In the hunt for trophy bucks

Big bucks will be in the rut in the Pineywoods.

The gun season opener on deer throughout Texas is Nov. 5, and now is the right time to start making plans for successful early season hunts.

The first four weeks of the Texas deer season are always the most exciting because you never know what to expect – especially in the Pineywoods. The rut is going on, and that means your chances of taking a wall-class buck don’t get much better.

When making early-season hunts, it’s always best to expect the unexpected because you never know when a monster buck is going to show up.

Check this out. Nov. 2, 2014, Makayla Hay, 15 years old, was hunting in her tree stand when the buck of a lifetime showed up. She had just passed an 8-pointer with hopes of seeing a huge buck that was first seen swimming across the Trinity River a few weeks prior to her hunt in the same area. Her 23-point buck netted 205 B&C and ranks as the biggest buck ever taken on open range by a youth hunter in Texas. It is also the highest scoring buck reported from Madison County in nearly 50 years.

Over the past several years, one of the very best tactics for finding and shooting a quality buck has been to set up a few game cameras. Based on what I’ve seen on ranches and leases all over Texas, about 99.9 percent of the time, there is a game camera set up near a feeder. Seeing is believing. When you can download photos and/or video of what’s eating your high-dollar corn, and it happens to be a good looking buck, you know what to expect next time you’re in your stand. The really cool thing about having a game camera is that you are likely to see all sorts of critters eating corn, black-eyed peas or whatever your feeder is spreading out. Here in Texas, you’re apt to see anything from a mountain lion to a black bear under a feeder.

Pre-season scouting is a great way to see what’s going on where you’ll be hunting. You never know what you’ll see – like maybe a line of scrapes, or maybe a glimpse of a big buck that you didn’t know existed.

Another good idea when hunting deer during the rut is to have multiple places to hunt. If you’re not into hunting from a box blind, you might want to try setting up multiple ladder stands in areas that are holding deer. That’s how some of the most successful bow hunters in Texas have been operating for many seasons. A ladder stand will work just about anywhere you hunt. I’ve used them in the Pineywoods, the Hill Country, West Texas and in the South Texas brush.

Another early season trick is to use a portable tripod stand with a swivel seat. The best tripod stands have a swivel seat and a rail that can be used to hang camouflage netting and as a gun rest, which translates into more accurate shooting.

A huge part of deer hunting is scent control. Bow hunters who have to get up close and personal with some of the most skittish bucks are big-time believers in scent control. I don’t think it’s a big deal for hunters sitting in a box blind. But if you’re going to be still hunting or sitting in a tree blind or tripod, scent control is a big deal.

You can do all sorts of things with scents. One of my favorites, and one that is well proven, is to simply hang a scent-dipped cotton ball from a tree limb. During November, a cotton ball smelling like doe in rut is pretty effective.

When all else fails, you might even try hunting from a cushy box blind that’s set up near a corn feeder. This is the most successful deer-hunting tactic in Texas. It’s an easy and laid back way to tag out on deer and put a lot of venison in the freezer.

University of Louisiana-Monroe wins FLW college tourney

The hometown University of Louisiana-Monroe team of Tyler Stewart and Nicholas Joiner, both of West Monroe, Louisiana, won the FLW College Fishing Southern Conference event on the Ouachita River on Saturday, Oct. 8, with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 9 ounces. The victory earned the club $2,000 and advanced the team to the 2017 FLW College Fishing National Championship.

“It feels great to win this event,” said Stewart, a junior majoring in business administration. “Being from the local school, there was a lot of pressure on us to do well.”

“Today we showed that we can defend our home waters, and that’s awesome,” said Joiner, a junior majoring in agriculture. “It gives the young anglers coming in as freshmen some hope that they can do well in this program.”

The duo said they spent their day picking apart a creek in the D’Arbonne Bayou. They said they ran along its edges and backwaters, flipping stumps and laydowns.

Stewart said they caught 80 keepers on the day.

“We hit flurries of about 20 fish at a time, and then would go 30 minutes with only a bite or two,” said Stewart. “We used the E1 when there wasn’t much brush around.”

Joiner said he caught a 5-pound, 12-ounce kicker on the Flippin’ Jig to help anchor their limit and push the team to the top of the standings.

The Lamar University team of Blake Smith and Jordan Wood finished 23rd with five fish weighing 9 pounds, 6 ounces. Luke Potter and Stephen Thomas of LU finished 48th with five fish weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces.