Public Rambling: Now’s the time for scouting

The author has been practicing since late last month, and typically shoots 20 arrows per session in exercises designed to simulate hunting scenarios he might encounter at the Atchafalaya Delta WMA.

Plenty of sign, trails apparent at Atchafalaya Delta WMA, Aucoin says

Let’s get ready to RUMBLE! It’s officially time to put in the preseason work. Get up, get going and get out to your favorite hunting spot for some scouting.

I just got back from my first scouting trip for the 2018 bow season at the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area. Surprisingly, it was fairly pleasant walking in the early morning hours through the dense undergrowth of woods. Mosquitos were not a factor, which is a very rare experience at the Delta. And the deer flies, though present, were not as bad as usual either. Overall it was quite an enjoyable trip relative to the expected conditions for mid-August.

Browse was extremely plentiful, and standing water was minimal. Hog and deer trails were very apparent. When it is as thick as it is right now, the animals take the easiest route, and the trails are as obvious as they will ever get. Sign was very fresh in most locations.

In preparation for the season, I having been lifting weights, running and riding my bike. The training that I do comes at my favorite time of the year. This is how my mind works while I am working out: Even though the sweat is flowing in buckets, and it’s miserable temperature-wise right now, football has started. That signals to me cool weather is not that far away. The Saints and the Tigers will kick off their seasons soon. I’m dreaming of that perfect season for my teams, and of course taking that buck of a lifetime, as well. While I am sweating buckets, those thoughts keep me motivated.

Unlike some of you, I do not shoot my bow year round. I usually begin shooting in late July or early August.  I shoot approximately 20 arrows per practice, and try to simulate scenarios that might occur during a hunt, including shooting from an elevated stand and from the ground. I also just hold at full draw for as long as possible and still try making a good shot. That one can be very tough, but it does happen in real life and can mean the difference between taking a deer, or having to let down and potentially watch one walk away.

I am using a Mathews Drenalin compound bow with Radial X-Weave 300-grain STL Hunter arrows tipped with 100-grain Muzzy broadheads. I also have a Tactacam video camera inside the stabilizer.  It is an older bow, but it has served me very well and I see no reason to upgrade now.

I have been reviewing the final statistics for last bow season at the Delta, which were supplied to me by Lance Campbell with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The 2017 season was very similar to the 2016 season. Overall, efforts were down 26 percent, but the kill ratio was almost exactly the same at 1 kill per 27.7 efforts. Final kill numbers were 102, with 64 percent of those being bucks. There were nine 8-pointers, my 9-point and two 10-pointers taken.

The largest was a 10-point, 170-pound buck with a 16 ½-inch spread. Of those 12 8-point-or-better bucks, 11 were taken in November. This, too, is typical of the Delta,  as the rut usually runs during that month, and 63 percent of the hunter efforts occurred then. There were at least nine hogs killed, but I suspect that number is much higher, as some guys do not report hog kills even though they are supposed to by law.

I stopped by to speak with one of the game wardens, who was working at the cul-de-sac. If you have been there before, you are familiar with the one wharf to moor your boat. On heavy hunting days, that wharf fills up quickly and guys have to park along the bank of the cul-de-sac.  Well, good news: The department received a grant to construct another wharf, and it is now complete in time for the upcoming season. That is a welcome addition, though somewhat unexpected with the many cutbacks from our state budget.

Due to retirement and a transfer, the game wardens at the Delta have been understaffed for a few months now, but two additional agents are in the process of being hired and should be in place soon. Those guys do a very good job of keeping the campground area pristine, as well as the trails and roads on the Big Island neat and cut. There have been frequent deer and hog sightings while they are out cutting, which of course is a good sign for us hunters.

There will be two lottery youth hunts in the month of October this season at the Delta. My grandson was selected last season and we had a blast, even though he did get a shot. In the two hunts we saw a total of 12 deer, and had one doe in sight for 59 minutes. The LDWF at the Delta run a first-class youth hunt, with safety being their main priority. I had been hearing about what a great job those guys were doing with the youth hunt for many years. Having now experienced it personally, I would highly recommend the experience to anyone who has a youngster who is interested in deer hunting.

I have quite a few more scouts to complete before shutting it down in advance of October 1.

You guys be safe when you are out there. And good luck.