|Photos by ANDY CRAWFORD
|Hunters going to Tunica Hills best
be in shape because there are only two directions they can
walk — up and down.
Where are only two directions a hunter can walk on Tunica Hills
Wildlife Management Area.
Up and down.
The terrain is typified by steep ravines, deep bottoms and towering
ridges. All the characteristic topography is strewn with oak trees
that litter the ground with more acorns than 1,000 deer could
Therefore, hunting the 5,358-acre tract of land in West Feliciana
Parish can be a grueling affair. Hunters often hit the woods full
of energy, only to leave worn out and satisfied to hunt elsewhere.
Factor in early season rattlesnake encounters and the fact that
the only guns allowed for use in deer hunting are muzzleloaders
during a two-week-long season in late November, and the result
is a beautiful piece of land that is all but devoid of the hunting
pressure for which most public lands are known.
That’s why Darryl Krumholt loves Tunica Hills WMA.
“There’s a core of bowhunters up here, but other than the muzzleloader
season you don’t see that many other hunters,” the Central resident
But there’s another reason why Krumholt spends so much time
battling the harsh terrain — Tunica Hills is loaded with deer,
including a number of racked bucks.
The 43-year-old bricklayer has proved this during the past eight
or nine years by taking 17 Tunica Hills deer with his bow. His
kills include only five bucks, but one of the deer — arrowed earlier
this season — was a big 10-point that green-scored 127 1/8 Pope
“I killed five one year. Four were does,” Krumholt said. “Last
year (the 2000-01 season), I got 12 shots.”
He only arrowed three of the deer, but there aren’t many public-land
bowhunters who can brag of a dozen shots in a season.
Krumholt probably could have added more bucks to his name, but
he has little patience to allow does to walk.
“It’s hard enough hunting as it is. If a legal deer steps out,
I shoot it,” he said. “What you do is you go a long time without
seeing a deer, and then here come the deer. Then I shoot the first
one that comes out, and there’s a buck behind it.”
|Photos by ANDY CRAWFORD
|Oak trees are so prolific that deer
munch on acorns throughout the season. A key to Krumholt’s
success is keying on those oak flats that are being targeted
Although Krumholt and others who regularly hunt on the management
area kill deer in the early season, mid December marks the beginning
of the prime hunting period.
“That’s when it gets hot. Most of the deer I’ve killed down
here, I’ve had to have my jumpsuit on,” Krumholt explained.
The reasons he sees more deer in late December and January are
The first is centered around food and cover. When the season
first opens, deer can be found feeding on persimmons, honey locusts
“If you can find one of those trees, you have a real good chance
of killing a deer, or at least seeing something,” Krumholt said.
That food source quickly runs out, though, and within a couple
of weeks of the season’s beginning the deer move into the thickets
of the deeper bottoms where they find plenty of food. That’s when
the entire acreage is often carpeted with acorns.
“Once the beans, persimmons and crabapples are gone, they’re
in those bottoms and they don’t have to come out,” he said. “Everywhere
you walk, there’s acorns in the bottoms.”
Some hunters follow the deer into these hollows, but Krumholt
said there are problems associated with that strategy.
To start with, the wind always blows in Tunica Hills. The proximity
to the Mississippi River and the difference between the air temperatures
in the bottoms and on the tops of the ridges causes an almost-constant
draft. These air currents are pretty consistent on top of the
ridges, but they are anything but in the bowls created by steep
“The wind swirls in those bottoms, and there’s a better chance
they smell you. That’s just a chance you’ve got to be willing
to take when hunting the bottoms,” Krumholt said. “If you stay
on top (of the ridges), you’ll be better off.”
Even when hunters aren’t winded when hunting the bottoms, the
thickets in which the deer live make getting shots extremely difficult.
Cutting shooting lanes is prohibited on wildlife management
areas, so Krumholt simply prefers to set up a little higher on
“Somebody a long time ago, when I first started hunting up here,
told me that you have a better chance staying on top of these
ridges and waiting for the deer to come to you,” he explained.
The second reason that deer move better during the late portion
of the season is that the rut kicks in.
What Krumholt does this time of year is walk the ridges, looking
for signs that deer are crossing.
“I try to figure out areas where they’re crossing from bottom
to bottom,” he explained.
Of particular interest are areas where thick cover extends up
from a bottom to the top of a ridge and then down the other side
of the ridge.
“I can just look at that and tell deer will use that to cross.
It gives them a lot of cover,” he said.
|Photos by ANDY CRAWFORD
|Darryl Krumholt uses his mid-day breaks
to keep up with which oak trees are attracting deer. Tunica
Hills is covered with oak trees, but later in the season the
mast is limited. That’s when knowing which trees are still
dropping acorns can produce deer kills.
The signs of hot travel corridors sometimes come as well-worn
trails, but they also can be in the form of fresh scrapes or hookings.
“If you find a line of busted trees (hookings), you know a deer’s
coming through there,” he said.
