Deer hunting season 2010-11 in Louisiana was a banner season for a host of Louisiana hunters. The number of impressive bucks entered in big buck contests around the state was noticeably higher than in years past.
Every year, Louisiana produces plenty of eye-popping bucks, but those taken by hunters this past season seemed to be the exception.
Wildlife officials feel there may be a reason for this. Scott Durham, deer study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries feels that changes in harvest regulations implemented over the past three seasons may well have contributed to the taking of more trophy bucks this past season.
"Now that we operate under a tagging system where hunters are allowed six deer per season, only three of which may be bucks, hunters are being more selective on the bucks they take. They may fill a buck tag with a yearling, but most are likely to hold off on filling the last tag or two. This lets the younger bucks live another year to move into the higher age class," said Durham.
With this premise being established, let's take a look at some of the more impressive Louisiana Trophy Whitetails taken around the state this past season.
THE THIRD CHANCE IS BUCK
Nicole Casida, power plant supervisor in Natchitoches, nailed an impressive 11-point buck this past season, but it took her three opportunities to finally lay claim to it.
"I was hunting our 350-acre plot south of Natchitoches when I had chances at the buck three different times," Casida confirmed.
"My first chance happened the first Sunday of bow season. Two bucks came walking down one of my lanes, too far for my bow. They began sparring: not really fighting, but tickling antlers. One was a nice 8-point buck, but the one that caught my eye was one that had never showed up on our trail cameras, a beautiful and massive 11-point buck," she continued.
Casida noted that as the smaller buck moved on off, the big one decided to lay down and take a nap, just out from her stand.
"I watched him actually go to sleep for probably half an hour. There he was out of range of my bow and all I could do was sit and watch him sleep — and get seriously nervous."
Eventually, the buck awakened, joined the 8-point and the pair walked off down the trail and were gone.
Then, the weekend after Thanksgiving, Casida climbed into her lock-on stand and spotted a doe coming her way.
"The doe passed by and I thought I heard a faint grunt. I picked up my binoculars and saw a buck coming along the same trail. I wasn't sure how big the buck was, but my husband had suggested that if I see a good buck that day, go ahead and take it. When the deer stepped into an opening, I squeezed off a hurried shot and watched the deer haul it out of there. I was sure I'd missed," Casida said. While she sat and berated herself, Casida heard something walking the trail in the direction the buck had departed and incredibly, there was the buck again.
"He was seriously in love with that doe so his guard was down. This time, I took my time and I knew the shot was good this time," she recalled.
The 11-point buck had a 19 5/8-inch inside spread and weighed 175 pounds.
It took three chances to claim her prize but it was worth it. Nicole Casida's buck took top honors in the Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop big buck contest women's division with a score of 174 7/8 B&C.
DAYLIGHT WAIT BUCK
Michael Hanlon, a farmer and cotton consultant in northeast Louisiana, and three business partners own a prized chunk of real estate in Madison Parish. The 1000 acres of Wetland Reserve Program land has become their hunting headquarters.
The property is on the market for possible sale, but after what happened to Hanlon last October 1, 2010, the foursome could be having some serious second thoughts about selling. Hanlon arrowed a buck on the property that could put a kink in a possible sale or at least up the ante somewhat.
"My partners and I had trail cameras out since summer, and in July we got a photo of a monster non-typical buck in a soybean field on the property. We only shoot one quality buck each, so as bow season approached, I made up my mind that this was the one I was going to put my tag on," said the 40-year-old hunter.
"We stayed at the camp the night before opening day and I was anxious to give my new bow, a Hoyt Maxxis, a try the next morning. I got in my blind before daylight. As soon as it got light enough to see, I heard a little noise sort of like a wheeze and saw the big buck, along with three other bucks, feeding on the C'Mere Deer attractant I'd put out. It was a full half hour before it was light enough for me to see my sight pin," Hanlon explained.
"By the time it was light enough to see, the other bucks had wandered off and I was left looking at that monster buck feeding 20 yards from me, quartering slightly toward me. Once I could see clearly, I put the pin on the vitals and released the arrow. The buck hauled it out of there."
After some six hours of searching, Hanlon finally walked up on the deer where he had fallen and expired.
His reaction when he saw the buck up close and personal?
"From the trail cam pictures, I knew he was a buster of a buck, but until I got my hands on those antlers up close I didn't know what I had. I was in disbelief."
Hanlon's buck was in full velvet, sporting 12 points with tremendous mass. Twenty inches of air separated the two sides. The G-2s were 15 and 14 3/4 inches and the buck weighed in the 215- to 220-pound range.
Hanlon entered the buck in the Simmons Sporting Goods annual big buck contest, where it scored 186 4/8 Pope and Young points, good enough for second place in the Archery Division.
WAITING FOR THE BIG ONE
In her first year to bow hunt, Teri Henley set the bar very high for her future hunts.
