The annual Thanksgiving doe day hunt at Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area was officially underway. 

Last year’s opening morning was unbelievable:  My brother saw three does, I saw three bucks and my buddy had doubled-up and took a spike and a doe. 

Anxious with anticipation, even more guys joined in for this year’s expected blast-a-thon in lower Concordia Parish.

I arrived on Wednesday to bowhunt and scout a little. I had no luck from the stand, but jumped two nice bucks in our area that added some confidence to our upcoming mission. 

Unfortunately, on opening gun morning we jumped deer next to our spots walking in early at 4:15 a.m. After shivering in the dark for hours, we got overrun by other hunters who came in at daybreak and then set up  within 100-yards upwind and downwind of us. 

When hunting funnels in between water bodies, this is an absolute disaster, but that’s how public land hunting goes sometimes. 

On the north end of the WMA, very few shots were heard. By day’s end, the north check station totaled only eight deer - downright horrible with such cold conditions. 

Gratefully, one of those few shots was from my brother. 

That evening I let my brother, Zack, take my kayak and set up in one of my favorite bow hunting trees where the jumped deer headed that morning. He smoked a big 5 ½-year-old doe that came out with two yearlings for only his second-ever public land deer. (A biologist had told us it’s better to shoot the big nannies than the yearlings.)

My wife and I had hunted south of him. With all my buddies borrowing my good climbers, my old one broke when I started to ascend – thank goodness for my rock climbing harness!

 My first day was ruined by other hunters and a broken stand, but the memories of my wife paddling us in with the pirogue for the first time and successfully climbing high in a climber, overcoming her fear of heights, were well worth it.

On the second day, only one guy in our group saw a deer. He videoed the button buck, which he let walk.  Only a meager 14 deer were checked in two days on the north end, with Friday’s 4-point still being the biggest buck. 

By Sunday morning, only a few of the guys continued hunting and one killed a spike. I stalked for hours in the windy conditions after my quick morning hunt — with no luck. 

Only three out of our group’s 53 hunts had even spotted a deer — I guess this just wasn’t our year. 

The biologist said only 309 deer were taken over the weekend in the entire WMA. That was dramatically lower than last year’s total of 433, even though hunter efforts rose to 5,264 over last year’s 5,128 attempts.

So is the deer herd healthy?

The biologist thinks so, and said the February and September night surveys showed a growing population. The weekend's 1: 17.1 harvest-to-hunter-effort ratio was below average. 

Simply put, the hot weather had shut down the deer action, and fewer hunters were willing to get into the thick, nasty tangles where the deer were thriving.

But there would be no quitting on my end. 

Come Sunday evening, my truck was the only one parked in sight, and I was just as excited for this hunt as Friday’s opener. 

And sure enough, I finally got to see an animal from the stand when a big pig came out 40 yards behind me. 

I drilled the big boar freehanded with my new DPMS .338 Federal tactical brute of a gun. The freehanded shot was taken quickly with the hog quartering slightly forward before he sniffed my trail. 

Then, I swung around the tree and stuck him again during his sprinting retreat.

I waited for my wife to bring the dog to begin tracking that night since I couldn't find any blood. Shasseh pulled my wife (who was videoing) and me straight to the big beast laying stiff 70 yards away within seconds.

Without my dog it would’ve taken all night to find the hog, and I may not have ever found it at all. And letting the pig sit all night in 60-degree weather to search in daylight might have resulted in spoiled meat.

It was one hellacious drag to haul the pig out of my hunting area through the waist high picker bushes. I made it back home Sunday night after midnight with a nice hog harvest to cap the midpoint of my season after 68 total deer hunts so far.

I was more excited about this pig than most because it was given to a good cause: I donated it to a charity cooking event for my friend’s church feast called ‘Kill It and Grill It.’

Two weeks prior, Cory Bourg had asked me for a pig for his Dec. 6th cook-out. Luckily, I scored this hog for the 50-person feast in the final minutes of remaining time to hunt. Hopefully everyone will love the smoked pork.

It was great to test out my new DPMS Panther LR-338L in the field. I ordered it, and then patiently waited two years for the weapon to be built. 

Unfortunately for the hogs, it arrived right before hunting season. 

The .338 Federal is the most powerful 20-round capable semi-automatic tactical weapon available. My DPMS is the Light Rifle model that weighs in at only 7.9 lbs. 

It kicks about the same as my .270 and has a trajectory similar to a .308, but with the power of magnum calibers. The large diameter and heavy weight of this caliber is said to make it one of the best deer-hunting rifles for the brush, and an excellent weapon for larger CX3 class game, too. 

I’ve heard of deer being killed with this tactical rifle at 425 yards, but out of the more than 100 big game public-land animals I’ve harvested, 60 yards is the furthest shot I’ve ever taken.

Yes, a weapon this forceful isn’t always needed, but it’s a great tool to wield when the need calls for it. I know of many deer that were lost with a poor first shot, and by the time another round was loaded, the opportunity for a follow-up shot was gone. 

Powerful long-range 20-round capacity tactical rifles in the .300 Win Mag exist, but they cost nearly $5,000. The .338 Federal can be purchased for under $1,300 and boasts a lot more killing power than the typically-shot .243 Win or .308 Win used from the same AR-10 platform.

I bought this gun specifically for hog hunting, but firing this weapon was such a blast that it’s now my weapon of choice for gun hunts. 

It did the job on that boar, but still I long for the day an entire pack of pigs is in the open with my new favorite firearm pointed in their direction!