result of strong storm winds. With a variety of food sources, deer and other wildlife can rely on a variety food to eat throughout the year. "A well-managed forest will support a good deer population, just as a poorly managed woods area will result in a lower deer population," said Howard.

Woods stressed that a well-managed forest is beneficial to both Weyerhaeuser and deer hunters. "Evidence of good nutrition as a result of a reliable food source can be seen when a doe has two fawns," Woods said.

Sportsmen reinforce Weyerhaeuser's forest management program by maintaining their leased property.

They also create a better environment for their hunt. Since a more productive forest environment benefits both parties, this reciprocal arrangement creates a "win/win situation," according to Woods.

For those who decide that they don't hunt enough to justify a recreational lease with a timber company, McClinton suggested that they have access to the Bienville-Jackson Wildlife Management Area. Sportsmen can enjoy a deer hunt for a small fee. However, there are a certain number of restrictions. "Hunters cannot put up permanent stands," Woods said. In addition, they cannot set up food plots nor bait animals. "This is an example of true hunting in the old days," added Woods.

"Today," said Glenn Jones, "hunters have access to products and technology that would have stunned old timers." ATVs, GPS gadgets and a host of other developments make hunting easier-to an extent. At the end of the hunt, sportsmen can skin and clean their deer or they can give this task to a processor. Glenn Jones concluded that deer hunting is a labor of love. Both Jones and Harmon agree on one crucial fact about hunting. They said, "A successful harvest depends on being at the right place at the right time." Preparations, dedication, and persistence increases a hunter's chance of a harvest, though. "Some sportsmen have beginner's luck without putting the effort in that seasoned hunters do. But, chances of this happening are very rare," Jones said. This rings true for most hunters regardless of the new products and technological advances that are available to them.

New hunting techniques and gear will affect the deer hunting sport as it evolves with the changing times.

Hunters predict other changes. Harmon said, "Fewer young people hunt and enjoy outdoor activities because they prefer playing computer games and texting." Shavers, on the other hand, hopes to instill in his grandchildren a love of the deer hunting sport. He said, "I spend time with them to teach them how to appreciate wildlife and become responsible and successful hunters." The future of the sport hangs in the balance, though. In the August 2014 issue of the Louisiana Sportsman, Terry L. Jones wrote in his article, "Deer hunting's good old days-today," that David Moreland, once a state program deer manager, expressed concern about the number of deer hunters in Louisiana. According to Moreland, one third of the state's hunter are over 60. This group of hunters grew up hunting in open land and developed a strong appreciation for hunting. Moreland believes that the younger generation does not share the same enthusiasm for the sport. His observation agrees with Harmon's statement.

There still remains hope for the future of deer hunting. The November 2013 issue of the National Geographic reported a rise in the number of women deer hunters. Women offer an additional resource for teaching the young to hunt. With mothers reinforcing what fathers teach their children about deer hunting, there is hope for the preservation of a sport enjoyed by many in the past. By perpetuating this time honored sport, the younger generation will understand and appreciate the enthusiasm Riley expressed in his poem for the approaching autumn season and what it will bring.