Best Hunting in the State
Food, sport and tradition define hunting in the Sportsman’s Paradise
Hunting is inextricably woven into the wild fabric of Louisiana’s heritage and culture. A harsh land when first settled, hunting was a necessity of subsistence as well as commerce. The wide diversity of habitat and abundance of game and birds provided a seemingly endless bounty of food for the table. With scant regulations in place and a voracious commercial demand for meat and hides, over-hunting sent many species into a major decline. However, with modernization of farming and food production practices came regulated hunting and concerted conservation programs that restored native species to sustainable levels. The abundance and variety of Louisiana’s birds and game, combined with world-class fishing make the state a true sportsman’s paradise.
Perched at the tip of the Mississippi flyway funnel, Louisiana is the stopping point for millions of ducks and geese on their annual fall migration. Though small in land mass, Louisiana boasts thousands upon thousands of varied wetlands habitat that provide food and rest for a wide variety of migrating waterfowl. Duck hunting is ingrained in the local population and is a bucket-list destination for waterfowl hunters from across the country. During the 2017-18 season, hunters in Louisiana bagged a whopping 1.08 million ducks statewide with a season average of 23.1 ducks per hunter. Unusually warm and wet weather patterns lowered those numbers last season. However, Louisiana still provides world-class duck and goose hunting in many areas of the state. Guided duck hunting operations are numerous and range in services from drive-up day hunting to luxurious lodges with 5-star amenities. Two of the top-tier waterfowl operations are Grosse Savanne near Lake Charles and Honey Brake Lodge near Jonesville. Both offer premier accommodations and excellent duck hunting opportunities.
The state also boasts over a million acres of public hunting access consisting of many state-owned Wildlife Management Areas, state and federal wildlife refuges, and national forests. Many of these areas contain suitable areas for waterfowl hunting. Two of the most productive properties are located near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish. Both are only accessible by boat and require navigating the lower reaches of the Mississippi River for access. Providing over 125,000 acres of prime hunting habitat, Pass-a-Loutre WMA and Delta National Wildlife Refuge are a waterfowl hunter’s paradise.
Whitetail deer are the only big game species available for free-range hunting in Louisiana. The deer population was lowest between 1915 and 1925, with an all-time low estimate of 20,000 deer throughout the state. Large scale market hunting and decimation of habitat by large-scale timber cutting in the late 1800s and early 1900s caused the decline. Deer management programs began in the late 1940s and well-regulated hunting seasons rebuilt the deer stocks which are estimated at over 500,000 today.
Giles Island sits in the Mississippi River between Louisiana and Mississippi. The property is intensely managed and produces trophy deer every year. This namesake guided hunting operation near Ferriday is extremely popular for those looking to bag a large southern whitetail buck.
Though they can be found throughout the state, larger trophy bucks generally come from the northern parishes and along the Mississippi River delta lands above Baton Rouge up to the northern border with Arkansas. The state has a lengthy season and generous bag limit allowing up to six deer per hunter depending on antler/antlerless regulations and specific areas. The vast areas of public land mentioned above also provide great opportunities for successful deer hunting.
Feral hogs exist throughout the state and are considered an invasive species that compete with native game for food and habitat. Hunting is encouraged as a means of controlling the population. They provide great sport and excellent food quality. Hunting opportunities are year-round in many areas.
Although their numbers have declined somewhat in recent years, Louisiana still offers great opportunities to bag a wild turkey. A large majority of turkey hunters come from the ranks of successful deer hunters. While hunting whitetail deer is extremely challenging, turkey hunters took that up a notch. Those that paid their dues and honed their deer hunting skills over many years have added turkey to their hunting efforts for the extreme sport it provides. “Bird brained” is a misnomer when it comes to hunting turkey. Even the most skilled hunters sometimes end up with their hat in their hand. Matching wits with a wily tom (male turkey) leads to ultimate satisfaction — or frustration. Locating, calling and tricking a wise old bird into shooting range is what keeps hunters waiting for those few days of the season each year.
Most turkey hunting is a do-it-yourself affair on public or private land as there are not many outfitters that offer guided Louisiana turkey hunts. One exception is Giles Island. Noted primarily for guided deer hunts, Giles Island also caters to turkey hunters.
