A NEW CHALLENGE

Well, as some of you might know, I went bow hunting Wednesday evening to Bayou Cocodrie Federal WR in Ferriday. It's about an hour and a half drive from my house, and it gave me time to think about where and I would set up my stand. Just outside of Pineville I was trucking along about 55 mph when all of a sudden an armadillo wandered out into the road, and instinctively, I slammed on the brakes and swerved to avoid it. Damn thing. I nearly wrecked. I pulled onto the shoulder to collect myself, and as I took a deep breath, it happened. A life-changing idea came over me. Fix yourself a drink, 'cause this may take awhile.

A simple but piercing thought occurred to me while idling there: I'm going about this hunting thing the wrong way. I'm trying to kill an animal that is rare, elusive and smart, and I'm failing. I should be focusing on animals that are abundant, clumsy and dumb! I should hunt armadillos! My success ratio would surely go up! This one simple thought propelled me into an adventure I will never forget.

I still had about 45 minutes of drive remaining, just enough time to plan my new strategy and devise the appropriate tactics for taking on my new prey. I recalled a TV show on the Outdoor Channel about eradicating armadillos. I think Ted Nugent was the host. The tips they offered helped me devise a plan. Since I was making the decision on the run, so to speak, I would need to improvise, using the tools that I had at my immediate disposal in order to make my first armadillo hunt a safe and successful one.

I looked at what I was wearing. Armadillos can't see very well. As such, camouflage is not necessary. But, most serious armadillo hunters follow tradition and choose to dress in the tried-and-true hunting garb worn by the old-timers - a clown suit. I decided to go with the camo I had on. I didn't want to look like an expert my first time out.

Finally, I arrived at the trail-head, and into the woods I go. Another thing about 'dillas (old-timers call them 'dillas) is that it's hard to tell if human scent bothers them. Their nose is always in the dirt, so you rarely hear them snort at you. Professional armadillo guides suggest placing your tree stand a full 3 feet off the ground to avoid being winded. I decided to go up to 4 feet just to be safe. And, of course, I use a safety harness at those heights.

Once I settled in, I surveyed the surrounding woods and took rangefinder bearings on likely shooting lanes. 5 yards...7 yards...3 yards. Got it. Hoisted my bow up on my haul line and knocked my #1 arrow. Trimmed a few vines and I'm ready. That's when I noticed it. Not 10 yards from the tree I was set up in was a 3 foot by 4 foot piece of torn-up earth that left no question that a bull 'dilla was frequenting this area. It was a classic 'dilla scrape. And the animal that made it must be HUGE, with nose prints the size of my hand. The excitement was growing.

It wasn't long before a young cow 'dilla worked its way past my stand. It never gave me a broadside shot, however, so I passed, knowing more would show up later. By the way, there is heated debate over how one tells the difference between bull and cow 'dillas. I won't go into that here. I gave a few short 'dilla tending grunts with my call, but got no response, and after a few seconds, she was gone in a flurry of leaves and earth. But just a few minutes later, another came by, then another, then 3, then an few more singles and finally a five-some (a bachelor group of yearling bulls, I think). Still, I waited for the big one. The Trophy.

The cold weather sure had them jumping! I could here bulls chasing the cows through the palmettos not 20 yards from my stand. The rut was on! I'd heard that Cocodrie had a nice herd. They were right. I'd just been in the stand under an hour and already I'd had more action than any deer hunt I'd made this year. It was just a matter of time before I'd get my chance at a shooter.

Just then, a 10 point deer jumped up about 8 paces away, scattering the 'dilla herd. Deer can be such a nuisance when you're armadillo hunting. I was annoyed a first, but then thought, what spooked that deer? A really big armadillo was the answer. I heard him shuffling through the forest floor like a drunk wading through Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. The palmettos rumbled as he bashed his way through. The heavy smell of freshly turned earth filled the chilly air. 'Dilla Fever sent chills up my spine. When finally he busted out into the open, I was stunned at the sight of this bruiser. His head was huge and warty, and his ears were frayed with the scars of many battles. The fading sunlight sparked as it bounced off his massive armor plating, highlighting the dents and dings from too many car accidents. It was Godzilla 'Dilla!! And he was coming right at me.

At 8 yards out, I somehow mustered enough strength to stand up slowly and raise my bow. I had a head-on shot, but sensed that a double-lung was the only way to bring the brute down. I needed him to turn to my left before he got underneath my stand where I couldn't shoot. Then, at 7 yards, he stopped and grunted like no rutting buck deer I've ever heard. A blood curdling sound that I never want to hear again. His head tilted up as he gnashed his teeth and his glazed-over eyes met mine. That evil look told me all I needed to know. I was in trouble.

I quickly drew to launch an arrow in self defense. It flew true, but glanced harmlessly off of the beast's armor. What? Dang it! I still had my field points in! All I did is make the thing mad. He charged the tree I was in. Having very poor sight, he hit the trunk head-on, rattling my Lone Wolf Climber right out of the tree. Fortunately, my safety harness kicked in and arrested my fall. Startled, I slipped out of my harness and dropped the remaining 6 inches to the ground with my bow still in hand. The 'dilla wobbled around for a second, snarled and then fixed his devilish gaze on me again. There was something odd in those eyes. That's when I realized why he was after me - the blind bastard thinks I'm a cow 'dilla and he's in full rut! Uh-oh. I started running.

It was clear that I wasn't fast enough to outrun the animal, as he had surprising foot speed, so I knocked another arrow while at full run and drew for an over-the-shoulder backwards shot I'd seen on TV. But dang it, I didn't have a ladies compact mirror! And I thought I was prepared. I let it fly anyway, guessing the yardage, and wouldn't you know it, on the way to its target, the arrow glanced off of the rack of 12 point buck that happened to be walking nearby, and I missed the 'dilla entirely! Another 'dilla kill spoiled by pesty deer! The monster continued toward me at alarming speed. I spotted a climbable tree and dove to the trunk in an effort to climb out of the reach of his lusting paws. Again, he lunged at me just as I pulled my boot out of his reach. And again, he rammed the base of the tree with unbelievable force. This time, however, he hit so hard that he stumbled and fell over, obviously stunned by the impact. I took the opportunity to draw my last arrow and placed it neatly behind the shoulder blade at point blank range while he lay helplessly on the ground. He wiggled a bit, but the arrow had him pinned to the earth. Finally, the beast was dead. It wasn't real sporting, but there's no shame in self preservation.

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After waiting a while to catch my breath, I made my way back to my truck to get my game cart - no ATV's allowed in the refuge. After an hour or so of struggling to load the 30 pounder onto the cart, I finally made it out of the woods with my first trophy of the year. And it's not some silly-ass deer with horns growing out of his goofy-eyed head. This is a true wall-hanger of an armadillo that will easily score 190 in the Boudreaux and Sistrunk book. Once it's officially scored, we're going straight to the taxidermist!

Next hunting adventure: It's Prime Time for 'Possum

Humor: Armidillo Hunting
by: Kent Roberts

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