Ground attack often works best for post-rut bucks _lowres

Photo provided by BARRY JOFFRION Atchafalaya trophy Gabrielle Joffrion took this giant 8-point buck on a hunt with her dad, Barry, right, in the Atchafalaya Basin. Taking to a stand in the northern reaches of the nation's largest overflow swamp, the young huntress was fortunate to find the deer moving during the peak of rutting period. The modern firearms season ends Sunday in this area with a Jan. 19-31 primitive weapons season follows. The archery season in State Area 6 runs through Feb. 15.

With the primary rut over, it might be time to change tactics to finish the modern and primitive firearms season.

Years ago, an old-time hunter, Jimmy Delatte, said he seldom climbed back into his stand for the last days of the season, that he said he preferred to set up on the ground near a tree where he’d seen deer passing throughout the time he spent in his stand. Those were the days before anyone called them “ground blinds” and back in the days when swampateers like Jimmy were bucks-only hunters and looked down on anyone taking a doe, no matter how many “doe days” state game managers gave them.

“Ever notice a buck before the rut, and see him look at you in the stand. Yeah, you’re staying still and trying to hide as best you can, but that buck knows your stand, and I think he’s checking your stand out to see if you’re there,” he said. “That’s why he’s an old buck. He knows the tricks.”

Delatte further explained that the same buck loses all sense of caution during the rutting season, and it’s possible to get a good bead on him during that period, but he goes back to being ultra-cautious when the rut is over.

“That’s why I make a note of where the deer are passing, maybe going from their bedding area to a good feeding spot, and I find a place where there’s cover near that trail,” Delatte said.

Delatte said he didn’t get to be an “old” hunter by ignoring safety when he made the post-rut move.

“And you have to make sure other hunters know you’re there, too, and let them know you’re hunting that trail,” he said. “Somebody who hasn’t taken a deer yet during the season might get a little trigger happy when they see movement of any kind. And that’s why I always wear Hunter Orange when I’m hunting on the ground.

“It’s been a successful way for me to hunt, and I’m going to continue to do it.”

Delatte quit hunting six years ago. Age was a factor. But the year he yielded this info, he finished out the last week by taking two bucks just as he’d done the year before and the year before that.

Rating the season

With only a few days remaining in the seasons for south Louisiana deer hunters, a call came in asking to rate the current season.

There’s good and bad news.

The good is that big bucks showed up in the southeastern and south-central parishes during Christmas. It’s apparent the primary rut came later than expected across those hundreds of thousands of acres, but when it did, it came at just the right time to get youngsters on big whitetails during their time off from school.

Reports as late as last weekend came in that bucks continued chasing does, but that the primary rutting phase certainly was near its end.

The bad news came from hunters who continued to take to fields, swamps and marshes around Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain.

The likely explanation for seeing fewer deer in the McElroy and L&N swamps is directly related to the weeks of high water sent into those swamps by Hurricane Isaac back in August 2012.

State wildlife biologists estimated 90 percent mortality among the fawns birthed that year in the southeastern parishes, a factor that shows, or doesn’t show, when it comes to seeing and counting whitetails in the next several years.

There was very little deer-hunting success on the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area, at least from the hunters’ report. The state’s Wildlife Division report will come later this year on this WMA that sits squarely between Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

Otherwise, news from the parishes bordering the Mississippi River north of the 31st Parallel is that big bucks were moving during the Christmas-New Year holiday and several clubs indicated there was enough action to keep the skinning sheds filled, which meant there’s enough venison to keep families in meat for the coming months.

Oh those ducks

After nearly two months of duck-hunting success on the wildlife management areas, Pass a Loutre and Pointe-aux-Chenes WMAs soured last week. These two areas produced fewer than one duck per hunter Saturday, but hope is ducks will return on the approaching cold fronts for the season’s last days.