Youngsters take to woods Saturday in search of prize buck

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; The tracking is what baffles non-hunters. Most can’t understand the patience hunters show in trying to follow the trail left by a wounded deer.

But that’s when your blood starts pumping. That’s the time when the adrenaline rushes faster than at possibly any other moment in your life.

Twelve-year-old Dillon McCartney of Winnfield knows that feeling all too well after the first day of Bayou Cocodrie’s inaugural Youth Hunt Saturday.

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McCartney, hunting since he was 8, tracked a 9-point buck for nearly two hours before he found his 190-pound harvest.

&uot;When I shot it, it took off and we thought it dropped,&uot; McCartney said. &uot;Turns out it wasn’t all the way dead. It kept running.&uot;

If it weren’t for a cur dog someone brought to the youth hunt, he probably never would have found that deer, McCartney said.

Like the event, this is McCartney’s first time to participate in an organized youth hunt.

However, this wasn’t his first kill. That came a year after he began hunting when he harvested a doe at age 9.

McCartney was the only hunter to connect during the morning session at Cocodrie.

Two others, Ashton Englsman, 14, and Taylor Landry, 12, had shots at eight-points or higher, but couldn’t connect.

Mike Esters, Cocodrie’s manager, said there was a great response for this year’s event with 18 hunters chosen by a lottery out of a possible 50.

Hunters had a parent and a volunteer go along with them, with a personal stand for everyone.

&uot;We built the stands big enough in case their daddies wanted to hunt,&uot; Esters said. &uot;The whole thing is designed for the kids to get a good hunting experience.&uot;

Esters wasn’t surprised at all by the generous turnout with hunters ranging from Lake Charles across to Alexandria and up to north Louisiana as well.

Englsman was one of those from Alexandria. She said her crew was packing up and heading back to the Bayou Cocodrie’s offices when her opportunity arose.

Apparently the deer had been lying down in some brush, and just as Englsman and her father Greg were gathering their things, the animal popped up.

Despite being just 75 yards away, Englsman was shaking so bad she was unable to snag her first-ever harvest.

&uot;It’s a difficult thing to do, and not too many people do it,&uot; she said of the sport. &uot;It’s important for us to keep hunting and carry down the tradition.&uot;

The middle child of three daughters, Englsman is the only one who hunts.

&uot;My big sister is 15, and she’s a real big animal lover and doesn’t think it’s right to kill something innocent,&uot; she said. &uot;And the other one is 6 and too young.&uot;

Englsman said she’s loves animals just as much as her older sibling, but she enjoys studying them in their environments.

Those who didn’t harvest a deer on Saturday morning had a chance to come back in the afternoon for another shot.

If they were unsuccessful then, this morning would act as a last gasp.

&uot;This area is real popular and well-known for its deer hunting,&uot; Esters said. &uot;We’ve got some of the biggest deer in the country and high-quality bucks in a good habitat.&uot;

Landry, of Lake Charles, was the only remaining hunter to have a shot at a deer in the morning session.

He said he would rather go hunting than play sports.

His father, Dennis Landry, signed up both Taylor and Stuart, 11, and felt fortunate to have both sons receive an invitation to the Youth Hunt.

Landry started hunting at his sons’ ages when a neighbor volunteered to take him.

Since that first trip he was hooked.

&uot;In a way I just like shooting guns and being outdoors,&uot; son Taylor said. &uot;I just started hunting by myself, but I like hunting with my dad because we talk and it can get boring by yourself.&uot;

Esters was grateful for the volunteer support he got for this event and their continued aid year-round.

Not only do they help with events and to keep the refuge alive, but their community interaction is key, he said.

&uot;(Volunteers) are our best ambassadors,&uot; Esters said. &uot;There is never such thing as too may volunteers. It’s a great problem to have.

&uot;People like working with wildlife and kids, and that’s what it’s all about.&uot;

The event kicks off Bayou Cocodrie’s recognition of the National Wildlife Refuge’s centennial year, Esters said.

The year will celebrate 100 years of service and promote hunting and kids’ involvement in the sport.

&uot;We all know that this is our future, and we need to get them involved in protecting our resources,&uot; Esters said. &uot;We always hope that this is a tradition that will foster and nurture along the way. And we will definitely continue that with an annual youth hunt.&uot;

But McCartney won’t wait until next year. He reached his daily limit for the Youth Hunt on Saturday with his 9-point but will be looking for more today.

Back out with his family today, which is one of the many reasons he loves hunting, McCartney hopes to feel his blood flow just as fast as it did on Saturday.

&uot;I’ll kill a doe,&uot; he said. &uot;I ain’t worried about horns anymore. Most of the family gets together and hunts, except the girls. They lay in bed until 10 o’clock in the morning.&uot;