October 2012 - Volume 32, Number 10

Features

Highway 82 hugs the Southwest Louisiana coast and provides plenty of options for anglers looking for a quick fix.

Highway 82 in Vermilion Parish is a paved corridor through some of the finest natural areas in the state. During the fall, the wings of autumn buzz highway travelers on 82 while alongside the scenic highway, camo-clad hunters start getting their camps and leases ready for the coming duck and goose season.

This is where the flyway ends, and the first fronts of the fall signal hunters to the coming gun season.

To many, though, one season remains ever in play: Fishing takes no back seat, as the angling action remains hot when the chill winds start to blow.

Opening week of squirrel hunting season in the Bayou State presents your best opportunities at bagging a limit.

Sammy Guillory of Breaux Bridge was a man on a mission near the end of one of his first hunts during the 2011 Louisiana squirrel season.

Looking through his bag, the 50-year-old hunter counted seven squirrels — five greys and two large foxes — and the morning was getting late.

“I then heard some barking, and I needed just one more squirrel to get my limit,” recalled Guillory.

Cypress trees provide not only an alternate food source for bushytails, but they offer hunters easy opening-weekend limits — without all the hunting pressure.

Traditionally, Louisiana’s hunting season kicks off in earnest at the crack of dawn on the first Saturday of October when a veritable army of camouflaged hunters creep into the woods in search of fox and cat squirrels.
The vast majority of those hunters target groves of mast-bearing oak trees, while some will slip through mixed pine and oak forests.

But a few nonconformists will head in a completely different direction — and very likely shoot their limit of bushytails.

Cypress trees are one of the most-overlooked places to hunt because many hunters are not even aware of how heavily squirrels feed on cypress balls in the early fall.

I have to admit I didn’t know it until one October morning when I was easing down a slough in Dugdemona swamp with my Marlin bolt-action .22 rifle.

There are around 600 different species of plants that deer eat in Louisiana. Here are some findings that will help you focus on the most-popular deer foods to up your changes of hunting success.

As we all know, the 2011 mast crop was tremendous, but the overall statewide deer harvest was way down from past years.

While many are quick to blame low deer numbers due to drought, coyotes, poor habitat, etc., the plain and simple fact is that deer had an abundant food source available to them — and they did not have to visit the feeders and food plots as most hunters hoped they would and subsequently banked their hunting outings on.

A very mild winter also kept native browse greener than usual, providing the deer with sufficient food.

Marsh hunting is a step outside of the norm, with the tangle of vegetation making it easy for deer to disappear. Here are some tips to up your odds.

The suspicious speck of white flickered some 200 yards away, resembling what might have been simply a bird flying or the cotton-like puff from the head of a cattail bursting its contents in the wind.

But, when hunting deer in the marsh, nothing is left to chance — where coastal deer are concerned, more often than not it’s simply “now you see em, now you don’t.”

The suspicious white-colored flicker needed to be thoroughly checked out, and not simply become a passing thought that would leave me wondering on the boat ride to the landing.

Picking up my binoculars, I studied the white speck. It was still moving and, low and behold, the white turned out to be a deer’s ear.

Lafitte’s Indian Graveyard is said to be haunted. Certainly a lot of redfish lurk around the burial mound — Just be careful not to spook them!

So, when the voice on the other end of the phone said we’d be fishing in a graveyard, I’ll admit it took me aback. The call came a short time before Hurricane Isaac struck, so we weren’t talking about fishing a flooded cemetery.

“Where are we going to be fishing?” I asked for clarification.

“Indian Graveyard,” the voice answered. “It’s a big area of ponds and canals down between here and Grand Isle.

“And it should be loaded up with redfish right now.”

State Highway 1 between Fourchon and Grand Isle provide a great jumping-off point for kayakers looking to find easy pickings for reds, specks and more.

There are some pretty cool perks to being an outdoor writer. One is that opportunities sometimes present themselves to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

For example, Corey Coghlan, co-owner of Kajun Custom Kayaks, offered to take me kayak fishing in the marsh around Grand Isle last October. I had been going down to Grand Isle for a couple of years to fish the beach but had never tried kayak fishing.

