Resident Small Game Program

Resident Small Game Program

The Resident Small Game Program involves management, research and population monitoring activities for bobwhite quail, rabbits, and squirrels. Personnel also develop and participate in the wild turkey research conducted by the Department.  Jimmy Stafford, Resident Small Game and Wild Turkey Program Leader, coordinates the Resident Small Game Program.

In order to meet public demands for resident small game, the Resident Small Game Program and Technical Services Program offer technical assistance to improve habitat on public and private lands. Program biologists also conduct research to assess and improve management. Several population monitoring surveys are conducted by regional and program biologists to develop population indices and track population trends of small game species.  Personnel also represent the Department on various committees which are involved in monitoring and formulating regional and national programs which may have impacts on small game wildlife.


Population Status
Data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey show bobwhite quail populations in Louisiana have declined by about 75% since 1966. The Department's fall surveys also illustrate a general downward trend. This is due primarily to habitat degradation. Clean farming techniques in the agricultural regions of the state have all but eliminated quail from these areas. Intensive pine management that features short-rotation densely stocked monoculture pine stands and infrequent prescribed burning has reduced quail populations in the forested upland regions of Louisiana. In addition, a number of unusually dry summers in recent years has resulted in poor reproduction and exacerbated the effects of habitat degradation. However, much of the habitat loss occurred during the 1970s and 1980s. As a consequence, in recent years the population indices have been more stable and influenced primarily by summer weather conditions.

In an effort to address long-term population declines in bobwhite quail and other birds dependent on grassland habitat, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has joined 25 other National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) member states to support the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) to help restore bobwhite quail to their former range.  The NBCI was established by the member states to work fulltime at the state and national level to address landscape scale challenges limiting bobwhite quail.  To this end, a unified bobwhite quail restoration strategy named “NBCI 2.0” has been established.  The following NBCI information is available for use by state, federal, and private land managers:

NBCI Executive Summary

NBCI ver 2.0

 Since 1967, Louisiana's bobwhite quail populations have declined by approximately 75%.  Louisiana is not the only state where bobwhites have declined precipitously.  Bobwhite populations across the southeastern U.S. have declined by about 60%.  This downward trend is not limited to bobwhite quail.  Other species that require similar habitat such as eastern meadowlark and loggerhead shrike have also exhibited significant population declines.

There are a variety of programs available through federal and state agencies that provide technical and financial assistance to landowners willing to implement practices beneficial to quail and grassland birds.  LDWF is involved in efforts to inform landowners and promote participation in these conservation programs.

Reversing the downward trend in quail and grassland bird populations will not happen overnight.  This is a long-term venture that will require the commitment and cooperation of numerous organizations, agencies, and most importantly, individual landowners.  Agencies,  organizations and landowners will have to work together in a coordinated effort to restore the ecosystems and habitat that are home to bobwhite quail and many other species.

LDWF and its partners are engaged in a number of projects that are directed at restoring the type of habitat required by quail.

  • The West Gulf Coastal Plain Prescribed Burning Initiative and East Gulf Coastal Plain Prescribed Burning Initiatives – These projects fund 1 prescribed burn for private landowners with suitable habitat.  The goal is to familiarize the landowners with the benefits of prescribed burning and work with landowners to conduct subsequent prescribed burns.  Over 13,000 acres have been burned across Louisiana through these initiatives since they began in 2008.
  • Through the Technical Services Program, LDWF provides assistance to landowners seeking to manage and improve habitat for bobwhites and other wildlife. 
  • Working with partners, LDWF is engaged in regional efforts to improve habitat used by quail and other wildlife.  This includes the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture, East Gulf Coast Joint Venture, TX/LA Longleaf Taskforce, and West Louisiana Ecosystem Partnership.
  • In conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service the department is working to establish a bobwhite focus area on the Kisatchie National Forest.  This area will be subject to practices specifically designed to improve bobwhite habitat.  Surveys will be conducted to monitor population response.
  • LDWF,  working with the U.S. Forest Service has established a bird dog training area on the Vernon Unit of Kisatchie National Forest.  This adds to current BDTAs on Sandy Hollow WMA, Bodcau WMA, Lake Ramsay WMA, and Sherburne WMA.
  • LDWF has entered an agreement with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide technical assistance to landowners interested in creating and managing quail friendly habitat in longleaf pine habitats.
  •  LDWF periodically conducts landowner workshops on a variety of topics, including management practices that favor bobwhites and other grassland birds. 
  • LDWF makes available specialized native grassland drills and burn trailers to landowners to aid them in their efforts to improve bobwhite habitat.
  • LDWF prescribed burns approximately 2,000 acres each year on the Sandy Hollow and Lake Ramsay WMAs to improve bobwhite habitat.
  • LDWF is working with the Louisiana Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation to conduct several thousand acres of additional prescribed burns on other WMAs to enhance wild turkey and quail habitat.

