As an outdoor writer, I’m privy to some thrilling accounts of successes in the field and on the water. One of my favorite times of year is the first Saturday in March when I drive over to Bastrop to attend the awards day ceremony that is the climax to the annual Simmons Big Buck Contest. I get to sit down and visit with deer hunters who claimed outstanding deer the past season.
Jeff Simmons, owner of Simmons Sporting Goods, has hosted the contest for the past 20 years, and he continues to be amazed at the quality of bucks Louisiana produces year after year.
“Again, we had a bunch of really nice deer coming out of this state. You can go to Canada or Kansas to chase a trophy, but our contest is proof that there are some real impressive bucks right here in Louisiana,” Simmons said.
Indeed there are, and as happens every year, my visit with successful hunters reveals a plethora of exciting and interesting stories. Following is a blow-by-blow account of some of the more impressive tales that came from the Bayou State’s woods this past deer season.
AVOYELLES PARISH TRIFECTA
Habitat types in Louisiana run the gamut from upland red clay piney woods to thick, lush swamps in the southern half of the state. One parish that qualifies for the latter is Avoyelles, located in southeast-central Louisiana. Bayous, streams and sloughs coursing through heavily timbered lowlands are characteristic of much of the parish.
It is not surprising that some of the state’s better deer come from Avoyelles Parish. The ground on which much of the parish sits is rich in nutrients that give food sources attractive to deer an extra shot of good stuff from which heavy antlers and impressive body weights emerge.
Such was the case this past deer season when three of the winners in the Simmons contest, deer that grew impressive racks and heavy bodies, came from Avoyelles.
Placing second in the Archery Division was Jeff Newton with an 11-point buck green-scoring 181 7/8. Actually, Newton’s whitetail was the highest scoring buck taken by archery in Louisiana; the first place winner arrowed his monster in Mississippi.
Placing third in the Archery Division was another Avoyelles Parish monarch, also sporting 11 points, one of which was a handsome drop tine. Greg Gagnard of Marksville arrowed his deer on Dec. 29.
“I hunt on an 1,800-acre private lease with 11 other members. About three-quarters of the land is swampy with standing water,” Gagnard explained.
“I was planning to hunt the weekend before with friends, but the weather was windy and just didn’t feel right for where I wanted to hunt, so I decided to hunt Monday instead.
“A hunting buddy dropped me off a few hundred yards from the stand and I slipped in to where I’d hung my lock-on, getting there in early afternoon,” he continued.
“Around 2:30 or so, I hit my rattling horns and used my grunt call and waited. Some 20 minutes later, this big buck came in with several does and they seemed to be searching for the source of the rattling and grunting.”
Gagnard said that the wind was starting to shift around and he was afraid the deer would pick up his scent.
“They seemed to sense that I was there somewhere,” the hunter explained, “because the buck and does all seemed nervous and they drifted off and out of my line of sight. Before they did, I got a glimpse of the drop tine and knew I’d seen that buck on one of my trail cameras earlier.
“Five minutes later, I saw movement to my left and spotted the buck flanking me. He stopped at 18 steps, giving me a good shot and I released the arrow.”
The buck crossed a slough and Gagnard heard the deer fall and get up twice, so he knew he had a good hit. After finding a portion of his arrow, the decision was made to go back to camp and give the buck time to expire. Because the deer had crossed a slough, a boat was needed to continue the search.
“We brought a small boat down to the slough, crossed it and found the buck dead only 30 yards from the water’s edge,” Gagnard said.
“You often hear about ‘ground shrinkage’ when you walk up to a buck you shot, only to realize it’s not nearly as large as it was on the hoof. That wasn’t the case with this buck; when I got my hands on his antlers, they were more impressive than I thought.”
The buck green-scored 177 4/8 with only a 15-inch inside spread. The buck scored this high because of the impressive mass of the rack.
Rounding out the Avoyelles trifecta was Broulliete logger, 38-year-old Davey McCann.
“On the afternoon of Jan. 7, I came in from work early with the weather cool and fairly windy. I had hoped to have some quiet time at home relaxing with my wife, but when I got home, she had several lady friends over. I knew there would be very little relaxing with a house full of women so,” McCann explained, “I decided to go deer hunting.”
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