October Smorgasbord

This is the month for which hunters wait all year. The options available are almost overwhelming.

Quickly now, when you think “October,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Football? Halloween? The first frost? Falling leaves? The pungent aroma of smoke curling from chimneys? These are all things October is known for if you’re an average person. If you’re an average person who also happens to be a hunter, though, other things enter your mind, although the prospects of an early frost can indeed kick your emotions into high gear.

The hunting seasons, which began with a smattering of offerings last month, kick off in earnest once September is ripped from the calendar, giving way to a clean slate called “October.”

Archery

Undoubtedly, the only other type of hunter besides the turkey hunter who can get so excited prior to a season opening is the guy heading out to hunt deer with his bow. For a hunter who targets deer with archery equipment, the weeks, days and hours of preparation will finally come to fruition when he settles into a climbing or lock-on stand before dawn to herald the arrival of bow season in Louisiana.

The scouting will be done, stand site already selected, stand placed and shooting lanes trimmed. The hours on end of flinging arrows at a target in the backyard will have his muscles toned and ready once a deer steps out behind his sight pin.

The traditional opening day for archery deer season is Oct. 1, with a couple of exceptions. Archery season does indeed open on Oct. 1 in all the state’s areas except for 3 and 8, which see archery season kicking off Sept. 15. Archery season lasts until Jan. 31 in areas 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7. Bow season in areas 3 and 8 end Jan. 15.

The only area that begs to be completely different for bowhunters is Area 6. The season kicks off Oct. 1, running through Oct. 15, with bucks-only harvest allowed. Either-sex bow hunting is allowed in Area 6 from Oct. 16 through Feb. 15.

Muzzleloader

Hunters going after deer with black powder, or Pyrodex, which is a reasonable facsimile, will have punched enough holes in paper targets to feel proficient at taking a deer with this primitive weapon.

Let me rephrase that note on “primitive” weapon. Have you checked out the latest thing in muzzleloaders recently? While there are those who cling to tradition and shoot nothing other than the old cap-and-ball muzzleloader, there are some models on the market today that are as modern as the latest rim-fire high-powered rifle.

In olden times, and in the hands today of traditionalists, are the original muzzleloaders that feature such things as frizzens and patches, pieces of flint, powder horns and hand-poured round lead balls.

Way over on the other side of the page are the modern-day muzzleloaders. You won’t find black powder or lead balls or flint in their “possibles” bag. Instead, look for the gun they pack to be in an eye-catching model in camouflage pattern with a thumb-hole in the stock and mounted with a modern scope.

He’ll drop a couple of Pyrodex pellets down the barrel and push in a rifled sabot slug to rest against the pellets. Whereas the fellow dressed in buckskin will drizzle black powder into the pan and strike a piece of flint to ignite the charge, the modern muzzleloader nestles a shotgun primer into the slot. He’ll close the breech, push the safety and touch the trigger, where the firing pin strikes the primer, setting off the charge.

No matter whether you go genuinely primitive or (wink-wink) “primitive” with your muzzleloader, hunting deer with one of these guns is a lot of fun. Not only that, you get to start the season a week earlier than your neighbor clinging fast to his 30.06.

My heaviest buck ever was taken late one afternoon with my .50-caliber muzzleloader. The big boy, an 8-point, tipped the scales at 215 pounds.

Four of the state’s eight areas offer muzzleloader hunting beginning in October. Area 2 offers the first segment Oct. 20-26, while areas 3, 7 and 8 have a muzzleloader season Oct. 13-19.

You’ll also want to check out the state’s wildlife management areas as well as national refuges for specific dates and regulations for deer hunting. Some areas restrict hunters to muzzleloaders and/or archery.

Rifle

I can still vividly recall my first deer hunt, and my first deer. The year was 1967 as I joined a group of hunters in Claiborne Parish near Summerfield to pursue deer.

Granted, the hunt involved deer hounds, and the presence of the dogs in the woods undoubtedly contributed to my success.

A 10-point buck came sneaking out away from the dogs, and the buckshot I carried in my squirrel gun rang true. In fact, all three shots from a distance of 12 yards in a span of three seconds were on target. The deer crumpled after the third shot. He actually began crumpling after the first shot, but that didn’t keep me from continuing to fire until there were no more rounds in my gun.