A statewide quail population survey (see documents section below) is conducted each fall. This survey is used to develop an index to the quail population for various habitat regions throughout Louisiana. Approximately forty 19-mile routes are run throughout the state in late October and early November. The routes are randomly located in 5 major habitat types.

To help determine bobwhite quail survival rates, harvest rates, nesting success, habitat use and movements, 178 bobwhites were radio-tagged and 245 were banded over several years on the Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area. Findings include:

  • Only 6.4% of bobwhites survive over 1 year. Most of the mortality was due to predators, both avian and mammalian.
  • Overall, less than 1 in 12 birds were taken by hunters and hunters harvested birds from less than 1/3 of the coveys. However, when a covey was found, about 1 in 5 birds were bagged. Both harvest rates (with crippling loss also considered) are within the recommended 30% value for the South.
  • Quail move considerable distances in the fall and spring. One covey moved over 3 miles and movements of 1 mile were common.

As a response to interest in releasing pen-reared bobwhites for population enhancement by some users of the Sandy Hollow WMA and quail hunters in general, 33 pen-reared female bobwhites were radio-tagged and released in groups on the area in good habitat and provided supplemental food and water. Within 3 days, 52% of the birds were dead and by the 12th day, 84% had died. Within 2 weeks, 97% of the birds were dead. Most of the mortality was due to predation. This study affirms the general principal that most pen-reared quail fare poorly when released into the wild. The potential problems caused by pen-reared introductions, such as disease introduction, outweigh the marginal benefits.

From 1984-2000, almost 8,500 wings were collected from hunters to determine production indices for quail and peak hatch periods.  Average chicks per adult hen was relatively high (greater than 6), but it varied greatly between years due to weather. Quail wings (see documents section) highlight the importance of July and August to quail production in Louisiana. 

National Farm Policy often shape quail and other farm wildlife habitat.  Many Farm Bill issues are currently being considered in Washington. The Wildlife Society maintains a website with up-to-date Farm Bill issues.  Other bobwhite information can be obtained at the NBCI website


Population Status
Specific population surveys are not conducted for these species; however, the Department's annual hunter harvest survey provides indices to population trend.  The 2010 – 11 survey estimated that 72,500 squirrel hunters harvested 948,100 squirrels.  During the same period 36,700 rabbit hunters harvested 272,900 rabbits. It is likely that increased conversion of hardwood forests and stream bottoms to pine forests and poor mast crops have contributed to lower squirrel hunter success. In the absence of major habitat modifications, year to year fluctuations in rabbit and squirrel populations are due primarily to summer rainfall amounts in the case of rabbits and prior year's mast crop in the case of squirrels.

Louisiana has 2 species of rabbits: eastern cottontails and swamp rabbits.  Although the cottontail is considered more of an upland species and the swamp rabbit a wetland (wooded) species, both species occur within our coastal areas.

Rabbits can have high productive rates in Louisiana when habitat and weather conditions are good.  Adult cottontails may have as many as 6 litters per year and young of the year may contribute another 25% to the production.

Biologists monitored rabbit population response to rotational burning regimes on an old field alluvial site on Sherburne WMA for 6 years.  Rabbit use suggested that 2 or 3 year burning cycles were optimal for rabbits.

Louisianahas 2 species of squirrels: gray squirrels and fox squirrels.  However, there are 2 recognized subspecies of gray squirrels and 3 subspecies of the fox squirrel.  In addition, melanistic (black) color phases in each species.

In good production years, adult squirrels will have 2 litters--one in the spring and one in the late summer.

Resident Small Game Seasons

2015-2016 Schedule



Season Dates

Daily Bag Limit

Possession Limit


Nov. 21 - Feb. 29




Oct. 3 - Feb. 29




Oct. 3 - Feb. 29



May 7-29*




Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour
after sunset. Consult Wildlife Management Area and Federal
Land sections for specific regulations and dates on those areas.
*Spring squirrel season is CLOSED on the Kisatchie National Forest, national
wildlife refuges, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property and some state WMAs
(check WMA season schedule).


