Garrett Smith is like most Louisiana deer hunters.
He works a shift which affords weekday hunts, and, like many others, hunts a piece of land that’s been in his family for generations. The difference between him and others it that it’s good land, acreage in northern Concordia Parish, good for growing crops and great for growing deer, land that makes the trip from Denham Springs worth time on the roads.
Smith hunts from a mobile lock-on stand, but there’s no way he could have known that moving his stand a week ago Friday would give him a memory he’d share throughout his life.
“I’d set up a (trail) camera in another place and saw a bunch of pigs and a whole bunch of deer, but once the (Mississippi) river came up, it changed everything,” the 26-year-old hunter said. “I took a 9-point (buck) a couple of weeks earlier, and the season was shaping up to be my best ever. And until last Friday, I’d never seen this deer.”
That big buck had been around. As it turned out, Smith learned it lived in the river’s batture, but, as often happens, floods chased whitetails from that environment.
Hunting with his dad, Mark, Smith picked out a spot near an ATV trail, a place where, hopefully, he could see deer moving. He said he knew a distant cousin was across the ATV trail and had taken a stand along a pipeline.
“I heard (his cousin) shoot once, then again, and again, and the fourth shot hit the deer in the horns,” Smith recalled. “I saw (the fourth shot) knocked a chunk off the antlers, nothing big, but I saw that and I knew the deer wasn’t hit.
“There were four does following him, and I thought that was kind of odd,” Smith said with excitement building in his story. “He kept coming and he crossed the four-wheeler trail, but I couldn’t get a shot because there were so many trees in the way, then he ran straight at me, then he stopped about 15 yards away and I shot.”
Smith said his dad, hunting about 600 yards away, heard the shooting and wondered if there was a deer at the end of this fusillade.
There was: “It’s the biggest deer I’ve ever seen, for me anyway,” Smith said. “A older gentleman from Waterproof called to congratulate me and told me he’d seen that deer grow. He said he hunts inside the levee and had passed up a shot on him the previous season to let him grow one more year. He said he’d picked up the sheds (dislodged antlers) from that deer for a couple of years.”
Maybe the best part of the story is that Smith hunts with a 35 Whelan, a rifle considered to be a primitive weapon by state wildlife managers, which means Smith had one shot before having to reload.
“I’m working this weekend, and plan to go up there next week and hunt with my bow,” Smith said. “And, I’ll have to wait to get this deer scored. I went to Bowie’s (Outfitters in Baton Rouge) and they told me to submit a picture, and they’ll call me in April to get an official score.”
That wait will give time for the antlers to “set,” because scoring for Boone & Crockett records and the state’s Big Game Record Book requires a 60-day “drying” period. For now, Smith said his newly gained trophy measured a total of 183 inches, more than enough to gain entry in the state records.
About the rivers
The latest river forecasts have the Mississippi River at respective 24.4- and 10.6 feet levels at Baton Rouge and New Orleans by Feb. 17 (down from Friday’s 43.2 and 16.7 readings), but the Atchafalaya River is hovering at he 8-foot mark (2 feet above flood stage) through the rest of the week at Morgan City.
Fly fishing films
If you’ve never had the chance to see fly-fishing films, then call the Orvis Shop, (225) 757-7286, on Bluebonnet Boulevard in Baton Rouge to reserve your spot to watch the Fly Fishing Film Tour coming Feb. 19. The tour holds the promise of spectacular scenery amidst the passion only fly fishermen know for their sport. There will be door prizes, the usual rods, line and tackle, and a guided redfish trip with charter skipper Lucas Bissett.
Proceeds will go to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.