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Stocks, Bonds and Wildlife
In most parts of the country, wealthy men spend their money on jet planes, yachts and imported cars, but in Louisiana, a growing number of nuovo-rich are pouring their cash into massive tracts of hunting land.

BY ANDY CRAWFORD

Roseland Plantation has been groomed to produce numbers of big bucks. Most of the deer taken, like the 150-point-class buck downed by Ralph McDaniel (right) are killed with bows. A few, like 10-year-old Caroline Burks’ buck are taken with guns. Burks’ deer scored 132 B&C points.
Roseland Plantation has been groomed to produce numbers of big bucks. Most of the deer taken, like the 150-point-class buck downed by Ralph McDaniel (right) are killed with bows. A few, like 10-year-old Caroline Burks’ buck are taken with guns. Burks’ deer scored 132 B&C points.

The boom of the 1990s resulted in more and more people dumping their extra money into the stock market, and many of those new investors made lots and lots of money.

A few Louisianians saved some of their capitol, however, for another kind of investment — land.

But they weren’t looking to build houses and subdivide this land. What these devoted outdoorsmen wanted was to develop their newly bought land into a paradise of hunting and fishing.

Here are a few stories of how these investments are paying off.

Roseland Plantation - Concordia Parish

Baton Rouge’s Shawn Burks and a brother-in-law grew tired of dealing with the hassles of leases 12 years ago.

“You’ve managed it and done right by the landowners, and all of a sudden a doctor or attorney offers $5 an acre more than you’re paying and you’re subject to being unseated,” Burks said.

During a conversation about the disadvantages and risks surrounding leases, the two hatched a plan.

So they brought in another of Burks’ brothers-in-law and a buddy, each chipped in some money, and they bought 3,400 acres of Concordia Parish land.

During the succeeding years, the group of avid hunters has purchased more than 2,000 additional acres that today make up Roseland Plantation.

Today, Burks owns a 25-percent stake in the property, while his brothers-in-law, Ferriday’s Dee and Jess Horton, own 15 and 10 percent, respectively.

Lafayette’s Roland Dugas owns the other 50-percent stake.

The land is prime bottomland/hardwood in the fertile Mississippi Delta, with all but 600 to 700 acres of the property lying on the outside of the river’s levees. The unprotected land is inside the levee.

Burks and his partners have invested heavily in the property, sinking money and time into programs to increase the quality of the deer herd and provide plenty of feeding and resting area for ducks.

“It was like an old dog — the foundation was there; it was a registered dog that had gone astray,” Burks said. “What we did was take that old dog and groom it and shampoo it and make it what it is today.”

What Roseland Plantation is today is a playground for deer and ducks.

The property had what Burks described as “a good deer herd and good genes,” but the goal of the group of owners was from the beginning to allow the bucks to live long enough to grow record-book racks.

The state’s Deer Management Assistance Program has been an integral part of their pursuit of that goal, but it has also required a lot of man-hours and money.

Drainage has been improved on the land, allowing some of the property to be used as agricultural land.

“It was unfarmable because of drainage,” Burks said. “We put a good bit of money on development.”

Some of the land has been leased out to farmers, who have planted soybeans, corn, milo and cotton.

That has provided plenty of high-protein food for deer, improving their health and helping in the production of big racks.

Added to the agricultural foods available to deer are hundreds of acres of clover growing wild on the levee.

“Our deer never go through a harsh time of year,” Burks said.

Because of the ample food, the couple of hundred acres of green patches are only planted just prior to hunting season.

“They’re mainly to attract deer. There’s plenty, plenty of natural vegetation for the deer to eat,” Burks explained. “We don’t plant a summer crop because there’s soybeans all around us. They wouldn’t use the food plots.”

As part of the trophy deer management program on the property, pressure is kept to a minimum.

This includes strict hunting restrictions.

“We bow hunt exclusively in the interior,” he said.

That doesn’t mean there is no gun hunting, however.

