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By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Outdoors
Oct 4th, 2022


There is something about October that is very special to many of us who enjoy chasing critters such as the popular whitetail deer.  There are fields and lanes to clip, stands to clean, move and put up.  There are feeders to fix…but wait…not everywhere.  This year will certainly be different as feeding corn to deer is not legal in all areas.  This includes our northeast parishes bordering Arkansas and Mississippi as the dreaded chronic wasting disease was discovered last year.  In conjunction with the Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana Departments of Wildlife and Fisheries/Game and Fish determined that restricting areas where hunters can supplement natural forage with corn would be the most effective way to halt this disease from entering our state.  From what is published, this disease can be transmitted via the saliva glands which naturally can be present in a food trough or corn pile.  The other manner to abate this issues is preventing the transport of any bone of the animal across state lines (boned out skull and horns are acceptable).  This disease is rampant in many states and this is the most effective manner to stop it before it can infect a healthy herd.

It is a very demanding process and the assistance of hunters is crucial in fighting the issue.  There will be some who will fight City Hall and continue to feed illegally.  This practice not only is dangerous for all of us, it has the potential to take our deer herds here to suffer significant damage.  What I ask is that hunters consider the potential damage and work with officials to combat this problem.  If you have never seen a deer with CWD you should research it.  There is a zero survival rate and the manner of death is horrible.

So let’s look at the positive side.  Bow hunters will certainly have a bigger challenge as feeding with corn brings deer into range quite well.  The answer there is other approved/alternative feeding practices.  (Check LDWF website for regulations).  Gun hunters can still rely on food plots as shots are generally longer.  However, my opinion is that the harvest numbers will go down this year.  Over the years many of us have relied on corn to bring our prey into range.  Hunting natural food sources will be different, although effective for the smart hunter.  Stands may have to be altered so that natural food sources such as acorns, persimmons and browse are closer to where the stand is set.  Wind will be even more crucial as when you have a pile of yellow acorns close, the deer will sometimes be less wary and come into the area to feed.

There are a lot of hunters who feel that this move is over the top.  Our economy relies on hunters who buy all of the tools, feed and other essentials for hunting.  This will certainly be a ding for local farmers who thrive in the winter months from the thousands of bags of corn sold locally.  There is an impact.  However, we have to look at the future.  The biologists who are tasked with addressing this issue did not make these decisions easily.  This threat is real and if not addressed, could affect the deer herds significantly.  I believe their objective is clear and they are doing what they think is best, even though not a popular decision.

We had a very dry spring this year.  This will have a positive effect on the deer herds.  There was a decent acorn crop and from just surveying my hunting area, we had a very good year in fawn production.  Because we had a dry spring, deer have altered some travel patterns to have daily access to water.  Look for browse in October where deer rely for their daily buffet.  Browse and heavy cover is where you will find the majority of animals.  My favorite food source in October and early November is persimmons.  If you find persimmons, you will find active deer.  Make sure and set up according to the dominant wind which in early fall is southeast and southwest.  Hunt high.  One huge mistake that hunters make is to not consider odors, wind direction and good cover in a stand.  If you are not 20 plus foot up a tree, you need to consider cover scents and assure you are scent free.  I accomplish this by wearing shorts and a t-shirt into my area and then putting on my hunting clothes to enter my stand.  Preventing sweating is huge.  I carry a wet cloth and wipe down and spray myself with a scent neutralizer.  I won’t go into the stand in October without a Thermacell.  This device is a lifesaver.  If you haven’t been in the woods yet, let me tell you the mosquitoes had a bumper crop this year.  They are worse than I’ve ever experienced.  Preventing potential West Nile disease from a mosquito bite is now a priority.  That and ticks are the two things I worry about the most.  I have a friend who has suffered from Lymes disease for years.  I make sure and wear snake boots and cover them well with Deet to try and keep the ticks away.

The last thing I will recommend is to always wear a climbing belt when climbing or coming down from an elevated stand.  There are way too many horror stories of hunters who are permanently disabled or killed after falling from a tree stand.  You may think you are half squirrel and can do it without it but a climbing belt is like a life preserver in a boat.  They don’t work unless you wear them….all the time.

I hope you all have a productive and enjoyable hunting season.  Be safe, be courteous and most of all, leave some for our grandchildren.  Happy hunting!