Few of Louisiana's most-productive duck guides could contain their enthusiasm for what they saw and what they expect down the road.
"We had a lot of ducks," said Larry Shuff with Louisiana Hunting Adventures (337-217-8757). "Our blinds limited in 20 minutes with 24 ducks per blind. Most of our birds were teal, but we had a few pintails and a handful of mallards."
Shuff watched the skies after everybody was done, and saw enough big ducks to be excited even though few were taken.
"I saw a lot of mallards come in around 7:30," he said, "but we didn't get to shoot any of those later ducks because we were already done with all the teal we had. We limited out so fast we could only watch the mallards flying by.
"If a fella could stand to sit still while all those teal buzz by, I guess he could do all right on the big ducks."
Shuff also indicated there are plenty of geese already in Southwest Louisiana. Most of them are specks, but there are some snows and blues down too.
Capt. Erik Rue of Calcasieu Charter Service (337-598-4700) reported that all his blinds spanked the ducks on opening weekend. He did say they were still shooting a bunch of teal, mainly greenwings.
Overall, Rue said he was extremely impressed with the numbers of teal he saw leading up to the season. However, he reported seeing fewer as the season opener drew close, but that didn't seem to matter. He was also happy to hear that the teal numbers weren't just in isolated areas, and said that lots of teal was a good thing.
"We saw some pintails and mallards flying a little later," he said, "but we didn't see the big numbers of big ducks like we normally would have. I expect that's going to change quickly, though, with all the fronts that have started to blow through and the opening of the Arkansas season."
Rue also reported that his blind "killed the fire out of the specks." There were some snows, but they were more difficult than the specks. Rue suggested it's getting harder and harder to decoy snows even with huge decoy spreads.
"They're getting to be about as smart as a 15-year-old turkey," he said. "The older they get, the wiser they get."
David Smith with David Smith Hunting (337-546-6492) said he has been guiding for ducks and geese for 28 years, and he has never seen what he saw on opening day this year.
"We had more ducks than I can ever remember seeing," he said. "We've had a lot of ducks in years past, but what we saw on opening day was just incredible. They did slack off a bit after opening weekend, though. In fact, I went to look at one area where thousands of birds had been roosting, and I didn't see a one. I suspect that those teal moved a little farther south in front of the front blowing through this week."
Like most of the other guides, Smith reported taking mostly teal with a few mallards, grays and widgeon. He estimated 75 percent of their birds were teal.
"One thing I've noticed this year so far is that there are a lot of poul d'eau in the crawfish ponds," Smith added. "It seems like every year we have an abundance of poul d'eau at the beginning of the season we have an excellent season in the rice fields. These birds are in the rice fields, not the marsh. It's been about two or three years since we had a lot of them, and that's about the last time we had a lot of ducks."
Smith said the goose population right now, and even back in October, was what it normally is in December. The geese didn't work that well on opening weekend until the surrounding blinds finished and the gunfire ceased. After that, the geese inundated Smith and his blinds.
"One thing I've figured out on the geese is that they seem to respond much better to full-bodied decoys now than they do shells and wind socks," he said. "These birds are getting smarter, and a bag with a wooden stick just doesn't work as well anymore. I'd say the difference is that if you have a good hunt with 20 or 25 geese over wind socks, you probably would have killed 45 with the full bodies."
Capt. Jeff Poe with Big Lake Guide Service (337-598-3268) also found easy limits of blue- and green-winged teal over the marsh. There are also a lot of gray ducks around him, and he took several a few days after the opener because he needed some gumbo.
"We're getting done so early that I don't really know what's happening later in the morning," Poe said. "We've been getting several big flights of teal, though, and we're probably killing more blues than greens even though we're seeing more greens than blues. We haven't seen this many greenwing teal in years."
Poe expects more big ducks to arrive in the marsh with the next couple of fronts that blow through, and he reported his best action before the fronts.
"The wind was howling out of the north on opening morning," he said, "and I was a little worried, but we did great. The gray ducks are working pretty well, but some of them are still doing their thing by maintaining that 60- to 70-yard bubble. The unfortunate ones pitched right in there in that wind, though."
On the eastern side of the state, the experience wasn't much different than on the western side. Capt. Steve Himel (504-458-8737), who hunts out of Reggio, said he saw more bluewing teal on opening day than he had ever seen in his life.
"There were teal constantly in the sky from the moment we got there until the moment we left," he said.
High tides made hunting conditions tough, and the birds were reluctant to decoy. But eventually Himel and all of his customers filled their limits.
"Our area of marsh was really stripped out by Katrina," he said. "So we just found where the biggest concentrations of ducks were holding, and set up a pop-up blind there. We also had a wind-shift during the hunt, so we had to kind of reposition things, and that slowed us down a little bit."
Himel reported seeing a lot more big ducks, mostly grays, on Sunday's hunt.
Hunter Shaffett with Cypress Point Hunting Lodge (225-301-7335) in Clayton just 15 minutes north of Vidalia didn't get to start shooting ducks on Nov. 11 when the west zone opened because he hunts in the east zone, which opened Nov. 18.
Not being able to shoot didn't keep Shaffett from looking, though, and he was pleasantly surprised with what he saw.
"We hunt in flooded corn fields," Shaffett said, "and I can't describe the numbers of ducks I saw when I scouted the other day. It was full of grays, teal and a few mallards. I'd say the numbers I saw were at least five times better than what he had this time last year."