Deer Tagging Information

Prior to hunting deer, all deer hunters, regardless of age or license status, must obtain deer tags and have in possession when hunting deer. Immediately upon harvesting a deer, the hunter must tag the deer with the appropriate carcass tag before it is moved from the kill site, and the hunter must document the kill on the harvest report card portion of the deer tag license.

The hunter must record the date of kill and the parish of kill on the carcass tag. The tag must remain attached to the deer while kept at camp, or while it is transported to the domicile of the hunter or to a cold storage facility. Hunters who keep the carcass or meat at camp must also comply with the game possession tag regulations. Within 7 days the hunter must validate the kill using the toll free validation phone number 866-484-4805 or the web link:

Hunters harvesting deer on DMAP lands should follow the instructions provided to them by LDWF. When deer check stations are in operation, hunters on WMAs can validate deer during mandatory deer check hunts.

Bag Limits

One antlered and one antlerless deer per day (when legal) EXCEPT on some Federal Lands where the daily limit shall be one deer per day (see specific Federal Lands regulations for details). Season limit is six, not to exceed three antlered OR four antlerless deer (all segments included) by all methods of take, EXCEPT deer harvested on property enrolled in DMAP will not count in the season or daily bag limit for hunters. See DMAP Regulations (LAC 76:v.111) for more information. Antlerless deer may be harvested during entire deer season on private lands (all segments included) EXCEPT as specified in the deer hunting schedule. Consult  deer hunting schedule for either-sex days for these parishes and areas.  A legal antlered deer is a deer with at least one visible antler of hardened bony material, broken naturally through the skin.

Hunter Orange

Any person hunting any wildlife during the open firearms deer hunting season and possessing buckshot, slugs, a primitive firearm or a centerfire rifle shall display on his head, chest and/or back a total of not less than 400 square inches of “HUNTER ORANGE.” Persons hunting on privately owned, legally posted land may wear a hunter orange cap or hat in lieu of the 400 square inches. These provisions shall not apply to persons hunting deer from elevated stands on property that is privately owned and legally posted or to archery deer hunters hunting on legally posted lands where firearm hunting is not allowed by agreement of the landowner or lessee. However, anyone hunting deer on such lands where hunting with firearms is allowed shall be required to display the 400 square inches or a hunter orange cap or hat while walking to and from elevated stands. While a person is hunting from an elevated stand, the 400 square inches or cap or hat may be concealed. WARNING: Deer hunters are cautioned to watch for persons hunting other game or engaged in activities not requiring “Hunter Orange.”

Deer Management Assistance Program - DMAP

For information on DMAP, see this link

Primitive Firearms Season

Still hunt only. See page 34 of the 2014-15 Louisiana Hunting Regulations pamphlet for specific hunting area dates. Specific WMAs will also be open. Check WMA schedule for specific details. A primitive firearms license is required for resident hunters between the ages of 16 and 59 inclusive and non-resident 16 years of age and older. Either-sex deer may be taken in all deer hunting areas EXCEPT in West Carroll Parish, and EXCEPT Deer Areas 4, 7, 9 and 10 as specified in deer hunting schedule. Consult deer hunting schedule for either-sex days for these areas, and as specified on public areas. It is unlawful to carry a gun, other than a primitive firearm, including those powered by air or other means, while hunting during the primitive firearm season. EXCEPT it is lawful to carry a .22 caliber rimfire pistol loaded with #12 shot (ratshot only).

Youths 17 or younger may hunt either sex deer with any legal weapon during the Primitive Firearms Season in each deer hunting area. Legal Primitive Firearms for Primitive Firearms Season include:

1. Rifles or pistols, .44 caliber minimum, or shotguns 10 gauge or smaller, all of which must load exclusively from the muzzle or cap and ball cylinder, use black powder or approved substitute only, take ball or bullet projectile only, including saboted bullets.  All of the above may be fitted with magnified scopes.

2. Single shot, breech loading rifles, .35 caliber or larger, having an exposed hammer that use metallic cartridges loaded either with black powder or modern smokeless powder. All of the above may be fitted with magnified scopes.

3. Single shot, breech loading shotguns, 10 guage or smaller, having an exposed hammer, loaded with buckshot or rifled slug.

Archery Season

Still hunting only Oct. 1 - Jan. 31 in all deer hunting areas

EXCEPT Areas 3, 8 & 10: Sept. 20 - Jan. 15 and

EXCEPT Areas 6 & 9: Oct. 1-15, bucks only and Oct. 16 - Feb. 15, either-sex.

