Have you killed a deer yet?
Earlier rut should have hunters hopping
The prediction of an earlier rut seems to be coming to pass, and that means bucks in the late-rut areas of the state should be on the move.
November should have been the hot month for Area 2 hunters; for us hunters with a late rut the best is yet to come.
Because of the time demands in the magazine world, I am writing this column at the end of October. The bow season has been open for almost a month, and the Area 2 muzzleloader season began on the 19th and the regular gun season begins on Oct. 26. Our muzzleloader and gun season in Area 4 opens in mid November.
So, since you are reading this in December the answer to the question for many of you should be “yes.”
And if it is “yes” I hope you reported the kill to LDWF (it is required for you to do this).
I visited Desoto Parish on Oct. 21 to check feeders and cameras on my relative’s property and to see what the pesky beavers were up to. From what I saw in the woods, the rut was beginning, and when the regular gun season opened the chasing and breeding should have started.
I saw fresh scrapes and rubs everywhere. These were not the scrapes that bucks make and forget about; these were serious pawings in the dirt on the woods trails and along the field edges that occur during the peak scraping period.
Camera photos showed the feeding frenzy that was taking place during the prerut by the bucks had ended, basically as of early October.
This would explain the occurrence of all the scrapes. Bucks were beginning to mark the ground in hopes of finding the does that might be beginning to have their estrus cycle.
In addition to the rut, acorns were beginning to fall. And, as we all know, bucks prefer acorns over corn.
I had three really good adult bucks on the cameras and several more nice 8-points during the prerut feeding period, but the feeder visits by these bucks from Oct. 2-21 were pretty much a zero.
The rut appears to be early, as was predicted in the rut report published in the September issue of Louisiana Sportsman.
If the weather cooperated with a few cold fronts, November should have indeed been a hot month for deer hunters in Area 2, and hunters should have meat in the freezer. The northwest piney woods parishes lead the state in deer harvest.
I really do not get too excited about the October bow season. The weather is still warm — and it was warm this year and our does were still nursing fawns. In fact, most of the fawns I saw in East Feliciana Parish on my hunts were still well spotted.
I am not going to shoot a doe that is nursing a fawn, and there is no way to know if the doe is. I have been watching a doe and a fawn that come every day to a feeding site. Sometimes the doe will come and feed and will then be joined by the fawn; sometimes the fawn comes first and the doe follows later.
The best management is to let the does alone and wait until the fawns are weaned before shooting them. LDWF has reduced the either-sex days because of low fawn recruitment and lower deer numbers, and it does not make sense to kill a doe that is raising a fawn.
The adult bucks that come to the feed sites come at night and don’t show up in the daylight. I have had a few young bucks come in and feed, but they are not on my target list.
Because of the early breeding in Area 2, most of the fawns on Oct. 1 have lost their spots and are pretty much weaned. It is entirely different in the late-rut areas of the state. This is the reason we have different seasons and not one season for the entire state.
I will have a chance to hunt in early November with my friends Larry Savage in Union Parish and Ken Mason in Bossier Parish, and with our gun season opening in mid-November I would think I could answer “yes” to my question. Heck, there is still another week of October left for me to connect with my crossbow should we get a good cold front that gets bucks moving.
My friend McElroy and I made a trip to Pearl River WMA following the cold front that moved into the state on the squirrel opener in October. It was a perfect day, and I had my eight squirrels in an hour. First time to do that since Hurricane Katrina.
From what I saw regarding deer and hog sign, we will be returning to the Katrina Woods. I found plenty of deer browsing sign throughout the area I hunted, and the cow oaks have a good crop of acorns — and this should be a key to success when the deer season opens.
If the rut is on schedule for Area 2 as predicted, the forecast for Areas 1, 4, 6 and 9 should follow suit. Again, the prediction is for an earlier rut than normal — as much as two weeks — so check the hunting season dates and make plans.
Hunt preparation is a must for success; when the season opens time should be spent hunting and not trying to finish getting things ready. Rifles should be sighted in, deer stands in place and secure, boats running properly and all the accessories that go with a day in the field should be in the pack.
Of utmost importance is safety. Hunters can get lax concerning matters of safety, and that is when we become vulnerable to accidents. On our hunt at Pearl River I was deep in the swamp and discovered I had not charged my cell phone. We need to always be prepared and always check our gear before hitting the woods. Good communication is a must. Make sure family and friends know where you are going and where you will be.
As the Duck Commander often tells his grandkids: Be ready should things go south.
When I called my friend Ken in Bossier Parish to find out if he had killed a deer on opening day of the muzzleloader season, he told me that instead of hunting he had been at the funeral of a friend who had been hurt when he fell out of his deer stand and later died of complications from the fall. His friend was a veteran of the deer woods and a skilled bow hunter; he had just shot at a buck and was getting down when he fell off his lock-on stand. The limb that the safety rope was attached to broke, and he hit the ground on his back.
He was able to call on his phone for help, and was taken to the hospital. He was released after a few days and, while at home, fell and died on the way back to the hospital. He loved hunting, but more than that he loved his family and friends.
It is a must that we all be safe, not just for ourselves, but for the loved ones waiting for us at home.
Accidents are going to happen, but with frequent checks and double checks, we hopefully can eliminate most of them. There is much more to life than being able to say, “Yes, I have killed a deer.” Keep the right perspective: Hunting is recreation, and recreation is all about recreating yourself.
Enjoy your time in the December deer woods. I am!
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