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Youth take to the woods

By JUSTIN WHITMORE

The Natchez Democrat

ferriday — Damon Vaughn only started hunting a year ago, but he already has his favorite hunting spot.

The 14-year-old has killed four deer in his short hunting career, and three of them have come in one place.

Last year, Vaughn, who is from Ball, La., killed an eight-point and a 14-point during Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge’s youth hunting weekend.

Saturday, Vaughn did not top his initial success, but he still had the top deer of the morning with a six-point buck he bagged soon after hitting the stand.

“I knew I wasn’t going to get any better than my 14-point or eight-point, but the six-point is good,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn and his step-father, Neal Deville, enjoy the hunting experience at Bayou Cocodrie, and Vaughn said that — and the good deer — brought him back.

“I like everybody here,” he said. “Everybody is nice, and they have good deer.”

Not everyone was as lucky as Vaughn on the morning hunt, but 17-year-old Kennedy Jeffcoats certainly had a good time watching.

“We saw 12 hogs and one doe that ran across,” she said. “But I’m hunting for horns, so I didn’t shoot. The hogs were all running, so I couldn’t shoot them.”

It was Jeffcoats second-consecutive year to hunt at Bayou Cocodrie as well, but she has not been as lucky as Vaughn.

“They have big deer here, and hopefully I can get one,” she said.

Biologist Nick Wirwa said Bayou Cocodrie gives youth hunters every opportunity to bring home a trophy buck during the three youth hunting weekends.

“The youth hunting is totally different that our other hunts,” he said. “They hunt in an area that is hunted very little the whole season.”

The young hunters go out with a guardian and a guide, and several of the guides, like Johnny Maples of Vidalia, have been doing it for several years.

“I just like being around the young’uns,” Maples said. “I like kids.”

Maples said most of the youth hunters are generally from out of town, but it is luck of the draw each year. He said he would like to see more locals involved, however.

“I got a grandson that I would love to be out here,” he said.

Ten-year-old Will Underwood also killed a deer early Saturday, but he was more impressed with his shot than his deer.

“The deer was like 210 yards away,” Will said. “I have never shot over 100, but I shot it right in the heart.”

Maples joked with Will about the size of the deer and told him it was an 11-point, Will’s father Paul said.

“We had a pretty cool guide,” Paul said. “He told us it was an 11-point, but it was a spike. He said, ‘there’s one here and one here. See an 11-point.’”