Following the usual long offseason, made longer by reports of record numbers of blue-winged teal and stellar habitat conditions along coastal Louisiana, hunters were particularly optimistic heading into this weekend's teal season kickoff. However, Tropical Storm Lee showed up at the last minute to keep things interesting, bringing mixed impacts across the state.

Though some wind damage occurred, ripping southeasterly winds flooded marshes all along the coast and inevitably damaged at least some of the pristine feed in place after a previously storm-free offseason. Furthermore, the slow pace of Lee's passing brought torrential rainfall welcomed by some drought-plagued areas but resulting in damaging floods in others.

 So with just a few days left until Saturday's opener, conditions are mixed – but hunters are hopeful that they'll see their share of blue-wings buzzing by at shooting time.

At the end of last week Hunter Shaffett with Whispering Oaks hunting lodge (225.301.7335) was happy to report a healthy number of blue-winged teal and even a few green-wings holding on his fields near Vidalia.

"The birds have really taken to our flooded fields planted with a mix of rice, millet and milo," the Concordia Parish guide said.

Shaffett was hopeful that some rain from Tropical Storm Lee would come his way, but said his club is prepared to hunt despite the continued drought.

"We've been pumping our fields, but our area could certainly use some rain," he added.

Down in the marshes off of Big Lake, Jeff Poe with Big Lake Guide Service (337.598.3268) is optimistic for a strong start to the 2011 teal season.

"About a week before the storm, the teal really showed up in force, and the storm brought us about 4 to 5 inches of much-needed rain to our marshes, so we're looking forward to this weekend," Poe reported.

The guide indicated that the area actually experienced abnormally low tides during the storm's passing as a result of being on the west side of its landfall, a far cry from the extremely flooded marshes most experienced on the eastern end of the state.

"With the front's passing, we're hoping to enjoy the cooler temperatures as long as possible, and we're excited to see what Saturday morning brings," Poe added.

David Faul of Bin There Hunting (337.438.4868) reported decent numbers of teal in the rice fields near Welsh following the holiday weekend.

"We weren't really seeing too much last week, but it looks like this cool front brought us a good many," Faul reported.

According to Faul, said the birds are scattered with the sudden abundance of water as a result of Tropical Storm Lee. However, the extra water may also help hold birds in the area and minimize the threat of shooting them out of the few fields that were manually flooded, which is common during drought seasons.

Roland Cortez of Cajun Fishing and Hunting Charters (985.414.4997) in Terrebonne Parish also was optimistic for this weekend's opener despite the heavy rains and higher tides of Tropical Storm Lee's visit.

"Prior to the high water, we had a bunch of teal hanging around both on private land and on Pointe-aux-Chenes and Salvador WMAs," Cortez reported. "But after the storm, I've still seen a good many teal around, but they're further up in the shallow marshes of the area."

Despite continued high-water conditions, Cortez noted that it was falling so he's hopeful that things will get back to normal down in the Houma and Thibodaux areas sooner rather than later.

Moving over to the southeast corner of the state, Mike Smith of Louisiana Marsh Guide Service (504.682.1966) had not had a chance to get out to the marsh since the passing of Tropical Storm Lee but was hopeful about what he might find later this week and for Saturday's opener.

"The water is still high down here, but with a north wind blowing it should fall out pretty quick," Smith said. "We were in great shape before the storm, with incredible feed conditions and a good many birds hanging around, so hopefully they've stuck around and we'll get some new birds with this front."

Smith pointed out that, in his experience, some great hunts can be had despite the high water in the marshes.

"In the past, we've had some outstanding hunts by setting up in flooded grass where the water is much shallower than the usual ponds during periods of high water," the St. Bernard area guide noted.

If water levels remain high in the area hunters would do well to try such a tactic in lieu of the regular ponds, which are much deeper than usual right now.

Similar to the Delacroix area, Venice and other lower Mississippi River marshes are in much the same situation, having experienced torrential rains and higher tides flooding the marshes. Prior to the storm's arrival, these locales were in outstanding shape and primed for what was sure to be a stellar waterfowl season.

It won't be until the water falls out that the full impacts of this last-minute curveball can be ascertained; nevertheless, given the passing cool front and the conditions in place prior to the storm, there's much to be hopeful about during the upcoming teal season along the coast.

Whether Lee was a bane or a boon for your area, it appears to have moved out in time for most everyone to be looking forward to opening day.

With a reported 8.9 million blue wing teal in this fall's flight, conditions across the state should be in good shape to put at least a few birds over your decoys despite Lee's untimely visit. The countdown to Saturday's sunrise is on!