It was somewhere around the Aug. 17 when the first plausible reports began about blue rockets in migratory numbers dabbling about the marshes of the Delacroix area. On cue, another report out of the Southwest Louisiana rice belt followed two days later, lending credibility to the first account. After a long off-season made extra long by the wildcard of uncertainty, thanks to our pals at BP, teal were arriving on time and another sign of normalcy was in the air, literally.
Hunter Shaffett with Whispering Oaks hunting lodge (225.301.7335) near Vidalia reports good numbers of teal visiting his newly flooded fields over the last two weekends.
"We started flooding (fields) the last weekend in August and quickly had a few hundred birds using the fields, but they didn't all stick around," the guide said.
Shaffett indicated that the number of birds had dwindled by last Monday and Tuesday despite the masses seen only a day before. However, the recent front seems to have treated Concordia Parish well.
"We've had a huge number of bluewings show up this week, and recently flooded six more fields to hold them," Shaffett said. "We're very excited for the opener."
Heading down to the southwest corner of the state, the early word last week from Capt. Erik Rue of Calcasieu Charter Service (337.598.4700) wasn't too promising for the fields between Hayes and the Big Lake area.
"I don't really have any good news for you," he said at the time. "We just have not seen a big push of birds ye,t and I really don't see all that much flooding going on in the fields right now."
Nevertheless, he suspected that once more flooding takes place he should start to see more birds. As of this week, however, reports from the area indicate the birds are showing up on schedule following the weekend front. Also, as is typical with rice field hunting, success will depend on hunting pressure in surrounding areas including the nearby coastal marshes to the south.
Heading a bit east from there, Rick Hall of Doug's Hunting Lodge (800.888.0960) over in the Klondike area hasn't been out much lately, but said he hasn't heard nearly the quantity or quality of reports he usually would get this close to the opener.
"I've gotten one good report of some birds putting on a show between Lake Arthur and Thornwell, but otherwise haven't seen all that much," Hall said. "This morning I saw my first good bunch of birds near Lake Arthur, but overall it doesn't seem like many folks are all that excited about what's been seen thus far."
Reports from this area have seemed to increase over the Labor Day weekend which likely brought a push of birds into the area.
The author visited flooded fields just south of Gueydan during the Duck Festival last weekend, and although the Duck Capitol seemed to have plenty of flooded fields with the recent rains no teal were spotted during the driving tour through the rice belt.
However, reports from the last few days seem to indicate birds showing up just in time for the opener.
Moving over to the southeast corner of the state, Mike Smith of Louisiana Marsh Guide Service (504.682.1966) reports great conditions and has high hopes for the opener on his leases.
"We're looking great down here in Delacroix and Reggio, with more birds showing up each day," the longtime area guide stated. "There's lots of grass in the ponds and the marsh is in great shape; just hoping for no hurricanes."
The very shallow lagoons of the upper Delacroix area has always held its share of bluewings in both the early and regular duck seasons, and this year looking no different thus far. This is a great area to get in a cast-and-blast with the early teal flight can be followed with a speckled trout and redfish bite as the fish transition to their fall haunts of the interior marshes.
The nearby Biloxi Marsh WMA also offers thousands of acres to public-land hunters seeking teal and a variety of saltwater fish.
Down in Venice, Capt. Damon McKnight has yet to thoroughly scout his marshes, but offered some encouraging news for those who frequent the Venice area.
"There really has not been any oil in the areas the birds will be using, and as far as I know no areas will be closed to hunting down here, either public or otherwise," he said.
This is obviously great news for hunters who either lease land down that way or frequent the public marshes of Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area or Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Though McKnight has been busy lately supporting the continued oil spill recovery efforts, he said he will be chasing teal this weekend and throughout the 16-day season.
The teal might not be thick as fleas just yet, but there seems to be good reason for heading to your favorite duck hole Saturday morning and loading up with steel. Given the predictably unpredictable habits of teal, it only takes one day for the birds to show up in force, and last weekend's front certainly seems to have helped that cause.
And, with no real storm impacts this summer, the state's coastal habitat known for holding so many teal is in prime shape for what everyone hopes to be a banner year.