Breaking down Louisiana’s big buck areas

Here’s a parish-by-parish look at state-record book bucks that shows a hunter needs to hunt north of US 190 if he wants to see his name in print.

It is obvious there are certain Louisiana parishes that seem to ooze with trophy class deer.

This is not ground-breaking news; most local hunters are aware of this.

In Louisiana, as in most states, it’s all about nutrition. The parishes with the best nutrition grow the biggest bucks. It’s not quite that simple, but nutrition is the key. Add in the age requirement using a sound, management harvest program that allows desirable younger bucks to grow older, and let nature do what nature does best.

In Louisiana, the bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi Delta with the forage and grain crops being grown  is big-buck habitat. This also applies to the bottomland and farmland parishes along the Red River. Parishes that still have mixed pine/hardwood habitat where there is a good oak component will also grow quality and trophy bucks.

The author in his element at the 2019 Louisiana Sportsman Show in Gonzales.
The author in his element at the 2019 Louisiana Sportsman Show in Gonzales.

The landscape around the state has changed from what it was 50 years ago. Urbanization has taken its toll on rural areas within an hour’s drive of major cities such as Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria and Slidell. Hurricane Katrina played a major role in urban sprawl in the Florida parishes. The forest landscape has changed dramatically, with forests becoming more pine dominated, which has an impact on the ability of the habitat to grow big bucks. The Kisatchie National Forest has a forest plan that now emphasizes long-leaf pine, great for some game species but not known for being big-buck habitat.

Three buck-limit

On the plus side, Louisiana implemented a three-buck limit years ago; it has made hunters more selective. Many clubs and private landowners have gone to management programs that favor producing quality and trophy deer. Consequently, we are seeing an older age-class of bucks. Public-land hunters are blessed with many areas available that have big-buck habitat. Seasons are set so that hunters can hunt during the rut, the time when big bucks are moving around. Of course, killing a trophy buck is not an easy task, but it does happen every season.

The listings that follow are from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ records and from what I have documented over my years of scoring deer. It takes a typical score of 170 to make the Boone & Crockett Club’s all-time record book, and a non-typical score of 195 will put a hunter in the record book.

This beautiful Caddo Parish typical with crossing main beams scored 1771/8.

Northwest Louisiana

This is piney woods country, but historically it has been a region where trophy class bucks have been killed. Ernest McCoy killed the No. 2 typical buck in Bossier Parish in 1961. Green Campbell killed the No. 1 non-typical muzzleloader buck in 2007; it scored 2035/8. Since then, it has been somewhat quiet in this region. However, not many bucks that are killed each season get officially scored. Dr. Mark Haynes of Homer is an official B&C measurer, and hunters can contact him along with the LDWF’s Minden office to get a deer scored for the records.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from the parishes in this area:

                                     Typical  Score                 Non-typical Score
Bienville                                    164                              none
Bossier                                   1844/8                          185 /8
Caddo                                    1771/8                          2196/8
Claiborne                               1773/8                          2067/8
DeSoto                                   1612/8                          1902/8
Jackson                                   163 /8                            none
Lincoln                                   1322/8                          1537/8
Red River                               1661/8                          2231/8
Union                                     1796/8                          1927/8
Webster                                 1705/8                          1957/8

Northeast Louisiana

This is the land of bottomland hardwood forests and year-round agriculture. Historically, this has been a major deer area in the Louisiana. The old Chicago Mills Game Management Area, now the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, was a major source of deer for restocking in the state. It is the home of our No. 1 typical buck, killed in 1943 in Madison Parish by Don Broadway. It is also the home of our No. 1 non-typical buck, killed by James McMurray in 1994 on Big Lake WMA in Tensas Parish. This buck was recognized by the Boone & Crockett Club as the highest-scoring non-typical killed in North America that year. Trophy gun and bow deer continue to be killed annually in this region. East Carroll Parish probably has more bow kill records than any parish.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from each parish in the area:

                                         Typical Score                Non-typical Score
East Carroll                    1703/8 (bow kill)                  1777/8
Franklin                                  1842/8                           none
Madison                          1846/8  (No. 1)                    2065/8
Morehouse                            1724/8                           none
Ouachita                                  164                                150
Richland                                1771/8                          1774/8
Tensas                                    1797/8                     286/8 (No. 1)
West Carroll                           1513/8                           none

Central/West Central Louisiana

This nice Natchitoches Parish buck killed in 1997 scored 1606/8 typical.

