Public Lands & Waters photo

Thistlethwaite Wildlife Management Area
: south central Louisiana
Size: 11,100 acres
ZIP: 70589

Two years ago Thistlethwaite became the only Louisiana WMA to enforce antler restrictions, and the bid to limit the harvest of yearlings could make this an up-and-coming area for mature bucks, Durham says. Seventeen miles of shell roads and 11 miles of woods trails ease access to every corner of this flat bottomland area. Several oak species dominate the forest, with pecan and hickory supplementing the mast crop. Browse species are plentiful, too, and selective timber harvests have cleared the way for honeysuckle, dogwood, greenbrier, blackberry and numerous other ice-cream plants. Thistlethwaite raised up a pair of 130-class bucks last season that ranked as the No. 5 and No. 10 public land bucks in the state for 2006.

Sherburne Wildlife Management Area
: south Louisiana
Size: 44,000 acres
ZIP: 70570

The biggest buck taken on Louisiana public land in 2006, a 250-pounder with 22-inch main beams, hailed from Sherburne. This flat lat bottomland in the flood plain of the Atchafalaya River includes tracts owned by the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but managed by the state. Sherburne sustains a rich mix of hardwood species (most notably oaks and pecan), but in older stands the ground cover can be sparse. Focus on areas where intensive forest management has created sunlight and space for trumpet creeper, dewberry, poke salad and nuttall oak and other plants that increase food and cover for deer. Durham says deer numbers are potentially higher here, and although the area is not known for large deer, “it always seems to produce a few really nice bucks every year.”