“We manage does with guns. We do all that on the borders,” Burks said. “In the interior, we’re pretty quiet.”

Most of those allowed to hunt on that perimeter are kids, women and those with disabilities.

“Ninety percent of the deer are killed with bows,” he said.

In keeping with the desire to hold disturbance of the deer population to a minimum, Roseland Plantation land will soon be off limits to all-terrain vehicles.

“We’re going to golf carts only,” Burks said. “They can hear those ATVs.”

To accommodate this, interior roads are being improved.

“You can imagine how much is being invested in roads to allow golf carts,” he said.

This has all paid off in the ability for the hunters to be pretty picky.

“We try to shoot only book deer — those that score at least 125 points,” Burks said. “We killed 16 last year, with the best measuring 176 inches.”

Also, certain tracts of the land have become part of “wildlife cuts,” which basically means all non-mast-producing trees have been removed and hardwoods planted in their places. Hardwoods are planted at a rate of 150 trees per acre.

“We don’t take out any nut- or fruit-bearing trees — persimmons, honey locust, pecans or oaks,” Burks said.

Although it obviously will take years for those trees to mature and begin dropping mast, Burks said the impact of these selective cuttings to wildlife is immediate.

“What you’re doing is creating openings that allow more sunlight in, producing more browse,” Burks said.

More land has been impounded and planted in rice for waterfowl, and that is complemented by agricultural rice fields surrounding the property.

There is also flooded timber that attracts mallards by the droves.

“We have 20 duck blinds throughout the property, with another 10 or so places that we don’t have blinds but we can hunt,” Burks said.

This year, soybeans are also going to be flooded, which will add to the duck habitat, and that doesn’t even include the batture land.

“When the river comes up, you have 100 places to hunt,” he said.

To ensure that water is available throughout the property, Burks and his buddies have drilled wells.

“During droughts we use wells to get water to wildlife,” he said.

And if things get too dry, they have equipped a 38-acre lake so that it can be used to supplement the well water.

“We can just pull the plug, and water can get three miles back in the swamp to our wildlife,” he explained.

Although the four outdoorsmen have invested a lot of their money into projects on the property, they also have taken advantage of federal programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, and Ducks Unlimited grants.

McGowan Brake - Morehouse Parish

Monroe’s Kent Anderson was already beginning to amass land in the 1970s.

Anderson started out in 1976 with a 1,200-acre purchase along the Ouachita River.

The reputation that Roseland Plantation has built up attracts hunters from all over the place. Kenneth Lancaster of Primos arrowed this big buck while filming a television show on the property.
The reputation that Roseland Plantation has built up attracts hunters from all over the place. Kenneth Lancaster of Primos arrowed this big buck while filming a television show on the property.

That property has served as the hub of what has grown to more than 5,000 acres of prime duck, deer and turkey hunting, said son Scott Anderson.

“We’re surrounded by timber company land, and Dad has been fortunate enough to buy land from them as the years have gone by,” the younger Anderson explained.

The initial property is actually in the flood plain of the Ouachita River, with its hallmark being a 900-acre lake offering wonderful duck-hunting.

“It’s a resting area,” Scott Anderson said. “They go to the grocery store in the rice fields and eat and get dirty, and then they find some clean water like ours to clean up and rest.”

Not a lot has been done to that original piece of property, since annual flooding makes it difficult to achieve much in the long-term.

“We placed the blinds in ’76, and they’re in the same places today,” Anderson said. “Last year we hunted from the roofs (of the blinds) until they went under.”

Even the two lodges that sit on a man-made hill overlooking the lake tend to get water in them from time to time.

“The camps will flood every three to five years. We may have three years in a row that they flood,” he said.

So there hasn’t been a lot of habitat improvements, other than food plots for deer, done on that original tract of land.

But since the Andersons began snapping up adjacent timber-company land, the family has looked for ways to improve the habitat and provide better feeding and resting areas for wildlife on those tracts.