My hunting buddy heard the staccato of shots, and when he walked up to me, he inquired why I felt I had to shoot three times at a deer so close. My answer was “he was still running” to which my buddy replied, “Well, son, you gotta give him time to fall!” Regrettably, my friend was right — the third load of buckshot, delivered as the deer was falling, took off one side of his rack.

Since that initial hunt 40 years ago, I have experienced the thrill time and again of waiting silently on my stand as an approaching buck or fat doe stepped into an opening behind the crosshairs of my scope.

Hunting season dates vary for for those going after deer with firearms when no dog hunting is allowed. These opening dates include area 2 (Oct. 27) and areas 3, 7 and 8 (Oct. 20).

Doves

Dove hunters who didn’t get humiliated enough during Labor Day weekend by zig-zagging, dipping, diving, fast-flying gray ghosts they couldn’t hit will have the privilege of missing more birds in October.

In the South Zone, the second segment for dove hunting begins Oct. 13 lasting until Nov. 25. In the North Zone, hunters can take doves from Oct. 13 through Nov. 11.

Dove hunters need to keep in mind the stringent regulations regarding baiting. If enforcement agents visiting the field you hunt determine the area is illegally baited, it doesn’t matter if you’re a guest and had no knowledge of the presence of bait. You’ll get a citation anyhow.

Dove hunters should also remember that some of the doves they shoot may not be the standard mourning dove variety. Eurasian collared doves continue to make their home in Louisiana, with ringed turtle doves sometimes showing up along with the occasional white-winged dove.

While the daily bag limits for mourning and white-winged doves is 12, there is no limit on Eurasian collared doves and ringed turtle doves, provided you leave the head and one wing attached to the body of the bird for identification.

Squirrel

There is probably no game animal that defines Louisiana hunters like the squirrel. In some states, they’re viewed only slightly higher on the “I wouldn’t be caught dead with one” scale than Norway rats.

Louisiana’s squirrel hunters, on the other hand, view our bushytails as “limb bacon,” and they’ll be out in the woods on opening day en masse to collect enough of the tasty little critters for a North Louisiana mulligan or Cajun Country sauce piquante.

Tradition has it that in some areas of the state, football games scheduled for the Friday night prior to squirrel season opening were played on Thursdays instead. The reason for changing to Thursdays had to do with the fact that the stands would be virtually empty as all the squirrel hunters had left for the camp in anticipation of opening day.

Louisiana has two basic varieties of squirrels, the fox squirrel and the gray squirrel, although there are small populations of subspecies such as the Bachman’s fox squirrel in the Florida Parishes.

In general, fox squirrels prefer to hang out along hickory ridges and small creek bottoms in the hills, while gray, or “cat,” squirrels prefer hardwoods growing in lowlands adjacent to streams.

They’re both fun to hunt, and a day spent on a hickory ridge armed with a tack-driving .22 rifle mounted with an accurate scope can be a blast. Gray squirrels can also be taken with the .22, but your first shot had better be on target since it’s next to impossible to nail a streaking blur of gray without resorting to a load of No. 6s in your scattergun.

Squirrel season begins all across Louisiana on Oct. 6 with a daily limit of eight and possession limit of 16.

Rabbit

Oct. 6 is also opening day for rabbit hunting in Louisiana, although most rabbit hunters wait until later in the long season (it runs through February) to try their luck with bagging bunnies.

The problem in chasing rabbits at season’s beginning is that rabbits tend to hang out in some of the same areas as deer, and most bowhunters don’t take kindly to having their quiet solitude shattered by a bunch of bawling beagles tearing through the thickets. As a result, most rabbit hunters do the majority of their hunting after deer season has ended.

Hunting rabbits with beagles is sort of like deer dogging in miniature. The dogs are smaller; the quarry is significantly smaller, and the route taken by a fleeing cottontail or cane cutter is much shorter. Once the dogs strike a rabbit, the stander with the best chance at bagging a bunny is often the one who waits at the spot where the chase began. After making a circuitous route, a beagle-chased rabbit tends to return to the same spot from which he was jumped.

Louisiana’s hunting seasons officially kicked off in September, and there’ll be more to come in November. October, however, offers enough action to get the heart racing and the adrenalin pumping.

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About Glynn Harris 444 Articles
Glynn Harris is a long-time outdoor writer from Ruston. He writes weekly outdoor columns for several north Louisiana newspapers, has magazine credits in a number of state and national magazines and broadcasts four outdoor radio broadcasts each week. He has won more than 50 writing and broadcasting awards during his 47 year career.

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