My parents are no longer alive, but I remember well these holiday times growing up in Northwest Louisiana. Later, as my brother, sister and I married, Mom and Dad really enjoyed the holiday season with their six grandkids, and Mom was blessed to see three of her great grandchildren during her last three Christmases.
Now, as a grandfather, I get to experience what they did with our three grandsons. I have seen that twinkle in their eyes as they enjoy all the excitement that Christmas brings. What a sad day it is when that twinkle grows dimmer and dimmer as they grow older.
The holiday season comes right in the middle of the hunting season, and that brings even more excitement to the holidays. It also provides the opportunity for us hunters to share our blessings, both the hunts and the game, with those who do not hunt or get to enjoy the outdoors. Successful hunting is as much about the timing of the hunt. Cold weather in the Bayou State usually spells success for hunters in the field. As a deer hunter I am constantly looking at the weather channel during the season to see when the fronts are coming. A cold front that has temperatures below 60 and the barometer reading 30 inches or better will keep me on the deer stand all day.
A few months back, following Hurricane Isaac, I wrote about Mrs. Doris, who presented me with her late husband's TC .50-caliber muzzleloader after I cleaned her yard. She did stipulate that some back strap would be in order if I had success with the rifle.
I named the gun the Isaac Rifle, and set about getting it ready for the season. The October bow season was not real productive from a deer standpoint (unusually warm temperatures and no rain kept deer movement low), but I did get some pork for the freezer and for some sausage to share with friends for their football tailgating.
I made an early deer hunt with my former co-workers Larry Savage (retired LDWF DMAP biologist) and Mike Olinde (retired LDWF upland game biologist) on land that Larry's family owns in Union Parish. I carried the Isaac Rifle on the first hunt without any luck and on the second hunt the next morning I opted to use the trusty .444, since I was going to have much longer shots.
Larry had instructed us to shoot anything because we needed to get Mike some sausage for his second daughter's wedding. A deer crossed a right-of-way north of my stand, and I prepared to make a shot as it moved through the woods to the east because it would have to cross another lane through the woods. It looked as if it was not going to stop but at the last second did, I fired and Mike had half a deer for his sausage.
Larry was also successful that morning, and so Mike went home with the meat.
I was able to share the remainder of my deer with two more families.
I left Union Parish and drove to Bossier Parish, and hunted with my friend Ken Mason on his lease. Ken had killed an 8-pointer the opening week of the Area 2 gun season and the first rut was underway. We saw plenty of does and a couple of spikes. Prior to Thanksgiving, Ken took advantage of his new retired life and hunted every day; he tagged out with two more bucks, another 8- and a 6-pointer. He had seen a good buck on one of the hunts and probably should have opted to save a tag for the late season, but we all know about the bird in the hand.
I will be hunting with Ken during the late season with the objective of harvesting some does on his lease to check the breeding dates of does since most of them would have been bred in late October and November.
Area 2 hunters who have not tagged out on bucks should keep hunting, since the second rut in December can often be a hot time and in January the bucks are going back to feeding — so staying late at a feeder may pay off.
During the Area 1 primitive-weapons season, I was in the woods with the Isaac Rifle but that opening weekend was the pits. However, a cold front moved in on Sunday, dropping the temperatures to the mid-30s. I was in the turkey box that Monday afternoon, and when I saw the barometer hit 30 around 2:30 p.m. I knew things might work out for me.
Sure enough a 1½-year-old doe came out at 4:30, and when it stopped at 25 yards the Isaac Rifle dropped it on the ground. It is a really nice-shooting rifle, no kick, but it does pack a wallop with the .370-grain buffalo bullet that I shoot in it. It is sighted in with that round for dead center at 50 yards.
I think Mrs. Doris was a little surprised when I brought her the back strap with the tender loins attached. Now I need to put a buck notch on the stock.
Acorn fall seemed to occur early in our area, and the deer stomachs that I looked at contained both white oak and red oak acorns. The woods that I hunted in with Larry were absolutely loaded with white oak acorns. It appeared that by the end of November many of the acorns in the Clinton area were gone and the food plots might be the ticket for the late-season hunts.
However, rain has been scarce in Southeast Louisiana. It is interesting to see just how timing is so important when planting fall patches. I planted Camp David in early October following a good rain. My plantings came up great, and thanks to some wet dews during October and November my patches were actually green patches with good stands of clover, chickory, winter grass, mustards and turnips.
I was picking turnips in mid November and sharing this bounty with several families, and will continue to share it with them throughout the winter.
In February I will get my church friends together, and we will again pick the turnips and donate them to the Baton Rouge Food Bank. All of this is possible because of the good soil moisture when I planted.
I planted my buddy's patches a week later when the soil moisture was not so good. Now his place is only 10 miles away, but these patches still look like plowed ground with just a hint of green on top. December rains would certainly make them green-out for the January season, but it is amazing how just one week made such a big difference on the two tracts.
The holiday season is all about giving and sharing rather than receiving. Oh yes, it is nice to get, but it is so much better to give.
The Israelites in the Old Testament practiced what was called First Fruits. The First Fruits of their harvests and of their livestock were brought to the House of God. I like this practice, and have been doing this for years.
Sharing in the bounty of our game harvests and our turnips is a great way to show that hunters are not just concerned with filling their game bags but are doing what they can to help others with their needs.
The Hunters for the Hungry Program is a great way to share your venison and pork. The Food Bank will also accept your donations of fish and waterfowl.
Yes, timing is everything, and now is the time to share your blessings with others.