For instance, 60 acres were leveed off and transformed into a feeding area for ducks.

“We planted it with a wild-rice mixture,” Scott Anderson said. “We’ve created a 60-acre ring-levee rice field with two blinds.”

Those pit blinds don’t always produce, since ducks have to discover the oasis.

“We don’t have all of those rice farms around us, so they sort of have to find it before we get any ducks,” Anderson explained.

But once that happens, the field fills with mallards, gadwalls and a few wigeons.

Habitat improvements for resident wildlife include the planting of hardwoods on upwards of 300 acres that once were soybean fields.

“Dad said, ‘I’ll never reap any of the benefits for that, but this is for you kids and my grandkids,’” the younger Anderson said.

Also, an extensive system of food plots lush with rye, clover and wheat has been added to the land to keep deer healthy.

“We’ve got 50 deer stands, and 40 of those stands have food plots,” Anderson said.

Several acres also are annually planted in sunflowers to accommodate doves.

As the acreage has grown, it became evident that the family, the members of which continue to work, couldn’t keep up with the property by themselves.

“We have a caretaker on the property 24/7,” Anderson said. “We feel that’s a must.”

The caretaker keeps the camp houses, blinds, stands and food plots up to snuff, and he watches for would-be troublemakers.

“Having someone live on the property helps with the vandalism,” Anderson explained.

And, unfortunately, that can be a problem, particularly when the water rises and makes access from the Ouachita River easy.

“The original property floods when the river hits flood stage, which is 40 feet in Monroe,” Anderson said.

But during most of the year, the property is pretty inaccessible, providing a retreat from the corporate hustle and bustle.

The family is now planning to allow some limited access to about 20 people in the form of fishing memberships.

“The fishing is excellent for bass, crappie and bream,” Anderson said.

Anyone interested can reach Anderson at (318) 362-8301.

Woodlawn Planation - West Feliciana Parish

Mike Wampold wasn’t looking for hunting land when he bought 380 acres in northern West Feliciana Parish in 1988.

“It was a retreat, a place where you could go and relax and do a little fishing,” The Baton Rouge developer said.

But it was soon clear that the tract of land offered incredible deer-hunting opportunities.

“I wasn’t a hunter, per se, but it was just flush with deer because the guy who owned it before me didn’t hunt either,” Wampold said.

The deer population was so healthy that he couldn’t resist the temptation.

“My brother and I would just go out and walk around and shoot a deer. It was that easy,” Wampold said.

It didn’t take long before the private retreat turned into a hunting club, and the initial 380 acres expanded to about 1,500.

“Over the years, we have just added to the property,” Wampold explained.

As the acreage grew, Wampold opened up some land that was planted in pines and dug a few ponds in which bass were stocked.

The result was an oasis, where guests could stand on the back porch of the camp and take in a stunning view of rolling pastures and sweeping forests.

By 1991, Wampold and a few close friends had formed Woodlawn Plantation Hunting Club, but they initially were just after some meat.

“We started out by shooting anything,” Wampold said.

Not many hunters hit the woods of Roseland Plantation in October because of the heat, but the effort can pay off.
Not many hunters hit the woods of Roseland Plantation in October because of the heat, but the effort can pay off.

Gradually, however, members began thinking about growing larger-racked bucks, and about seven years ago the club joined DMAP.

Food plots became an important part of their fall and winter management, and dividends were paid when five years into their trophy program big bucks began to appear.

About 100 acres of the land once occupied by pines has, at one time or another, been planted in hardwoods.

The first two attempts, one with acorns and one with very small seedlings, proved unproductive, so now Wampold has changed tactics to add mast-bearing trees to the property.

“We’re planting in smaller pods. We’re planting 10 to 12 acres and watching how the seedlings do, and then we’ll plant another pod,” he explained.

Wampold’s latest acquisition brought the total to about 3,000, and no plantings were necessary on this tract of land.

