Each of us travels our own distinct path in becoming Louisiana Bowhunters, some more direct paths than others. This is my path, and the beginning of my story as a bow hunter.
Born in Bogalusa, LA and raised in the 60’s, what little hunting we did was on a piece of family property in the Pearl River swamp. Decades of over-hunting left very few deer and I was thrilled growing up if we killed a squirrel or a rabbit. A deer seemed mythical and unimaginable. Around that time, the LWLF imported a good number of re-stocking deer from Wisconsin and they, along with the local deer, have since made a great comeback as conservation measures took hold.
Once in a while the men would organize a dog hunt. They would line us up on the trail surrounding a big section of woods, a few hundred yards apart, and the dog driver would work through the property and hopefully run a deer on top of somebody. Usually I recall a deer getting shot at 10 times or more by every one of the standers as they all took ‘hail mary’ shots at the deer running wide open through the woods. So this was my experience of deer hunting growing up. Futile! And not very sexy, certainly not very stealthy and not much skill involved. I can’t remember ever eating a piece of deer meat growing up.
I did very little hunting of any form until about 1990. I was about 36 and my son Jackson had come along. He was 6 or so. He started pestering me to go deer hunting and with him it suddenly sounded like a great idea! (He also wanted to go duck hunting, and we knew as much about ducks as deer, but that is a story for another day). I mean ‘how hard can it be, really’? I bought my first rifle, a Remington Woodsmaster 30-06 package deal for $500 on the no-interest-time-payment plan from that beautiful old Steinberg’s Sporting Goods in downtown Baton Rouge. (A few years earlier they had let me put my homemade cypress display on the counter with my very own homemade spinner baits…the ‘Bayou Bigshot’). Wonder how many remember Steinberg’s… like a museum store before its time, with those wood plank floors.
So off Jackson and I go deer hunting knowing less than nothing about what to do and how to do it. We were just going to ‘figure it out’. How hard could it be?
Our first deer hunting experience was this – on that same family property in the Pearl River Swamp, we headed out early one morning loaded down with gear and supplies to a ‘community’ homemade box stand sitting in the now famous ‘90 degree bend under the big white oak’ with intention to stay until we got one, I mean, ‘how hard can it be?’ I had Jackson wrapped up in a big comforter nestled in beside me. I would bribe him with chunks of a Snickers bar.” Quiet Jackson. Sit still 3 more minutes and you’ll get some more Snickers!’ About every ten minutes I’d give him a piece of snickers and non-stop pleading with him to sit still and quiet. Meantime I had a thermos of coffee, my Marlboro’s, I’m sure my own supply of Snickers. I’d drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and every now and again, stand up in the box stand and pee over the side 15’ down. I didn’t see any problem with that, right? Human scent control? That would’ve sounded like Arabic to me back then.
So this is our rather inauspicious beginnings as deer hunters…….smoking, drinking, squirming, peeing, laughing and jabbering, snacking on Snickers. Oh and about high noon after 6 hours of this, I see three deer sneak across the trail…. bloop, bloop, bloop….. so, I jump down like a fireman out of the box stand with my rifle tearing down the trail, and think ‘I can run down to where they crossed and get a shot’. NOT! I felt foolish, like a cartoon character, and defeated, and like maybe this was not going to be our game.
It’s a wonder guys like us ever killed anything. Most guys like us would’ve given it up right after that first trip. It seemed to me that 95% of the deer were getting killed by 5% of the hunters and I couldn’t see any way we would ever get one.
But fortune smiled. We moved to a new house and our neighbor (Steve Clary) was one of the greatest deer hunters and woodsmen in Louisiana, if not the world. In those years he was insane for deer hunting. I saw him eyeballing my tractor and implements, and we quickly made a deal for me to work the land he had access to in St Francisville, LA, and in turn he would let us hunt with him (and teach us a few things).
So at the ripe age of 38 I manage to shoot my first deer and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I still shake thinking about it now. I was found, had come into my own! I remember every detail and I am 62 now. Jackson got his first one when he was 9 (and with his bow when he was 11). So I learned late and he learned young, but learn we did as partners every step of the way! We moved to bows and arrows very quickly and have loved every minute of it. For a few years we did indeed take some serious revenge on the deer and venison became a staple of our diet. We have truly been blessed in these intervening years and have managed to get into that 5%!
… and that’s how we became to call ourselves a Louisiana Bowhunter!
- Mark A. Wilson (Baton Rouge, LA)