Anomalies and apparitions

Goats in the woods, bearded hens … and that elusive new state record typical buck

B&C bucks are an anomaly, and often are apparitions.

One could say a buck that makes the Boone and Crockett Record Book is a rarity — a deviation from what is normal — that some might call a freak.

What is normal in Louisiana is for a quality or trophy buck to score about 130 B&C. Bucks that score above this mark are not too common, especially those that hit the 160-plus mark.

It seems my column in the October Sportsman caused a stir in the deer community. I mentioned the fact that our state typical record of 184 6/8 killed by Don Broadway in 1943 has not been broken.

When I retired in 2007, I fully expected it to be replaced by a 185-or-better buck because of all the intense management that many private landowners were undertaking. However, it has not happened — and perhaps it may never happen. My reasoning for this was that the changes in our deer habitat across the state has reduced the quality nutrition deer need. To compensate for this, many managers are intensely planting quality forage, and some have begun supplemental feeding year-round. And despite these efforts, the Broadway buck remains our No. 1 typical. But records are made to be broken, and there have been some very nice bucks killed this season so far. So who knows? The new state record may not be just an apparition, after all.

Who turned the goat loose?

Years ago, about the time compound bows were invented, I was bowhunting in one of my favorite spots in East Feliciana. The location was on the high bank of an intermittent creek in a mature stand of mixed pine/hardwoods. My old Amacker lite stand was attached to a big sassafras tree. I liked the idea that the stand would dig into the bark, and the aroma of the tree would help mask my scent.

It was a nice cold morning, but deer were not moving yet. As the sun rose higher in the sky and began to shine on the hillside above me, I noticed something white and brown running down the hill. My first thought about this critter heading in my direction was that somebody had turned a goat loose in the woods. But as the animal got closer I saw that it was not a goat, but a fawn — a piebald fawn. This is a genetic condition in deer that causes an abnormal brown and white coloration, and it’s often referred to as a chromatic aberration.

A friend of mine in Clinton, John Chase, went hunting in November with his sons and some other Louisiana hunters in North Carolina. Bao Tang of Morgan City killed a fine piebald specimen there. A few years after my sighting of the piebald fawn, a hunter killed a piebald buck on property not too far from where I had seen that “goat.” It was a 3 ½-year-old and had survived for several seasons.

Another anomaly that hunters sometimes encounter is a turkey hen with a beard. I was hunting with my friend Ken on his lease in Bossier Parish back in November. The weather had gone from warm to hot, and deer movement was zero — but I had a nice flock of turkeys come out on the right of way that I was hunting. I grabbed my binoculars and began separating the boys from the girls. I had just glassed two jakes when I saw a beard hanging from another turkey. However, as I studied the turkey, I realized something was wrong; The bird with the 7-inch beard was a hen, not a tom.

Bearded hens are more common than piebald deer, but they are still an anomaly. My friend Jimmy Stafford writes in his book about wild turkeys that 1 in 25 turkey hens in Louisiana have beards. The bearded hen that I was looking at was obviously the boss hen of the group. The flock consisted of five jakes and eight hens, and it may have been her brood that she produced last spring. A bearded hen is still a hen, and only gobblers are fair game during the turkey season.

Native browse remains good 

Winter continues to be an apparition in the Bayou State. A nice cold front swept in at the end of November, but it did not bring freezing temperatures. October was a hot month, and November was warm, so the native browse just kept growing. I clipped the dove field in September and it regenerated a new crop of millet and sunflowers in November. In fact, the sunflowers were so large we were able to cut them and use them for decorations. Now this is not normal, even in our Gulf Coast environment.

While the food plots are green and lush, the native forage has also remained succulent. A large clump of poke salad popped up in the dove field, flowered and produced fruit. The week before Thanksgiving I was walking around looking at the vegetation and saw that a deer had feasted on the poke salad one night — in fact, it just about ate it up. If this warm weather trend continues through deer season, those good bucks that seem to be abundant this year may turn into apparitions — especially that new state typical record.

Is a record typical out there?

Despite hunters’ best efforts, Don Broadway’s 184 6/8-inch buck shot 74 years ago remains the state’s No. 1-ranked typical deer. Do you think that record will ever be broken, or have changes in quality habitat statewide made it unbeatable?

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About David Moreland 237 Articles
David Moreland is a retired wildlife biologist with LDWF, having served as the State Deer Biologist for 13 years and as Chief of the Wildlife Division for three years. He and his wife Prudy live in rural East Feliciana Parish.

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