The former Georgia Pacific land was, of course, largely carpeted in pines, but there was still a good component of hardwoods — and it was crawling with deer.

Most of the land will be left alone for the time being, but Wampold said clearings would be made for food plots.

“We’re going to open up a number of one-acre fields to do our plantings and put our stands,” he said. “We’ll have 12 to 20 one-acre fields.”

Wampold still uses the land largely for a retreat from his day-to-day cares.

“I’m still not a hardcore hunter. I might hunt once or twice a year, but I like to see people go out there and kill their first deer, or bring kids to hunt,” he said. “I want people to enjoy it.”

Cottonmouth Plantation - St. Charles Parish

Thousands of acres aren’t needed to create a personal paradise, as Dr. Edmund “Bo” Jeansonne Jr. proved when he bought part of Mozella Plantation five years ago.

The 215 acres once was mainly cow pastures, but is being transformed into a complex of stocked ponds, wildlife food plots and shallow-water waterfowl resting areas.

“With all of these different habitats, it’s just absolutely perfect for what I wanted to do, which is enhance it for wildlife,” the Luling orthodontist said.

Jeansonne has brought in officials with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to advise him on how to improve the land for wildlife without breaking laws aimed at protecting wetlands.

And that is a concern, since the property dips into a huge cypress-tupelo swamp.

A corridor that stretches 100 to 200 yards wide along the rear of the tract has been designated as wetlands, so development is pretty restricted.

That doesn’t mean Jeansonne’s hands are entirely tied, however.

Several areas within the wetlands corridor have been scraped to provide better resting areas for waterfowl.

A slight levee also has been added along the front of the corridor so water is contained in the wetlands portion of the land.

The resulting ponds and shallow-water areas are idyllic, and Jeansonne has set up blinds to take advantage of the opportunities.

“We get mostly wood ducks,” he said. “We don’t have a bunch, but we have enough that if we hunt a little bit here and a little bit over there, we can have fun.”

He and buddy Jerry Deselle have even cleared out small areas inside the cypress-tupelo swamp to accommodate duck hunting.

To help maintain the wood duck population, nesting houses have been placed around the corridor.

“We put up 20 wood duck boxes with the Boy Scouts,” Jeansonne said. “That was their Eagle project.”

Again, most of their hunting is for woodies, but occasionally other species move in.

“After Hurricane Georges, we had 6 inches of water (over much of the property), and we probably had 600 teal,” Jeansonne said.

The front of the land is higher, allowing three ponds to be dug. Two of these ponds are still under construction, but they all already offer some pretty good fishing.

The area between these ponds and the wetlands corridor is where Jeansonne plants his food plots.

The green patches are a mix of sorghum, milo, corn and other assorted seeds.

“We just mix them up and throw them out, and they come up,” Jeansonne laughed.

The resulting growth attracts doves and deer — and the hogs that someone trapped and released on adjacent property.

The hogs have become a pest, tearing up the food plots and destroying feeders placed to attract deer. A group of hunters, consequently, have decided to make a dent in their population.

But mixed in with the tracks of the hogs are a good number of deer tracks.

“We don’t have a lot of deer, so we don’t shoot many,” Jeansonne said. “We try to shoot 8-points or better.”

A few does have been taken, but mainly the hunters are waiting for the 4- and 6-pointers they have been watching over the past couple of years to mature.

Jeansonne said he’s fortunate because the land is backed up by the cypress-tupelo swamp, which is huge and almost unhunted.

“There’s no pressure back there. You just can’t really hunt it,” he said.

Jeansonne already is making plans for the future of the property, ensuring that it will forever remain a refuge for wildlife.

He is doing this by enrolling it in the Wetlands Mitigation Bank, which provides tax breaks to landowners who commit to protection of their wetlands.

“Once you commit to the mitigation bank, that’s in perpetuity,” he said.

