Sunday Outdoors photo

Reno Dupuis got a little help from his dad, Steve, in taking this giant buck during the Thanksgiving holidays. 'I saw (the buck) a couple of days earlier and put Reno in that stand,' Steve Dupuis said after the eventful afternoon hunt in West Feliciana Parish. Reno said the buck came out following a doe, and the young hunter took the shot from 150 yards with a primitive weapon. The elder Dupuis measured six-inch bases and a 25-inch main beam for Reno's trophy. Signs of bucks becoming interested in does is a little early this year in the southeastern parishes, but several hunters from different locations said the primary rut is still days, maybe weeks away.

When Steve Dupuis sent along a photo of his son Reno’s magnificent buck the young hunter took in the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day, it was notable Steve said the giant whitetail had followed a doe into an spot close enough for Reno to take a shot with his primitive weapon.

It’s a signal, an ages-old sign of a time when bucks have their noses in the air and checking for any first sign any doe in their harem is coming into estrus.

Around the eastern half of our state, it’s time for “the rut” to happen.

Ran a story a couple of months ago about hunting sign to set up for that trophy buck, and about how rutting periods give hunters a much better chance for a one-in-a-lifetime whitetail — not to mention the quality of meat for the table — and about where to find bracketed dates for the rut.

State wildlife biologists spent years cataloging these breeding periods and have posted a map on Wildlife and Fisheries’ website: wlf.louisiana.gov.

Get there and find “Hunting,” then find “Deer,” then check on the left side of the window in the green box to find “Deer Breeding Periods.”

The historical map shows all lands in the eastern half of the state have late rutting cycles, some running as early as Dec. 5 and some running into mid February. True, rutting times can vary year to year, although not by much, but there always are tell-tale signs the rut is beginning.

That’s where scouting enters the picture.

A mature buck knows to mark his place, and a seasoned hunter knows to look for scrapes and rubs, the places where a buck deposits enough scent to let other bucks know he’s around and willing to take on all comers for the females in his marked-off territory — scrapes are cleared spots on the ground made by the buck’s hooves, and rubs are spots on low-hanging trees where bucks leave scent from glands on his head.

Find these — and there are several along a path — and you know some of the comings and goings of this one buck.

After that, being in the woods, or a field, or in the swamp or the marsh is a must. You must be ready to watch and learn, the way Steve Dupuis did when he saw that giant buck a couple of days before Reno took his memorable shot.

Brian Grossman, writing for the Quality Deer Management Association, conveyed the sentiment of veteran hunters: “The surest way to capitalize on the rut is to be in the stand as much as possible in the days and weeks surrounding the peak breeding dates for your area … with your main focus being on the week leading up to those dates.

“And even if you haven’t been seeing mature bucks from the stand or on camera, don’t give up.” Grossman wrote. “Research has documented many bucks make excursions this time of year, sometimes traveling several miles. So you never know when a new buck may make an appearance where you hunt, but you have to be in the stand to take advantage of the situation.”

That’s why so many hunters schedule vacations this time of year. To be in the woods it to be hunting, and you have to hunt to fill one of those tags the state hands to deer hunters.

The commission

A note to all interested in Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meetings. December’s meeting breaks the mold in that it’s set for Monday at 9:30 a.m. (not the customary first Thursday of the month) in the newly renamed Joe Herring Room at state Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge.