Public Rambling: Youth hunt on Atchafalaya Delta WMA

Seven deer shot during memorable weekend

I recently was able to enjoy a new experience: I brought my 8-year-old grandson, Baylor Allen, to the 2017 youth hunt offered by the Atchafalaya Delta WMA.

The event was very well organized and run by the game wardens, both in management and enforcement. My hat’s off to those guys, who did a great job in educating the youth, offering them encouragement and  reminding them to adhere to the rules of the hunt.

All of the kids and their adult mentors seemed to thoroughly enjoy all aspects of the program. We started out with a meeting at the game wardens’ camp to discuss the logistics and rules for the event. There were 15 box stands set up on Big Island, and the hunters were divided into two groups and transported to their stands.

I chose to have Baylor use his new crossbow for the hunts instead of a rifle. His chances of a kill would have been much greater, but he still hasn’t shot anything larger than a BB gun, so that wasn’t an option this season. Next year, we will try him out at the shooting range with a rifle suitable for his size.

Because we would have to have a deer within 20 to 30 yards of the stand, we knew that his chances would be very limited. But this was only his second hunt ever, and he had not yet even seen a deer in the woods.

We settled into the stand in the blazing sun at 3:30 p.m., and it was hot. I brought an umbrella to shield him from the sun as much as possible. At 4:02, we heard the first shot and as the afternoon unfolded, there were several more shots.

Around 5:15, with me looking in two directions and Baylor covering the other two, he whispered, “Pop, there is a doe down this lane.” He was very calm. I slowly turned my head and saw a nice doe about 125 yards away. Very slowly and deliberately, I handed him the crossbow and he peered at the doe through the scope. Both of us were excited.

For a few minutes, we watched the doe slowly eat and then move toward our stand. Baylor looked over my shoulder and whispered, “Pop, there are two does right behind you.” I told him not to move and slowly turned to look. The does were already hopping away, white flags flying. They had been 20 yards to our left and were walking straight to the stand. Wow — so close!

We turned our attention back to the first doe. I had already marked 20 and 30 yards. I told Baylor that we would try to get the deer to 20 for a a shot. He had been very accurate in practice at 20 yards, but was just starting to shoot 30 yards.

After 30 minutes, finally the doe was at 50 yards and our chances were looking pretty good. At that time, the doe started to sniff the air and looked in our direction for a very long time. I whispered to Baylor to try to stay as still as possible. He did a very good job, but the doe really seemed to sense us,  probably from the slight wind blowing.

The doe stomped a couple of times and I really thought it was going to bolt. The good news was the doe didn’t run. The bad news is it turned and started feeding, going away from us in the opposite direction. Once again, so close!

As it started away from us, I looked back over my shoulder and thought I saw a deer at the end of that lane 200 yards away. When it raised its head to look our way, my thoughts were confirmed. As we watched, suddenly the deer disappeared. Before I could even question what happened, the sound of a rifle shot rang out. Someone had just got themselves a deer.

Turning our attention back to the doe who was now 100 yards away, we saw a couple other does cross the lane at about 150 yards. We watched the original doe for 59 minutes in total. As the light started to fade and our hunt ended, Baylor was fired up: He had seen seven deer and came close to getting a shot at several of them.

After the game wardens picked us up and transported us back to the cul-de-sac, we found that four deer and two coyotes were taken (with a few misses as well). After a great supper of fried fish and frog legs at my good buddy David Simoneaux’s camp, Baylor and I turned in for the night.

Up early the next morning, we made our way to the cul-de-sac and were back up in the stand well before sun up — and those infamous Delta mosquitos were in full force.  We only heard three shots as the morning went on, and we didn’t see a thing. The pick-up time was 9 am and it looked like we were going to get blanked.

Finally, at 8:45 we saw our first deer of the day. It was a 4-point with two does nearby feeding in the same lane about 125 yards away — where we saw the doe the day before. Eventually two more does appeared, but then it was time to go.

Seeing 12 deer in two hunts on public land was fun hunting in my opinion, and Baylor was thrilled with the experience. He’s looking forward to trying out a rifle, so that if he is selected next year he can reach out and take one of those deer like the other guys did.

When we got back to the cul-de-sac, there was a doe and a very nice spike taken. The game wardens were also helping some hunters trail another deer that was shot. The big spike was shot by my friends Torrie and Brian Eaton’s daughter, Avery. She was the only female hunter of the 15 youths — and took the largest deer.

Check out my post where Torrie details their exciting hunt.

If you have never participated in a youth hunt, I would highly recommend the experience. Personally, my deer season has started out much better than last season. I will be detailing my adventures shortly. Stay tuned.

Be safe and God bless!