Bow season rapidly approaching

Aucoin preps for Oct. 1 opener at Atchafalaya Delta WMA

As Oct. 1 rapidly approaches, my physical (and mental) condition cannot even compare to this time last fall.

Last year, I was in constant pain from a herniated disc in my neck. I was very worried and my entire deer season was in doubt.

I had to turn my Mathews Drenaline bow down two complete turns just so I could pull it back a few times for practice. The strength in my right triceps had diminished greatly.

But gradually, through intensive physical therapy with Chet Sternfels of Advance Physical Therapy and the prayers of friends and family, my strength returned and the pain was gone completely by February.

I was fortunate enough to take one doe and two hogs with my bow, as well as another nice hog with my .22 mag rifle in the spring.

I continued to workout with Chet for another six months to increase the strength in my core, and improve my overall stamina and endurance. With the season almost here, I feel great and I’m in as good of shape as I have ever been.

I turned my bow back up to full strength and have already been scouting six times down at the Atchafalaya Delta WMA. Most of the trips have been normal for this time of year at the Delta: Extremely hot and humid with out-of-control deer flies and thick, lush vegetation. As usual, early season feed will be no problem.

What was unusual, however, happened a few trips back when I was walking in  about 12 inches of water in a small pond. I walked up on a mound of land and started to swipe some bushes in my way with my machete. Suddenly, there was an explosive splash of water to my left about 20 feet away.

It was shocking how loud and violent it was in the quiet of the afternoon. I turned my head to find out what the heck was going on, only to see a 7- to 8-foot alligator charging me at full speed with its mouth wide open.  I took one step back, let out a yell (yes I did!) and drew back my machete to try to stop the attack. The alligator stopped just 3 feet from my left leg, mouth still wide open.

I quickly backed up about 15 feet into into the pond. We had a brief stare down, then the alligator slid off of the mound towards me in the water. I retreated some more to dry land and the alligator stopped in the middle of the pond. Now I was getting aggravated, because this is an area that we have hunted for many years and I was not going to let this alligator run me off.  So I started throwing logs and large branches at it to try to scare it away, but to no avail.  This thing snapped at everything I threw and seemed to become more agitated by the moment.

Finally I found a big branch with leaves and smaller branches on it and I decided to use it as a sort of push pole to try to drive the big reptile away. By now it had come out of the water and was on the dry land with me. We were about 20 feet apart.

I made as much noise as I could, and charged at the alligator in an attempt to drive it away. At the same time the alligator got up as big as it could — and charged at me!

Game over, man: I dropped the branch, turned and ran out of there.

 I swear I was laughing as I ran — I just couldn’t believe this was happening.  Never in my life had an alligator been aggressive with me.

My buddy Randy was a few hundred yards away and when he heard the story, we both laughed at just how crazy this was. It was one of the weirdest experiences I have ever encountered in the woods.  My blood ran cold for a few seconds as I really thought I was about to be bit by a good sized alligator.

The experience was very much like a dog attack. I was a mail carrier for 15 years, so I do know what I am talking about. It happened so suddenly that there was no way I could have been prepared.

I got home and spoke with my Dad and some of my buddies. We all came to the same conclusion: This must have been a female with either a nest or some babies nearby.

Sure enough, on my next trip, we found the nest on the mound of land I had been standing on. Some of the babies had already begun to hatch, so I took a few pictures.  This time, the mother alligator was not aggressive, but she did keep an eye on us.

I returned a couple of weeks later and there were at least 15 babies swimming around the pond. I did not see the mother, but I am sure she was there somewhere close by. It will be interesting when the season opens and we are walking in that area before daylight or after dark: I promise you I will be on full alert.

But back to the deer and hog season at the Delta. Atchafalaya Delta WMA director Cassidy Lejeune was gracious enough to send me the stats from last season. Remarkably the deer kills have been very consistent for the last several years.

Last season there were 163 deer killed by bow, and ten more killed with guns on the youth hunts. The total of 173 is right on the average for the last several years.

The hunter kill ratio was one deer for every 15 efforts (totaling 2,460 efforts), slightly better than last season (18.6), which I believe is still pretty good for a bow-hunting-only WMA.

There was a 56% to 44% buck-to-doe ratio, which was also close to the recent average as well. There were 17 bucks harvested that were 8-point or better.

Broken down, there were six 8-pointers, six 9-pointers, three 10-pointers, one 11-point and one 12-point.

The largest live body weight for a buck was 175 pounds, and for a doe it was 120 pounds.

If we are fortunate enough to avoid any tidal surges or major storms before the season begins, it should be another good season of bow hunting. The hog sign is pretty much everywhere, which I know some hunters find to be a nuisance, but I enjoy hunting the hogs as much as I do the deer. I find it very challenging and my family really likes the taste of wild pork.

The deer sign is more difficult to find in September, as they don’t have to travel very much in the oppressive heat to find food. But I do plan to scout a few more times before the season begins.

My advice to any of you guys who plan to scout in the next few weeks is to hydrate well before you start.

You might be shocked at how quickly the heat and humidity will drain you, and it could become a very serious situation if you overheat.

I have been fortunate enough to avoid this situation so far, but two of my buddies experienced dizziness and weakness from the heat while scouting with me. Both of them did hydrate in advance, but both have suffered from heat exhaustion in the past and it is said that you become more prone to a reoccurrence if this has happened to you previously. It can be very scary for all concerned.

So take all necessary precautions and let’s have a safe, great hunting season!