Effective Calling Tips for Southern Bucks

Tuesday October 16, 2018 in South Louisiana marked the first real feel of fall weather, at least in one man’s opinion.  The first real feel of a true north wind, a little bite in the air.  As I sat on the tailgate of my truck observing my two sons go through pee-wee football practice, I can say honestly, I felt a slight chill.  Most every other day of the supposed beginning of fall has felt a lot more like just extended late, and wet, summer.  Lots of rain!

So this article is about when to call for whitetail bucks, so why am I talking about the weather?  Well, a phrase that has recently been coined by a very popular outdoor industry group answers the question pretty simply, “A whitetails movement ultimately revolves around the weather….”.  Deer science tells us the testosterone level of whitetail bucks begins to elevate and their tendencies begin to shift towards hierarchy and breeding as soon as the velvet is shed from their antlers in late summer, that is across all regions and subspecies.  Velvet comes off in a month (maybe 2 month) window across the country. However, the rut can be found from August – February across the contiguous United States.  One word, weather, and not just daily but seasonally and how it impacts the herd and its natural sustainability in a given region.  So armed with that basic concept, let’s cover a few basic things about deer vocalization and how to look at them as a hunter and how to plan for when to use them based on your hunting opportunities.

As we consider the idea of calling to or calling for bucks, it’s safe to say we are assuming some phase of rut behavior and relative deer activity associated with these calling plans and strategy.  And as an old baseball rat, I’ll tell you that’s good plan, because as any good baseball manager plays the odds over emotion, your best odds with any calling for whitetail deer is to play on the natural instincts of breeding and the competition created within the herd during this period.   However, I feel we often times get too caught up in a sensationalized emotion where our imaginations are of bristled angry monster bucks grunting and growling and snorting and challenging like Connor McGregor before his next UFC fight.  That’s fun, that is what great hunting films are made of, but deer are not prize fighters, they are a prey animal and they are survivors.  The family groups and herd dynamics are crucial to how the live, survive, and thrive.  So let’s start by being logical and playing the odds, deer do get aggressive, but typically from the late summer shedding of velvet until actual breeding activities begin, progressive interaction to establish hierarchies in the herd unfold.  Aggression happens in close personal outburst, it’s not the entire season and it is most certainly not typical, they aren’t running around throughout the fall talking smack and fighting.

I believe the best strategy is to focus your calling around the weather and highly active periods and formulated around peaking curiosity within the herd at optimal times.  I’ve heard it explained this way…

If you were in your home, office, or anywhere of comfort you spend a lot of time and a stranger’s voice came upon you aggressive and booming, how would you respond?  I’ll answer, it would scare you or at least startle you and put you on high alert, you would instantly go into the “Fight or Flight” natural response.  In another scenario, if you were walking through your living room and you heard a social conversation taking place in the next room that was unsuspected but not startling, you’d almost certainly check it out.

Deer do not operate on ego, or humility for that matter, they are not burdened with that instinct as we humans are.  Fight or Flight mentality is a 50/50 proposition for people, for deer it’s safe to assume it’s far more off balance.  As a survivor, there is no ego and protective instinct it’s FLIGHT every time.  So when you call to or for a deer, especially blindly, take into account this and you can make some logical considerations about how to approach it.   Attempt to fit in and be social, engaging but subtle, don’t’ be weird and out of place.  Think like a deer and remember that if you startle a deer with your calling the reaction will likely not be what you hoped for.

Calling when and how often and what times is also very different in different locations.  I personally believe this has more to do with herd density than anything else.  If you walk into a private office with 2 or 3 people, likely you won’t hear much, even if there is some communication ongoing it’s subdued between small numbers of people.  Inversely, during even the observing a “moment of silence” at a well attend sporting event, it’s almost never really silent.  That many people and constant verbal communication is almost guaranteed.  During a recent early season archery hunt in Oklahoma, I was privilege to spend 4 days on a private ranch with a very high density of deer.  I was shocked at the number of deer vocalizations I heard from deer of all age ranges during the first week of October!  I’m lucky to hear that much deer talk during best rut hunts of the year back home.  It dawned on me quickly, the social interaction I was witnessing was easily contributed to that fact that rather than see 2 or 3 deer pass by or feed in my presence, I was watching 4 to 5 times that many come to food sources and once congregated, the natural interaction was inevitable.  I can only imagine what it sounds like when breeding vocalization comes into play on that place!  For what is the majority of hunters, don’t go into an average or low-density area where deer aren’t in large congregation and start yelling at everyone.  Simply put, that will probably freak them out, just like the folks in the local insurance office would probably be a bit taken back if you walk into their lobby and started yelling like you did when you and your buddy were trying to communicate among a large group of friends at a party.

There are some occasions when aggressive calling could be the right call, my opinion is that its limited and should be used judicially.  If you can see and gauge the temperature of a whitetail buck during your rut and he is in your presence and hormonally driven to breed, you might coax him into a fight with aggressive calling techniques for dominance or coax him into falling in love with bleating and grunting techniques.  However, I feel this should be done only at very certain times and with very certain purpose.  It is high risk for majority of hunters and places they are hunting, it can ruin a hunt as fast as it makes one and your odds of blindly stumbling into such a scenario aren’t high!  The better odds with a deer in your area unseen is social and curious interaction, curiosity kills cats and bovines.  Being invisible works WONDERS as well…. I’m just saying, play your odds.

