By Chase Berenson
Normally when fishermen, hunters, and hikers are looking for perfect spots to practice their craft, they imagine that they have to make a trip out of town. Sometimes it’s nice to be proven wrong; the Waddill Wildlife Refuge and Outdoor Education Center right here in Baton Rouge is a great place to hone your skills before making the big trip out to the wilderness.
Whether your preferred method of outdoor fun is hiking, hunting, or fishing, Waddill has you covered in its 237 acres of hardwood forest.
When you first enter the Refuge, the parking lot is in front of two large ponds stocked with bass and catfish. You can fish from the banks of the ponds or you can head out on the piers to cast from directly over the water. All the fishing is catch and release so you won’t be getting your dinner on the refuge, but they are beautiful ponds in the sunshine to practice your casts and to figure out which bait works best for you.
If you’re here for the hunting, you’ll just walk a little ways past the fishing ponds to find the shooting ranges. Though the refuge features air rifles and skeet shooting, the true star of the show is archery. The range has targets in 10-yard increments as well as an elevated platform to practice your aim.
When you feel confident enough to hit the woods, there are two archery trails stocked with 3-D animal targets. The first trail is for traditional bows, and has about 15 animal targets along the trail to shoot for. The second trail, which is significantly longer, is for compound bows and gives you more targets over longer shooting distances.
In addition to the archers, these trails are also open to hikers as long as they follow the same common-sense safety rules as the archers. For example, don’t walk behind targets – and wearing some blaze orange is a good idea.
Of course, if you’re looking for some trails to share with just other hikers and to minimize your chance of running into errant arrows, Waddill also has a few miles of designated hiking trails.
The nicest of the hiking trails is the aptly Swamp Loop, which loops down to Waddill Swamp. The swamp is beautiful, with placid water spreading out as far as you can see. If you’re lucky you can also catch some of the local bird life, and wood ducks are commonly seen in the swamp area.
There’s also a final trail that also brings you down to a sand bar on the banks of the Comite River. There’s no swimming allowed in the refuge, but it’s always nice to spend some relaxing time watching the water flow by.
The Waddill Wildlife Refuge and Outdoor Recreation Center is located on North Flannery Drive in Baton Rouge, and is one of the few areas in Baton Rouge, which is run by the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife rather than the city or the parish.