WMA seasons are the same as outside except as noted below. An archery license is required for resident bow hunters between the ages of 16 and 59 inclusive and non-residents 16 years of age and older. Either-sex deer may be taken in all areas open for deer hunting EXCEPT when a bucks only season is in progress for gun hunting and EXCEPT in Area 6 from Oct. 1-15. In such cases, archers must conform to the bucks only regulations. Either-sex deer may be taken on WMAs at anytime during archery season EXCEPT when bucks only seasons are in progress on the respective WMA.

Bowhunting Equipment Regulations: Longbow, compound bow and crossbow or any bow drawn, held or released by mechanical means are legal means of take for all properly licensed hunters. Bow and arrow fishermen must have a sport fishing license and not carry any arrows with broadhead points unless a big game season is in progress.

Physically Challenged Season on Private Land

Either-sex. Oct. 4-5. Restricted to individuals with Physically Challenged Hunter Permit.

Youth and Honorably Discharged Veterans Season on Private Land


Areas 1, 4, 5, 6 & 9: Oct. 25 -31.

Area 2: Oct. 11-17.

Areas 3, 7, 8 & 10: Sept. 27 - Oct. 3.

Youths 17 or younger only and resident honorably discharged veterans. Youths must possess a hunter safety certification or proof of successful completion of a hunter safety course. Youths must be accompanied by one adult 18 years of age or older. If the accompanying adult is in possession of hunter safety certification, a valid hunting license or proof of successful completion of a hunter safety course, this requirement is waived for youths younger than 16 years of age. Adults may not possess a firearm. Youths may possess only one firearm while hunting. Legal firearms are the same as described for deer hunting. The supervising adult shall maintain visual and voice contact with the youth at all times. EXCEPT properly licensed youths 16-17 years old and youths 12 years old or older who have successfully completed a hunter safety course may hunt without a supervising adult.

Resident veterans must be properly licensed and must possess proof of honorable discharge.

See 2014-15 Louisiana Hunting Regulations for more information.


Deer Season 2015-16



Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Consult Wildlife Management Area and Federal Land schedules for specific regulations and dates on those areas.


POSSESSION LIMIT                                                          DAILY  BAG LIMITS

6 per season, not to exceed                                        1 antlered and 1 antlerless (when legal)

3 antlered OR 4 antlerless per season


*For more details on the 2014-15 deer season, refer to the 2015-2016 Louisiana Hunting Regulations





Habitat Assessment

Locating suitable release sites for wild turkeys has been key to the success of Louisiana’s restocking program. Over the years, LDWF received many requests from landowners and sportsmen to stock wild turkeys. LDWF continues to get 5-10 requests annually. It has been LDWF's policy for many years that restocking requests be evaluated by a Region biologist and/or Turkey Program Leader prior to being approved. Criteria used in the evaluation are the presence or absence of wild turkeys, distance from presently occupied turkey range to request area, amount of suitable habitat at the release site, support by local residents, land use trends, and potential for expansion.

Restocking Summary

The Department’s trapping and relocation efforts have resulted in the capture and release of 3856 turkeys. Wild turkeys have been released in 45 parishes since 1963. During the mid-1990s, a total of 766 turkeys (480 captured in-state and 286 received from out-of-state) were released at 35 sites in 20 parishes. Most areas in the state capable of supporting viable wild turkey populations have now been restocked.


Turkey habitat management activities include improving turkey habitat on wildlife management areas and the Kisatchie National Forest as well as providing technical assistance to landowners and managers with an interest in improving turkey habitat on their lands. Habitat management techniques frequently used include maintaining openings, planting fall and spring food plots, hardwood composition enhancement, and, in pinelands, prescribed burning.

Wildlife Division personnel provide recommendations to LDWF on hunting seasons and regulations based on the results of the monitoring programs.


2015-2016 Season

South Zone

Sept. 5-13, Oct. 10 - Dec. 1 and Dec. 19 - Jan. 15

North Zone

Sept. 5-27, Oct. 10 - Nov. 8 and Dec. 10 - Jan. 15

The dove hunting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise to sunset on all dates in each split, EXCEPT on Sept. 6 opening day on state wildlife management areas and LDWF leased fields, where the hunting hours will be 12 noon to sunset.

Dove Hunting Zones

The following boundary divides the state into North and South dove season zones: Beginning at the Texas-Louisiana border on La. Hwy. 12; thence east along La. Hwy. 12 to its intersection with U.S. Hwy. 190; thence east along U.S. Hwy. 190 to its intersection with Interstate 12; thence east along I-12 to its intersection with Interstate 10; then east along I-10 to the Mississippi state line.

