The Bayou State gives up great whitetails every year, and some areas are the consistent producers. Here's a statewide in-depth look at those regions. (November 2009)
From November to mid-February, antler fever rages among Bayou State deer hunters. During these months, somewhere within Louisiana's choicest whitetail habitat, the rut is occurring. And that's when the odds favor the hunter for taking home a wall-hanger.
As Louisiana's Quality Deer Movement increases in disciples from year to year, there engages an eternal discussion over aspects of finding and taking quality and trophy bucks.
There can be no doubt that quality whitetails have increased in numbers in Louisiana over the past three decades. This marked increase can be certainly due to hunters' decisions made toward enhancing the natural habitat by supplementing wild foods with expansive green fields and nutritious protein additives.
But there's also the decision not to pull back the bow or finger the trigger. Hunters engaged in allowing young bucks to walk (antler restrictions) have also increased their quality buck allotment, and these practices have evolved in the Bayou State since the 1970s.
Now then, some hunters are under the opinion that Louisiana can grow "trophy" bucks with management practices just about anywhere in the Bayou State.
This can be true too -- if you agree that a 110-class, 8-pointer fits your definition of a trophy.
But for true Louisiana "trophy" status to be endowed on a whitetail, you better think longer, bigger, thicker and wider with regard to antler characteristics.
"In 2008-09, we measured 30 deer that will probably end up in the Louisiana Big Game Records and/or the three-year Louisiana Big Game Recognition Program," said David Moreland, retired wildlife chief and official keeper of the Louisiana Big Game Records. And of those 30 deer, maybe two to three may make national Boone and Crockett records, Pope and Young (archery) acclaim or the Longhunter Society records.
When you consider the fact that there are as many as 160,000 licensed deer hunters in the Bayou State during any given season, let's just say the odds are extremely miniscule (divide 160,000 into 30) at even observing a "true" trophy whitetail of record-book status.
In determining characteristics of record-book bucks, Moreland explained that Louisiana uses the same measuring system established by the Boone and Crockett (B&C) and Pope and Young (P&Y) awards programs. The Longhunter Society also uses the Boone and Crockett measuring system to rank trophy whitetails taken by muzzleloader.
Minimum standards for white-tailed deer trophies to be listed in the Louisiana Big Game Records for a whitetails taken by gun is 160 B&C points for the typical category and 185 B&C points for the non-typical category. For archery, they are 110 B&C points (typical) and 130 B&C points (non-typical).
A muzzleloader category was also established in 1992 in response to the growing popularity. In the Louisiana records program, muzzleloader trophies must score 120 B&C points for typicals and 150 for non-typicals.
For more information regarding the Louisiana Big Game Records, contact David Moreland at outdoor_roots@ hotmail.com.
Target The Rivers For Trophies
Louisiana's trophy white-tailed deer historically tend to appear along the drainages of the Mississippi and Red rivers systems. In fact, the entire Mississippi River Basin is widely celebrated for producing large numbers of truly immense trophy racks.
"Our deer records are a direct reflection of the habitat on which the animal was produced," Moreland said. "All of the top public land deer taken between 1998-2008 were killed on public lands with bottomland hardwood habitat."
The Fertile Crescent Avoyelles Parish
The Black, Red, Atchafalaya and the Mississippi rivers converge in Avoyelles Parish. Moreland referred to this region as the heart of the "Fertile Crescent." It is fed by these river systems that deposit fertile soils during flood events.
"Regarding private lands, Avoyelles Parish is currently a hotspot in delivering quality and trophy whitetails," said Moreland.
The parish has 41 entries in the Louisiana Big Game Records and has registered almost twice as many top 10 bucks in Deer Management Assistance Program records when compared with any other parish during the past few years.
An example is the 181 1/8 B&C 11-pointer that Donald Riviere of Moreauville downed in 1998 in Avoyelles Parish.
With regard to public lands in Avoyelles, Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge's 17,500 acres are composed of a hardwood bottomland tract bordering the Mississippi River. The refuge is located north of Marksville.
In the past few years, this area has produced 14 record-book whitetails for archers and smokepolers. Three two-day weekend lottery hunts occur each year on this area, one in December and the others in January. The balance of the season is archery-only hunting, except for a three-day youth gun hunt.
For maps and more information, contact Lake Ophelia NWR at (318) 253-4238.Mississippi River Delta
If you can afford a steep $4,000 to $5,000 per year hunting lease in parishes along the Mississippi River in the northeast part of the state, then it is a good whitetail investment. That region is well represented in the Louisiana Big Game Records.
East Carroll Parish alone has delivered 29 archery trophy whitetails to the Bayou State's record book. All of those scored at least 125 P&Y points. Most of those quality deer were taken on private lands in the area.
In December of 2008, just to the west in West Carroll Parish, Mike Chapman of Oak Ridge downed a truly big whitetail -- a 17-pointer that green-scored at 204 B&C points as a typical. He was hunting with a muzzleloader, so the deer may well become Louisiana's No. 1 rack in the primitive weapons category.
The Willow Point Islands managed by Tara Wildlife of Vicksburg, Mississippi may be the choicest private parcel for trophy deer in East Carroll Parish. Access to this land is available to fee-paying bowhunters. Those fees are steep, but the racks here are as well. A large number of trophy bucks taken with a bow and listed in the Louisiana Big Game Records have come from the Willow Point Islands.