It’s a hard picture to paint, but I think it comes with experience and when you see deer respond and you see deer act naturally without your interaction you begin to understand their communication better.   Always remember you are trying to fit in, there is no product on the market that hypnotizes an animal into its own version of language and sucks them in.  Deer are not birds, and they are not human…. your best chances are to identify the deer herd you are hunting, how it’s established and when it’s most vocal, then attempt to subtly draw the curiosity of your mature deer in the heard by being social and being real.  Deer don’t walk around bellowing like cattle and they don’t aggressively communicate with one another like a turkey.  Use logic, play on the deer instincts to be social and then to breed in order to survive.  And don’t let a call company ever convince you their sound is the end all be all that will trick them into acting in a way the we know is not instinctual for a whitetail deer…. it’s a grunt, it’s not a complicated sound!

 

Locke Wheeler ( SKRE Gear | T3 Game Calls | The Progression Series )

Sherburne Wildlife Management Area Camping Area Water System No Longer Available

Oct. 23, 2018 – The water supply system at the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area (WMA) main camping area is no longer available to the public, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced.

The system was discontinued because it does not meet regulatory requirements set forth by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Campers and other WMA users must bring their own water for drinking purposes, washing dishes, toiletry, etc.

Sherburne WMA is located in the Atchafalaya Basin, between U.S. Highway 190 and Interstate 10. The main camping area is located approximately three miles south of U.S. Highway 190, off Louisiana Highway 975 and approximately 13 miles north of Interstate 10.

For more information on this WMA, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2763 or contact Tony Vidrine at tvidrine@wlf.la.gov or 337-735-8682 or Steven David at sdavid@wlf.la.gov or 337-735-8683.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana’s abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.la.gov. To receive recreational or commercial fishing email and text alerts, signup at http://www.wlf.la.gov/signup

A Beginner’s Guide To Self-Filming

If there is one thing that outdoorsmen have in common, it’s the love of sharing the stories of our time spent in the outdoors. Whether its standing around the campfire describing the monster buck that was just out of range or gathering at the water cooler talking about how the trout bite was on fire this weekend, we love sharing our experiences in the outdoors which is what lead me to begin filming my hunts. I wanted to have footage to go along with the story. One positive side effect that has come out of a society that loves to see ourselves captured through a lens is endless options of how to get yourself started filming your hunts. In this article, I will discuss the ones that I find to be the best combination of useful, cost effective, and user friendly.

The first thing you should do before jumping into the world of filming is decide just what you want to get out of it. Is your goal to win an Emmy award for cinematography? If so, this probably isn’t the article for you. Would you like to capture the kill shot of that nanny that’s been hanging around your stand every afternoon so you can show your friends? If so, continue reading. For our purposes, I’ll focus on filming your bow hunts.

Like any outdoor hobby, this is a subset that can get just as expensive and involved as hunting itself. One option that has become very popular is the use of action cameras. The upside of these cameras is that they are durable, easy to use, versatile, and they have a wide assortment of mounting options that allow you to film many activities and varying angles on those activities. Some of my first steps into filming were mounting my GoPro to my bow or gun and heading to the woods. I’ve dropped it, crashed it, thrown it, sunk it, and attached it to various moving objects including trucks, ATV’s, boats, and dogs.  Some of the down sides of these cameras are the lack of zoom (although some companies are starting to combat that) the lack of camera settings, the generally terrible audio, and they usually lack a view finder. The majority of these cameras offer you a great option for filming wide panning shots of scenery or skyline, but leave something to be desired when trying to film tighter impact shots in thick woods. I still carry my GoPro with me every time I step in the woods to film and it has become a great option for capturing a second angle of close activity.Another popular option for filming your hunts are handy cam style camcorders. I personally have a Canon Vixia RF700, but there are many great options out there. This style of camera offers you a step up in many of the areas where an action camera may fall short. You will have a drastic increase in zoom and camera settings as well as a view finder that will make it considerably easier to line up your shots. While the audio on these cameras is nothing incredible, you will have a noticeable advantage over an action camera and you can easily take an even greater step up with the addition of an external microphone. Camcorders are also known to be simple to use. For most people filming their hunts, the most difficult part of using one is remembering to turn it on when the pressure is on; which I know from experience. These cameras are also fairly cost effective and can be found for just a few hundred dollars.

