Johnny Morgan, Foil, Lane D., Elzer, Philip H., Reed, Donald P., Gentry, Glen T.
CLINTON, La. – Owners of high-fence deer facilities and others interested in the business attended the high fence deer management field day at the LSU AgCenter Bob R. Jones Wildlife Institute on April 22.
Glen Gentry, interim director at the AgCenter Bob R. Jones Idlewild Research Station, said a number high-fence operations are in Louisiana, with most of the larger operations in the northern part of the state.
“There are mainly two types of facilities,” Gentry said. “There are the breeder pens that are fairly common in this part of the state that feed the larger high-fence hunting operations.”
The sizes range from 30 to 40 acres for the breeder pens to 500 to 2,500 acres for the hunting operations, Gentry said.
Participants at the field day showed lots of interest in the new rules and regulations governing their industry while nutrition also garnered interest.
The operators of these facilities enclose an area. If there are deer in the area at the time, they must remain there. If no deer are in the area when it’s enclosed, which is the ideal situation, the owners will introduce animals to the property, said Phil Elzer, LSU AgCenter associate vice chancellor and program leader for animal sciences.
“One of the goals of the breeders is to improve the genetics of the deer in their herds, which normally means larger antler size,” Elzer said.
They also are looking for animals with resistance to disease so they can be sold to others in the business.
“Today we have pulled in all of the agencies involved,” Elzer said. “We have the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, mosquito control, of course the LSU AgCenter and the LSU Veterinary School.”
The purpose of the field day was not so much on how to manage the animals, but primarily to explain some of the problems of biting insects spreading disease.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Lane Foil, Todd Walker with East Baton Rouge Mosquito and Rodent Control and Gentry discussed diseases caused by gnats and flies the operators need to be aware of and vector control techniques.
Some of the regulations growers have to follow is maintaining their fences and keeping good records, said Dr. Jonathan Roberts, regional veterinarian with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
“They have to maintain their facilities and keep them up to par,” Roberts said. “They have to pay their annual fees, and they get inspected annually.”
Roberts said one of the diseases of concern is chronic wasting disease, which is akin to mad cow disease.
“We don’t have the disease in the state, and we’ve never had it. But we have a certification program for the operators, which requires them to keep accurate records on the animals at their facility,” Roberts said.
Among the owners is Ben McDonald, former LSU basketball and baseball player and former major league pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers.
McDonald, an avid bow hunter, owns an operation in the state and another in the Natchez, Mississippi, area. He said he got into a high-fence operation as a hobby.
“I’m really interested in growing big deer here in Louisiana with breeder pens. My big operation is in Mississippi, where I hunt and sell commercial hunts,” he said.
Mississippi is unique because it’s always had closed borders, meaning no deer can be brought into the state, McDonald said.
“Management to us is really important because we can’t bring in any new genetics like you could in Louisiana before the borders were closed,” he said.
McDonald said he was one of the first to put in a high-fence operation in Mississippi in 1992.
“I’ve been tinkering with it for a long time, and I’m always concerned with nutrition and proper genetics to insure the biggest deer,” he said.
Other topics discussed at the field day included proper stocking rates, forage crops and nutrition for breeding herds.
The AgCenter wildlife institute was established to conduct wildlife research, which includes deer, feral hogs, turkey and other game birds, Elzer said.