The Bayou State'™s Best Bowhunts

Your statewide guide to bagging a buck by means of stick and string this season. (August 2006)

Photo by GRADY HARRISON, JR.

In just a few months, the 2006-07 archery season for whitetails will begin, and serious Bayou State bowhunters are already out and about, diligently shooting targets and fine-tuning their archery tackle.

First of all, hurricanes Katrina and Rita without doubt dampened the lives and spirits of archers statewide. The entire Louisiana coast took direct hits from the two gigantic storms, and thousands of acres of coastal marsh were laid waste by tremendous surges of salt water. As a result, some hunting season dates were lost last year --' among those, archery days.

However, David Moreland, wildlife division leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, reported in April that white-tailed deer in the delta areas of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya seem to have suffered less direly than had been feared earlier. Observations made in these two areas revealed the survival of adequate numbers of deer despite extensive habitat destruction and pervasive intrusion by salt water.

"I don't see a problem with archery season opening in the delta areas for 2006-07," said the biologist. "Although we did experience high winds and salt water, especially in the Mississippi Delta, I don't foresee closing off lands there to hunters unless there are more storms this summer and fall." Regarding the deer herd statewide, Moreland holds to estimates that put the number of whitetails residing in the Bayou State at some 1 million animals.

And --' to get straight to this article's theme --' he reported that, according to LDWF surveys, approximately 20,000 whitetails have annually been taken by bow over the last several seasons.

Moreland also observed that although some 30,000 archery licenses have been sold at one time in the past, actual Louisiana bowhunter license sales have dropped off to somewhere near 24,300 for the 2004-05 season. "This could be due to a large chunk of baby boomers reaching the non-licensed age segment," the LDWF official suggested. "These numbers have been slowly declining, and many older hunters will be using crossbows."

As usual, Louisiana bowhunters enjoy an either-sex harvest for much of the archery-only season, the exception being Area 6, where a bucks-only rule is mandated for the period Oct. 1-15. Also, the daily harvest of one antlerless and one antlered deer will remain in effect on both private and public lands unless otherwise prohibited. Archers are advised to review the 2006-07 edition of the Louisiana Hunting and Wildlife Management Areas pamphlet prior to heading afield on the opening day of archery season.

Bowhunters are also urged to check regulations regarding the carrying of harvest documentation cards on their persons. At the time of this writing, proposed regulations would impose seasonal bag limits limiting hunters to taking three bucks and three antlerless deer, which would need to be documented immediately. If adopted, these regulations will appear in the 2006-07 edition of the Louisiana Hunting and Wildlife Regulations pamphlet, which is available at local LDWF headquarters or wherever licenses are sold; current regulations are also downloadable from the LDWF's Web site, www.wlf.state.la. us/hunting/regulations/. (Continued)

Of the more than 1 million Bayou State acres providing public hunting opportunities to archers seeking whitetails, those within the Tensas and Atchafalaya basins contain the most popular areas, which teem with deer of substantial quality.

Louisiana is divided into four distinguishable regions: the Northwest Quadrant; the Coastal Marsh and Rice Bowl; the Florida Parishes; and the Tensas-Atchafalaya basins. As you'll discover below, Louisiana whitetails have adapted readily to these diverse areas, and public lands within each habitat area are known to hold some notable "nocking" prospects for Bayou State bowhunters.

ATCHAFALAYA AND

TENSAS BASINS

Here, hundreds of thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods sweep south from Madison and Tensas parishes, following the course of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers to end near the northern borders of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Moreland readily recommends that public bowhunters spend some time on the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, which lies in portions of Tensas and Madison parishes. According to Tensas River NWR manager Jerome Ford, bow harvests here are estimated at about 100 each year, which is somewhat down from data gathered in the 1990s.

"As visiting hunters are aware, there has been some discussion over the numbers in our deer herd on the refuge," Ford stated. "The relatively lowered numbers of deer appear to be associated with past timber management strategies in the refuge, along with a change in farming objectives on adjacent lands. We are certainly responding to hunters' concerns by considering refuge management changes into our future planning."

Tensas River NWR, some 64,000 acres in area, is a tremendously rich hardwoods habitat area that fosters high-quality white-tailed deer. Some 11 bucks taken here have exceeded the minimum (125 B&C points) for Pope & Young records, and are presently listed in the Louisiana Big Game Records for Whitetails (archery, typical). Bowhunting here begins Nov. 4, 2006, and runs until Jan. 31, 2007.

Kenny Borel of New Iberia knows all about the pursuit of Tensas River NWR whitetails from the archer's perspective: The bowhunting director of the statewide chapter of the Bayou State Bowhunters Association, he enjoys annual trips afield to hunt Tensas trophies with other members.

"If you can find the food, you will find the deer," Borel emphasized. "I would begin by scouting feeding areas thoroughly prior to the season opener. You want to look for sign near honey locusts (bean trees), early acorns and greenbrier. In fact, you have to look for whatever they're eating at the time of the hunt, and that could even include trumpet creeper."

According to Borel, archers should hunt the wind and get away from crowds. "I like also to pattern the people in the woods --' get away from them," he added. "Much of the land here at Tensas River NWR holds good numbers of deer, but some of it does not --' and you have to know the difference by actually scouting sign of foraging; you have to get out and burn the boot soles in your scouting. Your scouting can pay off handsomely in these woods, especially if you can find deer actively feeding in an area."

Borel recommends hunting rubs and scrape lines after the opener but during the pre-rut period.

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