The latest option I have started to use is my DSLR camera. I use a Cannon Rebel T5I with a Canon 18-55mm lens. As a beginner myself, this is overkill. The options and settings available to me are beyond where my talents lie, but I like having them. Positives of filming with a DSLR are the availability of lens options, the quality of footage that can be obtained, the low light filming capability, and the fact that you now have the ability to take high quality photos with the same camera. The combination of settings and lenses available make the footage quality far beyond what can be expected from a camcorder. On top of that, the low light capability of DSLR is simply unattainable with a handy cam style camcorder. If you’ve ever tried to film a deer slowly approaching just before day break or right at dusk, you know that low light filming can be a nightmare with the wrong gear. Lastly, don’t forget that you now have a high quality still image camera to capture all your trophy photos. All that being said, filming your hunts with a DSLR has its drawbacks.  These cameras are slightly more difficult to use, they generally don’t have the zoom that’s available on a camcorder, and they are more expensive. A DSLR camera can give you incredible footage and range in the field, but you won’t be able to do that with a single lens. Lenses are more expensive than camera bodies and can get into the thousands of dollars. For the average hunter, that’s out of the question. Another drawback of these is that they are slightly more difficult to use. The whole point of stepping up your camera game is to get better footage, but if you don’t know how to use it, the footage will be the same or worse than your camcorder. The last thing you want when the pressure it on is to be fumbling with a difficult to use camera in the stand.
Assuming you chose one of the two latter options and you don’t have a permanent cameraman, you’ll likely need a camera arm to free up your hands while hunting. This is yet another subset of a hobby that can cost you lots of time researching the best options and lots of money if you choose the newest and best set up. I have tried several different camera arms and mounting set ups and have narrowed down a few key features that you need to consider before purchasing. I want a camera arm that is light, easy to set up, quiet, smooth, and stable. Anyone that packs hunting gear in and out of the woods during the early season in the south knows that every ounce of weight you can save is a few less beads of sweat rolling down your face. Being easy to set up and quiet are features that should be obvious. The last thing you want to happen after you sneak into the woods before daylight is to start fumbling with a difficult to setup piece of equipment that makes lots of noise in the process. I prefer a ratchet strap method of attaching my camera arms. This provides me a simple to set up and very stable filming base. While a ratchet strap isn’t the quietest system, its noise can be combated with a few simple steps. If you wrap your strap around the tree, connect to the other side of the arm, and pull out all the slack, you will be able to sufficiently tighten it down with just a click or two or the ratchet. While there are quieter methods of attaching an arm, the strength you gain from a ratchet strap is worth the small sound it makes. Camera arms can vary in price range just like the cameras themselves. The very first arm I used was only $40 and did everything I needed. I still have these cheap camera arms set up in a few of my permanent stand locations.  I have since upgraded to Fourth Arrow camera arm. This set up is certainly superior to my cheap starter set up, but it is definitely not necessary for most.

Whichever of these options you choose to go with, make sure you remember that you are out here to enjoy hunting first. I am a bow hunter before I am a self-filming bow hunter. I have made certain promises to myself when it comes to capturing kills on video, but If that target buck that I’ve been chasing steps out and I can’t get the camera on him, his last moments won’t be captured on video. Get the kill first. If you don’t get the kill on video, you can always exaggerate the story around the campfire later.

 

Jonathon Morgan

Louisiana Bowhunter Contributor

 

The Painful Truth About Crossbows

It’s time we have a serious discussion about crossbows. This is a sensitive subject for both sides of this argument, if we’ll even give it that much credit. Some bowhunters feel they have to share archery season with people wielding a device they don’t consider to be archery – as if they have to forcibly interact with crossbow hunters. Because of people’s views towards them, crossbow hunters may feel shunned or looked down upon. But we’re going to defend our crossbow buddies and end this debate and debunk a few myths from both sides.

First, let’s start by saying that we, as bowhunters, are pretty much considered elitists. And we kind of are, aren’t we? We make a conscious decision to hunt in a way that is proven to be less effective than other methods but justify it because we consider it to be more rewarding. So, we can’t really shake that title. But we make things worse for ourselves when we act like snobs towards the way other people hunt. That’s the kicker. That’s where we create divisiveness.

Secondly, crossbow hunters need to start standing up for themselves. You don’t have to apologize or feel ashamed of what you choose to legally hunt with. You don’t need to explain that you have a bad shoulder, or even that you just want to hunt in October… But, on the flip side, with the massive rise in crossbow sales across the country, not everyone has a torn rotator cuff or can’t draw 50lbs. As of 2017 physically restricted hunters have become the minority, with an overwhelming number of converts coming from rifle hunters simply looking for more hunting opportunities. Just because you, your dad, or your uncle has a physical restriction does not mean that they represent the majority of people hunting with a crossbow. It’s time to stop using this as the reason why you want to buy a crossbow and begin defending your decision that you just want one –  and that’s ok. Crossbows have been legal in Louisiana for 10 years – since June of 2008 – so it’s time we start accepting them as a legal and effective form of hunting and remove the stigma that they’re just for physically challenged hunters.

This sentiment is not new, either. There are a lot of old timers out there that remember when compounds were introduced in the late 70s and became extremely popular in the 80s. But the same negativity bowhunters currently have towards crossbows is exactly the same as when traditional hunters had to start “dealing with” compound hunters and their bows with let-off, over-draws, sights and release aids. Want proof of this? Go to any traditional bowhunter forum or Facebook group right now and just say the word “compound” and see how that goes for you. Their disdain towards anything other than traditional archery is alive and well and still very ugly. We need to use this as an example of how not to be.

So how do we solve this on-going cats vs dogs disagreement? First, let’s stop acting like the sky is falling. The most common reason people buy a crossbow today is because people want to be able to take advantage of the longer season. That in no way means they will be in your tree on public land every time you go or are going to hunt every single day of bow season. People look at a crossbow and they see options. The option to hunt ethically even with their time constraints. The option for a way to get their wife involved or for a guest to hunt one of their stands that doesn’t bow hunt. In addition, it allows children to hunt ethically and be given the chance to take an animal before gun season and long before they have the physical ability to hunt with a bow. And lastly, many people choosing a crossbow may have tried and failed at bowhunting and are looking for something that can boost their confidence and make them a more ethical and effective hunter. How can we get mad at that?

