It’s time for some serious deer hunting

The estrus or heat cycle of a white-tailed doe lasts for 24 hours. This is the only time that she will stand still and allow a buck to breed her. Prior to this, she would run away from his advances, and this activity is referred to as the chase phase of the rut. Several days earlier, the buck sensed that her estrus cycle was near, and he began to harass and hound her up until the day of estrus.

No doubt you have seen a buck following a doe making his grunt calls. Often the chase will involve several bucks. I have witnessed on several occasions three racked bucks chasing a single doe. Sometimes more than one buck will be involved with the actual breeding, and this can result in siblings with different fathers.

Area 2 hunters witnessed this intense rut activity during the last two weeks of November, just as was published in Louisiana Sportsman. January marks the beginning of breeding activity for the Upper Area 6 parishes as well as those Area 1 parishes that border the Mississippi River. This is the month for most of the breeding, and the action should be fast and furious during the last two weeks of this month.

As you may know, I hunt in the Clinton area of East Feliciana Parish, and December was our first month of breeding. January is the second month of breeding activity, and if the trend that I have seen over the last three years continues, the really good adult bucks will be out and about in pursuit of the last remaining does that have not bred.

I wrote in my column last month that I do not get too excited about October deer hunting. Even though the primitive and regular seasons open in mid November in our area, the action with regard to adult buck activity is generally slow. Does are still with their mothers and are not quite weaned, bucks are starting to break up from their social groups and hunting is generally directed toward the food sources. Most of the harvest at this time consists of antlerless deer and small bucks, and for me the hunting is not real exciting.

Our primitive season opened on Nov. 13 and the regular gun season on Nov. 20. Full moon nights and warm days dominated our hunting weeks in November.

I made a primitive hunt the evening of the 19th. As the full moon was rising in the eastern sky, I walked by the trail cameral that I had set-up at 3:30 that afternoon. It was the first photo the camera took, and during the night it snapped 70 more photos. I hunted at this location the next morning until 9 a.m., and decided it just was not going to happen. I walked over and picked up the camera to see what it had recorded.

Between 7 p.m. on the 19th and 5 a.m. on the 20th, the camera had documented the feeding activities of several does and fawns, spikes, racked bucks and a single hog.

My son who was hunting at a different location stayed with it until 11 a.m., and never saw a deer. A trail camera at his location set up on the afternoon of the 18th and picked up at noon on the 19th had documented more than 10 different deer feeding at this site between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Up in North Louisiana in Union Parish (Area 2), my good friend Larry Savage, retired LDWF biologist, was also hunting on the 20th, and killed the great 8-point in the photo. He killed this deer during mid-morning, about 9:50 a.m. He said the buck came moving through the area he was hunting as if it were on a mission. No doubt the buck was on the scent of some does, and was actively searching for them.

We were hunting under the same full moon and weather conditions, but the results were entirely different. The difference obviously was the condition or physiology of the deer. The real rut was cranking up in Area 2, and deer movement, especially adult bucks, was good. Our deer were simply in the feeding mode, and had done their feeding at night under the light of the full moon.

On Nov. 28, I was up in Desoto Parish, and checked in with my friend Ken Mason who hunts in northern Bossier Parish. He told me there were five 8-pointers killed on their 10,000-acre lease Nov. 27, and the largest one was chasing a doe. It appears the Area 2 rut occurred just as predicted, which means the rut in these other areas should be right on schedule.

This means that January is now the month for increased buck activity in these river basin parishes, and most hunters are fully aware of this. If you hunt in these areas and did not save any vacation days for the late season, you have really messed up.

January also means cold weather, and this will help with the deer movement. Does will need to feed on the days when the temperature drops below 50. The bucks that were feeding in the pre-rut days now have a need to breed, so they will be behind the does. This is the time for serious deer hunting.

For three years now I have been saving one last buck tag (if I was blessed enough to use the other two) for the last week of January. I will be hunting the travel drains, especially where there are some good rubs and scrapes as well as hunting in the food patches. Bucks like to use the edges of these patches for their rubs and scrape activities, and there may be a need to leave the permanent stands and use the portable ones in order to get close to these sites. When the chasing is on, it is time to just stay in the stand and wait for the activity to come your way. Keep an eye on the temperature and the barometric pressure.

January is also the month that LDWF begins the process of setting hunting seasons for 2012 and for developing new hunting rules and regulations. The dates for the 2011-12 deer season have already been set, and are on page 10 of the 2010-11 Hunting Regulations Booklet.

If for some reason you are one of those persons that burned your days during the uneventful early season, take time to look at them and plan your hunt days now for 2011. If you think there needs to be some changes, now is the time to attend the meetings and present your ideas to those who make the changes.

About David Moreland 246 Articles
David Moreland is a retired 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 rural East Feliciana Parish.