Greetings to all, from what I hope is the beginning of the “Post Covid Era.” To say it has been quite the ride, would be an understatement and one cannot imagine a single life or family that has not been touched by this Global Pandemic. Reflecting at lost freedoms, family members and friends, Confucius was probably on to something much larger than he realized when he said that “everyone eats and drinks; yet only a few appreciate the taste of food.”
After a wild wet 2019, and a Covid 2020, and simply considering those two things alone, 2021 seems to have gotten off to a better start. If one can possibly understand the ups and downs of managing property within the Mississippi River floodplain, and the specter of constantly rising and falling waters, the past four and a half months may, perhaps, have been our most normal in recent memory. The “Extended Streamflow Prediction” provided by the National Weather Service River Forecast Center in Slidell, LA, shows the Mississippi River (Vicksburg Gage) dropping approximately 10 feet over the next 28 days. Aside from the water getting back in the river and off the terra firma, we at Tara will be blessed by a continuous “spring green-up” extending well into summer. As the water recedes, the rich sediment laden ground provided by our upstream neighbors, is gradually warmed by the sun. Grateful plants pop up through the newly deposited earth, becoming food and cover for a multitude of equally grateful wildlife species; and in particular, some really hungry whitetails. And just like that, the cycle of life in the floodplain continues, just as it has for millennia.
Returning to a New Normal
Tara Wildlife was able to pull off a remarkably successful inaugural rut hunt in 2020/21. That success was not coincidental; rather it was made possible only with the support of you, our trusted friends, dedicated staff, and sometimes cooperative weather.
Hunting Season Recap
Still struggling with complications related to covid, Tara Wildlife, on November 29, 2020, welcomed its first bowhunting guests since 2018. As has always been customary, all hunting guests were exposed to a detailed orientation program, during which past events, current observations and realistic expectations were discussed. In an effort to monitor population trends, special emphasis was placed on each hunter completing observation cards. Cards were furnished prior to going to the field and were returned at the conclusion of the hunt.
Buck harvest was focused on older age class animals which exhibited specific but readily identifiable physical characteristics. As planned, harvest was limited to one buck per hunter. Antlerless deer harvest was not a harvest option during the 2020/21 hunting season.
In all, 48 bucks were harvested during the 2020/21 season. The largest buck taken scored an impressive 178 4/8 inches of antler. That buck was aged at 3.5 years! Thirty-five percent of bucks harvested were aged at 3.5 years. Sixty percent of the bucks harvested were 4.5 years and older. The average buck harvested at Tara during 2020/21 had a gross Pope and Young score of 137 5/8 inches.
Observation Data Recap
Observation data collected by Tara’s hunters showed population trends which were remarkably consistent with camera survey data and pre-hunting season calculations. Antlered to antlerless ratios reported by hunters, were calculated at 1 buck to 0.9 antlerless deer. This population disparity is seemingly a carryover effect from the devastating effects of the 2019 Flood. Does took a harder hit than did the bucks. Unusually close antlered to antlerless population ratios were a consistent population trend in preseason camera survey data; a trend which continued all the way through hunting season and into post season. Nevertheless, we do expect that gap to widen in favor of the antlerless segment with the great fawn crop we experienced in 2020 and anticipating an equally good or better fawn drop in 2021.
Next Step Management
Mae west said, “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Robert Frost said, “in three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” And on it goes, particularly if we are among the fortunate who are blessed to experience another Fall or Winter chasing whitetails, bull elk; or whatever stirs your senses and beckons you into the great outdoors.
Looking ahead in 2021, we all have a lot for which to be thankful. At Tara, we also have a lot of work in front of us. Clean-up from an ice storm in February and the 2021 Spring flood event has left us with eroded culvert crossings, and debris covered roads and food plots. Clean-up, along with installation of selective summer wildlife food plantings will be ongoing.
Concurrent with these management details, Tara has re-opened its well-equipped Conference Center to various professional groups and will host Summer Youth Camps for the first time since 2018. To say that we are optimistic is an understatement. To tag onto the words of Helen Keller, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
We at Tara are excited to be getting back to normal. Your support and encouragement continue to give us hope and confidence. We look forward to taking each of you with us on this journey, as collectively we strive to maintain and our ongoing stewardship commitment that is Tara Wildlife.
W.H. “Bill” Tomlinson
Certified Wildlife Biologist/Registered Forester
Sustainable Resource Managers, LLC