After much discussion in recent weeks regarding changes to the state's duck-hunting zones, it looks like they're going to stay the same after all.

At least for this year.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Waterfowl Study Leader Larry Reynolds told the commission that oversees his agency today (July 7) that he didn't advise attempting to change the zones this season because of federal hurdles that would have to be cleared before such a plan could be implemented.

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission seemed to take the advice, voting unanimously to maintain the East and West Zone structure for this season.

If the commission had voted to split the state into three zones – East, West and Coastal – officials would have to state their objectives to the feds for making such a move, and would also have to submit study plans justifying the change in zones.

According to Reynolds, that was too big a hurdle to clear in such a short period of time, so he recommended that the department continue to study the zone structure, and revisit the issue for next season after receiving public comment.

Reynolds cautioned that managers need to consider the matter carefully because zone changes must remain in place for five years after implementation. Having more zones, Reynolds argued, allows hunters to be in the field during the days when, traditionally, more ducks are in their areas.

As such, Reynolds couldn't get behind a push by some hunters to manage the state as one zone with two closures.

"We've enjoyed a long stretch of 60-day seasons, and that's going to continue this season," Reynolds said, "but we're going to dry up sooner or later.

"If you have a statewide season with two (closures), you'll have three opening days, but one would have to be on a weekday. And when the season is eventually reduced, it would have to be the same everywhere in the state."

An early season would be unpalatable to North Louisiana hunters, who like a late season that coincides with the major migration of mallards. South Louisiana hunters tend to prefer early seasons, when coastal water levels are higher and marshes are thick with grey ducks.

Also at the meeting, the commission agreed to begin to receive public comment on the proposed dates for the 2011-12 duck season. The proposed dates are simple calendar adjustments in the West Zone, but in the East Zone, a week of hunting was pushed from the first split to the second split.

The proposed dates are as follows:

East Zone
• Nov. 19-27
• Dec. 10-Jan. 29
• Youth Weekend: Dec. 3-4

West Zone
• Nov. 12-Dec. 4
• Dec. 17-Jan. 22
• Youth Weekend: Dec. 10-11

Reynolds explained that the dates were being issued a month earlier than usual to allow for public comment on the changes. The commission will make a final decision at its Aug. 4 meeting.

Public comment on the season-date changes and zone structure may be made to Reynolds at lreynolds@wlf.la.gov.

Other migratory game action

The commission also adopted tentative season dates for migratory birds. Those seasons are as follows:

Dove
• South Zone: Sept. 3-11, Oct. 15-Nov.27, Dec. 17-Jan. 2.
• North Zone: Sept. 3-18, Oct. 8-Nov. 6, Dec. 10-Jan. 2.
• Bag Limit: 15

Teal
• Sept. 10-25
• Bag Limit: 4

Rails
• Sept. 10-25 (remainder of season to be set in August)

Gallinules
• Sept. 10-25 (remainder of season to be set in August)
• Bag Limit: 15

Woodcock
• Dec. 18-Jan. 31
• Bag Limit: 3