The Mississippi River it is a fickle mistress. Most years she overflows her banks and gently deposits fertile soil from America’s Midwest farm lands across hundreds of thousands of acres of the Deep South. Those annual floods replenish nutrients in our soil.
One of the many benefits is how much it helps to provide the abundant food for all of the various animals along the river. This in turn leads to the many healthy trophy animals that we are able to harvest. In the last few years, she was much more aggressive flooding so many acres that we lost a significant portion of the deer herd and other local animals. We have had to cease hunting and move all low lying equipment and vehicles to higher ground early every year.
This past year is the first time in a long time that we were able to hunt the entire season. The rising river often covers us with up to 15 feet of water. Through extraordinary efforts of Conservancy and herd management, we are starting to see a significant return to normalcy. For the past few years we have limited all hunting to only one very mature buck per member. This season proved that our restraint and conservation efforts are paying off. Although the deer numbers are still not at pre-flood levels, the quality of the deer herd is at an all time high. While the last few years of floods did decimate the deer herd, all of our does are very healthy with at least two fawns. Our younger bucks are big bodied and plentiful.
Part of our herd management strategy is to selectively harvest only the oldest bucks. Several of us this year were lucky enough and patient enough to harvest beautiful mature bucks. In the same week, my son and I ended up with nice big old bucks. As we were getting late into the season towards the end of the rut, I decided to try a spot that I had not been in all year.
A recent storm had damaged the stand and I was more exposed than usual. Early in the hunt I watched as a young 8 point whitetail chased 3 does in the woods around me. I was beginning to doubt my decision in choosing this location. After a while, I saw some motion on the edge of a clump of trees and there he was. My buck was skirting the edge of a clearing.
I tried to guess where he would exit the woods hoping he would cross 12 foot wide shooting lane. I was lucky enough to guess right. He crossed at only about 120 yards out.
A well placed heart shot dropped him a few yards from the lane. Several of our members have children or grandchildren who love to come to the camps. We used this opportunity to let several of the younger ones help us track this deer. Most have been keen to learn tracking skills. They begin to appreciate the effort it takes to be not only a good hunter but a good tracker. They were ecstatic when they found the downed buck before any of the adults!! Actually, Stevie Wonder could have tracked THIS DEER…
Over the years, we adopted a Steve Rowe technique using thermal imaging to recover down animals. It has successfully served us by minimizing any lost animals. We certainly did not need it this time, but we have learned to appreciate the value of infrared. When we let the kids see how the downed deer looked with the FLIR, they all want to use it next time. A new generation is learning about the great outdoors. We all love teaching the new generation about conservation and outdoor skills.