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Be tree aware this year

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Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 10.09.20 AMSquirrel and rabbit hunting season opens across Louisiana on Saturday (Oct. 3) and, right on cue, the weather has become most agreeable, with pleasant temperatures and low humidity. Deer archery season has also begun throughout the state and it’s a great time to be a hunter in the Sportsman’s Paradise.

While enjoying this favorite Louisiana pastime, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) wants to alert hunters to proceed with caution in the woods this fall, especially in west, central and north Louisiana. The August strike of Hurricane Laura caused tremendous destruction in many areas, including blowing down and snapping trees and tree branches in those regions. Hunters will no doubt observe many downed or damaged trees. But there will also be trees that have been compromised and on the verge of falling, or broken limbs hung up on others awaiting a breeze to complete the fall to the ground. That makes being aware of your surroundings of the utmost importance.

Many areas where hunters have spent years hunting could look different due to the many downed trees. LDWF reminds hunters it is important this fall to have working navigation equipment (GPS) and a charged cell phone in case there is an emergency.

“We always recommend that you let someone know where you’ll be when you’re out in the field and when you plan to return,’’ said LDWF biologist and hunter education instructor Travis Dufour. “The landscape this year has been altered because of the storm, so it’s key to know where you are, as well as being aware of other hunters in the area.  Squirrel and rabbit hunters should be aware of bow hunters because they are not required to wear hunter orange.’’

Dufour said it’s also important to be mindful of your safe zone of fire when shooting due to the downed foliage in the woods.

“There may be other hunters amongst all the downed trees, therefore, your line of sight may not be clear,’’ Dufour said. “You’re not going to be able to see if you’re shooting in a safe direction when shooting into brush. Hunters should always clearly identify the target and what is beyond it before shooting. Failing to clearly identify your target could result in serious harm to other hunters.’’

In addition, bow hunters should be sure to use stable trees, use a full body safety harness, and stay attached to the tree at all times when off the ground. Dufour said it’s important to also make sure deer stands are in good working order and that hunters are proficient in how to use the stand. LDWF Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) remain open, but caution when hunting there is advised as well, as damage occurred to the forests on many of these areas.