Guns, Bows & Smokepoles

There are more ways than one to kill a trophy buck in Louisiana, as is proved by the uniquely exciting tales behind these three terrific bucks taken by three different methods. (December 2005)

When he shot this massive 14-point whitetail, the ninth-largest typical ever killed in Louisiana, Shannon Deville was at the right place at the right time -- namely, sitting in the stand that his brother-in-law normally occupied!
Photo by Glynn Harris

Nov. 24, 1967, was a red-letter day for me. No, it was neither my wedding day nor the birthday of my firstborn. It was on this day that I bagged my first deer, and a nice buck at that. Here's how it happened.

. . .

I had been invited on a deer hunt by my good friend and squirrel hunting partner, Jim White. We both lived in Homer, and while I was perfectly content to hunt squirrels in the autumn woods of Claiborne Parish, my buddy, Jim, would bid me adieu as November rolled around each year. He headed for the deer woods, leaving me to chase bushytails alone.

I protested at first when he invited me to hunt deer. My alibi was that that I had no deer rifle. No problem, Jim told me. Just buy some buckshot and use the shotgun you use for squirrel hunting.

I gave in, and I'm glad I did. After I spent one hour sitting at the edge of a pipeline near Summerfield that morning, the hounds pushed a 10-point buck out near me and I downed him. At that moment, I became another hunter hooked from the get-go on deer hunting in Louisiana.

Today, the number of hunters who use shotguns in Louisiana to hunt deer has dwindled markedly. I honestly don't recall the last hunter I saw packing a scattergun to a deer stand. Those who continue to hunt deer with dogs make up the majority of those who prefer shotguns to rifles, for obvious reasons. A bounding buck or dashing doe is easier to bring down using a shotgun than by trying to find it in a scope.

Things have changed mightily in the deer woods of Louisiana since the '60s. Hunters now employ a variety of weapons to hunt deer. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has set aside special seasons to allow hunters to take advantage of both traditional firearms to hunt deer and the allotment of extra days to use archery equipment and muzzleloaders.

The state instituted the special archery season statewide for the 1962-63 season, while the special muzzleloader season began for the 1989-90 season.

In practically every part of the state, bowhunters have the advantage, because archery season opens in early October and opportunities continue through the end of January. Muzzleloader hunters also have two weeks set aside for them, in most cases the week prior to the opening of firearms season and the week following firearms season closure.

Over the years, I have had the good fortune of interviewing some of the state's most successful deer hunters. For the purposes of this article, I've chosen a special hunt with archery, one with traditional firearms and another with muzzleloader to share with you.

BOWHUNTING STORY

Brian Thomson, an insurance agent from Alexandria, was hunting the peak of the rut on Cottonwood Island along the Mississippi River in East Carroll Parish at the invitation of a friend. The trip, however, would be cut short because of a death in Thomson's family.

"We had gotten to the camp around noon the first day and got to hunt that afternoon. I watched a huge buck chase a doe several hundred yards away and felt I might have a chance at him sometime during our four-day hunt," Thomson recalled.

"The next morning, it was raining when I got in my stand, and half an hour later thunder and lightening put an end to hunting that day. That night, I got the call about the death, and I knew I needed to be home the following day, so I decided to make a brief morning hunt and then drive back to Alexandria," Thomson continued.

The next morning, it was raining and windy, so after hunting about an hour Thomson made the decision to terminate the hunt and hope for better luck next year.

"I got out of my stand around 8:00 and headed back to the camp. As I walked toward camp, a flash of white caught my eye and I realized it was the rack of a big buck. I stopped in my tracks and was able to make out the form of the buck just as he began mating with a doe I hadn't seen until then.

"Since I was downwind from the deer, I decided to try to stalk the big buck. I removed my rain gear, my fanny pack and my backpack, taking nothing except my bow and arrows and a grunt call," said Thomson.

Over the next two and a half hours, Thomson would undergo a series of trying events, most of which were caused by other deer he spooked as he stalked the big buck.

"As I crawled up toward the ridge, I saw a 6-point buck, and he kept looking over the ridge like he was watching the big buck and doe. I sneaked to within 20 yards of the 6-point and watched him ease over the ridge. I got down on my belly and crawled through grass and cockleburs to where I could see over the little knoll, and there was the big one, no farther than 20 yards away," Thomson recalled.

At last, Thomson had the big buck where he wanted him, so he came to full draw, waiting for the buck to follow the doe through another opening. However, the pesky 6-point buck was not out of the picture just yet.

"Just as I pulled back my bow, here came the 6-point buck again because he couldn't figure out what I was; he'd only seen me crawling on my belly and not upright. He just stood there stomping his foot at me, so I figured I'd try one last thing to get a crack at the big one. . . . I pulled out my grunt call and grunted. When I did, the big buck went wild, thrashing bushes everywhere.

"Then the doe made a move that sent her through an opening I was looking for. The buck followed, and finally I was able to release the arrow and the big buck was mine at last," said Thomson.

The big buck, which weighed 235 pounds, sported 14 points and green-scored 154 6/8.

GUN HUNT STORY

Shannon Deville of Lafayette was hunting on private property adjacent to Thistlethwaite Wildlife Management Area in January 2001 when he put his name in the record books with a monster whitetail. Interestingly, it could have been Deville's brother-in-law's name that ended up in the record book.

"The hunt on which I took the buck began when my brother-in-law, 'Junior,' approached me about hunting with him with a particular purpose in mind. He wanted me to

be a decoy," Deville began.