The hunter then sets up either on top of the ridge where the
deer is crossing or just off the top of the ridge.
If the hunting pressure is minimal, Krumholt often stays right
on or near the main ATV trails.
“I just hang around those roads on the nearby ridges,” he said.
If there are a lot of people moving about his favorite areas,
Krumholt moves farther away from the human traffic.
“When there are a bunch of people, I stay on the ridges, but
I get way off the roads,” he explained.
Oftentimes, scrapes or hooking lines will run directly up or
down the crown of a ridge, but when they cross a ridge the most
productive areas for late-season crossings are where the ridge
peters off into the bottom.
“When they’re chasing those does, they’re looking for the easiest
routes. They don’t run the middle of the ridges, they run the
tops or down at the end of the ridges,” Krumholt said.
Careful stand positioning can provide coverage of the crown
of the ridge near the bottom so deer can be ambushed.
Another proven tactic is to find oak trees that are still attracting
attention from deer.
“They pretty much feed on acorns all year long,” he said.
So Krumholt spends a lot of time scouting the woods, looking
at oak trees he knows have dropped a lot of mast. As the deer
continue to feed, the areas in which they concentrate to find
more mast become smaller and smaller. That makes it easier to
“When I see deer mess, I know they’re hitting that tree hard,”
he said. “I can come back and kill a deer under that tree.”
Rattling and using buck-attracting scent can be effective this
time of year, although Krumholt said he has only been successful
once in killing a deer using a drag rag.
“I killed one of the 7-points like that. He ran about 100 yards
down the road where I came from, nose to the ground until he got
to where I dropped the rag,” he explained.
|Photos by ANDY CRAWFORD
|During the late season,
when the rut is under way, bucks will run the ridges. Therefore,
Krumholt sets up near these highways in order to ambush passing
He missed the buck twice, once because of a limb in the way,
but the third shot put the deer down.
“It hasn’t worked any other time, but it’s only got to work
once,” Krumholt chuckled.
While rattling isn’t a technique this hunter employs, Krumholt
said he has discussed it with others who find it effective.
It’s also worthwhile to keep in mind that Tunica’s bucks often
move during the middle of the day.
A group of bowhunters learned this the hard way years ago, according
to one story.
Scott Guillardo, area manager at the time, stopped to talk to
the four or five hunters eating lunch at the parking area adjacent
to the north trail.
“‘Y’all should be in the woods right now. The deer are moving
right now,” Guillardo told them.
The hunters chuckled and explained that they had been in their
stands all morning.
About that time, a doe popped out on the road and eased across
about 100 yards from the gathered hunters.
That evoked laughter from the group of hunters — until a big
buck stepped out a few minutes later, looked at the group of dismayed
men and followed the doe down into another bottom.
The key to success on Tunica is not being shown specific areas
to hunt, Krumholt said.
“You can kill deer anywhere on this place,” he explained.
What has worked for Krumholt is to take a relatively small portion
of the management area and learn it like the back of his hand.
“It takes years to learn it, but once you do you sort of know
where to hunt,” he said.
The area Krumholt hunts is not measured in miles but in hundreds
of yards, but because of the terrain that means he’s got plenty
of space to cover.
That’s the strategy Krumholt recommends.
“Find an area that has a lot of deer sign and learn it,” he
said. “If you learn that area, you’ll kill deer in that area.”
By learning an area, Krumholt doesn’t mean remembering how to
get to stand sites — he means memorizing where the major trails
are, which acorn trees are most popular, where potential bedding
areas are, etc. That’s what makes the difference between being
lucky and consistently seeing deer.
After building up this mental database, a hunter can use mid-season
scouting to help narrow down how deer are using the terrain and
find likely ambush points.
Once Krumholt settles on a site, he finds a tree that’s not
too hard to get to.
“I want to be able to get to my stand site without making much
racket or spreading my scent around,” he said.
The tree should offer plenty of shooting opportunities, but
also provide height and cover.
“I won’t get over 30 feet high, but I get as high as I possibly
can. That way, you’re in those limbs, kind of hidden,” he explained.
“That’s more important than anything because if the deer doesn’t
see you (and you don’t get a shot) you can go back in there again.”
Although he regularly uses a climbing stand, Krumholt actually
prefers a lock-on because he can use it on any tree.
“I don’t have to worry about the size or getting over limbs,”
A simple take-down stick ladder is strapped to the tree for
Finally, it’s just a matter of being on your stand when a deer
That’s when Tunica Hills hunters are faced with the ultimate
decision — is the deer worth shooting.
“When you shoot a deer, he usually runs off into the bottom,”
Krumholt said. “That’s when the real work starts.
“Getting it out can be impossible by yourself.”
That’s why this veteran hunter prefers to hunt with a partner.
“That way, if you shoot a deer you can go get help,” he said.
Even then, there are places Krumholt hunts that he won’t shoot
a small deer.
“It’s easier to get a small deer out, but it’s still a lot of
work. At least a big deer is worth it,” he said.