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University » Articles » Mardi Gras in the Deer Woods

Mardi Gras in the Deer Woods
by Greg Hicks

front_pageJust like everything else in Louisiana, when the rut gets kicked into high gear, it gets hotter than a spanked baby on the fourth of July! There are some whitetail bucks in the deepest parts of Louisiana that would rival some of the biggest deer killed anywhere, but the problem is actually seeing and getting a shot at one of these beasts in order to show it off. Between the thick, piney woods of North Louisiana and the palmetto laden swamps of Southern Acadiana, there are many hard-to-reach places these bruisers call home. In order to take one of these deer, you have to be on your “A-game” of course, but it also takes a lot of what some people either have or they don’t—luck. I’ve heard it said time and time again: “Deer hunting is 20% skill and 80% luck.” In Louisiana, the ratio seems to drop 10% on the front half and gain 10% on the back. Luck is a constant variable, however—it doesn’t change—so anytime you can increase your skill level through intricate knowledge of buck behavior, you’ve drastically tipped the balance in your favor. This constant variable of luck, at this point, has thus become what we like to call “lagniappe” in the Bayou State.


Surprisingly, most bucks will shed all of their velvet in under two hours. This process involves rubbing trees and bushes to begin the peeling process, and ends with them eating it off as the strings hang near their mouths.

It all starts in the fall when bucks will begin to break away from bachelor groups and start staking claim areas they’ll call home. Beginning in early September, bucks will rub trees to rid their antlers of the velvet cover they grew over their them during the summer months. While not an aggressive form of rubbing, the velvet rub basically tells other bucks (and you) that another buck is in that area. Dominate bucks go first, and then smaller bucks will follow. This is because larger bucks have a quicker rise in testosterone, whereas a small buck’s testosterone level will rise somewhat slower. Early rubs will be closer to the bucks bedding area or feeding areas and will be visible. Don’t hunt too close to these areas, because too much pressure will force a deer to change its bedding or feeding habits. Try to hunt travel routes or funnels leading into or away from these spots. This ain’t the Midwest where cattle-like paths form a labyrinth throughout the open woods. This is Louisiana, where the woods are thick, deer are born scared, and their trails are more subtle. Oftentimes they’re only identifiable through rubs and droppings in a given area.

Another type of rub is called a signpost rub. A signpost rub is one that will make even the most experienced hunter feel a rush of adrenaline deep down in their bellies. It is usually a cedar or cypress tree around 6″ or greater in diameter that’s used as the name indicates: a signpost to other bucks that there’s a crossing here or to beware. Knowing how to hunt this type of rub can yield a big buck worthy of your time and efforts. If you’re fortunate enough to find several of these rubs and plot their positions, you can sometimes triangulate his living room. Hunt these “domain edges” near family groups of does during the rut, and as the season dwindles down and time is working against you, venture deeper into his core area.

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