News & Resolutions

LWF Supports Refuge Hunt Plan - Proposes Youth Waterfowl Heritage Program

December 22, 2010 12:00 AM

Late last month (Nov) the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) released a Draft Environmental Assessment and Hunt Plan for waterfowl hunting on approximately 10,364 acres of the 24,293-acre Refuge that lie outside the New Orleans hurricane protection levees.  Public comments were due by Dec. 24.  Despite strong public interest in hunting on the Refuge from its establishment in 1986, this is the first time the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has advanced a proposal for public hunting on the Refuge.

The Hunt Plan proposes to allow hunting for ducks (and coots)-only on 4 days per week during the waterfowl season (including the early teal season).  Hunting would be limited to groups of no more than 2 youths per each adult hunter.  Under the proposal, the adult will be allowed to hunt and harvest his/her limit of ducks.  Young hunters must harvest their own birds without “help” from the accompanying adult.  Permanent blinds are prohibited as is the use of mudboats and airboats.  Only paddlecraft and boats with standard outboard and/or electric trolling motors will be permitted for transportation.

When the initial Refuge Management Plan was being developed, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation supported a hunting program for the Refuge with emphasis on engaging youngsters from the New Orleans community who normally would not otherwise have the opportunity to have a hunting experience.  At the time, for political and other reasons, hunting on the Refuge was not “ripe” for consideration.  So LWF was pleased to welcome the recent proposal.

In its comment letter supporting the Hunt Plan, LWF reiterated its recommendation for a youth waterfowl hunting heritage emersion program for disadvantaged local youth to be instituted in collaboration with the Refuge and local waterfowl hunters and conservation organizations.  LWF Executive Director, Randy Lanctot, describes the concept here, along with a bit of history behind the idea.  "We don't know how much support we can get to build this program," Lanctot said, "but we'd like to hear from anyone who is interested in helping."  

After the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) was established (1986) and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) was seeking public comment on a proposed management plan, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation recommended the idea of hosting a youth waterfowl hunting heritage program on the Refuge.  The program would culminate in one or more hunts for the youth participants and their mentors.  The hunt, however, would be only one activity of the program. 

The Service (then Refuge manager Dan Taberrer, a dyed-in-the-wool hunter if there ever was one) was reluctant to consider any programming involving hunting.  The Refuge is located within the city limits of New Orleans and, at the time, ordinance prohibited discharging a firearm in the city.  But another more important reason the Service balked at the idea was that hunting was opposed by many New Orleans area Refuge supporters, not the least of whom was Mildred Fossier, active in the Sierra Club at the time, and Senator Mary Landrieu’s nanny when the Senator was a child growing up in the city.  That was more insider clout than LWF was willing to take on, despite the winning concept we thought that we had. 

By federal law the Service is required to provide for hunting recreation on refuges when that activity is compatible with the mission of each particular refuge.  In 1996, the New Orleans City Council excluded the Bayou Sauvage NWR from its ban on firearm discharge which cleared the way for consideration of a Refuge hunting program.  Apparently, Refuge officials remained reluctant to consider hunting, since it has taken 14 years from the time the shooting ban was lifted until the recent notice of the Refuge Hunt Plan proposal.

To describe the youth waterfowl hunting program concept in greater detail, the idea is to recruit the participation of youngsters who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn about waterfowling or have the opportunity to hunt, for example, New Orleans’ kids from single-parent households.  Volunteer mentors from sporting organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Louisiana Wildlife Federation and others with competent members who would dedicate their time and talents to the program would be recruited. 

The program would start in late January or early February, getting the kids out to the Refuge to see some ducks.  There would be some “classroom” preparation before school lets out for the summer that would include information about waterfowl and wetlands habitat, hunter safety, etc.  There would have to be some actual shooting at a local range.  Then, when the participants are ready, about the time the blue-wings are arriving, there would be a trip to the Refuge to scout for blind locations, and some orientation to duck calling and practicing with a call.  If we can get some help from retriever-owners, working with dogs could be part of the orientation.  There would be another trip to the shooting range and then there would be blind-building and spreading decoys.  In conjunction with that, there could be a session about making decoys and Louisiana’s rich decoy-making heritage.  A week before opening day, there could be another trip to the shooting range, a refresher on hunting safety, a walk-thru of the hunt, and maybe a boat ride to scout for a blind location.  Depending on the number of participants in the program, there could be hunts on the opening Saturday for one group and on the second Saturday for another group.  This could be repeated for the 2nd split.  The program would start over the following year with new kids.

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