Though there have been a few warm days, hunters have enjoyed generally winter-like temperatures, with frost showing up on more than a few mornings; the most-recent front barreling through plunged temperatures for the closing morning of the split.
In a region where waterfowl hunting is so dependent upon the weather, it appears that the blessing of seasonable weather has resulted in respectable harvests throughout the state.
Hunter Shaffett with Whispering Oaks hunting lodge (225.301.7335) reported a great first split in the Vidalia area, with a surprising number of mallards showing up well ahead of schedule.
"We haven't seen mallards like this in a while, especially at this point in the season," Shaffett said.
He pointed out that water is critical to holding birds in his area right now in both the fields and the flooded hardwoods.
"The gadwall and the mallards showed up with the strong front right after Thanksgiving, and we've been hammering them ever since," he added.
Shaffett also noted that, in addition to the timber hunting, the fields have been holding a mixed bag of ducks with plenty of pintails and various other puddlers and divers – and even an unusually high number of specklebelly geese holding in the area.
The author hunted in the Bunkie and Cheneyville areas right after Thanksgiving and found strong numbers of ducks, particularly green-winged teal and shovelers present in the rice fields. It was about this time that considerable numbers of snow geese were observed arriving in Central and South Louisiana with the accompanying cold front that sent temperatures to the 20s and 30s for Thanksgiving weekend.
Capt. Erik Rue of Calcasieu Charter Service (337.598.4700) was pleasantly surprised when he tallied up his numbers for the first split.
"Overall we're pretty happy," Rue said. "So far, we've harvest three times more ducks compared to last year's first split, and we're seeing a good many mallards and pintails."
He noted that his fields were holding a lot of gadwall and teal earlier in the season, but that lately the pintail and mallards have been making for pretty straps at the end of the morning. Rue's numbers also show a good many specklebellies being taken, about on par with last year's take.
The key to success, according to Rue, has been the practice of resting blinds and holding water to hold more birds in such a dry year.
Bin There Hunting's David Faul (337.438.4868) indicated that hunting in the Welsh area has been largely weather-driven, but overall pretty good.
"We had some slow days when it was warm, but also some outstanding hunting when the weather cooperated," Faul reported.
His bags consisted of mainly green-winged teal and gadwall, but he also noted an unusually high number of redheads.
"Our speck hunting was pretty good, but I think they'll really be taking hold of the farm in the second split," Faul added.
Rick Hall of Doug's Hunting Lodge (800.888.0960) reported a drastic improvement over this same time last year.
"It looks like we've harvested about twice the number of ducks and geese from last year's first split, so it's been better all around," Hall said.
His marsh bags have included plenty of green-winged teal, but have also included quite an assortment from wood ducks and mallards to whistlers, gadwall and wigeon. He also noted that rice field blinds have been doing well with ducks and specks, including a surprising number of divers.
Hall reported plenty of snow and blue geese in the fields along with the specks, with both species appearing in encouraging numbers unseen in the last few years.
Overall the agricultural-field hunting has been respectable so far, but there have been reports of some hunters in the freshwater marshes of Southwest Louisiana struggling. This comes in large part as a result of highly concentrated birds staging where there is ample water. On a drought year such as this one, water is at a premium and that has led to some perennially hot spots drastically cooling off this season.
In the lower Terrebonne Parish marshes, however, Roland Cortez of Cajun Fishing and Hunting Charters (985.414.4997) was very pleased with the first split.
"Overall it was a pretty good split, with a mixed bag of birds taken all the way to this weekend," Cortez reported.
He noted that impressive numbers of pintail, gadwall and mallards – along with divers like canvasbacks, redheads and scaup – have been showing up in the last week.
"We're very excited to see what the second split holds for us," Cortez added.
Over in the Delacroix Island and Reggio areas, Mike Smith of Louisiana Marsh Guide Service (504.682.1966) reported a great first split in the St. Bernard Parish marshes.
"Other than a few warm days, including the weekend of the full moon, we've had an excellent first split, taking over 700 ducks," Smith said.
Southeast Louisiana hunters from Hopedale to Caernarvon are reporting gadwall and teal in big numbers, with species concentrations dependent on the specific type of marsh hunted. Gadwall have been most prevalent in the deeper marsh ponds with saltier water, while the blue-winged teal have been thick in the shallow, freshwater marshes around Lake Leary and the freshwater diversion down to Braithwaite and Scarsdale.
Reports from the Venice area have been equally remarkable, with hunters enjoying the quality duck hunting the area has long been known for on both Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management and Delta National Wildlife Refuge. As usual, the bags have consisted of plenty of gadwall and pintail in addition to wigeon, teal and divers like scaup, redheads and canvasbacks.
Overall it looks like most hunters have been pleased with what the 2010-2011 season has offered thus far. Timely fronts between now and the second-split opener on Dec. 18 will determine whether or not the good fortune continues as we enter January's home stretch.
Predictions of the hunting to come by a Canadian waterfowl biologist is found here.