To put it simply, a crossbow hunter in no way, shape or form threatens the way you like to hunt. There are still major fundamental differences between the two groups to where you can both be proud and supportive of each other’s choices. We need to look at crossbow hunters as potential recruits into the sport we love so much and it is illogical to believe we can admonish someone into wanting to bow hunt. You cannot push a string – you can only pull it.

For those that do not have a physical restriction, it is very possible that their crossbow could be a gateway to compounds or even traditional archery one day and we should encourage people to follow that path. The thing that all of these weapons have in common is close proximity to our prey. No matter what weapon you’re wielding, your heart is going to start pounding when that buck comes in to 15yds. That is the middle of the Venn diagram for all hunters. And as people new to the sport will learn, easy isn’t fun forever. Bowhunters are driven by the challenge – by the chance that we’ll get busted by our target buck – by trying to replicate the feeling of our first kill – by wanting to constantly set the bar higher for ourselves. It’s a natural progression for people to want to continue forward momentum. So those choosing to get into archery through crossbows as their first weapon may very well buy a compound next.

Lastly, we have to consider the future and accept the fact that hunting is in major decline across the US. The baby boomers that historically made up the majority of hunters are fading and we need the next generation of hunters to take the reins and do their part for conservation. It seems like every week hunters are being attacked or treated like irresponsible murderers by anti-hunter groups. Let’s support each other rather than cut each other down and learn to accept our crossbow brothers and sisters and their desire to get out and hunt. As hunter numbers continue spiraling downward, we have to become more open about the way people join us in the outdoors. Pushing people away because they don’t do things exactly the way we do is like is only going to hurt us in the long run. So, the next time you see someone in an archery shop eyeing that crossbow, go introduce yourself and offer some advice. The future of hunting just may depend on that kind of camaraderie.

Louisiana Turkeys 101

“One of the chief attractions of the life of the wilderness is its rugged and stalwart democracy; there every man stands for what he actually is, and can show himself to be.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

I think, for most hunters, the initial draw to turkey hunting is that it’s so much more challenging than hunting other game species. In my opinion, it demands a lot more initial effort from the hunter, but that makes the payoff from a successful harvest so much more rewarding. You need to scout more strategically, learn the different calls they make and what they mean, learn how to call for yourself. Just selecting a call itself can be intimidating. There are so many different types to choose from and it is easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole when talking to the “experienced” caller about types of materials, glass, slate, types of wood, etc. Even gun selection, choke selection and shot load can get overwhelming. Then when you throw in the idea of taking a bird with a bow you have a whole other can of worms to deal with. Are you considering a body shot or a head shot because your broadhead selection might change drastically between the two. Also, you need to consider posture of the bird. The vitals are obviously a lot smaller than that of a deer and they change position drastically depending on the position the bird is standing. Knowing the anatomy of the bird is going to be key in having a successful harvest.

I’m going to try and stay above water here and just focus on scouting tips for a successful hunt. Keep in mind that I am a biologist and I get easily geeked out when it comes to certain aspects of wildlife biology, as I’m sure you’ll see as this progresses.

The two most important things to think about when considering a turkey’s location are that they need somewhere to eat and somewhere to sleep. So when scouting, consider good roost tree availability and food source for that time of year. A bird’s diet changes drastically with the seasons. In the fall and winter months, hard mast is a key part of their diet. However, as these things become less and less available, their home range might shift as they search for other food sources. And then all of a sudden green up hits and they can shift again. I like to compare this to crawfish season. My mother-in-law has a real nice slew behind her house that we like to crawfish in and I spend a significantly larger amount of time at their house in the summer than any other season. Anyways, I digress…
During the spring, a male turkey has only one thing on his mind, where the girls are at. Likewise, a female turkey has one thing on her mind, where can I lay this nest. Most studies in Louisiana indicate that females are actively searching upland areas to avoid flooded areas while still maximizing food source. Keep in mind that she is laying one egg a day and foraging between each lay so she probably doesn’t want to stay too far from the nest as it leaves them quite vulnerable, so proximity to both quality forage and good nest concealment is important.
Because these home ranges can shift so quickly, you can keep scouting to 2 or 3 weeks before the season opens. There’s really no sense in going out a month before the opening day because depending on the weather and habitat, the birds are probably going to move on you.
The next thing you want to look for is food plots, fields, logging roads, power lines, ridges, or any other kind of open habitat that birds can use to feed, gather, mate, fight, etc. Birds like to use these areas so scouting areas that include these features as well as proximity to good nesting areas will increase your chances of having some interaction with these birds.

Now that you have a lesson in biology let’s get to actual boots on the ground scouting. When you scout, do your best not to educate the birds before the season starts. Camo up as best you can, get there early, sit still, and be quiet. You’re only there to observe! In the afternoons, you can walk around looking for signs and tracks and scratching and feathers and poop. Some people get overly excited about these things. Keep in mind that these are only signs of where the birds have been, not necessarily where they are.
Speaking of getting overly excited about turkey sign, did you know that males and females poop different because of their anatomy? Birds have a one-stop-shop when it comes to reproduction and excrement disposal. Because a female’s internal “situation” needs to wrap around an egg, their poops have a chance to curl up like the emoji before exiting. Males have a lot less wiggle room up there so their poop comes out long and skinny and sometimes curls at the end making a “J” shape. How exciting, right?