Farther south along the Mississ
ippi River, Madison and Tensas parishes are also well represented in the Louisiana Big Game Records. Madison has delivered 30 trophy whitetails to the list, the most impressive of which is the all-time No. 1 typical taken in Louisiana. It was shot back in 1943 by Don Broadway and scored 184 6/8 B&C points.
In Tensas Parish, 59 trophy bucks have been added to the record book. That's mostly because of the bottomland hardwood habitat in the area, as well as the fertility of the Mississippi River delta soils.
If hunting public lands is a better fit for your wallet, then Tensas River NWR located in Madison, Tensas and Franklin parishes offers decent chances at trophy whitetails. This NWR offers 68,000 acres of palmetto-laden bottomland hardwoods.
Lottery gun hunts here admit 2,500 for either-sex deer action during two separate weekends in December. A muzzleloader-only hunt is available in January.
The rest of the season allows archery hunting for whitetails. Bowhunting pressure is rather low here, especially on weekdays. Some of the best archery action on the area occurs in the later season -- especially in January. The area's peak rut month is December, and the secondary rut occurs in January.
As for bucks harvested, gun records, 11 whitetails taken on firearms hunts from Tensas River are listed in Louisiana's record book, and 12 others taken by archers have topped the P&Y minimum of 125 inches of antlers.
For more information, on the Tensas River NWR, call (318) 574-2664.
Immediately south of Tensas River NWR, lies Big Lake WMA. In January of 1994, James McMurray of Gilbert harvested the top non-typical whitetail ever from state public lands. At 281 6/8 B&C points, McMurray's 30-point buck also ranks among the top 10 non-typical trophy whitetails ever killed in North American.
This WMA is located in portions of Franklin, Madison and Tensas parishes, 12 miles east of Gilbert. It consists of 19,231 acres of bottomland hardwoods.
For maps, season dates and more information regarding Big Lake WMA, call the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries office in Ferriday at (318) 757-4571.
In Concordia Parish, Three Rivers and Red River WMAs together provide more than 60,000 acres of public-hunting land. These river bottoms are covered in hardwoods.
These lands certainly have been sleepers for delivering impressive trophies in the last couple of years. Hunting begins during the pre-rut on the Friday following Thanksgiving. If cold temperatures fall during the rut in late December and January, these WMAs should give up even more big bucks.
For more information on Red River and Three Rivers, call the LDWF in Ferriday at (318) 757-4571.
On an annual basis, Thistlethwaite WMA in St. Landry Parish also has delivered its share of trophy whitetails to the record book. It has given up two modern gun, two archery and three muzzleloader trophies. Additionally, gun harvest data from past years here shows quite a few bucks in the 140 B&C range have been measured.
Regulations at Thistlethwaite WMA mandate that hunters only take spikes or bucks with at least 4 antler points on one side. This type of "slot restriction" on antlered bucks is aimed at moving at least 50 percent of the bucks usually taken at 1 1/2 years of age into the older age-class of the deer herd.
Gun hunting usually begins on this WMA the Friday after Thanksgiving. For more details, contact the LDWF in Opelousas at (337) 948-0255.
The Red River system located in northwest Louisiana has delivered its share of trophy whitetails to Louisiana's record book. The river courses through parts of Caddo, Bossier, Red River, Natchitoches, Grant, Rapides, Catahoula and Avoyelles parishes. That drainage is credited with some 93 trophies -- 41 of which were taken by modern firearms, 27 by bow and 25 with muzzleloaders.
Some impressive non-typical whitetails have appeared in this part of the state. The current No. 7 non-typical taken with a firearm was downed in 1988 by Bill Ethredge in Caddo Parish.
In 2007, then 14-year-old Chris "Green" Campbell of Shreveport shot the No. 1 non-typical in the muzzleloader category. It was a 30-point buck that scored 203 5/8 B&C points.
Other trophies coming from parishes near the Red River were a 180 B&C Grant Parish typical taken by Shane Spears in 2006; a 184 6/8 B&C Bossier Parish typical shot in 1961 with a modern firearm by Ernest McCoy; W.D. Ethredge's 219 6/8 B&C non-typical from Caddo Parish in 1988; and Todd Tracy's 223 1/8 B&C non-typical killed in Red River Parish in 2005.
At only 6,381 acres, Loggy Bayou WMA in Bossier Parish claims four trophy whitetails listed in the Louisiana Big Game Records -- two of which are non-typical.
Managed either-sex hunts at Loggy Bayou are scheduled for three days following Thanksgiving, with an additional muzzleloader segment in late December and early January.
For more information regarding Loggy Bayou WMA, contact the LDWF in Minden at (318) 371-3050.
Bienville Parish is home to some quality whitetails. The management of private lands in the parish for timber has produced good whitetail habitat. That in turn led to many wallhangers for lease-holding hunt clubs in the region. The Louisiana Big Game Records show eight whitetails from the parish that have scored 160 B&C points or better.
Jackson-Bienville WMA that stretches across parts of Bienville, Jackson and Lincoln parishes offers some public hunting grounds in the area. Located 12 miles south of Ruston, the WMA covers 32,185 acres.
Dates for gun hunting begin in mid-November and progress through December with many either-sex days.
For more information, contact the LDWF office in Minden at (318) 371-3050.