Well, another year has ended and as Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, “Another day older and deeper in debt.” The hunting version of this song would go, “Another season has ended and the freezer is empty.”
Hopefully, though, you had success during the 2014-15 season and have some game to feast on during the next few months.
It was a strange season, thanks to Mother Nature. Most of the serious deer hunting began on Oct. 1. Hunters are always eager to hit the woods, but unfortunately the weather during that month could be best described as unseasonably warm and not too conducive for sitting in a stand.
A cold front arrived on the first of November and blessed the Bayou State with the kind of weather hunters like. The rut was on in Area 2, and there was much success for hunters in this area.
Freezing temperatures blessed Area 4 hunters on the opening day of the gun season, but it soon disappeared as November came to an end. The unusually warm temperatures returned during the month of December, along with some much-needed rain.
The weatherman said December temperatures were well above normal; in fact, I don’t think there was a freeze in the Clinton area until Christmas Day.
Needless to say, hunters in December were much challenged due to the warm weather. When the temperatures are warm and the rut is on, most of the movement is at night and not during the daylight hours.
Mother Nature also blessed us with a decent acorn crop. It was a tremendous white oak crop in Clinton, and water oak acorns are everywhere on Camp David. In fact, I’m not sure you can walk from one end of our small property to the other without stepping on a nut.
The warm temperatures and rain have turned our plantings into a proverbial buffet of greenery, available for both deer and rabbits 24/7.
We had good success in November with the deer, but December was a totally different story, mostly due to the unseasonably warm weather.
My friend Ken Mason in Bossier Parish (Area 2) had success in November, as did many of the hunters on his lease. But it appeared the deer activity shut down totally in December.
I was up there in mid-December hunting with him and Dick Smith. The club records showed that members had not killed a buck since Nov. 24.
Ken had killed a doe on Dec. 8, and I shot one on Dec. 17. Examination of the ovaries showed that both had ovulated and were bred.
I was able to establish a Nov. 5 breeding date for the doe I killed, which is right on target with the activity we saw in early November. The cameras in Desoto Parish confirmed this activity — no buck photos were at the feeders in late October through Thanksgiving, which meant the bucks were chasing does and also eating the acorns in the woods. No need for corn when Mother Nature provides a table fare of acorns.
I went to Pearl River WMA for the traditional managed deer hunts during the Thanksgiving holidays. I had a great setup, hunting next to a cypress tree with a 6-foot diameter but saw no deer.
I did some looking around after the morning hunt and found that the cow oak trees that had acorns in October had fallen and had been eaten up. One of the trees in the area I hunted had a doughnut ring of deer and hog tracks around the tree.
I did not hunt Pearl during the first primitive hunt in mid-November, probably the time when these critters were eating all these acorns. I had missed my window of opportunity on the area, but since I had killed a buck on Camp David during this time I am not complaining. But it certainly is something to keep in mind for 2015 — when you find good sign, stay with it and hunt.
The three-day managed hunt at Pearl produced a total harvest of 12 deer: 436 total hunter efforts during the three days, with one deer killed for every 36 hunter efforts.
Not a real good success rate at all, but keep in mind that Pearl is a different area from what it was in the ’80s, when the deer harvest was much better. In those days, over a thousand hunters would show up on one day of hunting.
This year there might have been 150 hunters on the first day of hunting. That’s not many hunters for such a large area and certainly not enough to get the deer stirred up, especially in the dense cover of these Katrina woods.
Overall LDWF was pleased with the hunts around the state, and the information concerning hunter success is available on their website.
I returned to Pearl for the second primitive season in late December, and buck sign was everywhere: scrapes and rubs were fresh, and on one morning I saw deer but could not shoot.
The primitive season was still on at this writing, and I plan to stay with it. There is probably some of the best buck sign and activity that I have ever seen on this area, and I have been hunting Pearl since 1976.
The deer kill for Pearl River, based on the managed hunt data, is not impressive, but Pearl has totally changed since Katrina. Hunting Pearl River is about as challenging of a hunt as one can find anywhere, and is one reason I enjoy it. Perhaps in the next column I can share a success story with you, one of those “rest of the story” stories.
The start of a new year means that turkey hunting is only a few months away. Now is the time to be looking ahead and making your hunting strategies.
I have enjoyed pretty good success over the years, primarily due to habitat preparation. Create good habitat conditions for the birds and they should show-up come hunting season.
Habitat preparation is also the key for turkey production. Clover is a must for turkeys, and if you did not plant any clover patches there is still some time to do it before spring. I planted crimson clover all over the Camp David landscape in 2013, and this year it has returned on its own. I was pleased to see a flock of 11 turkeys in the big field this past October.
Now is also the time to plant trees, especially since we have been getting some rain. Planting trees before March will allow the root systems to get established and improve survival in late spring and summer, if rainfall is limited.
I firmly believe that sawtooth oaks are a must for any wildlife program, even if it just a small orchard of six to 12 trees. These oaks do very well in most of our state’s soils and with our Gulf coast weather.
A new book has recently been published and is available to members of the Tenth Legion (turkey hunters). Actually, it is available to anyone who enjoys the outdoors and all things wild, but is a must for those who hunt turkeys.
Sally Stuart Morgan, the wife of the late Kenny Morgan, has just published his book "America, Wild Turkeys & Mongrel Dogs, Life Lessons from a Hunting Master." I had the pleasure and honor of knowing Kenny Morgan. He honored me when he wrote and published his first book, "Turkey Hunting, a One Man Game."
I provided photographs for this book, which is a must for any turkey hunter’s library. It is still available if you do not have it, but for sure you want to get a copy of his new book.