The 2014-15 deer season is history and now it is time to clean up the deer camp, take care of deer stands, wash the ATVs and trucks, measure the racks at the upcoming Sportsman Show and evaluate the deer harvest data to see what is right or wrong with your deer management program.
Many of you may be asking, “What harvest data?” These hunters are saying the deer season was horrible.
According to LDWF, the reported harvest as of mid-January was down about 8 percent from the 2013-14 season.
There are a few of you who thought the season was pretty good and enjoyed your days in the deer woods.
I would chime in with these latter hunters and say it was a good season — maybe even a great season. I probably hunted less this season than past seasons since retiring in 2007, but my days in the deer woods were very productive.
I was talking with my sister Ginger, who lives in Heflin, about deer hunting in Area 2 during the late season. I was telling her my deer hunting had been dramatically curtailed because of grand-parenting duties, and she asked me what I had killed so far.
I told her I had killed a 10-point and a 7-point, and before I could finish she told me she had no sympathy at all for me and my fewer days in the deer woods.
Deer hunting success is often measured by the number of deer killed. While I enjoy harvesting deer, I really enjoy just being out in the outdoors, regardless of whether brown goes down.
The whole hunting experience helps to recreate my inner being and for me, hunting is an adventure, something you don’t find too often in this high-tech, fast-paced world.
While my days were limited, the quality of my deer-hunting experience was exceptional. I chose to hunt on the days when the rut was on and weather conditions were conducive for deer movement.
For example, on Jan. 25, I was making an evening hunt in Area 4 in East Feliciana Parish. It was a clear and sunny afternoon, cool but not cold and a little windy, but I thought deer would move before dark.
I set up on the ground on a green patch about one acre in size, surrounded by oaks that had been dropping acorns all season. I figured the second round of breeding activity should be going on, which was another reason for being out there.
Sure enough, at 4:30 p.m. a doe came running into the patch, stopping about 60 yards away from me. Her mouth was open and she had the appearance of a doe that was being hounded by a buck.
And a nice 8-pointer came right up to her. The doe moved away and I begin scrutinizing the buck with my binoculars.
I knew it had to be at least 4 years old, had good main beams and brow tines, and I was trying to determine if the G2s and G3s on both beams were 8 to 10 inches long.
I lowered the binoculars and started to pick up the little 50-caliber Isaac rifle and shoot, but I chose to take one more look with the binoculars.
The second look confirmed my first thoughts that it was a shooter buck, but then the buck quickly vacated in the direction of the doe and was gone.
While it would have been a great kill with the muzzleloader (the buck was at least 125 B&C), I was thrilled by the experience. I had made a good setup based on the wind direction and the plan proved to be productive.
It was a great hunt. Besides, there was still another week of primitive hunting left and it is not over until it’s over.
The 2014 deer season was greatly impacted by several factors, with two of them being weather and acorns.
It was the warmest year on record; October was unusually warm, and I did not make any deer hunts with my crossbow because of the heat.
We had some good cold weather in early November, just in time for the Area 2 rut, but then the warm weather came back and December was also unusually warm, which is when the first round of breeding takes place in Area 4.
Acorns began falling in October, and I don’t think they have ever stopped falling. In Areas 1 and 6 there are still striped oak acorns yet to fall.
Hunters who put all their time in around the feeders and patches no doubt were disappointed; the stomachs of the deer I killed had plenty of acorns in them.
Food patches that are often eaten up by January actually were growing and producing plant material. Mother Nature was giving the deer all that they needed.
Hunters who didn’t pick up on this probably did not fare well — seeing and harvesting few deer.
The rut in Area 2 cranked up in late October and was going strong on Nov. 1. I killed my 10-pointer on Nov. 2 when it came out of the woods following a doe.
For the next two weeks it was hot and heavy on this club in Bossier Parish, as evidenced by the deer harvest. But by Nov. 24 it was over.
In fact, the club did not kill a buck the rest of the deer season. My friend Ken, who hunts pretty hard, killed a doe in early December and was trying to kill another one, but the deer movement went to zero and stayed that way the rest of the season.
Hunters who hunt deer with the early breeding Area 2 genetics and waited for the late season were out of luck.
Our property is in East Feliciana Parish — Area 4 — but we have the Area 2 genetics (the southeast quarter of the parish was stocked with Area 2 deer). I killed my 7-pointer on Nov. 15, opening day of the gun season.
After that our deer activity went to zero, just like in Area 2. In fact, we did not see another deer the rest of the season; the rut was over and the woods were loaded with acorns. Deer simply did not have to move to find food, and if they did it was at night.
It is no wonder the kill is down in this parish this year. However, either-sex days were reduced last year, so the kill in this area should be down — and with the poor December weather, which is when this rut cranks up, and with all the free food in the woods a low kill should be expected.
I enjoyed my hunts on Pearl River WMA. While I did not harvest a deer, I saw some on several hunts, and this was the most buck sign that I have seen on the area in a long time; scrapes and rubs were everywhere.
Had I taken advantage of the first primitive season and hunted the cow oak trees that were dropping acorns I believe I would have harvested a deer. I did connect with a big black boar hog during the second primitive season on the area.
In Area 6, I hunted the rut and striped oak acorns at Morganza in January and had good success with seeing deer. I had several encounters grunting up young bucks, saw some shooter bucks at distances and harvested some does that were full of acorns.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, hunters in Area 1 and 6 need to focus their hunting time in late December and January.
An added bonus to my hunting season was a covey of quail that showed up on our property in January. I have been working hard for eight years to make the property attractive to turkeys and quail.
We have had success with the turkey birds, but I was about to think bobwhite were extinct until a covey flushed under my feet as I was walking through the winter cover strip that I had left standing in the turkey patch.
Hopefully the clover that is beginning to put on growth will be sufficient to attract some hens and toms come March and perhaps hold the interest of the quail.
Hope to see you at the Sportsman Show in a few weeks — be sure to bring your racks in.
Remember every adult who enters has a chance to win a Yamaha 350 Grizzly ATV, and we have some other great prizes to give away this year.