OUTDOORS: Options abound for outdoor fall reading
By: JOHN FLORES
Just to set the record, as an outdoor writer I have read the classics. In my impressionable years I recall reading “Sheep and Sheep Hunting” by Jack O’Connor, “Hunting Trophy Whitetails” by John Wooters, and “Tears and Laughter” by Gene Hill. And, how could anyone ever forget “Death in the Long Grass” by Peter Hathaway Capstick? Therefore, suffice it to say I have credibility when it comes to recommending exceptional reading.
Two books now available this hunting season that in my opinion are must reads are “Louisiana Wildlife Agents – In Their Own Words,” compiled and edited by Jerald Horst and “Louisiana Whitetails” by David Moreland.
“In Their Own Words” is a compelling collection of true stories of the inner thoughts and emotions that enforcement agents face in the course of their day-to-day duties ensuring game laws in the Sportsman’s Paradise are adhered to.
In one instant you will go on patrol with several agents on a sting operation using remote controlled deer decoys to bust night hunters and in another, undercover to build a case against those who would sell game fish for profit.
“In Their Own Words” begins with the intense physical training and challenges wildlife agents must go through in becoming an agent. Rivaling some of the training a Navy Seal would experience, the training is designed to help them endure the hardships of surveillance that might find them in wet, freezing temperatures after dark following a report of violators.
The training doesn’t just end there for enforcement purposes only. Often, agents are called to rescue lost and injured hunters, or boaters who haven’t arrived at the landing after a day on the water.
In such cases the book reveals a level of first aid and first responder training that in the chapter dedicated to Katrina showed whom better than to send in during the aftermath of a hurricane to complete search and rescue than wildlife agents.
In the six years post Katrina there may not be a better recount of the disaster and storm’s aftermath than from those of the LDWF Enforcement Agents who experienced it first hand. Horrific, gruesome, and yet compelling, the chapter dedicated to the worst disaster in U.S. history shows these men and women in an entirely different light than simply someone who checks and makes sure you’re in possession of a hunting or fishing license.
Then there is an unexpected touch of emotion readers will come to appreciate when reading accounts from agent’s spouses. Do all agents live to be married happily ever after? “In Their Own Words” is hard hitting in that regard. Quite often, the long hours and unknown for spouses faced with the fact that every person their mate comes in contact with during hunting season has a gun can be too much for even some of the best marriages.
After a distinguished 31-year career as a biologist with LDWF, the last 13 as Deer Study Leader and Chief of the Wildlife Division, David Moreland has compiled in his book “Louisiana Whitetails,” a wealth of information that should be required reading for every deer hunter. More than that, it should be introduced to boys and girls in school who have agriculture classes or participate in 4-H clubs as an optional book to write a report on as part of animal science.
Moreland opens his book with a detailed chronology of the history of Louisiana Whitetails. The chapter starts out from the way it was during early exploration and colonization of Louisiana to the 2011-12 season and the changes in deer management that have taken place.
A full chapter is dedicated to understanding a deer’s digestive system, where at some point, a hunter who studies the contents of its rumen may just discover the key to a better harvest. With numerous photos to support various discussions concerning favorite mast, both soft and hard, the book becomes a field guide to helping hunters determine what are the preferred foods in their area.
Moreland’s book, particularly where the chapter on Louisiana’s deer habitat is concerned, if combined with his “Checklist of Woody & Herbaceous Deer Food Plants of Louisiana,” published by the LDWF, just may be the two most eye-opening resources a deer hunter could invest in and use in the field together.
In the book, Moreland emphasizes and stresses that in order to become a successful deer hunter it requires understanding of the habitat with knowledge of important food sources available and being sure to hunt the month when most of the breeding occurs in your area.
In Louisiana there are three distinct breeding seasons, according to Moreland. What’s more, some of those breeding seasons in parishes such as East Feliciana, for example, converge, where two distinct ruts were a direct result of early restocking efforts by the LDWF, when breeding wasn’t taken into consideration.
St. Mary Parish is another, where the north side of the Intracoastal Waterway is Area 6 and the marshes to the south is Area 7. Though it’s thought St. Mary’s coastal population may predominately come from the Avery Island subspecies due to their early October breeding, in Moreland’s book he suggests a DNA study might determine otherwise.
From the first restocking efforts to today’s business of quality deer management, Louisiana Whitetails takes you from evolution to fruition on how to manage and develop a quality deer population in your area, regardless of habitat. Moreland’s book is more than a guide. I wouldn’t call it a bible on whitetail deer management, but it just could be a new testament for modern deer hunters to live by.
“Louisiana Whitetails” is available from Louisiana Publishing, 800-538-4355 or www.lasmag.com; and “Louisiana Wildlife Agents – In Their Own Words” is available from LSU Press, 225-578-6666 or www.lsu.edu/lsupress
Neither book may be considered a classic like William Faulkner’s “The Bear,” but when it comes to the Sportsman’s Paradise, few if any classics will perhaps have as much impact. What Horst and Moreland have accomplished is nothing short of excellent reading for this fall.
If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story you wish to share, contact John K. Flores, 985-395-5586 or firstname.lastname@example.org.