This region has produced some trophy bucks in the past, but not the numbers of the two northern regions. Grant, Natchitoches and Winn parishes seem to have the most records from the region. The Kisatchie National Forest occupies much of the landscape and provides the public with deer hunting opportunity.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from each parish in the area:

                                              Typical Score                  Non-typical Score
Caldwell                                    161                              none
Catahoula                              1603/8                           none
Grant                                      1733/8                          2131/8
LaSalle                                   177 7/8                           none
Natchitoches                         1705/8                           none
Rapides                                     177                              none
Sabine                                    1626/8                           none
Vernon                                      171                              none
Winn                                      1706/8                           none

Lower Mississippi Delta/ Upper Atchafalaya Basin

This is the region of the state where I predicted the next No. 1 typical will come from. It has not happened yet, but I haven’t changed my mind. It seems like there have been quite a few that just had too many abnormal points that prevented it from scoring as a great typical. Avoyelles and Concordia have the habitat and also public lands for hunters who need a place to hunt. Thistlethwaite WMA is in St. Landry and is a great place to hunt. Pointe Coupee is also coming on strong as a big buk parish.

Richard Dupuy killed this 172-inch typical in Avoyelles Parish in 1998.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from each parish in the area:

                                              Typical Score            Non-typical Score
Avoyelles                             1811/8                    2262/8
Concordia                            1775/8                    2522/8
Iberville                                1285/8                    2093/8
Pointe Coupee                    1632/8                    1834/8
St. Landry                             1805/8                    1933/8
West Baton Rouge              1511/8                    1805/8

Southwest Louisiana

This large area of Louisiana is better known for its duck and goose hunting. That alone should make it clear that the landscape here is marsh and rice fields, great habitat for waterfowl, but it does not have the nutrition needed to grow the big bucks. The records clearly show that this is not the place to go to kill a trophy.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from each parish in the area:

                                         Typical Score                   Non-typical Score
Acadia                                     none                             none
Allen                                       1367/8                           none
Beauregard                            1522/8                           none
Calcasieu                               1462/8                          1673/8
Evangeline                             1351/8                           none
Jeff Davis                                 none                             none
Lafayette                                 none                             none
Cameron                                1362/8                           none
Vermilion                               1167/8                           none

Lower Atchafalaya Basin

Joe McPherson, of Woodworth, shot this giant 17-pointer, held here by his son, in Avoyelles Parish last season. It scored 1753/8 (typical) at this year’s Louisiana Sportsman Show.

Move eastward from the southwest marshland landscape into the lower Atchafalaya River Basin and its swamp forests. It is habitat for deer, and some areas have enough high ground to grow a quality or trophy bucks, but not in the numbers like the northern parishes. St. Mary seems to have the best habitat, and the Atchafalaya Delta WMA is a good place for bowhunters.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from each parish in the area:

                          Typical Score                   Non-typical Score
Assumption                            none                             none
Iberia                                         115                              none
St. Martin                               1387/8                    2184/8 (1944)
St. Mary                                  1765/8                           none
Terrebonne                              126                                167

The Florida Parishes

I believe this is the region of Louisiana where the big-buck habitat has declined the most. I have witnessed this during my wildlife career and now in my retirement years. When I went to work in this region in 1976, it was a landscape dominated by upland hardwood forests and year-round agriculture. Soybeans, corn and winter wheat, along with sweet potatoes in West Feliciana Parish, kept the nutritional level high. Farming stopped in 1985, and the pine tree became the dominant crop. Upland hardwoods are now pine-dominated forests. Urbanization has also taken its toll, changing a rural landscape to one that is urbanized. When I went to work, I actually wondered why they built I-10, but now I try to avoid it whenever possible.

I photographed B&C bucks in West Feliciana Parish in the early 1980s, but now, they are a thing of the past. Clubs and landowners that want to manage for trophy bucks better have some money to spend on a year-round feeding program, because the habitat is now lacking in quality nutrition.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from each parish in the area:

                                              Typical Score                   Non-typical Score

East Baton Rouge                 1731/8                           none
East Feliciana                        1641/8                          2035/8
Livingston                             1706/8                             167
St. Helena                                 153                                175
St. Tammany                            153                             1573/8
Tangipahoa                           1745/8                           none
Washington                          1482/8                           none
West Feliciana                       1717/8                          2287/8

Lower Southeast LA

Like Southwest Louisiana, the records clearly show that this is not big buck habitat. The landscape is dominated with swamps and marshes with the deer habitat being located on the ridges and levees. This is prime fishing country and one would have a better chance of catching a new state record fish than killing a state record buck.

Here is a table of the best bucks on record from each parish in the area:

                                              Typical Score                   Non-typical Score
Ascension                                140                              none
Jefferson                                  823/8                           1551/8
Lafourche                              1352/8                          1696/8
Orleans                                    none                             none
Plaquemines                            130                              none
St. Bernard                              none                             none
St. Charles                             119 4/8                           none
St. James                                 none                             none
St. John                                  1432/8                           none

There it is, the parish by parish listing of big bucks. Certainly, not all big bucks have been officially scored, so if you have one that you think is a new parish record, take it to LDWF or another measurer and see what the tale of the tape is.

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Dave Moreland
About Dave Moreland 223 Articles
David Moreland is a former 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 Baton Rouge and own property in East Feliciana Parish.

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