Many years ago (OK, it was during the Dark Ages for you young people), I was helping Louisiana Sportsman contributor Chris Berzas with an article about deer habitat. I was demonstrating the newly developed deer browse transect and how it measures browse availability and utilization.
In between transects, the conservation turned to the idea that deer hunting for a trophy buck and fishing for a lunker bass are very similar.
First off, one has to hunt or fish where the big ones live. Most deer hunters consider 160 to be that magical number that qualifies a buck for the trophy category, while bass fishermen view 10 pounds as that mystical number for a genuine trophy bass.
Many deer hunters will go out-of-state to hunt for that B&C or Pope & Young trophy. Likewise many bass fishermen will make a trip to Mexico for that elusive 10-pounder.
One really does not have to travel across state lines for a trophy buck or bass. The pages of the Sportsman are full of photos of 10-pound bass caught on Toledo Bend, while the annual big-buck issue has photos of trophy bucks taken right here in the Bayou State.
Again, the key is to hunt or fish where the big ones live and grow. As mentioned last month, age and growth is what it is all about when it comes to big bucks and bass. The nutrition has to be there for this to happen.
The deer hunter will survey the landscape and look for sign of a big buck. Bucks like to hide in dense cover, and this is a key to success.
Likewise, the bass fisherman will look across the water for those areas where a big one is likely to be lurking beneath the surface.
Sometimes the deer hunter will focus on food that is available for a big buck, just like the bass fisherman who chooses the lure that is similar to the food the bass are eating (small fish, frogs or crawfish).
The bass fisherman will choose the best time to be out there, when weather conditions are good, and perhaps focus on the big fish during the spawn; the deer hunter will also pay attention to the weather patterns and hunting the rut is a must.
Smaller bucks are passed over with the idea that they will only grow larger, while smaller bass are returned back into the water with the hopes they, too, will grow larger.
The deer hunter will select the best possible stand site on the landscape where the hunter can intercept that trophy, while the bass fisherman will select the best site on the water to make his cast.
I think by now you are getting the idea. We both came to the conclusion that this is why we both like to deer hunt and fish for bass. Both activities are quite challenging, and both can be very rewarding.
According to the state deer records, over 50 trophy bucks were killed during the 2013-14 deer season. This speaks well for the state and the deer management program under the direction of Scott Durham, the state deer biologist.
While most qualified for the Annual Big Buck List, there were some that made the B&C Record Book and/or the Pope & Young Record Book, along with some becoming permanent on the Louisiana State List.
Jason Archer topped the non-typical category with his 200 1/8-inch buck he killed in Concordia Parish with his .35 Whelen. Richard Dugas led the way in the bow category with his 169 7/8-inch non-typical killed in Avoyelles Parish. I think Richard used a longbow to bag this trophy.
Ramona Curole led the way in the typical gun category with a 168 4/8-inch buck she killed in Union Parish. This is a great typical buck for a piney woods parish, and it qualifies for listing in the B&C Recognition Program.
Another lady hunter, Mary Jones, killed a 152 2/8-inch typical in Beauregard Parish. To my knowledge this is the largest buck ever killed in Beauregard Parish, which is not really known for producing trophy bucks.
The cold winter of 2013-14 was ideal for deer hunters, particularly with the lack of acorns. Deer were forced to feed mainly on the native browse or the forage plantings. This may present problems for the deer herd during the 2014-15 season; with such a cold winter and the lack of acorns, deer have had to eat native browse and forage crops in the planted areas, and if the food supply was low, the deer would have a tough time catching up and putting on the new growth needed to reach trophy status in the fall.
However, for those hunters and managers who did the ground work necessary to have quality food available for deer, there should be some trophies for harvest come October.
It appears that a good white oak mast crop is developing along with a good crop of sawtooth oak acorns.
Going back to the Dark Ages again, the summer of 1971 was a good one for this writer. I had just finished my freshman year of college, was still only 18 years old and could play again for the Minden American Legion baseball team, and had plenty of time to fish on Lake Bistineau.
I was really living the good life.
The bass fishing was really exceptional, and Dad and I were doing quite well. We had a regular route on the lake that we could fish in two to three hours, and we generally would fish in the early morning and come back in the evening, when I wasn’t on the ball field.
On one evening trip we were about midway in the route, fishing a small channel between the cypress trees. I was using my old standby 6-inch purple worm with a red tail (as I remember it was really only about 4 ½ inches, since I had bitten off some of the head in an effort to get the most goody out of it); Dad was using his usual topwater bait.
A fish grabbed my worm and I set the hook; I knew it was a good one, but the fight did not last long and it was in the boat within 30 seconds. It was my best bass to date — 5 ½ pounds.
I am surprised we took a photo of the fish after we got back to the house. It was a great fish, and the fact that Dad was with me made it even more special.
Fast forward 42 years to June 2014: The fishing has been great on some lakes that my cousin owns, and I had been doing quite well using a Rouge and a Ribbet Frog. I have been catching and releasing quite a few 4-pounders and had a few break my line.
Talking with my fish expert, Andre LaFosse at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, he advised me to put braid on one of my reels for fishing the thick vegetation with the frog. He also gave me some pointers on how to properly rig the frog with the hook.
I had the guys at Bowies rig me up with some Fins Windtamer Braid on a reel, and I also purchased a couple of more bags of Ribbets.
Back on the water, I had put a few fish in the boat and was fishing the frog in the weeds around 8 p.m. I made a cast and was just beginning to reel in the big-footed frog when a fish came up and absolutely killed the creature that was paddling on the water surface.
The bass was hooked immediately, and I knew it was a good one; it made one jump, and then just kept pulling and pulling. The pirogue was moving along with it; finally I had it close to the boat, grabbed it and hoisted it in.
A new Moreland record: 6 ½ pounds.
And it only took 42 years for this to happen. Hopefully it won’t take another 42 years to set another record.
With the age and growth that I am finding on this lake, I’m thinking it will happen sooner than that. Now if that elusive 160-inch buck will just cooperate and put in an appearance this fall.