Bag Limit

Mourning and white-winged doves and fully dressed Eurasian collared- and ringed turtle-doves: Daily bag limit 15 in aggregate, Possession 45 in aggregate, but note: there is no bag limit on Eurasian collared-doves or ringed turtle-doves provided that a fully feathered wing and head remain attached to the carcass of the bird. Fully dressed Eurasian-collared doves and ringed-turtle doves (those without a fully feathered wing and head naturally attached to the carcass) shall be included in the aggregate bag.

Public Dove Hunting on Leased Fields (to be announced)

The following rules will apply to all leased dove fields:
1.  Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
2.  Shot larger than size 7 ½ is prohibited (size 7 ½ , 8, 9 are allowed)
3.  All trash - including shell hulls - must be picked-up.
4.  Only legal doves may be taken.
5.  All hunters must have a daily permit, issued at the field, as well as appropriate hunting license with HIP certification; except that hunters under 16 years of age do not need HIP certification.  The daily permit will be issued on a first-come first-served basis.  HIP certifications are available from hunting license vendors.  If hunters have formed a line prior to the time permits are issued, permits will then be issued to those in line, in order of arrival.
6.  There is a $10 fee per hunter, 16 years of age and older. Cash or check. Hunters under 16 years of age will be admitted free, but they must check-in and obtain a daily permit.
7.  When a predetermined number of hunters are admitted, the field will be closed.  Additional hunters may be admitted when someone leaves the field and surrenders his/her permit.  Use of vehicles, including ATV’s, may be restricted and will vary from field to field.  Check with LDWF personnel about restrictions when you check-in.
8.  These leased fields are open to the public Sept. 6 only.  Entrance at any other time is trespassing.
NOTICE: These leased fields have been made available through the cooperation of the landowners.  Future access to these fields and other private property is dependent on the conduct of the hunters using these fields.

2015- 2016 Public Dove Hunting Opportunities on WMAs (to be announced)

Wildlife Management Areas Dove Fields

For more information on state Wildlife Management Areas: click this link

For specifics on the current WMA dove field situation, you should contact the Wildlife Division field office nearest the WMA dove field you wish to hunt.

Minden: 318-371-3050

Monroe: 318-343-4044

Pineville: 318-487-5885

Lake Charles: 337-491-2575

Opelousas: 337-948-0255

Hammond: 985-543-4777


Population Monitoring and Research

The Wildlife Division conducts/sponsors a number of survey and research projects to keep abreast with turkey populations status, turkey habitat needs, basic biology, harvest, and harvest rates. These include poult surveys, gobbling activity surveys, banding, and radio telemetry. While more complete information about these projects is contained in the turkey program reports, several generalizations can be made as a result of these activities:

  • Brood size has been found to be generally largest in the western longleaf region of the State.
  • Adult gobblers typically make up more than 80% of the reported harvest at check stations on a statewide basis.
  • Turkeys are quite mobile. Movements of 5-plus miles is common in contigous habitat. Two radio-tagged hens moved about 20 miles before radio contact was lost.
  • Gobbling generally increases until the start of hunting season, regardless of the start date.
  • Harvest rate can be highly variable depending on the site, bag limit, and season length.


The Wild Turkey Program includes management, restoration, and population monitoring and research of the wild turkey in Louisiana. In order to meet public demands for this resource, Wildlife Division biologists offer technical assistance to improve habitat on public and private lands for the benefit of the wild turkey. In addition, monies for various projects are made available through LDWF's Wild Turkey Stamp Program and the Louisiana State Chapter of The National Wild Turkey Federation's Super Fund Program. Two population monitoring surveys are conducted to develop population indices and to track population trends of wild turkeys. The Program biologist represents LDWF on several technical committees that are involved in monitoring and formulating regional and national programs that can impact on the wild turkey.

Population Status

Prior to 1880, the wild turkey population in Louisiana was estimated to be as high as one million birds. However, by the turn of the century, the state's turkey population started a precipitous decline. Exploitation of our virgin forests, subsistence hunting, market hunting, and unregulated sport hunting played roles in the declining wild turkey population in the state. By 1946, Louisiana's turkey population was estimated to be only 1,463 turkeys. Beginning in 1962, a restoration program that consisted of trapping and releasing wild captured birds into suitable habitat was initiated. Since that time, the state's wild turkey population has grown to an estimated 80,000 birds.

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