Louisiana's 2006 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Top Areas For Trophy Bucks

Last month we explored overall prospects for deer hunting in the Bayou State; this month we've got recommendations that those looking for a wallhanger will want to check out. (Nov 2006)

Last season, Louisiana deer hunters were faced with tragedy and disaster. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged most of Louisiana's coast, including the urban areas of New Orleans and Lake Charles.

"The effects of both hurricanes certainly brought extreme challenges to the state's deer hunters last season," said David Moreland, wildlife division chief with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "From what we understand, hunting license sales were down significantly. Unlike the situation with our freshwater fisheries however, we don't foresee significant mortality in the deer herd. Some areas in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya deltas are already recovering in terms of habitat."

Despite the effects of the hurricanes, a few trophy whitetails were taken last season. Also, much of the state's choice habitat areas for record book deer were undamaged since they lay far inland.

Not all of it escaped, though, and LDWF deer study leader Scott Durham sees more challenges ahead for Louisiana deer hunters, including those who seek trophy whitetails.

"We are losing some trophy whitetail habitat in some areas -- especially the Florida Parishes located across Pontchartrain Lake from New Orleans," said Durham. "Even prior to the hurricanes, human progress has made huge inroads there. The hurricanes further increased new construction in the area. The Parishes of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and East Feliciana have probably lost more trophy deer habitat in this area when compared to others."

Other areas, including St. Landry Parish, are also slowly being deforested owing to the establishment of much needed businesses in the area. Tracts of forests in central Louisiana are getting smaller because of industrial development and new home construction.

"There's going to be challenges ahead of us here in terms of managing the remaining habitat areas for both numbers and quality," said Durham. "We're getting limited on habitat issues, and deer hunters have recently clamored for quality. Management options will become difficult in the future as a result of progress and change."

Durham asserted that on private lands, landowners and clubholders enrolled in the state's Deer Management Assistance Program are much more serious today about managing both habitat and deer in an effort to grow more of the state's younger bucks into high-quality adult whitetails.

"The parishes of East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Concordia, Avoyelles and Pointe Coupee should offer the private-lands hunter quite a few respectable trophies," said Durham.

As for public lands, Durham emphasized that certain parcels deliver better odds on taking trophy whitetails than do others. "Public lands in the Mississippi River drainage region offer the best opportunities at a trophy, and these lands include Big Lake Wildlife Management Area in Franklin, Madison and Tensas parishes, Three Rivers and Red River WMAs in lower Concordia Parish, and Thistlethwaite WMA in St. Landry Parish."

Lake Ophelia NWR in Avoyelles Parish has only relatively recently attracted notice as a destination for trophies taken by primitive weapons.

To define the antler characteristics of a trophy whitetail, Durham said, Louisiana uses the same measuring system established by the Boone and Crockett and Pope & Young Awards Programs. The Longhunter Society uses the Boone and Crockett measuring system to rank trophy whitetails taken by muzzleloader.

New minimums for trophies were established in Louisiana in 2001. The new minimum standard for a whitetail taken by gun is 130 B&C points for the typical category and 165 B&C points for the non-typical category.

A muzzleloader category was also established in 1992 in response to the growing popularity in this sport. In the Louisiana Big Game Records Program, muzzleloader typical trophies are ranked beginning at 120 B&C points for typicals and 150 B&C points for non-typicals. The nationally acclaimed Longhunter Society begins their trophy ranking at 130 and 160 B&C points for typical and non-typical whitetails, respectively.

For more information regarding the Louisiana Big Game Records and trophy whitetail hunting in Louisiana, write or contact: Scott Durham, Louisiana Big Game Records Chairman, LDWF, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000; (225) 765-2351.

Maps for the WMAs listed above can also be obtained at the LDWF headquarters on Quail drive or any District LDWF office. For season dates, rules and regulations for deer hunting on public lands, please consult the 2006-07 edition of the Louisiana Hunting and Wildlife Management Area Regulations booklet.

DISTRICT I

When it comes to trophy deer in northwestern Louisiana, let's just say that District I has a history of surrendering monster bucks with typical and non-typical antlers. The parishes that make up District I are Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, De Soto, Red River and Bienville.

