Hunting seasons are fast approaching, and enthusiasm is growing by leaps and bounds.
Deer hunters have been busy at their leases planning for the upcoming season by preparing food plots and stand sites.
They're already using attractants to lure deer close to their stand sites for the archery season opener - Sept. 17 in Areas 3 and 8. The archery season in the rest of the state begins on Oct. 1 (bucks-only Oct. 1-15, Area 6).
And it appears we have a newcomer to the deer attractant menu.
Clay Menard of Eunice is enthusiastic about what he has seen deer do to rice bran.
"They love the stuff," Menard said, "and it seems that everywhere I go the talk is about rice bran and deer. There was discussion of it even during my lunch at Krotz Spring earlier this week. I have even heard of rice bran mixed with molasses. The raccoons must love it, too."
In terms of nutrition, the substance of rice bran contains protein, fat, ash, and crude fiber. For humans, it can be an excellent source of vitamins B and E. Deer enthusiasts have even marketed it with molasses in past few years.
As for other deer forage, there continues to be much interest in planting wildlife food plots with whitetails a primary target species.
If you're an avid whitetail historian, then you'll know that such interest is a direct result of the pioneering management practices of a few clubs along the Mississippi River. It's no secret that in the parishes of E. Carroll, Tensas, Madison and Concordia, whitetails have benefited by demonstrating startling antlers on these lands without the high fences.
In the 1970s, the Delta parishes blossomed with Pope & Young caliber white-tails. It is sad to comment, however, that the success of these few pioneering clubs were first criticized even by some biologists in the state.
This criticism was borne out of the controversial use of food plots and lease managers' beliefs that such planting actually enhanced quality deer production.
Today, food plots are common even on lands managed in the Deer Management Assistance Program prescribed by biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Their use is no longer maligned, and timber companies even encourage such planting on prescribed areas.
Fertilization is the key here, especially on poor soils. Plantings of wheat, oats, turnip, Biologic and rye fare well when painstakingly pampered with proper fertilization and lime.
Also, do not make the mistake of planting just a little. One-acre food plots strategically placed between cutovers and bedding areas can do much in attracting white-tailed deer to adequate nutrition.
As for public lands, of course this practice is illegal. Hunters here have to depend upon hunting over cutovers and oaks in the hardwoods
In your summer scouting for stand sites, it's also a good idea to pay attention to the browse species.
The plants we fondly refer to as "browse species" certainly account for the majority of the whitetail's diet in the wild. Certainly, more deer have been harvested feeding on this wild species than any other. It's often referred to as the most important groups of deer plants in Louisiana.
When the early season begins on my hunting lease, Greenbriar (Smilax spp.) is the forage of choice in my area. This variety includes several species commonly referred to as "briars."
These plants consist of evergreen vines with green alternating leaves and green stems. Oftentimes, the sign of deer presence in these vines can best be described as "snips or snippings," whereby the tops of stems and vines will be bitten off. Of course, droppings also indicate that deer are utilizing this species.
One successful and cheap secret to harvesting whitetails on briars is the application of fertilizer. Believe me, fertilizing wild plants (where legal) can go a long way to provide deer trails to an area.
Broad-based commercial fertilizers such as 13-13-13 are probably the most widely used in assisting wild, browse species. Trophy deer taken in the marsh country south of Lake Charles have been harvested by the simple application of such fertilizer.
Another favorite browse variety important to Louisiana white-tailed deer is Japanese Honey-suckle (Lonicera japonica). Opposing leaves on vines and the characteristically sweet summer blooms make this species easily identifiable for the outdoors enthusiast.
A very common plant, honeysuckle responds well to sunlight and can be found most anywhere the canopy is bare. If you're a piney-woods hunter, then you'll know that this plant is very precious when it comes to harvesting white-tails in cutovers and young pine plantations. This plant also flourishes along logging roads and old fence rows.
And with respect to a secret with honeysuckle - fertilize them and the deer will come.
Another species that finds favor in cutovers, fence rows and open wooded areas is referred to as Blackberry (Rubus spp.). This popular species includes dewberries, strawberries and raspberries and can be identified easily because of the sharp, curved thorns responsible for the many cuts, nicks and scratches to scouting hunters. In the summer, deer have been observed on many occasions using the fruit of this plant.
Dewberries are more common to dense woods, and blackberry patches prefer open areas as described above. Besides the fruit, deer will utilize the leaves and cover provided by this plant - especially if it's fertilized.
Another common vine, Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), is a beautiful dense plant with clusters of 7-11 green leaves. It is easily distinguished by the popular reddish-orange "trumpet" shaped flowers - therefore the name "trumpet creeper."
It grows especially along logging roads in the hardwoods. Long thick vines of leaves with the characteristic flowers are often observed draping lavishly from oak limbs. It is also popular with white-tails in the early season and I have found deer even nibbling the flowers of this species on Thistlethwaite Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in St. Landry Parish.[/align]
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