"I got my first bow on my birthday in August and had never hunted with a bow before," Henley explained. "I started practicing and on opening day, I managed to take a doe. The next day, I went to Mississippi with some friends and shot an 8-point buck. This one I got here on October 7, 2010, was my third deer to bag with a bow."
Henley was hunting on a 3,000-acre farm and ranch in Madison Parish.
"I knew this big buck was around. I'd been getting his pictures on my trail cam since early September. I'd seen his pictures last year, but he had grown a lot in a year, both in body size and antlers," she continued.
Her excitement began on October 6 when the big buck came out and stood facing her 10 yards away, making it impossible for her to draw her bow.
"The next day, I went back to my stand, but the wind was wrong. I walked in a different direction, hoping my scent wouldn't spook the deer. After a bit, I heard deer and they were coming down the trail I walked in on! I just knew I'd get 'busted' but somehow I didn't," Henley explained.
Two bucks approached, a 4-point followed by a big 11-point buck that stopped not more than 10 steps away.
"I heard another deer coming and sure enough, it was the big buck. The 11-point wouldn't let him come in for a while, but he finally walked off and here came the big one. I was able to put the arrow right where I was aiming," Henley said.
"I watched the buck run about 100 yards, wobble and then fall."
The monster buck, weighing 295 pounds, sported 9 typical points, had an inside spread of some 18 inches and was awarded first place in the Women's Archery Division at Simmons with a score of 182 3/8 P&Y.
WIFE KNOWS BEST BUCK
Had 35-year-old Mitchell Ritchie not heeded the urging of his wife, Amanda, the huge buck he arrowed late on the afternoon of October 7, 2010, would have likely been a nice meal for coyotes. After searching for the deer he shot with his crossbow until midnight, Mitchell wanted to give up; Amanda wouldn't let him.
Mitchell doesn't have far to go to reach his stand. He lives and hunts on 30 acres he owns near Goodwill in West Carroll Parish and the walk to his deer stand covered all of 250 yards.
"After a couple of hours on my stand, I began seeing a few deer. Then I looked up and there stood two big bucks, a 9-point and a 12-point, in my lane 50 yards from my stand," he described.
"The 12-point buck was standing broadside at 50 yards, so I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed off a shot. He hunkered up and took off."
After searching for hours and finding no evidence of a hit, Mitchell gave up and slowly walked home, assuming he'd missed.
Amanda would not hear of it. She'd seen him shoot in the past and knew he was an excellent marksman. She felt in her heart he'd killed the buck. So grabbing lights, they headed back to the woods.
"The first thing we found was a big spot of blood. Then the blood trail dwindled to nothing. I wanted to give up, but Amanda insisted they look some more.
"I stepped around a cedar tree, shined my light around and the beam settled on the rump of the deer. He was dead. When I got around and picked up his head, I saw a rack I couldn't believe," Mitchell continued.
The buck, a symmetrical 12-point, carried a 19-inch spread and scored 159 7/8 B&C for the Simmons Sporting Goods contest.
Would Mitchell Ritchie have been able to recover his buck without the help of his wife? Possibly, but with Amanda prodding him on, the odds were tipped decidedly in his favor.
THE NOSE BLEED BUCK
Forty-six-year-old Randy Fuller from Haughton is fortunate that Red Oak Timber Company, from which he leases a 100-acre plot of mixed pines and hardwoods, hasn't gotten around to cutting all the big pines on the property. Fuller likes to climb big mature pines to nosebleed heights, which gives him a decided advantage over the deer on the property.
He had his climbing stand secured to one of the big pines on the morning of Saturday, December 11, 2010. He shinnied up to a dizzying height of 50 feet to settle in for a deer hunt.
"I was using my range finder to get a read on distances when I heard something about 25 yards behind my tree," Fuller recalled. "Looking down, I saw what I could tell was a 'shooter' buck. Couldn't really tell how big because he was walking along through some thick brush.
"I like to climb high because I can see down into thick stuff," he continued. "If I'd spent time on the ground cutting and trimming, there's the chance a buck would get suspicious.
"The buck was in some heavy cover but when I saw his head go through a little opening, I grunted with my voice just as his shoulder slipped into the opening. He stopped, I fired, and the deer flipped over and fell not 5 feet from where he was standing when I shot.
"When I got down from the tree, only then I was able to see what I'd shot. I couldn't believe what a rack the buck was carrying. It looked like one of those bucks you see on TV shows," he concluded.
The rack Fuller was referring to sported heavy mass, 15 points, including a drop tine, and an inside spread of 18 1/2 inches.
Fuller took the deer to Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop for entry in the store's big buck contest and there it was scored at 191 B&C.
Even though Fuller's trophy buck didn't quite make the winner's circle when awards were given out at Simmons in March, he'll be rewarded for years to come when he shows off the mount of his "tree topper" buck.