My point is that you can get really involved in scouting. There’s a lot to take in and sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference between turkey scratching or a really ambitious armadillo. My biggest suggestion is to get out there and put the time in. There is no substitution for experience, and with a little bit of knowledge about preferred seasonal habitat selection and a willingness to put the time in, you are more likely to increase your changes of interacting with this incredible bird.

-Betsy Dutoit LABH Contributor/ NWTF Regional Biologist

Start Planning Yesterday- Why You Should Take Notes and Scout Now

Deer season in Louisiana can be grueling for bow hunters. Most of us start in late September and early October only to tag out, give up, or burn out sometime in late January or February. After multiple conversations with other bow hunters this year that all started with, “I just don’t know where the deer went”, or “I’m starting to doubt myself”, I’m reminded that a few extra hours spent right now will save us a lot of headache next year. The time when we are just ready to pack up and start thinking about turkeys, spawning bass, or hog eradication is the most valuable time to begin executing our strategy for next year. Deer move in patterns: early season, pre-rut, rut, and post rut to be general. That’s not news. We experience these year after year. The problem is we don’t remember the details. We go into each season as if it is a new beginning, a clean slate full of brand new information, another chance to learn how to do this thing we call bowhunting better than we did last year. You’ll find that we’ve done ourselves a disservice by leaving the past in the past.  You can jump next season’s hurdles today by ensuring you recount what occurred in the past!

Take Notes

On my trip to Kentucky earlier in the season I took detailed notes on deer movement, weather conditions like temperature, wind direction, speed and barometric pressure. Also noted was certain trails deer were using, which oak trees had been hammered and rut activity dates and behavior. Why? Because I only get 1 week there a year. Because next year I won’t be so worried if I go a few days without seeing much. Tracking info like this from year to year allows you to see patterns that you wouldn’t have discovered without the data collection. Plus it adds to the detective work, the process of outsmarting and attempting to checkmate that one buck on your hit list. That is what draws so many of us to handicap ourselves with a bow, the challenge! We often forget what last year was like. We forget that we went through a lull, that there was a time that we just weren’t seeing much. This year on the property I hunted in Beauregard parish the rut happened the week before and after the weekend of the rifle opener. I rattled in a good buck the week before and shot a decent 8 point the week after. Note taken! Looking back at last years notes on certain dates I could see that for 2 weeks not a single deer showed itself in that same location. So whats the verdict? Put your attention in a different location or use a different tactic there. The point of the notes is to record data over a period of time to be used in the future to make your decisions more purposeful, and less of a roll of the dice. We learn tons of new things every year… so we think. More than likely some of those “new things” have been experienced before, we simply forgot about them. Taking notes maximizes your efficiency and makes your decisions much less of a guess, and more of an optimal opportunity to achieve your targeted outcome. Whether it be only to see the deer you’re after in daylight, or bring him home in a cooler.

Your notes can be as general as logs of dates you saw good movement with correlating weather conditions or as defined as a timeline of particular buck sightings in person and on camera and the locations of such. Make your notes your own and log the information that will help you the most. Keep your notepad with you  so you can log important events during the hunt and then complete your summary once you reach your truck or camp. Doing them the day of the hunt will get you the most accurate depiction of that days events.

Scout Now

Too often we put off scouting to preseason, which results in us putting all our money on the movement and sign we find in the late summer months. This is a recipe for disaster due to the summer feeding pattern being a thing of the past quickly after the season begins.  Scouting now will give you the opportunity to 1, do it without sweating a ton, and 2, see and note what the deer are doing on the back end of the season. We often forget what they did in December and January when setting up in the heat of the late summer. Take inventory of the sign you see now and go back to it next year when you are having trouble getting on a buck. Some other obvious benefits to scouting now is the lack of snakes, bugs, you may pick up a shed or two, and trails stick out like a sore thumb with the lack of browse that survived the deer rumen and recent snowfall. Which brings up another point: Identify where the green browse is. Find those woody vines, briars, ivy and other native plants that can survive and thrive in cold weather. Thats’ where you want to be well after the acorns, crops, foodplots and grasses are gone.

Earmark Big Bucks

Like that one page in many of my QDMA magazines I save for later reference, the buck that got away deserves an earmark. Take good notes now of where he was early season or when he showed up mid or late season. Note what he fed on, what bucks he hung out with, when you caught his movement and where. Plan your intrusive activities for next year around that data you collect. (foodplot additions, hanging stands and clearing lanes) If he feels safe now, he will likely feel safe next year too if you are lucky enough to have him on private land. If that’s the case stay out. Get a cell camera, keep him fed, and leave him undisturbed throughout the spring and summer. A happy buck is a dead buck. He will have no reason to leave his core area and he will feel less threatened by coming out in daylight.

Success for next year began yesterday. Take good notes of your attempts, successes, failures, and the environment in which you accomplished both.  Each deer is an individual. The sooner you learn to treat them as such, the sooner the one you’re after will be on your wall and on your table. What do I mean by that? Stop applying deer hunting generalities to Louisiana deer that are arguably some of the most wary and uniquely adapted deer in the country. Use what YOU learned about the deer YOU were after this year to hone your skills and pin point your strategy for next year.

 

– Justin Lanclos    Sulphur, LA

Essentials for Public Land Success

Having the right gear when hunting public land can be the difference in having a season of successful hunts or a season of short hunts because your feet are freezing and you’re tired of only seeing squirrels. Growing up, I lived on Turkey Creek which spoiled me to some of the best public duck hunting around. As a result, I was never too interested in going with my Dad and Grandpa to sit in a cold tree and freeze to death to probably see nothing. Finally, 8 years ago after a friend kept insisting that I go bowhunting with him, I reluctantly I went. Needless to say I can count on two hands how many duck hunts I have made since that first deer hunt.

