Louisiana deer hunters need to finalize their game plans as the season approaches. Here are three hunters whose ideas have worked plenty of times.
What’s the most-popular fall season in Louisiana? Even though deer hunters may disagree, it’s a good bet that it’s football. But both seasons have a lot in common, especially when it comes to planning, practicing, scouting the opponent and making a game plan.
Football teams are finished with preseason camps and well into the real season. The state’s deer hunters, the ones who hunt with guns, aren’t far behind, but they do have a few more weeks to get things into shape and fine-tune plans for opening day and put in a few adjustments for when things change.
It’s a long season, and going in with solid strategy increases your chances of bagging a Super Bowl buck. Going about it the right way also helps hunters enjoy the full experience. As legendary outdoorsman Fred Bear said, “Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forest and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.”
If you ever walk in a sporting goods store and see rows of big mounted bucks, or go to a sportsman’s show and wonder what those folks are doing right, here are three different approaches from successful hunters Louisiana hunters.
David Moreland – East Feliciana
What is often a conflict in deer-hunting circles is a huge benefit for David Moreland. Wildlife biologists often make recommendations that hunters don’t agree with — and vice versa. Moreland is a biologist — retired from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries — and a hunter, so he uses the best of both worlds to hunt successfully.
“I try to look at the biology and work it into my hunting game plan, plus use my experience as a hunter to fine-tune that for success,” he said. “I actually plan and think about deer hunting all year. On our private land, we plant browse like clover in the spring, and in the summer we plant American joint-vetch. It keeps deer in our area and gives them a reason to come visit us. We keep an eye on where the deer are coming and going to the food plots and put out cameras to see what the deer are doing all the time. We also have several fruit trees, like pear, that help bring in the deer. That’s a little more long-term, but worth the effort.”
Moreland also hunts the Pearl River WMA; he says it’s like hunting a wilderness area out west. No baiting or planting is allowed, so you have to find all on your own the natural browse, deer trails and thickets where deer lay up. One tip for doing that is spending some time squirrel hunting. You can earn a lot of deer wins by chasing squirrels and casing the acorn crops.
One of the biggest mistakes hunters make in their preparations is with their guns and shooting ability, Moreland said.
“You need to shoot your gun regularly, even during the season, and make sure you are on and it is on,” he said. “There is hardly anything worse than doing everything right, having a big buck walk right into your sights, pulling the trigger and missing.”
He also said not to let your deer stand pull a trick play on you. He encourages hunters using ladder stands to check their chains and safety harnesses carefully. If you hunt from a stand, check the steps, flooring and access constantly. Falling from one of them is one thing that’s worse than missing a deer.
Marcus Johns – Union Parish
It may surprise some folks, but one of the most successful hunters in one of the best deer-hunting parishes in Louisiana said one word describes his approach to preparation: “simple.”
“I like to keep it simple,” Marcus Johns said. “I have been a duck hunter most of my life and have only deer hunted for about 11 years, but I’ve learned that not making it too complicated can make you more successful.”
Johns has a solid lineup of 8- to 10-point bucks in his trophy collection, and all of them have come from another one of his keys: “Be consistent.”
“I think three things help me as much as anything when I’m preparing to hunt,” he said. “First, I feed deer, but I don’t put it close to my stand. I put feed out at 200 yards, and I have one feeder at 250. That way, I’m not bothering the deer. I walk to my stand, too. The only time I ride a four-wheeler is when I’m putting out feed or going to get a deer.
Drury Outdoors Deercast
“Second, I don’t go every time I get a chance. I think that too many hunters spend so much time in the woods. The deer pattern them instead of the hunters patterning the deer. I found a neat little hunting app for my phone, the Drury Outdoors DeerCast. I use it a lot. If it says it will be an excellent day, that’s when I get prepared and go.”
Johns also picked up a tip on an outdoor TV show that has helped him take a couple of big deer: if the moon is still high in the sky, you should stay on your stand. He normally doesn’t hunt all day, but one week he noticed the full moon would be out all day and he went. He killed a big 8-point.
“That’s my game plan,” he says. “Its simple, but it works for me.”
Jacob Cater – Catahoula
Knowledge, wisdom, experience — those things are invaluable when you are hunting deer. But you don’t have to be old to get them. Jacob Cater, 22, has been hunting deer since he was big enough to hold a gun. His results speak for themselves over the years, including the fact that he shot a 1851/8-inch trophy last season at a distance of 500 yards. It was no ordinary deer nor story.
“That afternoon was crazy,” he said. “My wife, Tiffany, wasn’t feeling well, so we just drove out to a shed on the farm. We didn’t have long until dark, so we sat there in the truck. The big buck came out on the edge of the woods. There were 13 does out in the field. Long story short; I got out, ranged him at 500 yards, got a steady rest and decided to take the shot, and he dropped.”
Neither Cater nor any hunters in the area had the deer on trail camera, and he knew he might not get another chance. He said the moral of that story is if you get a chance to go deer hunting, go deer hunting. Had he not gone, even for a short while, he might have never seen that deer. It was the longest shot he’s ever taken, but one of his preseason routines gave him confidence to do it.
“You can never get too much practice with your rifle,” he said. “I practice a lot, and at different distances. In that instance, it paid off.”
Feeding all year long
Most hunters would agree that is an important “play” for deer success, but what else Cater does is not that common.
“My approach to deer hunting is a little different,” he said. “We feed deer all year and plant food plots, but I let them grow up instead of bush-hogging them down. The deer use them for cover and for food.
“In the summer, I will go in and add turnips, but other than planting, I don’t go in on the deer. The only time we drive in is to put barrels of corn near the stands to fill up feeders. We fill them all season out of those sealed barrels. We also use salt blocks to help keep the deer in our area.”
Besides never driving in, Cater also supplements feeding with soybeans in the summer because they have more protein than corn. It doesn’t hurt that he farms with his father and has ready access to both planting equipment and a good supply of soybeans.
His game plan also includes learning where the deer are and using game cameras to keep up with the deer for himself and his wife, who is also an avid hunter and has scored on several good deer.
“Game cameras, man, that is what makes me deer hunt more and more,” he said. “You see what’s out there, and it motivates you to get into the woods.”
Cater usually hunts out of a box stand, but when he has a chance, especially in the rut, his tactics include putting a climbing stand on his back, finding an active trail, rubs and scrapes and going up a tree right where the deer are.
“When you go to different spots like that and never drive in that part of the woods, they don’t ever know you are there. That’s a key to success for me. Never let them know you are there,” he said.