This district is home to the current No. 2 typical, an 11-point whitetail that scored 184 4/8 B&C points. The Bossier Parish deer was harvested by Ernest O. McCoy in 1961. Also, Bill Ethredge's 23-point non-typical was harvested in Caddo Parish in 1988. This beautiful buck scoring 219 6/8 B&C points is currently listed as No. 6 in the non-typical whitetail category in the Louisiana Big Game Records. Other notable non-typical bucks from this district in the Top 10 include J.H. Thurmon's 21-point buck from 1970, which scored 206 7/8 B&C points, and a 22-point buck, scored at 206 4/8 B&C, that was picked up.

Two other record-book bucks appear here: a 171 1/8 B&C typical trophy taken by David Long in Bossier Parish and a 145 4/8 archery trophy taken by John L. Smith in Caddo Parish. In 2005, Thomas Rambin took a 148 5/8 non-typical in De Soto Parish.

DISTRICT II

District II -- comprising Union, Lincoln, Jackson, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, West Carroll and East Carroll parishes -- has historically offered some of the finest bowhunting in the Bayou State.

Along the Mississippi River to the east, Pope & Young trophies are the rule of thumb in East Carroll Parish. Cottonwood Plantation in East Carroll can boast the state's current No. 2 archery typical. This majestic 12-point buck, taken by David Roselle of Vicksburg, scored 170 3/8 B&C.

Regarding the Willow Point Islands of Tara, the Louisiana Big Game Records already include some 15 Willow Point trophies

in the Archery Typical division, one standing as the current No. 5 -- a 10-point buck scoring at 161 5/8 B&C points taken by F. Lane Mitchell in 1993.

In November 1998, the No. 7 archery division typical was taken here, a 10-point trophy scoring 158 7/8 B&C points that was harvested by Brian Arceneaux of Lafayette.

As part of an intensive management plan of controlled harvests and supplemental food planting, Willow Point's outstanding habitat effectively carries a sizable and healthy deer herd. Live weights of up to 280 pounds were recorded recently, and since 1988, over 100 bucks with gross scores over 125 B&C points have been harvested here by bow.

Two impressive typical bucks in the Top 10 taken by gun in this district are the current No. 8, a 179 6/8 B&C 17-pointer taken by Bill Cranford in 1963 in Union Parish; and a 176 2/8 B&C 10-pointer harvested by Willard Roberson in 1968 in Richland Parish.

As for public-land possibilities for scoring on a trophy whitetail, Bayou Macon WMA in East Carroll Parish has good potential. The LDWF has been managing these lands for the last several years, and as the deer herd reaches carrying capacity, you can expect a few trophies to appear, especially in the archery categories. Bayou Macon WMA is three and a half miles east of Oak Grove. For maps or more information, write or call the LDWF, P.O. Box 4004, Monroe, LA 71211.

DISTRICT III

District III, composed of the midwestern parishes of Sabine, Natchitoches, Winn, Grant, Vernon and Rapides, isn't well represented in the Louisiana Big Game Records.

The top three trophies representative of this district: an 8-point typical taken by muzzleloader in 1992 by Darryl W. Esthay at Alexander State Forest WMA in Rapides Parish; a 173 4/8 B&C 15-pointer taken by gun on Fort Polk by Dean Mitchell in 1983; and a 206 6/8 B&C non-typical taken by gun in Grant Parish by Richard Ellison in 1969.

More recently, two other respectable trophies have shown up: a 156 7/8 typical gun trophy taken by Bill Corbin in Grant Parish in November 2005, and a 150 2/8 gun trophy taken by Angel Louviere in Natchitoches Parish in November 2005.

DISTRICT IV

There is no doubt that District IV has ranked at the very top of all districts in delivering trophy whitetails to Bayou State deer hunters. The No. 1 ranking non-typical, James McMurray's 281 6/8 B&C trophy whitetail, was taken from Big Lake WMA in January 1994.

District IV, comprising Madison, Tensas, Concordia, Franklin, Catahoula, Caldwell and La Salle parishes, makes a very good showing: five out of the Top 10 typical B&C trophies, one of those being the current No. 1, a 184 6/8 B&C 12-pointer taken by John Lee in Madison Parish in 1943; four out of the Top 10 B&C non-typicals, including McMurray's national non-typical trophy; and three of the top archery typicals, among which is Joe Hatton's 164 5/8 11-pointer.

Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, in Madison and Tensas parishes, offers the best chance for a public hunter to score on a wallhanger in these parts by gun, muzzleloader or bow.

For more information or maps of this 65,000-acre hardwoods paradise, write or call the Tensas River NWR, Route 2, Box 295, Tallulah, LA 71282; (318) 574-2664.

DISTRICT V

The lower western parishes of Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Allen, Jefferson Davis, Evangeline, Acadia and Vermilion make up District V, home to only four record whitetails. However, a few respectable trophies have shown up here in Louisiana Big Game Records -- most notably, a 126 6/8 P&Y typical 9-pointer taken in 1992 by Dr. Prentiss Perkins in Evangeline parish. Another is the more recent 140 7/8 gun trophy taken by Joseph Miller in November 2005. Another recent trophy taken by bow is a 122 5/8 trophy taken by Jared Bushnell in October 2005.

DISTRICT VI

District VI is rather huge, encompassing much of the Atchafalaya Basin and lands west; it incorporates the parishes of Avoyelles, Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, Lafayette, St. Martin, W. Baton Rouge, Iberville, Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary, Assumption and Terrebonne. Numerous trophy whitetails show up in Louisiana Big Game Records including a 180 5/8 B&C 13-point typical taken by Shawn Ortego in 1975 at Thistlethwaite WMA in St. Landry Parish.

Thistlethwaite has delivered a few more trophy whitetails in the record book: two modern gun trophies above 160 B&C, two archery trophies above 130 B&C, and two muzzleloader trophies above 130 B&C.

Thistlethwaite's 11,000 acres are managed by the LDWF for top-quality whitetail hunting. Since 2005, the LDWF has been conducting a test management program aimed at increasing the presence of quality bucks.

According to Tony Vidrine at LDWF District VI, hunters are only able to take spikes or bucks with at least 4 antler points on one main beam at Thistlethwaite. This type of "slot restriction" on antlered bucks is an experimental attempt by area biologists to move at least 50 percent of the bucks usually taken at 1 1/2 years of age or younger into the older buck segment of the deer herd. The taking of all other bucks not meeting these restrictions will be prohibited.

Gun-hunting usually begins here the Friday after Thanksgiving. For more information on season dates and special weapons seasons, contact the LDWF, 5652 Highway 182, Opelousas, LA 70570; (337) 948-0255.

Lake Ophelia NWR's 17,500 acres lie in Avoyelles Parish north of Marksville. This area was once part of an immense hardwood bottomlands tract bordering the Mississippi River. In the last few years, this area has produced several magnificent trophy whitetails to archers and hunters with muzzleloaders. Three weekend lottery hunts occur each year here -- one in December, the others in January. The balance of the season is archery endeavors.

For maps and more information, contact Lake Ophelia NWR, 401 Island Road, Marksville, LA 71351; (318) 253-4238.

DISTRICT VII

This district encompasses a trophy area known as the "Florida Parishes," which includes West Feliciana, East Feliciana, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, Washington, St. Tammany, Livingston and portions of East Baton Rouge. Other parishes in District VII are Ascension, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, Lafourche, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines.

Quite a few respectable trophies have been taken here, including: a 174 5/8 B&C 11-point typical taken in 1992 by Robert Lee in Tangipahoa Parish; a 203 2/8 non-typical taken by Sonny Sykes in 1994; a 164 6/8 B&C 15-pointer taken by Brad Sandridge in 1992 in West Feliciana Parish; an 11-pointer harvested by bow scoring 137 by Guy Bergeron in East Feliciana Parish; a 135 7/8 P&Y 12-pointer taken by Jay McCleary, Jr. in West Feliciana in 1993; and a 155 P&Y trophy taken by Tom Sawyer in 1997. Also, the two of the top archery non-typicals have come from the Florida Parishes -- a 203 5/8 19-pointer taken by Rodney Lee in 1983 and a 157 3/8 13-pointer taken by Milton Johnson in 1991.

Most of the lands in this District are private and some are managed for quality trophies. However, Tunica Hills WMA in West Feliciana offers hunters a possibility.

Some if not all of the above data, we hope, will assist you in locating and scoring on a trophy. Happy hunting!

Find more about Louisiana fishing and hunting at: LAgameandfish.com

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.