A Little About Me

I was fortunate enough to have some early success and have been hooked ever since. I never thought anything could beat a group of green heads working into a cypress break. Boy was I wrong! Nothing beats the rush of drawing back on a whitetail buck and hearing the shwack of the arrow passing through.  Then the sound of him busting through that palmetto and crashing is enough to give me chills! A passion for bowhunting began to grow in my soul. Being alone in the woods just me, God, and His creation chasing after one of the most elusive big game animals on the North American continent. I even love the countless hours shooting in the heat of the summer getting prepared and the time spent with family and friends. I loved it all.

Gotta Start Somewhere

For the most part I had to start from scratch when it came to hunting whitetails. There where a lot of things I didn’t know about bowhunting public land. I learned a lot of them the hard way, by doing them myself and figuring out what worked and what didn’t. At first, I thought I didn’t need any fancy equipment, just my dad’s old Mathews Q2. His old heavy climber and my duck hunting camo would surely make me good to go too. That was enough to get me started and is what I was using when I killed my first ole’ slickhead. That being said you don’t need much to get started or even to put together a successful hunt or two. To be your most efficient year after year and able to walk long distances and sit longer hours, which you’ll find are the life blood of a successful hunt on public land, many of my tactics and equipment had to change.

Public vs. Private

Hunting public land is very different than hunting a lease or club. There is very limited ATV access. You can’t use permanent stands or cut shooting lanes. Not to mention the added hunting pressure which forces you to sometimes walk up to 3 miles or more just to get away from other hunters and previous hunting pressure. I’ve had several friends who are good bowhunters on private land come hunting on public with me and by the time we got to the stand they where panting in exhaustion and ringing wet with sweat because they had made one or both of these mistakes: they had on the wrong clothing (usually cotton) and they were packing a heavy stand and tons of gear. A lot of extra work and forethought goes into hunting public land. To me it’s well worth the reward when you finally connect with the buck you’ve been looking for.

The Evolution

In my early stages of bowhunting I didn’t feel like I needed special clothing just to hunt in. For warm weather just any old camo shirt and pants with some boots would do. For cold weather basically the same thing but just layer up as much as I needed to stay warm. When bowhunting on public land it is extremely important to be able to stay dry and comfortable while still being able to draw your bow. The more comfortable and the better prepared you are to battle the elements, the longer you will be able to sit in the stand. Thin, breathable,non cotton layers are key to this. Most people who are consistently successful at killing mature deer on public land have one thing in common: They put in extra time in the tree. You can’t kill them if you’re not there. You also can’t kill them if you are there but shivering profusely or have been sweating like a pig and stink to high heaven. A lot of you are probably like me and get to hunt mostly on weekends. Regardless of the forecast you have to be in the woods.

Increasing your odds is the name of the game. Pack the proper gear, light and easy to carry. Wear the right clothes to keep your body temperature regulated and sweat to a minimum. Soon you too will find yourself out of the stand and taking photos behind a big Louisiana public land buck, no matter the weather.

 

Chris’ Equipment List

Bow– Mathews Chill-R

Stand– Summit Viper Elite/  Millenium M100 with Wild Edge Stepp Ladder Stystem

CamoSitka Optifade Elevated 2

Essentials- Thermacell, Garmin Alpha 100 GPS, Face Paint (non oil based), SafetyHarness

 

 

Chris Williams- LABH Contributor (Winnsboro, LA)

The Safe and Smart Way to Hunt Elevated

We spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars every year on the latest and greatest hunting equipment. We dream of the day our local shop gets in this year’s thousand dollar bow. We buy stands that cost hundreds of dollars and camo suits that are even more! We are obsessed with technology and new things. I have a very simple question for you. If you are willing to spend thousands of dollars, or maybe just hundreds every year why have you not spent $40 on a lifeline? Ok, you got me. Another hunting article trying to sell something. But I’m not trying to sell you on a gimmick, or something you don’t really need. I’m trying to save your life! Hopefully after reading this article you will have a better understanding of just how easy it is to set up and use a lifeline.

Have you ever seen a lifeline logo in a profile picture? Have you ever seen one of the safety companies decals in 345 font on the back glass of a jacked up pickup truck? Why not? Because it’s not flashy. It doesn’t tell people you have enough money to blow on awesome new things every year and or up your social media status. But it’s one of the only items on the market that can and will save your life! A high percentage of falls happen during transition in or out of the stand. Mine did. A harness alone won’t save you there! Nor will it save you if you’re climbing up or down your steps. A lifeline in addition to your harness will!

I wasn’t wearing a harness when I fell while setting up a stand last July. That’s the first question I get asked. I wear them religiously during hunting season but for ignorant reasons I didn’t while setting up stands. But we are asking each other the wrong question. Do we ask hunters if they took their bow to the stand? Do we ask them if they took their release? Of course not. We shouldn’t have to ask about a harness either. That should be a 100% given! The focus of our discussions needs to become the lifeline and being attached from the ground up! Once I finished my setup last July I began climbing out of my stand. At that point I would have unhooked my harness. It’s a fact that a harness alone wouldn’t have saved me from my 20′ fall. But the design and intention of a lifeline ensures that you are secured even at your most vulnerable times.

