Feb. 25, 2016 - Jackson-Bienville Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which has been part of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries WMA roster for more than 60 years, is a jewel for public hunting in north Louisiana.
Located 12 miles south of Ruston, the 25,089 acres of land located in Jackson, Bienville and Lincoln parishes is owned by Weyerhaeuser Company and managed as a Wildlife Management Area by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). It is situated close to three major population centers in Louisiana, including Shreveport (70 miles), Monroe (50 miles) and Alexandria (87 miles) in addition to Ruston.
Hunters enjoy pursuing white-tailed deer, wild turkey, feral hogs, squirrel, wood ducks and other small game species on the WMA.
LDWF biologist supervisor Jeff Johnson oversees Jackson-Bienville WMA, and relates stories of hunters using the WMA over the years.
“It has been a place where families have passed down the tradition of hunting for many years,’’ Johnson said. “There are families from all over the state that hunt here and have been doing so for years. There are grandfathers that have come here since the early 1970s and have brought their kids and are now bringing their grandkids to hunt. Hunting Jackson-Bienville is a fall tradition for them.’’
“The WMA lease is currently up for renewal and the Department will make Weyerhaeuser Company an offer to keep Jackson-Bienville in our WMA system,’’ LDWF Assistant Secretary Jimmy Anthony said.
Jackson-Bienville WMA is popular with hunters from all over the state and southeast, and although hunters account for the majority of the use, it is also a popular destination for bird watchers and hikers. Access is easy with many routes available, including U.S. Hwy. 167 and La. Hwy. 147. The terrain on Jackson Bienville WMA is primarily gently rolling hills bordering the Dugdemona River and five intermittent streams.
One of the reasons the area has become a hunting hotbed for deer and turkey, Johnson said, is Weyerhaeuser’s timber management philosophy.
Varying timber harvests, along with the interspersion of hardwood areas and more than 33 miles of utilities rights-of-way, provide a diversity of wildlife habitats. Adding to that diversity is the substantial acreage Weyerhaeuser has committed to providing nesting and foraging habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), a species listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
LDWF monitors 38 RCW breeding groups on Jackson-Bienville WMA as part of the current WMA lease agreement.
The intensive management has also made it good for deer hunting, according to LDWF deer program manager Johnathan Bordelon.
“Jackson-Bienville WMA is a very productive WMA,’’ Bordelon said. “Active timber management has created desirable habitat conditions for deer. In addition, reproductive rates measured by the percentage of lactating adult female deer are above parish and northwest pine/hardwood averages. Lactation rates for 2.5 year and older does has averaged 80 percent over the past ten years. This is tremendous and allows for the sustainable harvest rates experienced on Jackson-Bienville WMA.
“Jackson-Bienville did experience a harvest rate of one deer per 5.0 efforts during the managed either-sex deer hunt on November 21-22, 2015. However, it is important to note that the managed hunt was one weekend before the majority of managed hunts in the state. The weather was much better that weekend and harvest benefited from the favorable conditions. Jackson-Bienville is typically in the top five each year regardless of weather conditions. ’’
Harvest numbers for turkey have also been strong at Jackson-Bienville WMA. During the 2015 season, a total of 42 gobblers were harvested, accounting for one turkey per 12.7 efforts, an impressive number for public land.
“Jackson-Bienville WMA has consistently been known as a good place to turkey hunt,’’ Johnson said. “It’s a place where many a new hunter has been introduced to the sport and where many ‘up and comers’ polish their skills.
“For many turkey hunters, it is the place they killed their first gobbler and many of them continue to hunt there to this day. Even some hunters who have private land on which to hunt still come here a few days each season for the change of pace and for tradition sake.’’
Jackson-Bienville WMA has also been key in turkey management research through the years. Dr. Jim Dickson, a retired professor and a known authority on turkey management, did a mortality study in conjunction with LDWF on Jackson-Bienville WMA. The results of the study helped in setting turkey season lengths and bag limits that are currently in place.
Jackson-Bienville WMA is one of 55 WMAs managed by LDWF. The 1.6 million acres in the WMA program provide habitat for numerous wildlife species and outdoor recreation opportunities.