Not surprisingly, hunters and guides across South Louisiana reported relatively slow action for most of the 16-day 2016 teal season, which came to a merciful end Sunday on yet another 90 degrees-plus day.
Historic flooding last month inundated both marshes and ag fields with loads of extra water, and no cool fronts came through during the season to nudge birds in large numbers into the state.
To make matters worse, the week before the season opened, biologists recorded the second-lowest September aerial survey ever for teal.
Capt. Cody Obiol, with Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, summed it up in one word: tough.
“It was a hard one. You’d kill limits, but you really had to work at it. It was like late-season big ducks,” Obiol said. “There weren’t a lot of birds and you had to find out exactly where they wanted to be, and if you found them you could kill them — but it was a lot of work.”
Obiol said the opening week of the season was a struggle, but the second weekend was solid.
“But once that Monday came around, it was dry again. They showed up the last weekend, but you had to get set up on the right spot,” he said. “You couldn’t call them in. There weren’t enough birds to spread out and kill them anywhere you wanted — you had to get in that right spot.
“Overall, it was doable but very tough. I had buddies of mine that went down to Venice and covered a lot of ground and just couldn’t find any big numbers sitting anywhere.”
On the west side of the state, Capt. Nick Poe with Big Lake Guide Service had a similar report from the marshes he hunts near Sweet Lake.
“I would say it was bad,” Poe said. “We had a really good first week after the opener, then after that we really didn’t get anymore birds.
“The first week from Monday to Sunday was real good, then the whole second week was tough. We only had one good hunt that second week.”
One positive report came from Jared Serigné, who said action on his lease in the Caernarvon area was similar to their five-year average.
“It was about on par with last year,” he said. “I think I might have made a couple more hunts and had a couple more slow hunts than last year, but all in all, it was pretty good. It was definitely worth going out."
Serigné said his groups harvested 147 birds, with his best hunt of the year coming just yesterday.
“It’s kind of the new norm that they don’t seem to get here en masse until October,” he said.
David Faul, with Bin There Hunting in Welsh, but said hunters on his property shot 442 teal, an average of about 3.3 birds per person during the season — but only about half of the birds typically harvested.
“I guess it depends who you talk to, but it was probably pretty rotten for most people I’ve talked to,” Faul said. “This weekend was pretty slow. A few blinds did real good on Saturday, but Sunday it fell down to two and three birds again.
“The birds just aren’t here. They’re going to be here this Tuesday or Wednesday when this front comes through … I’ve seen it where we’ve missed opening days or opening weekends, but I’ve never seen it where we’ve missed the whole season like this.”
Brett Herring, head guide with ShellShocked Guide Service on Catahoula Lake, said they had a great season considering the less-than-favorable conditions.
“It was hot, and it was challenging with there being so much water everywhere,” Herring said. “We probably had less teal numbers in concentrations — we’d have a pile of birds here and a pile of birds there, but overall we had a fantastic season for the conditions.”
Hunters with Herring averaged about 20 birds per trip, and he said his worst day of the year was the last Sunday.
“You cannot substitute for the ‘X,’” Herring said. “I don’t care if you put 2,000 decoys out, you’re not going to pull those birds off the ‘X.’ If you’re where they want to be, you’re just that lucky individual.
“Lots of days we were able to harvest limits, so it was a very good teal season for us, even with challenging conditions.”
Hunters on four Louisiana wildlife management areas appeared to have a tough day on the final Saturday of the season.
At Atchafalaya Delta, Pass a Loutre, Salvador and Point aux Chenes, harvest summaries from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimate 160 ducks were shot by 185 hunters — for an average of less than one bird per hunter.