Initial Setup

How do you get it up there the first time safely? Easy! You use it as a climbing belt. You will need 2 carabiner clips for this. You should already have 1 on your harness and another on your lifeline. This is something I personally recommend upgrading to the High Strength Aluminum ones. Not only do they weigh less but they will hold under more force. Essential if you’re over 200 pounds.

Step 1: Attach a carabiner to the loop end of the lifeline.  Now clip it to a loop on your harness at either side of the waist. Don’t have loops on your waist? Get a new harness! Those loops are made for climbing. You can’t use a climbing belt, or a lifeline in this way without them.

Step 1

Step 2: Attach the other carabiner to the loop created by the prusik knot on your lifeline. Wrap the line around the tree and secure the second carabiner to the opposite loop on your waist.

Step 2

Step 3: Slide the now attached prusik knot up the line, towards the tree, until the line is tight around the tree and allows you to rest against it. This process keeps you secure on your initial ascent and will keep you from having to purchase a separate climbing belt.

Step 3

Best part about this set up is if you are setting up climbing sticks and a lock-on you can tie in your sticks at different lengths along the lifeline and your stand to the bottom. This will allow you to safely hang them without having to make multiple trips back down! Once you have reached your final elevation secure the lifeline a little above your standing height. Next, secure the carabiner on the prusik knot to the back-strap of your harness for normal wear. Slide the knot down the line so it is semi tight at your sitting position. There will be a little trial and error to get it right. Ensure it is loose enough to let you turn and move as needed while sitting, and tight enough to catch you before you lose your balance while standing. On your initial descent slide the prusik knot with you until you reach the ground. After you safely have your feet on the earth tie the bottom of the line to the bottom of the tree or the base of you sticks, ladder, or stand. That will make the line tight and the knot easy to slide on your next climb!

There is never a reason to unhook once you are secured to your lifeline. You stay attached the entire time you’re climbing up, hunting, and coming down. It is a full-proof life saver when used properly. So why doesn’t everyone use one? You got me! A lifeline is the best solution for lock-ons, climbers, and ladder stands alike.  They also make tandem lifelines with 2 prusik knots to keep you and your little hunting buddy safe. The transition from the platform to the first step in a blind, tripod or stand can be tricky and scary for little hunters. Please keep your little ones tied on! One scenario that may call for a different solution would be if you hunt public land and never hunt the same tree twice. If this is the case, especially with a climber, a lineman’s climbing belt would be the right solution for you. They’re lighter and will take up much less room in your pack. No matter what your particular scenario or hunting style is, staying attached from the ground up is the life saver.

If you have any question about treestand safety or would like to learn more a great resource is the TSSA (Treestand Safety Awareness Foundation). The Hunter Safety System website also has a ton of good information. Lastly, if you would like to read my fall story you can click here.

 

Justin’s Equipment List

Bow- Elite Option 6

Stand- Hang10 Treestands 

Camo- Mossy Oak Country and Bottomland

Essentials- HSS Ultra-Lite Harness, Lifeline, LABH Grunt call, White Icing Honey Bun

 

Justin Lanclos- Founder LABH

 

 

 

New App Takes Scouting to Next Level

There are a ton of apps that put a simple map on your phone. There are also quite a few that attempt to simulate GPS functionality. Once we discovered OnX it drastically changed the way we scout, hunt, and use our phones in the woods. OnX is the only mapping solution that 100% turns your phone into a fully functioning GPS with more useful tools, layers, and options than you can shake a stick at. No service, no problem. New property, no problem! Download the free Hunt App trial on your app store and let OnX guide you to a successful hunting season! 

As hunters, we know the key to success is hours spent with boots in the dirt exploring hunting grounds. Sometimes that is just not possible. Work schedules, travel time, and budgets do not always allow for multiple preseason trips to a hunting area, especially when hunting out of state. This is when using mapping solutions such as onXmaps can be a saving grace by bringing your hunting landscapes to your fingertips using your cellphone, tablet, and computer.

onX has many different avenues to explore to access to a new era of GPS  You can access their entire collection of layered maps via their onX Hunt app or their website where you can access the onX Web Maps. Once you have downloaded the app and logged in with your onX Hunt Membership, you have access to many different mapping options.  They also offer GPS chips for Garmin devices. Using a variety of base maps, layers, and map tools, you have a variety of scouting and navigation tools at your fingertips

Basemaps are available in three different views. The Aerial Basemap provides actual photographs of the terrain taken by satellite making it easy to orient yourself and find roads, cities, and other major landmarks. The Topo Basemap provides the best way to view elevation changes and landscape contour. The third is a hybrid of both the Aerial and the Topo Basemaps. The Hybrid Basemap shows the topographical information over the satellite imagery to give you a clear understanding of your surroundings. 

To enhance your use of the Basemaps, onX Hunt provides well over four hundred layers of specific national and regional information.  The Private Land Parcels layer shows private land ownership, property boundaries, parcel divisions, tax addresses, and acreage. The Government Lands layer shows subsidized lands including local, state, and federal owned lands and GMUs.  These two layers alone can help know your hunting boundaries and acreage of hunting lands. You can also use the Private Land Parcels layer to possibly gain access to new hunting lands with permission.  The Trail Slope and Trail Mileage layers indicate steepness of every trail to the highest detail possible and mileage between trail junctions. Each state has a variety of layers available specifically designed for navigation of that particular state.

Other layers can help you determine the quality of area you are hunting. The USFS Timber Cuts layer provides areas of logging operations since 2002, acreage of the cut, name of the project, and the year it was completed. The Historic Wildfires layer uses a color-coded map  to represent how recent fires were and can give additional fire information such as fire name and acreage burned.  A new innovative layer is the Randy Newberg’s Roadless Areas Layer that uses a heat map coloration to show areas of terrain furthest away from the roads to allow hunters to “get away from it all”.  onX even offers a layer in partnership with the Boone & Crockett Club that appears as a color-coded heat map of high quality game animals.  A portion of the sales of this layer goes to support the mission of the Boone & Crockett Club. Just a few other layers offered include Points of Interest, Species Activity Data, and Weather. 

Once you’ve used the layers to explore the area, onX provides map tools to help you further. It provides you with longitude and latitude coordinates for the center of the map, scale bar, and current location marking. The Draw Lines Tool allows you to draw straight lines or a series of straight line and measure distance between them. The Draw Shapes Tool allows you to draw a shape of at least three points and the area inside of it will be displayed. This tool is especially helpful when planning out food plots. They also offer a variety of Waypoints you can drop on the map to help locate stands, cameras, animals, etc. The onX search tool allows you to search for map features, locations, and landowners to quickly locate items on the map.

Using all of the aforementioned features, you can navigate through your preseason scouting, planning, and land access, but once you are out in the field, onX goes a step further to help you even in the most remote locations. They have an option so save your maps to your phone to use when cell service is unavailable to load your maps. Using the Off-Grid Map feature allows you to save either a high resolution map with maximum detail, layer visibility, and zooming capabilities or a lower resolution map that allows for a larger area to be saved. They also provide a Tracker feature allows you to record a visual representation of your path as you travel. It records time, distance traveled, average speed, and elevation gain also for later reference.

While no digital scouting is a true replacement for time in the woods, having a game plan will be a true time-saver when you are in a crunch and need to knock out preseason work. You’ll save time and sweat by knowing right where to begin by pinpointing areas where deer are naturally funneled through. Get right to the spot you choose to put a trail camera and stand. Know exactly where and how large you want to set up your new bean crop food plot, and have the confidence that you won’t get turned around in the thick woods because you will have the navigation tools of onX right at your fingertips.

 

Sarah’s Equipment List

Bow- Mathews Halon 6

Stand- Muddy Outfitter

Camo- Sitka Elevated II, and Subalpine

Essentials- Thermacell, Vortex binos, OnX Hunt App

 

Sarah Akers- LABH Contibutor (Schriever)

Deer Movement Lull = Fake News

Every year there is an initial change in a deer’s behavior that throws some hunters for a loop. You’ve most likely heard the term “October lull” used to force the blame on the deer. Multiple gps tracking studies have shown that there is no such thing as an October lull. Deer don’t move less right before the rut. In fact studies show they actually increase their movement during this time in both daylight and after nightfall. What has changed is they have adjusted their patterns from the previous months and for some reason we refuse to make that move with them. Let me explain. Over the summer months you probably enjoyed daily photos of bucks eating in your food plot, regularly using the same trails, and entering and exiting fields in the same location. Once the velvet comes off, POOF! They disappear. That’s because the hardening of their antlers by the higher levels of testosterone building in their bodies can technically be considered the first phase of the rut that triggers a plethora of changes in a buck’s body. A few examples of other changes taking place:

  • Bucks that have been friendly and huddled together over then summer will start to lose interest in each other’s presence and begin searching for the doe groups they’ll soon be chasing.
  • Their food sources are changing. There are undoubtedly dozens of feeders staring to fire off within the boundaries of your lease and acorns of certain types will begin falling soon. The deer know that!
  • There is more activity in and around their core, home area. Hunters are taking to the woods to set stands, clear lanes and plant fall food plots. The deer take notice of that. While the doe groups may not mind the old mature bucks sure do.

So how do I adapt you ask? Easy, move your cameras! Get them off the food plots, feeders, and mineral sites and near acorn trees. Get them on trails leading from known bedding areas to hard wood bottoms that will soon be full of their absolute favorite snack, acorns. Get them to an area you haven’t been this summer or where no one else goes. Seclusion is a big wary buck’s best friend and it will be yours too if you are careful about going in and out.

Something that is also an option with recent advancements in technology is taking an Ozone generator to the woods with you while you’re checking cameras. If you are searching for big bucks you will agree that every drop of scent you leave in the woods matters. Ozonics has developed a back pack that carries the HR-300 and allows it to eliminate your “scent tracks” while you’re checking cameras. A cutting edge tool to ensure you’re leaving no trace of your presence.

The Ozonics Kinetic Pack allows you to get in and out completely undetected.

Another helpful tool that will save you time and gas is the recent price drop in cellular trail cameras like the Spypoint Link -Evo. I put mine in the middle of a sanctuary area in May and have been able to hold bucks in that area ever since due to not having to venture in disturbing them checking that area. Both game changers for those that like to have the latest and greatest.

Using cellular cameras keeps you out of the woods!

So before you blame the deer for the October lull, or in parts of southern Louisiana the “September Lull” change your tactics up. Cover your scent and noise tracks while you’re preparing for the season and move those cameras. Where did you find them last year at this time? That would be a good place to start!