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Deer management priority for hunters

Hunters across Louisiana have teamed up with the LSU AgCenter and others to insure healthy herds of deer for generations to come. Since one of the things that can determine both the size of the bucks and the health of deer herds is the food supply, hunters are making commitments to preparing food plots.

Researchers at the LSU AgCenter's Idlewild Research Station near Clinton, La., are studying the many types of food plots that will benefit the deer population.

“We want to do all that we can to maintain healthy deer herds, and the work that we're doing here at the station provides the needed information for hunters,” Dearl Sanders, the LSU AgCenter's resident coordinator at Idlewild, said, adding that for the past year, researchers also have been conducting studies involving a herd of red deer at the station.

To show off some of that work and share knowledge gained by various agencies and organizations, the LSU AgCenter recently teamed with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the South Louisiana branch of the Quality Deer Management organization in a field day at Idlewild.

The field day was designed to provide participants with the latest on herd management. Sanders said it was the second educational event focused on deer management that the research station has hosted over the past year.

“We had a similar event in the fall to provide information on warm-season vegetation for deer, and this time we are getting them ready for the cool-season plants that will work well in their food plots,” Sanders said of the educational program. “We have a lot of interest in the information that's provided by the agencies that are involved.”

Quality Deer Management is a non-profit wildlife conservation organization dedicated to insuring a high-quality and sustainable future for white-tailed deer, which are native to Louisiana, and white-tailed deer hunting. The LSU AgCenter conducts research and educational activities on subjects ranging from natural resources and wildlife to human nutrition and health. And the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is the agency charged with managing and protecting the state's wildlife and fisheries resources.

As for LSU AgCenter research, Don Reed, an associate professor in the AgCenter's School of Renewable Natural Resources, is working with a number of grasses and other plants to see what works best. Reed says his research is centered on the establishment, management and forage quality of various cool-season food plots for deer.

During the field day, experts also provided hunters with information to determine the age of the deer that they harvest. Will Forbes, an LSU AgCenter research associate at Idlewild, and other wildlife biologists demonstrated how age is determined in white-tailed deer by tooth wear and replacement and external body characteristics.

Another topic of interest to hunters and wildlife enthusiasts is chronic wasting disease, which is greatly feared by many wildlife experts, hunters and others. Although the disease has not been found in any Southern state, Reed said researchers continue testing each year.

“There is no live test for this disease, because an examination of the animal's brain tissue is needed to make a definitive diagnosis,” Reed explained, adding that another problem with diagnosis is that the animal can have the disease without showing any symptoms for as long as five years.

To try to keep Louisiana free of chronic wasting disease, the Louisiana Livestock Sanitary Board imposed a ban on deer and elk entry into Louisiana on April 30, 2002. The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries also has prohibited the entry of deer into Louisiana.

Chronic wasting disease was first identified in deer research pens in Colorado in 1978. Research continues to determine how the disease is transmitted in deer and whether it can be transmitted from deer to humans or other livestock.

“This disease was first seen in deer out West in Colorado, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas and Wyoming.” Reed said. It was first reported east of the Mississippi River in 2002, when it was found in wild deer in Wisconsin.

In addition to other educational events, the recent field day also served as a way to get information to hunters to let them know what to look for when it comes to sick deer.

Johnny Morgan (225-578-8484 or writes for the LSU AgCenter. Tom Merrill is News Editor for LSU AgCenter Communications (225-578-5896 or

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