Quality of La. bucks getting better

Last month I wrote about the top bucks officially measured for the 2007-2009 Big Game Recognition Program records and how more deer qualified for recognition than in any of the previous recognition programs.

The best typical buck taken during this three-year period scored 169. This buck is 15 6/8 points below the Louisiana state-record typical buck killed by John Lee in 1943. The mount is owned by Donald Broadway, and is commonly referred to as the Broadway Buck. The king is still on the throne.

The Louisiana state-record typical scores 184 6/8 on the Boone and Crockett scale. This state record was taken in Madison Parish 63 years ago. The rack has 12 points, 29-inch main beams, 5½-inch bases and measures 22 inches on the inside.

The No. 2 state-record typical scores 184 4/8, and was killed in 1961 in Bossier Parish by Earnest McCoy. McCoy was an enforcement agent with Wildlife and Fisheries, and since I grew up in Northwest Louisiana during the 1960s, we all knew who he was!

The No. 3 state-record typical scores 184 2/8, and was killed in 1914 by H.B. Womble in Franklin Parish. The saying goes that records are made to be broken, but since the beginning of the Big Game Records Program in 1979, these three bucks have been at the top of the list.

Donald Riviere killed a 181 1/8 typical buck in 1998 in Avoyelles Parish and ranks fourth on the state typical list. He came close, but being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

While a few of the 2007-2009 recognition bucks approached the 184 6/8 score with their gross scores, once deductions were taken, they came up short. Both the Boone and Crockett and the Pope and Young scoring systems are based on symmetry, the right side matching with the left side, and while a lot of hunters do not like the idea of deductions, these two record-book programs are still the standard by which trophy deer are measured.

Boone and Crockett bucks in Louisiana are not very common, and your chances of connecting with one are not good. The truth is that records are indeed made to be broken, and one day the Broadway Buck will fall in rank to the No. 2 position. The quality of bucks being harvested in this state has increased. The last three years serve as evidence of this fact.

I predict that within five years, the state typical record will be broken. I believe it will come from the farm and bottomland hardwood habitat parishes in Upper Area 6 or possibly from the parishes that border the Mississippi River just to the north. There continues to be some really good bucks being grown in this region of the state, and based upon the deer management work being done by clubs and landowners in this region, it will only get better.

If LDWF and the LWFC would somehow allow the Upper Area 6 and late-rut Area 1 hunters to hunt during the second month of buck activity in February, the record will fall. The 140-class buck killed on Sherburne WMA in February last year by a crossbow hunter is a great example of the big buck activity that gun hunters in these late-rut areas are missing out on.

The graph shows the Area 2 breeding activity along with the 2007-2009 trophy-buck kill. The breeding portion of the graph was taken from the thesis of Jeremy White, who did his graduate research study at the University of Louisiana-Monroe under the supervision of Dr. Kim Tolson.

White studied the breeding activity of deer in the northwest parishes of the state, and determined that November is the primary month for breeding and December is the secondary month of breeding activity.

This is the case with the other deer areas in the state; there is a primary month of breeding when most of the does are bred followed by some breeding activity the next month. Does not bred or those that did not cycle will cycle again 28 days later.

When the gun season opens in Area 2 in late October, breeding is beginning, and the trophy buck kill tracks the breeding activity during the gun season. The big buck harvest is good in November and continues into December; by December, many Area 2 hunters have killed several deer, and are thinking about other activities and their deer hunting effort is on the decline.

By January breeding is over, bucks are losing antlers and deer movement and activity is low. The contrast between the Area 2 rut and the late rut in Upper Area 6 and Area 1 is quite distinct. Bucks in these late rut areas won’t be losing antlers until late February and March.

The second month of breeding is a great time to be hunting for a real trophy. Since the majority of does have been bred during the first month of activity, bucks are working hard to find the does that have not bred. The competition for these does is high, and the bucks are ranging out looking for them.

Most telemetry research projects find that buck movement is high during the end of the breeding season. I believe the reason is they are searching for these last few does. I see an increase in scrape and rub activity as these bucks communicate their presence to the female population. It is the time when the really big ones, those that are seen on the cameras but not during the season, are making an all-out effort to find does and the chances of encountering them is better than during the first month of breeding. Hunters who stop hunting after the first month of breeding activity are missing out on some really good action and the chance for a true trophy.

A close look at the 2007-2009 Recognition Records shows that probably 30 percent of the trophies came from the Upper Area 6 parishes, 30 percent from Northwest Louisiana, about 25 percent from the Mississippi River parishes to the north of Area 6, less than 10 percent from Southeast Louisiana, less than 10 percent from Central Louisiana, 3 percent from Northeast Louisiana and maybe 2 percent from Southwest Louisiana.

Keep in mind that a major effort is made in Northwest and Southeast Louisiana to officially score bucks. The Simmons Big Buck Contest in Northeast Louisiana does not get an official score from the bucks entered in their contest, and more deer from that region of the state might make the records if hunters would have them officially scored.

Despite this, I still say that the Upper Area 6 or the river parishes to the north is the region that the new typical state record will come from. If I had to name an exact location, I would have to say Avoyelles Parish.

If your goal is to kill a B&C buck, you first need to hunt in the region of the state where your chances are the best; you need to hunt during the time when buck activity is at its peak; and you need to have a lot of luck.

Long live the king!

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.