Don’t laugh when you read that all but the perimeter of Roseland Plantation is restricted to bow hunting. The fertile lands gave up 16 Pope & Young deer last year, thanks to enhancements made by the landowners.
Don’t laugh when you read that all but the perimeter of Roseland Plantation is restricted to bow hunting. The fertile lands gave up 16 Pope & Young deer last year, thanks to enhancements made by the landowners.

Jeansonne’s plan is to have the roughly 100 acres that will be enrolled in the mitigation banks scraped and planted in trees.

“Eighty percent will be in oaks. That’s the high ground,” he said. “The other 20 percent that represents true wetlands will be planted in cypress.”

Although that will still leave about half of the acreage not controlled as part of the mitigation bank, Jeansonne said he takes comfort in the fact that none of the land can be sold for development.

“It has been designated by the corps as either wetlands or mixed wetlands, every square inch,” he explained. “That means it can’t be developed.”

Kappa Loyal - St. Charles Parish

The land wasn’t in great shape, but New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Greg Kinnett could see the potential.

“I had hunted around here, and had actually been on the property,” Kinnett said.

What he knew was that the 10,000 acres was situated squarely in a major flyway of the state.

“It’s right between the Mississippi River over there and Bayou Des Allemands over there, and the birds fly right through here,” he explained.

So he jumped at the opportunity to snap up the 10,000 acres about 1 1/2 years back.

That’s when the work began.

Water lilies, fouchette and water-control problems typified the tract of land.

Kinnett immediately had four water-control structures constructed around the property to prevent water from being sucked into the waterways south of the property.

“You get those northeasters and it can blow all the water out,” he said.

The structures allowed about 20 inches of water to be held on the property.

“We’re able to hold water and grow the vegetation we wanted,” Kinnett said.

But first, he had to get rid of the unwanted vegetation.

“If it grows up with water lilies and fouchette, the natural grasses can’t grow,” he said.

An aggressive herbicidal program ensued, and now there is barely a water lily or mat of fouchette to be found.

What that left was room for coontail, widgeon grass, hydrilla and potato weed to thrive.

“Now we have mats of the vegetation we want,” Kinnett said.

In late summer the property was also covered in granvollais and arrowhead grass, but those plants die off in the fall, leaving nothing but a carpet of duck food.

There are 30 blinds scattered about the property, and Kinnett offers them for lease.

“I wanted people to be able to come out and enjoy this land,” he said.

The price tag isn’t cheap — $10,000 per blind for the season — but almost everything is included.

“You don’t need anything but your gun, shells and a license,” Kinnett said.

The arrangement is pretty unique.

There are no sleeping quarters, so the lodge is a meeting and eating place from which hunters leave and to which they return.

But the lack of sleeping quarters isn’t that big of a deal, since the lodge is only about 35 minutes from New Orleans and Houma and an hour from Baton Rouge.

The blinds, which are built, brushed and maintained by Kinnett and his crew, belong to the lessee for the year.

“If you don’t hunt it on a particular day, it doesn’t get hunted,” Kinnett said. “It’s your blind. You can store things in it if you want.”

To ensure that blinds are productive, pressure is limited.

“We only hunt Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the mornings only,” he said. “Ducks get to rest Monday and Tuesdays, and they get hunted on Wednesdays. They rest Thursdays and Fridays and get hunted on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Decoys are placed around each blind according to the wind direction.

Hunters are dropped off and picked up via mud boats.

“We take all the work out of hunting,” Kinnett said.

The blinds are built to blend into the environment, with live cane growing around the structures to hide hunters.

Placement of the blinds makes them appear to be natural tufts of high-growing vegetation.

“You’re not just stuck out there. We have natural distractions,” he said.

Guides are even available to those who aren’t comfortable hunting by themselves.

After returning from the morning hunt, ducks are cleaned while the hunters enjoy a full brunch.

“When they leave, the ducks are ready for the oven,” Kinnett said.

In other words, this is full-service hunting on a piece of property that is groomed year round for that very reason.

Blinds are still available. For information, call (504) 628-3305 or (504) 899-1547.