January marks the last hurrah for deer hunters
Dessert marks the end of an appetizing meal, and often makes a person exclaim, “The best was saved for last.”
Likewise, January marks the end of the 2018-1919 deer season, and in Areas 1 and 6 the rut is at its peak. It is the time for real wall-hangers to be chasing does, and the best time for a hunter to connect with one.
Most of my hunting is in Area 4, and December was our peak month of breeding. On areas that have a good buck age structure with older, mature bucks in the population, it can be a time for the Area 4 hunter to get a second chance at a trophy. A couple of years ago I was hunting on such an area; I had been doing some loud bleating and around 5 p.m. a fine piney woods 8-pointer stepped out looking for a doe. I wound up connecting with a 130-class B&C buck. This was, and remains, a wonderful deer-hunting memory that is etched in the corner of my brain — and one that I can recall in an instant. If you have not had any success with your deer hunting, now is the time to head to these two areas and make a memory.
November deer are bonus deer for me
Because the rut in Area 4 generally begins in December and runs through January, most of my deer harvesting in Area 4 over the last 40-plus years has been during those months. I consider the deer that I harvest in November as bonus deer.
For many years now I have made a couple of November hunts in Area 2, and have often been blessed with a deer or two. This year I hunted with my friend Ken on his lease in Bossier Parish, and with several retired wildlife biologists during our Old Farts hunt in Union Parish. I had a great hunt with Ken during the first three days of November and saw plenty of deer, even a fine 8-pointer chasing a doe, but did not fire a shot. I was hopeful to connect with a buck because the Moreland freezer was empty of deer sausage. But a week later I was fortunate to kill a nice young 4-pointer during the Old Farts hunt. (We may be old, but us oldsters can still get the job done — three out of five went home with meat.)
I mentioned in the November issue of that I would be hunting the managed deer hunts on Pearl River near a cow oak tree that was loaded with acorns. I was in position the morning of the 23rd and connected with a 3-year-old crab claw 4-point. That buck was following a doe heading in the direction of the cow oak. The 23rd was my predicted date for the start of the first breeding period in Area 4. Examination of the buck’s stomach indeed revealed large cow oak acorns in the rumen, along with swamp black gum fruit and green browse. This deer also went to the butcher shop and yielded more sausage, along with some ground deer meat. While November is typically a bonus month for me, the reality is it was an important month for me this season. In fact, I passed up a few shots on deer in Area 4 during its final days. Since I am writing this column prior to December, I cannot say anything about how the Area 4 deer hunting was that month but if it’s anything like November, it will be great.
It’s trophy time
Areas 1 and 6 have a late rut, with the peak is January and the second round of breeding in February. This season the first two weeks of January should be good. These areas also have the best habitat in the state due to bottomland hardwood forests and agriculture. Nutrition is the key to growing big bucks, and these areas have the food to do it. This is quite evident during the Sportsman Show in Gonzales: Most of the winners in this big buck contest kill their winning deer in one of these two areas, and most are killed during the month of January.
The true trophies from these areas generally will score 150 or better, and there are usually one or two that make the B&C record book along with many that qualify for the Pope and Young records. About one-third of the measured bucks will score above 140, with the rest scoring 130 and less. There is a clear line of demarcation that separates the bottomland bucks from the piney woods bucks.
While harvesting a true trophy buck is certainly a memory-making event, a trophy isn’t required for fantastic memories. The 3-year-old crab claw buck that I killed on Pearl River was a great hunt; this fair chase hunt on public land where I had scouted a month earlier with my grandsons is etched forever in the deer files of my mind. Jimmy Stafford hunted with his 85-year-old father on their family land in St. Helena Parish, and Jimmy killed a nice 6-pointer. That’s tought to beat. And my sister’s grandson, Jake Glass, harvested a mature 7-pointer in Area 2, his best buck to date. While Jake may one year kill a bigger buck, right now it doesn’t get any better than that.
So here it is, the last month of deer hunting — get out there and make a memory.