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Published January 07, 2013, 09:17 AM

Rutting schedule worth noting

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — If deer hunters who take to fields and swamps around the state's major rivers were wondering where all the deer were before Christmas, maybe they missed David Moreland's predictions.

By: JOE MACALUSO,The Advocate, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — If deer hunters who take to fields and swamps around the state's major rivers were wondering where all the deer were before Christmas, maybe they missed David Moreland's predictions.

Moreland, the now retired State Wildlife Division chief and State Deer Study leader, posted his "rutting" schedule and the dates came up much later than past years.

Moreland was in a vanguard of wildlife biologists who suggested that whitetail herds living around the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers had much later breeding cycles than deer in more upland areas. His studies over the years proved fawns in the southwest, central and northwestern parishes were born much earlier, maybe as much as two months earlier, than fawns in eastern, southeastern and south-central parishes.

His explanation made sense: Deer were breeding later so that their fawns would have a better chance to survive in areas where there was annual late spring-summer flooding.

Moreland's studies echoed the changes in whitetail behavior over the years from 1950-2000, and began mapping Louisiana into "normal," 'early rut areas" and "late rut areas." The normal rut spots included most of State Deer Areas 2, 3, 7 and 8, with early-rut dates for upland areas in State Deer Areas 1, 4, 5 and 6, and a late-rut for State Deer Areas 1 and 6. The last two areas make up the most of the northeastern, north-central and southern parishes along the Mississippi River and the entire Atchafalaya Basin.

Even the early-rut areas had later-than-usual rutting periods — the rut has primary and secondary stages — and hunters in Areas 1, 4, 5 and 6 are finding bucks active in a secondary-rut stage: Moreland's prediction went through Jan. 11. The secondary stage is the period bucks will breed with the females that were not bred in the primary stage.

It's the late-rut areas that have extra-late days now.

Moreland's computations, made by compiling factors like daily periods of sunlight and moon phases, shoved the primate rutting dates for the late-run Areas 1 and 6 locations from Dec. 29-Jan. 12 with secondary-rutting periods beginning with a scraping period (when bucks begin re-marking their territories) for Jan. 13-26 with a secondary rut running Jan. 27-Feb. 9.

That late secondary rutting period will exclude the modern firearms seasons in Areas 1 and 6, and will take in only a few days of the last primitive firearms seasons in both areas. Most of that latter period will be open for Area 6 archery hunters only after the Area 1 archery season closes Jan. 31.

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