In December, seasons are open for most game species, so it is time for a hunter to put some meat in the freezer.
Generally, the term meat hunt implies a hunter is fixing to go shoot a doe to put meat on the table.
Of course, in the early days of deer hunting, it was taboo to shoot a doe, unless one needed camp meat. Over time, when deer numbers increased across the state and either-sex seasons were initiated, shooting does became the norm, providing a year-round supply of meat for a family.
It is still common, however, that when the deer season opens, hunters are somewhat reluctant to shoot does because they know this is a good time to connect with a buck.
My friend Ken Mason, who hunts up in Bossier Parish, saw 13 does and three bucks on opening day of the Area 2 primitive season.
Ken knows that in Area 2 the rut is beginning to crank up in late October; consequently, he made sure he was sitting in his stand looking for antlers.
Look at the harvest records of his club and it is easy to see that most of the other hunters are also looking for antlers. In fact, as of the opening weekend of the gun season, the club had recorded a harvest of three bucks.
Of course, the weather in October was dominated with unusually hot weather. When the sun sets and the temperature is still 80 degrees, deer are not going to be very active.
But by the end of November, the Area 2 rut is history and hunters begin to focus on harvesting a doe or two to make sausage for the year.
In the late-rut deer areas, hunters know their rut is in December or January, so when the season opens in November they will go ahead and shoot does, get a supply of freezer meat and then start looking for antlers for the wall.
For the group of hunters with whom I have hunted over the years on Pearl River WMA, December is the month not only to hunt deer: Seasons also are open for hogs, squirrels and ducks.
Our meat hunts consist of early morning duck hunts with hopes of getting a limit of woodies, followed by some slipping around and shooting squirrels, and hoping for a chance at a deer or a pig.
It is something like the early pioneer days, when a hunter went out to bring home meat for the table. Instead of sitting on a stand all day, we slip around to go after game.
Of course, one has to abide by the various WMA rules and regulations, so it takes a little forethought and preparation.
Since generally the bucks-only season is open, all hunters except duck hunters have to wear hunters orange vests and hats. So what we do is go in early to our duck hole or slough, wearing hunters orange for safety, and then we put on camo for the duck hunt.
Of course, non-toxic shot is required, so we have to be sure we do not have any lead in our possession. We hunt ducks with shotguns, and deer and pigs with rifles, so most of the time we are packing two guns.
One could just hunt with a shotgun using slugs or buckshot, but these are lead and the regulations say no lead in possession when hunting ducks; of course, no one in their right mind would use buckshot for ducks, but to avoid any problem with agents we usually leave it in the boat and retrieve it later.
Once the duck hunt is over, it is important to have hunter orange in the pack to put back on for the other hunts. Squirrel hunters are required to wear the orange during the deer season.
To avoid any issues with the lead shot, I simply hunt squirrels with my steel shot — and, believe me, steel will kill squirrels.
Some might think that wearing orange would mess up a squirrel hunt, but in December the squirrel rut is beginning to happen and that orange really does not bother squirrels.
When the rut is on and squirrels are chasing other squirrels all through the trees, the action can get exciting. I remember one hunt when I was following three squirrels around trying to get a shot on one or two of them, when all of a sudden two stopped one behind the other, and the third was getting close.
I aimed and waited as long as I could, hoping the third would get there, and fired just before the first two began moving again.
Those two fell dead, and the third one must have run into the shot pattern because it jumped off the end of the branch and hit the ground dead.
Now I have killed two on several occasions with one shot, but I doubt if I will get a triple again.
Since we also look for deer and pigs, it is important that stalks are very slow and methodical. No need to get into a big hurry; keep the trees in front of you for cover and stop often to glass, look and listen. One of the guys who hunts with us uses those game ears to up the odds of hearing game.
In December, the deer rut on Pearl River WMA is generally on, so there is a good chance that bucks will be chasing does.
With a little luck and some good weather, our meat hunts often produce enough game for a good winter gumbo or meat for the grill. In any case, it is just a whole lot of fun — more so than sitting on a stand watching the leaves fall.