The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ aerial survey last week indicated only a fraction of the typical numbers of blue-winged teal had arrived in the state ahead of opening weekend— and for the most part, hunters who ventured out Saturday and Sunday validated those estimates.
“It was rough. Not a lot of birds at all,” said Capt. Cody Obiol, with Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras. “But we made it. Everybody consistently killed 12 or 13 birds. I killed a limit on Sunday, but on Saturday I killed one.
“There’s not a lot of birds, and the birds you do find are in one area. It’s not spread out, with a little bit of birds everywhere. You have one area with some birds, and that’s it.”
The state’s waterfowl study leader, Larry Reynolds, estimated about 59,000 teal in the state last week, the second-lowest number on record for the September survey. In Southeast Louisiana, his report indicated small flocks were seen east of Venice and in the upper-Terrebonne marshes, with no concentrations noted over that part of the state.
“You’d have some ones and twos coming in, and if you stayed there long enough, you’d kill your limit, but a hundred yards away somebody else might kill one,” Obiol said. “It was just a grind of a weekend. We made it work … but it was tough.”
Over in Houma, Capt. Anthony Kyzar with Cajun Fishing and Hunting Charters, said he didn’t even take any clients out for opening weekend, because he expected the worst. And he got it — a family trip with his son, brother and nephew produced a single bird.
“It went out with a bang — one teal,” Kyzar said with a laugh, noting he didn’t see any successful reports from the area on social media. “We haven’t seen any birds anywhere. We shot at two, got one, and after we left the blind and drove around for about half an hour, we saw maybe 10 birds.”
Up on Catahoula Lake, Jon Despino with ShellShocked Guide Service in Jonesville had similar results.
“Well, it’s not what it usually is,” Despino said with a grin, noting last week’s aerial survey had indicated about 6,0000 birds on the lake. “There’s a whole lot more mosquitos than there are teal. Saturday it was probably the worst opener I’ve ever seen. We didn’t have the first group come into the decoys.
“We ended up with 12 birds, and every one of them was just singles.”
On Sunday, they downed two birds, and on Monday, seven.
‘The habitat is picture-perfect — there’s just no birds,” Despino said, noting the aerial survey numbers were accurate — last week before the season opened. “Last Monday, it was unreal the birds on the lake, thousands of them. Come Thursday, they were gone.”
Heading westward across the state, though, hunting results seemed to improve, which meshed with Reynolds’ aerial estimates. He noted that the overwhelming majority of birds in the survey were in agricultural habitat, with the most notable flocks in flooded fields south and west of Gueydan and Crowley, with large numbers seen between Welsh and Jennings.
David Faul, with Bin There Hunting in Welsh, was happy overall … considering.
“I can’t complain. From some of the horror stories I’ve been hearing, I’m considering myself blessed,” he said, noting 59 customers downed 156 teal on Saturday, and 19 hunters shot 48 birds on Sunday. On Monday, two clients limited out.
“They’re just not here,” Faul said. “Why these birds are here right now, I have no idea. What is it, 100 degrees? The few that are here, I don’t know why.
“There just hasn’t been a decent enough cool front to get them moving. But we did better than I anticipated, better than what I hear most folks have been doing, anyway. I heard some good ones (reports), but boy I heard a lot of bad ones.”
One of the good ones was from Capt. Nick Poe with Big Lake Guide Service, who succinctly summed up three very good days of hunting the marshes near Sweet Lake in Cameron Parish.
“It was as good as it gets, all that the law allows,” Poe said with a laugh, noting his hunters had limited out each day so far. “I wasn’t expecting what we ended up with. I haven’t been seeing that many birds at all, actually. I knew of some birds that were around to the north, but I wasn’t expecting what’s been going on the last three days.”
Habitat conditions in the marshes in Southwest Louisiana are strong, he said.
“There’s a lot of food in the marsh right now,” Poe said. “There’s more food in the marshes now than there is in the rice fields. So it’s been good. I don’t have any complaints.”
Right now, at least, long-range forecasts don’t indicate any type of cool fronts entering the state until maybe the end of the month — which is right around when the season ends. And September’s full moon is next Monday, the 24th.
“We need a full moon or a cool front, something to make the birds want to come back,” Obiol said. “Because the high water here pushed them out — now we need something to bring them back.”
Despino, up at Catahoula Lake, was holding out hope things might turn around by closing weekend. But noting habitat conditions there, he remained cautiously optimistic for the future.
“That’s the prettiest grass we’ve ever had on the lake, right now. When we have a bad teal season, we always have a good duck season,” he said. “I’m hoping that’s how it works, anyway.”