ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) " In the middle of Kisatchie National Forest, a Bigfoot researcher who calls himself "Tex-La", lets out four howls in an area that he and another researcher, Claude, say has visible signs of Bigfoot activity.
Several seconds go by with only the sounds of insects heard all around.
Then, it happens. In the distance, four howls answer back.
Tex-La and Claude discuss the howls and from which direction they came. Tex-La then calls out again with another four howls. After several more seconds, those howls are also answered back.
It is up to those that hear the howls to decide for themselves if they believe the howls came from Bigfoot, a forest animal or a human.
"It is what it is. If you choose to believe that's great. If you choose not to believe, that's great, too," said Tex-La.
He recorded the howls and will study them later. He says everything has its own distinct sound " even Bigfoot.
Claude and Tex-La have left audio devices camouflaged in the trees. Sometimes cameras are left to record nighttime activity. Those recordings, which are hours long, are studied and analyzed.
To avoid harassment and ridicule from those who don't believe in Bigfoot, Tex-La and Claude from Baton Rouge don't want to disclose their full names or the locations in Kisatachie National Forest where they are researching.
"A lot of people don't want to come forward because they don't want to be intimidated," said Tex-La about other Bigfoot researchers.
Most don't like to discuss their interest in Bigfoot for fear of repercussions in their jobs or social standings in the community. They also want to avoid those who want to prank them. And Tex-La has had his share of pranks played on him over the years.
"It's something you have to approach with an open mind," said Tex-La about researching Bigfoot.
Kisatchie National Forest spans 600,000 acres across Central Louisiana. Tex-La and Claude are investigating an area between Georgetown and Jena where there have been reports of Bigfoot sightings.
Claude does research during the day when he can see tracks, but there are times when he might do a night trek.
"Finding a spot is the luck of the draw," said Claude. "This area here is in the middle of highly visible eyewitness activity."
Claude said he got fairly good results at the first place he researched. He was able to get photos of a Bigfoot tracks in that area.
"Nothing remarkable, nothing to write home about. But they were " to my way of thinking " good tracks."
But Claude doesn't claim to be an expert.
"Anybody that claims to be an expert is full of it," he said. All evidence is based on circumstances."
Claude became interested in researching Bigfoot while he was at Jedediah Smith State Park in Northern California. While sleeping in his vehicle, he could smell one that was trying to look in through a dark window.
It was the stench that permeated the vehicle that woke him.
"It smelled like 50 gallons of stale urine and an old pile of wet dogs," said Claude. "This is about the most rank odor you can imagine."
He awoke from a sound sleep wondering what could smell that bad.
As he sat up, he said aloud, "What is that odor?"
"And suddenly, it disappeared," he said. He realized that odor outside his vehicle belonged to Bigfoot.
"That really piqued my curiosity," said Claude of the encounter. "So when I got back here " realized I didn't have enough money to go roaming back to California again " I looked up 'Bigfoot in Louisiana' and this area is one that's shown predominately over the years, Bigfoot sightings and things like that."
On this trip, Claude and Tex-La hike to an area where they have found signs of what could be Bigfoot activity.
Some signs of Bigfoot that they look for include twisted tree limbs wound around other tree limbs and marker formations make from branches and sticks.
"There are a lot of interesting tree formations that don't normally occur in nature," said Claude.
One such formation involves a "tree teepee" he came across. It involves four trees with three bent towards the fourth.
"Limbs are twisted and wrapped around each other," said Claude pointing to the section where the trees come together.
Sometimes the way the branches are twisted together could indicate that it is a marker or barrier.
Claude said it could also be a way to get other animals to move to a certain area.
"Bigfoot can make its own game trail," said Claude. "It's interpretative."
"One thing you have to look out for is the way they are pulled down and pinned so they don't stand up," said Claude.
Bigfoot roam, said Claude, and migrate to where game are. Claude and Tex-La said there is also a water source close to the area.
Another sign Claude observed were sticks forming an "X'' lying on a branch. Another sign includes three parallel sticks lying perpendicular to another stick.
"It's one of the first things I noticed," said Claude. "It is typical of a symbol that Bigfoot uses.
"It's the small things you really have to look for. They are too conform to be natural for the most part."
Other signs Claude and Tex-La notice include the packed-down pine straw and leaves in the area. This could be from Bigfoot walking in the area, explained Claude.
There is no crunching sound made here as there is in other parts of the forest where the pine straw and leaves aren't packed down, Claude pointed out.
In another area, Tex-La found a tree that looks as if it had been pulled down on purpose. The tree's bark bears an abrasion that Tex-La said could have been made by a hand that was holding the tree while pulling it down.
"You have to be analytical and skeptical of everything you see," said Claude.
He does his homework to figure out if trees can naturally do some of the things he's seen or if the weather were a factor.
"You have to be educated yourself," said Claude.
He has also left gifts such as a jar of peanut butter hanging eight-feet from a rope in a tree next to a trail, which Claude says is used by Bigfoot.
The peanut butter jar has been hanging in a tree for a while.
"It's a little disappointing that a squirrel or something didn't get it," he said.
Asked why he left peanut butter for Bigfoot, Claude replied, "All animals like peanut butter."
On previous excursions, he's left apples that were nibbled on by other forest animals.
Tex-La and Claude say there are different species of Bigfoot around North America.
The one in Louisiana is said to be about 6 to 7 feet tall with dark shaggy hair like a sheep dog.
Tex-La said there are primates on other continents, so why couldn't there be one like Bigfoot living in North America?
Even Native American tribes have their own lore and names for Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
But he said people don't want to believe there is a 6-foot gorilla roaming the woods where they camp, hunt or hike.
People reason that if Bigfoot were real, there would be deer or other animal carcasses lying around the woods because Bigfoot would have to eat.
But Tex-La counters with: "How many dead deer carcasses have you seen walking through the woods?
"There's been scat found with parasites only known to be in primates," he said.
Also, a Bigfoot group he belongs to has had DNA samples collected from hair that indicate it is primate in origin.
Sometimes people who walk along a trail may hear something that sounds as if they are being followed, said Tex-La. He explains that this could be Bigfoot shadowing or escorting the hiker.
"To make sure you leave," added Tex-La.
But Bigfoot isn't the only reason researchers head into the forest.
"A lot of times it's nice to get out and enjoy what God gave us," said Tex-La. "It makes us get out and explore."
About 90% of a Bigfoot researcher's time is spent walking in the woods looking for evidence, he said.
After 20 years of research, Tex-La said he still don't know everything. He goes by what he reads or what he views on YouTube.
He says the evidence is there to support that Bigfoot does exist but the world wants more proof.
"It's going to take a body for the world to accept it," said Tex-La. Even scientists will want a body.
"But they'll still be skeptical," he added.
"It may never be solved in our lifetimes," said Tex-La about the Bigfoot mystery.
It is up to the individuals to make up their own minds about about whether to believe in the existence of Bigfoot.
Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com