No. 100 and counting for deer hunting professor
By JOHN K. FLORES
There had been a lot of rain the night before. So much rain that Terry Jones knew the creek near where he normally hunts along a pipeline would be way up.
So, the UL-Monroe history professor decided just to drive his truck to the edge of the right-of-way and sit, rather than wade a series of deep sloughs trying get to his stand.
Though the weather had been hot and muggy, this was the peak of the rut for Area 2, where Jones hunts in Winn Parish. And, if there is ever a time a deer hunter wants to be in a stand, it’s during the rut. Jones says his wife jokes how his neck starts to swell around Thanksgiving.
With final exams and a fall graduation looming, Jones knew it would be at least a week before he’d get back in the woods to pick up where he left off.
The first hour of daylight went by uneventful. Jones had seen a decent buck cross the pipeline a couple of times before on the other side of the deep slough. His mind wandered as he thought about the deer.
Suddenly, a buck appeared across the slough. Ninety-nine times before Jones had squeezed the trigger on a whitetail. Now, here he was on the brink of harvesting his 100th deer.
“I started hunting on my own when I was 13 using a Stevens single shot .410 with slugs or borrowing my father’s Browning 16-gauge shotgun,” Jones, now 60, said. “I was 14 when I killed my first deer. At that time, if you even saw a couple of deer, it was considered a good season.”
The territory in Winn Parish that Jones hunts is a mix of upland pine with hardwood bottoms, clear cuts and the Dugdemona swamp.
Jones, who fits the description of a bucolic gentleman, has always preferred hunting the swamp made up of hardwoods and cypress-lined sloughs for its beauty and solitude.
The treetops seemingly touch the sky in the swamp and their branches and limbs give sound to the wind. And, the few remaining amber and brown colored leaves provide a gentle fading rustle.
Jones said, “It’s so pretty, and I love to hunt it with waders and my pirogue when it floods and leaves isolated ridges exposed. The dog hunters tend to drive the deer into the swamp, and I usually have it pretty much to myself — no one else wants to go to the trouble to hunt it like I do.”
Since the early 1990s, Jones has kept a personal journal of the deer he has harvested through the years.
Jones said, “My mom got my brothers and me a little book called a ‘Deer Diary’ for Christmas in which you recorded your kills and memorable hunts. I recorded my initial kill in it two days later on Dec. 27, 1993. It was a five point that I killed out of a climbing stand very early in the morning in the Dugdemona swamp. I noted at the end of the entry it was my 47th deer. Up to that time, I just kept up the count in my head and could actually tell you the circumstances of each kill. The diary has several pages for each kill with places to record the day, time, weather, gun, etc.”
From his journal entries through the years, Jones says hunters should follow the most basic rules, such as staying downwind, sitting still, and what he calls “stretching your eyes” to focus as far out into the woods as possible. Jones also believes if you’re hunting in areas that have a decent deer population, it boils down to 50-percent skill and 50-percent luck.
“I have killed an incredible number of deer by simply being in the right place at the right time — skill had nothing to do with it,” Jones insists. “If you go often enough, you and a deer will eventually cross paths. My recommendation to beginners is to do the obvious things — such as staying downwind — but probably the most important thing is to just go as much as possible.”
Jones steadied his cross hairs on the buck. For all intents and purposes, from where he sat, this was a milk run compared to previous hunts where he waded across the slough, walking deep into the swamp. Squeezing his trigger, No. 100 — a 4-point — lay motionless on the ground 133 yards away.
Days later, Jones would harvest 101. And, on Dec. 30, he harvested 102 — an 8-point buck he’d seen the day before. Jones had filled his buck tags for the season.
The professor crossed three waist-deep sloughs and took a boat ride across a fourth to get to his box stand, where he harvested the big 8.
After shooting the 175-pound buck, it took him five hours to get it out of the swamp and home.
Jones says though he is getting on in years, he still appreciates the challenge and gets excited matching wits with one of the world’s most cunning animals.
“I still get very excited and sometimes even buck fever,” Jones said. “Getting my first glimpse of a deer stepping out on the pipeline or seeing one out in the woods gives me a bit of an adrenaline rush. It’s like a narcotic, and I think it’s that thrill that keeps me going. Some of my most enjoyable hunts are ones where I never pulled the trigger. This is only the second time in my long deer-hunting career that I’ve killed 3 bucks in a season. The last time was 39 years ago. If I ever lose that thrill, that will be the day I’ll hang up my waders and start sleeping late.”
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