Deer study photo

State Wildlife and Fisheries wildlife biologists Scott Durhan, left, and Tony Vidrine measure the antlers from a buck taken by a hunter during the 2017-2018 hunting season. Both are qualified state 'scorers' for the LDWF's Louisiana Big Game Records Program.

Think back 40 years and do you remember the growing numbers of deer hunters across our state.

A small number, a cadre if allowed here, had kept the sport alive in the 1950s and 60s, either by sitting quietly in a homemade tree stand or running Walker hounds through the swamps. Truth was, there weren’t all that many deer.

There wasn’t much of the fancy camo you see today. Blue jeans, a heavy shirt, maybe some olive drab left from military service or picked up at a surplus store, wool gloves and rubber boots. Sure there were the guys who ordered stuff from those Yankee stores, but those northern boys wore a lots of stuff we didn’t need down here.

That changed in the early 1970s. Somehow, some way, there were deer everywhere. Landowners and hunters were more aware of habitat. State Wildlife and Fisheries biologists and managers helped a lot.

Joe Herring (God rest his soul) told stories about bringing deer from other states in the early 1950s — that wouldn’t happen today, not with the threat of CWD — and how closely these men monitored the progression of their numbers in upland areas.

These men, mostly WWII vets and college educated thanks to the GI Bill, wanted to make sure their children would and could enjoy the fruits of the labors.

And that happened: There was also a concerted effort by wildlife enforcement agents — they called themselves “game wardens” back then. These men mostly were veterans, too, and like one of them said years ago, “We weren’t going to put up with that humbug some of the people we knew were doing. We were going to arrest them and let them know that hunting is hunting, and what they were doing wasn’t hunting, and that there were ways to feed their families within the laws and not being outlaws all the time.”

And that worked, too, even though we continue to find some folks who like to pull a rifle trigger at night.

From those efforts, groups across the state organized, much like south Louisiana’s Hunters Against Poachers, who dedicated their time and money to make sure poachers were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and took more time to push for legislation to put more teeth in anti-poaching statutes.

So, by the time 1979 rolled around, there was an estimate of something north of 800,000 whitetail deer in the state. Basic and big game hunting license sales soared, and all that new-fangled stuff like deer attractants and scents, cover scents for hunters, new camo patterns (there seemed to be a new one or more every year), boots, hats, new rifle calibers, new bows, new arrows — new everything.

Aside: It got so bad at one camp that the old-timers poked fun at these newbies clad in designer camo clothing and $300 boots and gave them nicknames of European male models like “Emilio” and “Eduardo.” That’s a true story.

Anyway, it didn’t take long for the next generation of state biologists to understand the importance of keeping track of all the goings-on in the Louisiana’s expanding deer-hunting community.

Wildlife and Fisheries set up a Deer Study Program to further help the deer population, and, at the same time, help landowners and hunters understand their roles in maintaining and expanding the deer herds, thereby increasing their success afield or a-swamp.

State wildlife biologist David Moreland came along not too many years later, and, following the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association’s lead — LOWA established the Louisiana Big Game Records Program in 1979 (and added wild turkeys a couple of years later), set up the Louisiana Big Game Recognition Program in 1992 — in several categories in each list.

There was method in his resolve. The program includes just about every way hunters legally can take a deer, whether the buck has typical or nontypical antler spread, and started a three-year breakdown to better measure hunter success against an array of variables, things like temperature, flooding rivers, rainfall and habitat.

The program has minimum requirements for deer and turkeys, and uses standards set by state biologists along with Boone and Crockett/modern firearms, Pope and Young/archery, Longhunter Society/muzzleloaders and a category for crossbow hunters.

So, with deer season in full swing, hunters should consider getting their bucks checked into the program. The buck must be “scored” by a LDWF-certified scorer/measurer on an official score sheet, and each LDWF field office and state headquarters in Baton Rouge has one or more qualified scorers.

For more on the program, call Jason Bordelon at (225) 765-2344, or email: jbordelon@wlf.la.gov.