"While Junior was hunting in the area the previous week, someone had burglarized his truck twice. Junior wanted me to go with him to be used as a decoy. The plan was for me to ride his four-wheeler across the field to his stand while Junior remained hidden in a ditch near his truck, armed with his camera. He figured that the burglars would see me ride off, assume it was him, and return to his truck to do their dirty work. Then he'd be able to get the drop on the culprits," he added.

Deville and his brother-in-law arrived at around 4:15 p.m. Deville crawled on the four-wheeler and headed across the clearing, in plain view of any burglars who may have been watching, in case they had planned another break-in.

"Although he was only in the woods for the purpose of helping his brother-in-law with his plan to catch the thieves, Deville took my .270 with him. After parking the four-wheeler, he followed a trail to the stand, which bordered some flooded bottomland.

"I climbed into the stand, and after a few minutes I heard a shot some 200 yards in front of me. Thinking that the other hunter's shot may spook a deer out by me, I got ready. Five minutes later, I caught a glimpse of an antler moving through the thick palmetto from my right. I could only see three tines, and I assumed it was a small buck. That was fine with me since I hadn't seen a deer yet this season.

"While I was following the buck through the thicket with my scope, for an instant I saw his shoulder in my crosshairs. I squeezed off a shot. Then the woods became deathly quiet again," Deville said.

He watched for movement from the buck and listened for the sound of a deer running, but saw and heard nothing.

"My heart sank. I figured if I didn't drop the buck in his tracks, he had silently slipped away," Deville said. "I couldn't believe I'd just missed the only deer I'd seen in the woods this season. After regaining my composure, I began looking around the area for any sign I'd hit the deer.

"As I searched, I couldn't help but think of Junior sitting in that ditch watching for burglars with all this commotion going on around his deer stand.

"I was just about to give up when I looked towards the base of a big tree, and there was my buck. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was incredible. I fell to my knees where I stood and just knelt there, looking at him from five yards away. After saying a prayer of thanksgiving, I ran over to him, grabbed the rack and let out a yell.

"It then hit me what had just happened. I had killed the buck that Junior had hunted hard for four years. Junior had found his scrapes and rubs every year but never saw the deer. He'd already taken two bucks off this stand, and this was the only reason he let me sit there that day. He could have picked out any of his other stands for me to sit on, but he chose this one. Man, am I ever glad he did!"

Deville's buck sported 14 points on a symmetrical rack that today occupies the ninth position on Louisiana's all-time listing for typical bucks, with a score of 179 2/8.

MUZZLELOADER STORY

Bill Jordan Jr. lives less than 400 yards from the property line to the Camp Beauregard Wildlife Management Area.

"I grew up in this area before it became a wildlife management area. We used to run cows on the open range that is now Camp Beauregard, so I know just about every square inch of the area," Jordan explained.

Jordan's brother-in-law, Eddie Feazell, had invited Jordan to hunt with him one morning.

"I got up well before daylight and was about ready to leave the house to meet Eddie when the phone rang. It was Eddie, who told me he wouldn't be able to go because his daughter had gotten sick that night and he would have to stay home with her," Jordan said.

Although Jordan was tempted to go back to bed, he decided to go and hunt alone since he was already up and ready to go.

"I got to the woods later than I would have liked and headed for an area I'd scouted along a ridge. My heart sank when I saw three different flashlights blinking at me, letting me know there were other hunters already there."

Jordan decided to loop around the other hunters and head for the other end of the same ridge. The problem was that he hadn't scouted this area, which didn't do wonders for his confidence.

"I was afraid I'd see more flashlights when I got to the other end of the ridge, but to my relief I had this place all to myself. Now the problem was finding a tree in which to hang my stand in the dark in an area I hadn't scouted. I picked out a tree and climbed it, waiting for daylight."

Soon after, Jordan heard something moving and caught a glimpse of a deer about 120 yards away. Then he glimpsed an antler, and to his surprise he detected what appeared to be a drop tine.

"He stepped into a clearing, too far to shoot with my muzzleloader, but I got a good enough look at him to realize that if I was to have a chance at hitting the buck, I'd better concentrate on 'deer' and not on that rack I saw."

Jordan put his scope on the big buck, but it was still too far from him. However, the deer was slowly but steadily moving in his direction. "All I could do was wait and hope that a case of nerves wouldn't spoil my chances at this big buck," he said.

"I lost sight of him when he stepped behind a downed treetop, and after what seemed like an hour, I decided to slowly stand up and see if I could spot the deer. It really shook me up when I saw the deer and he was looking directly at me. I froze as he just stood there, staring at me. Finally, he put his head down and began slowly easing my way again.

"When I eased my rifle up and looked through the scope, I had breathed on it, probably pretty hard from excitement, and it was fogged up. I couldn't see a thing. I used my orange vest to clear the scope, and I was surprised when I saw the buck still standing there broadside at 60 yards.

"I squeezed the trigger, and at the shot the buck took off, running right under my tree. He was running hard like nothing was wrong, and I couldn't see any bullet wound, so I assumed I'd missed. I was really let down and upset that I'd missed such a big buck," Jordan noted.

The deer ran toward the end of the ridge where the other hunters were, and Jordan expected to hear a shot any minute. When he heard nothing, he became a little more optimistic.

"I went over to where the buck was standing when I shot, and I found evidence of a hit. I didn't see the deer until I stepped around a big tree, and there he was. I remember saying out loud: 'This ain't real!' "

The non-typical buck weighed an estimated 235 pounds, sported 1

6 points and was later officially scored at 198 4/8, the highest-scoring buck ever taken in Louisiana with a muzzleloader.

In Louisiana, when it comes to hunting deer, you have choices. Will it be bow and arrow, muzzleloader or traditional firearms? No matter which you choose, there is a chance, as these three hunters have shown, that you can bag a genuine trophy buck in Louisiana's deer woods.

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