Alligators are a unique species for hunting and Louisiana offers an out-of-the-ordinary hunting opportunity to bag a pre-historic beast that makes a great trophy and excellent table fare. The season lasts only one month and most hunters must use the aid of a licensed alligator hunter to hunt during the highly regulated season. However, Louisiana residents may apply for an annual lottery hunt drawing that provides three alligator tags to successful applicants for self-guided hunts on specific public lakes and Wildlife Management Areas. Lottery applications are announced in May for the September annual season. This year, hunters could apply for one of 47 locations across the state. The chances of getting drawn vary depending upon the number of tags available for a specific area and the number of applicants for the area.
Honey Brake, Grosse Savanne, and Giles Island all offer guided alligator hunts. Additionally, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website has a contact list for alligator guides.
In addition to the species detailed above, Louisiana also offers small game hunting opportunities for rabbit, squirrel coyotes and bobcat. Bird hunting for dove and quail is also popular. From the coastal marshes to the pine plantations of the northern end of the state, Louisiana’s diverse habitat provides a variety of species for hunting which provide rich sport and delicious table fare. Hunting in Louisiana is not just a pastime, it is a passion.
EXPLORE LOUISIANA’S HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES & CALENDARS
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman
Gain the basic skills, experience and confidence to hunt or fish independently.
While the total number of hunters in the country has generally declined, the number of women hunters has increased to where they now account for one-in-five, or 20 percent, of all hunters in the United States.
There are several factors credited with the upswing in female hunters, one of which is the ability to put healthy, free-range, organic food on the table. Louisiana participates in the national BOW (Becoming an Outdoors-Woman) program and annually holds a weekend workshop that offers over 30 specialty courses designed to break down barriers to participation of women in outdoor activities, including hunting.
Participants may select from hunting-related courses such as live fire shotgun, rifle and handgun classes to turkey and deer management. Additional courses are available for beginning fly fishing and basic freshwater fishing. For those interested in the outdoors, but not hunting or fishing, they can choose to learn about outdoor photography, ecology, backpacking, outdoor cooking, kayaking and more.
This is a unique opportunity for women to gain the basic skills, experience and confidence to hunt or fish independently. The wildly popular program fills up quickly when applications become available in early January.
The Yentzen Story
Louisiana is steeped in duck hunting history. In the last six decades, duck hunting has seen monumental changes. The clothing is highly advanced, surface drive motors have virtually replaced pirogues, motorized decoys and computer-designed shot shells all make up part of the modern duck hunter’s gear. Duck calls have changed a lot also.
The calls of old were generally handmade with their barrels turned from wood stock or fashioned out of hollow canes. Reeds were metal or hand carved out of hard rubber. Today’s mass-produced calls certainly work, but are mostly made of plastic and synthetic materials and have lost that intimate, homemade charm. That simple fact bodes well for the Yentzen duck call. The call was invented in the early 1950s by George Yentzen and his young protégé, James “Cowboy” Fernandez. Yentzen, a native of Donaldsonville grew up with the influences of south Louisiana’s great waterfowl hunting legacy. A crude bandsaw, turning tools, and a lathe let Yentzen turn out duck calling works of art.
Yentzen’s call was the first to use a “double reed” design. So unique, he obtained a patent and had the only such call for the 17-year life of the patent. Yentzen unfortunately died in 1958 and did not live long enough to realize what a revolutionary mark his invention would make in waterfowl hunting history. His protégé, Fernandez (recently deceased), took the call and made history on the duck calling contest scene. He racked up local, state, regional and national championships. In 1961 he was named the “Champion of Champions” duck caller.
The rich black-walnut wooden call is truly a classic design. You can taste the history packed into this call the second you put it to your lips. No cold, plastic toy feel. The wood taste will instantly evoke memories afield and it blows just as sweet and smooth as it always has. The original Yentzen double reed call is still available from Sure-Shot Game Calls.
Millennials get blamed for the decline of lots of things, like face-to face conversation due to their embrace of social media and digital technology as their primary communication preference. However, as hunter numbers generally decline, that generation, as a segment, is responsible for a slow increase. Noted as being foodies, their primary reasons cited for taking up hunting are not the traditional outdoors experience, challenge or trophy seeking, but rather the opportunity to self-harvest local, sustainable, wild meat to foster their health-conscious lifestyle. Hunter recruiting organizations across the country are taking note and welcome them to the fold.