Thistlethwaite Wildlife Management Area, north of Washington, has become a popular location noted for quality deer hunting on public lands.
Deer hunters from Eunice, Ville Platte, Washington, Opelousas and other parts of Acadiana visit these lands for the possibility of both quality antlers and hefty portions of venison.
As for the Louisiana Big Game Records, Thistlethwaite has delivered its share of trophy whitetails to the record book - two modern gun trophies, two archery trophies, and three muzzleloader trophies. One of these bucks was taken in 1989 by bowhunter Brent Fontenot of Eunice – an impressive whitetail scoring at 132 1/8 Boone & Crockett points. Fontenot’s buck is truly a great trophy to be taken by archery equipment at Thistlethwaite.
In the past, newly retired wildlife chief David Moreland claimed that the deer now hailing from Thistlethwaite were initially stocked from samples trapped in the Chicago Mills area (now called Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge area). And as most hunters know, deer bearing Tensas NWR genes get to be quite impressive in both antler growth and live weights.
As for the results of public hunts already conducted at Thistlethwaite in 2008, there has been much success thus far.
“A total of 39 deer were harvested on the two-day hunt in early December,” said Johnathan Bordelon, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ District VI.
“Also, 33 deer were harvested during the Thanksgiving weekend hunt,” added Bordelon. “The total thus far including archery is 85 deer taken for 2008.”
According to the biologist, three impressive 8-pointers have been taken during these hunts.
“The bucks weighed 200, 225 and 250 respectively, and each was an 8 - pointers with spreads ranging from 13.5 – to 16.75- inches,” reported the biologist.
For hunters new to Thistlethwaite WMA, this area has embarked on year 4 of a ten-year experiment designed at producing quality whitetail bucks on public lands. Quality management prescriptions here mandate that hunters only take spikes or bucks with at least 4 antler points (at least one-inch long) on one side.
This type of “slot restriction” on antlered bucks is an attempt by area biologists to move at least 50 percent of the bucks usually taken at 1 1/2-years of age or younger into the older-buck segment of the deer herd. The taking of any buck not meeting these restrictions is prohibited.
The experiment at Thistlethwaite WMA is in response to previous LDWF surveys demonstrating that an increasingly large percentage of hunters (86-percent) statewide are in favor of quality deer management.
According to biologist manager Tony Vidrine with LDWF District VI, quality deer management (QDM) involves allowing younger bucks, mainly 1½ year-old deer, to grow older. This type of management is designed to protect them as they enter into the 2 ½ or 3 ½ year-old age classes before they are harvested.
“I want to emphasize that QDM is not trophy management which is aimed toward allowing bucks to get to be four- to six- years of age before harvesting them,” said Vidrine.
According to Vidrine, hunters are cautioned in interpreting this year’s success as firm evidence that the management plan is working.
“Even with these numbers, we still have to see some years down the road if we can sustain this increase and possibly make it better,” said Vidrine. “Remember the goal of the experiment is to increase the harvest of bucks at seven points or better (2 ½ yrs. of age) to 50- percent. We still have a way to go, and we have to see if it’s a sustainable harvest over time.”
A firearms bucks-only season began Saturday December 27 and will run until January 11. A Primitive Weapons either-sex hunt is scheduled for January 12 – 18. Area hunters are encouraged to hunt during the Primitive Weapons season as it happens to coincide with active deer movement during the rut.
For more information regarding rules, regulations, maps and policies, visit the LDWF website at www.wlf.louisiana.gov.