Of course, I jumped at the chance.

Surprisingly, Coghlan told me to meet him and his partner Andrew Chidlow at Moran’s Marina in Fourchon at 8 a.m. instead of the crack of dawn. When I mentioned the late start (not that I was complaining), Coghlan explained that tidal movement was more important than time of day.

Hit a home run this month by heading to Lake Pontchartrain for some of the best trophy speckled trout fishing of the year.

CRACK!!

The sound that a white ash baseball bat makes in the dry, crisp October air is unmistakable. It’s not the hollow ping from the aluminum bats used in college and high school.

The best of the professionals put the wood to the ball every October during the Major League Baseball World Series. But they’re not the only pros at work during this beautiful month.

In Louisiana’s biggest lake, some of Louisiana’s best speckled trout anglers are hitting home runs with big speckled trout. “World Series Trout” are what Lake Pontchartrain fishermen call them.

Pine plantations might not be the best habitat, but piney woods definitely hold deer. It’s just a matter of refining your block of woods to find the winner within.

My son tossed a block of wood onto the counter and asked me to help him turn it into a car that would win his local Cub Scouts’ annual Pinewood Derby race.

I stared at it a while and wondered how in the heck we were going to turn a stretched-out looking cube of wood into a car that would roll down a track in style.

But with the help of my dad’s wood shop, we marked out a design and clamped that featureless block of wood into a vise.

They might not be glamorous, but squirrel hunting certainly is more active than deer hunting — especially for kids just starting out.

Squirrels aren’t sexy. They don’t have 12-inch beards and 1 ½-inch-long spurs that hunters just can’t wait to measure. They don’t have G2s and main beams that hunters just can’t wait to see how they fit in the palms of their hands. They don’t have tusks that threaten to disembowel the dogs that bay them into a corner. And except for a couple satirical images on the internet of G.I. Joes standing with their feet on top of one, there is no such thing as a trophy squirrel.

Strip malls and subdivisions are slicing up Louisiana’s piney woods, but that doesn’t mean the deer have gone anywhere. Here’s the best way to take one of these suburban deer.

By 8:20 a.m. five text messages had alerted me to many vital matters.

“Remember I gotta get home in time for the Saints-Colts tailgate party!” read one.

“Wait till you see my Harry Potter Halloween costume!” read another.

“Saw some squirrels — but not as many as in my backyard. Can I bring my air rifle next time? And pop a few squirrels? Looks like they really, really like this corn. And here comes a raccoon! I thought you said this place was full of deer? Well, I haven’t seen any yet?”

Learn how to change fishing tactics to continue catching Dularge redfish during the transitional month of October.

Three days after Hurricane Isaac raked across coastal Louisiana, Capt. Marty LaCoste launched his 24-foot Blue Wave Pure Bay from Jugs Landing at the end of Highway 315 below Houma in Terrebonne Parish.

He knew what he was looking for, but he wasn’t sure he was going to find it.

Turns out, after making a loop from Lake Mechant into Sister Lake, down to the coast, up Pelican Pass and on into Bay Junop and King Lake, he found no birds and no clear water.

His catch for the day included a couple of redfish, a black drum and a freshwater catfish.

Things were a lot better for him two days later.

The language of whitetail sign-posting (aka rubs and scrapes) is diverse and, at times, complex — especially when rut-crazed bucks ravage the timber with cluster rubs. So what is a hunter to do?

*Editor’s note: Tommy Kirkland has spent years photographing white-tailed deer, and this article is based on his observations.

Moving along the woodland edge, the morning dew saturates the footwear. As the sun breaks through, you finally find evidence of whitetail activity — a fresh tree rub.

Approaching the battered pine, you’re quick to notice that this isn’t just your typical rub: An explosion of several new rubs is just beyond the edge. They’re all about the same height and with the same degree of intense rubbing.

The odds of hunting success can be increased by learning what foods deer are most likely to eat.