It’s all about the antlers’ was a statement made at the 2006 Southeast Deer Study Group Meeting in Baton Rouge. The evening’s discussion was on the use of antler restrictions (ARs) to produce older and bigger bucks. The statement was thrown out as the reason why ARs are often promoted and incorporated into management programs.
Indeed, it is a fact that the desire of hunters for large antlers has become big business in this country. Most hunters will confess that bagging a buck with a really good set of antlers is something they would like to do.
So just what are the chances of you bagging a real Boone & Crockett buck in 2010? A true B&C buck is one that will score 160 or better in the typical category or 185+ in the non-typical category.
“Not real good” would be the correct answer to the question after looking at the number of deer that qualified for Boone and Crockett recognition over the last three years.
Between 2007 and 2009, there were 192 deer officially scored for the Louisiana Big Game Record Book and the Louisiana Recognition Program. Of these 192 deer, 15 qualified for B&C recognition. This means that there was an average of five B&C deer killed each year.
Now if the annual estimated antlered buck harvest in this state is 77,500 (using a 10-percent harvest rate for six month males), then the five bucks that qualify for B&C represents .0000645 percent of the total antlered buck harvest. It just goes to show how rare and special a true B&C deer is.
Louisiana can produce true trophy deer, but it requires a lot of work and management. Both habitat and herd conditions have to be optimal, and then the hunter has to be hunting at the right time.
Most of the B&C bucks come from the bottomland-hardwood habitat parishes in the state. However, the northwest pine/hardwood habitat can also produce trophy deer.
The top gun-killed typical deer for the past three was killed in Winn Parish by Darren Mouton, and scored 167. The No. 2 gun-killed deer scored 164, and was also killed in Winn Parish by John Lovell. Todd Buffington killed the No. 3 gun typical (163 2/8) in Webster Parish.
It is interesting to note that all of these deer were killed in 2009. Perhaps the three-buck limit is starting to show results.
The No. 1 non-typical gun category buck also came from the northwest habitat. Steve Lewis killed a 206 2/8 non-typical buck in Claiborne Parish on Nov. 24, 2009. The three typical bucks were also killed in November. When is the peak rut in Area 2? If you guessed November then you are correct. The key to shooting old mature bucks is hunting when they are active, and they are most active during the rut.
The top-three bow typical category bucks came out of the bottomland hardwood/agriculture habitat in Avoyelles Parish. Jeff Newton killed a buck that scored 165 4/8, and has been accepted for the P&Y Archery Record Book, and will qualify for B&C recognition.
Billy Husted killed the top non-typical buck in Tensas Parish that has also been accepted for the P&Y record book. This buck scored 219 1/8.
The top muzzleloader category typical buck came off Lake Ophelia NWR in Avoyelles Parish, and the No. 2 buck came from Bayou Cocodrie NWR in Concordia Parish. These public areas have special muzzleloader hunts, and the hunter who likes to use a blackpowder rifle should check them out.
The top buck in this category scored 155 2/8, and was killed by Justin Lagneaux. Of course, everyone should remember the huge non-typical buck that Chris Campbell killed in Caddo Parish in 2007 with his muzzleloader that scored 203 5/8 and was featured in North American Whitetail magazine.
Chase Metz set the crossbow typical buck category record with his 152 4/8 buck that he killed this past season in East Baton Rouge Parish.
It’s not impossible to kill a B&C buck in Louisiana, but the odds simply are not good. The vast majority of the deer that are officially measured score in the 130s and 140s. These are really good deer that most hunters would mount.
Perhaps it is time, before the gun season cranks up, for clubs and landowners to take a close look at their deer program objectives. This is especially true for clubs and landowners that are managing deer on mediocre habitat. It might be the year to establish realistic goals and get back to enjoying deer hunting.
Adult bucks (three years and older) that score between 110 and 130 are just as challenging to hunt as those precious few that exceed 160.
EDITOR’S NOTE: David Moreland served for three decades as a deer biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, eventually rising to be adminstrator of the Wildlife Division. He is now retired.