With what was a solid September teal season for most now faintly in the rearview mirror, Louisiana waterfowlers are keenly focused on the imminent kickoff to the state's "big duck" season.

The West Zone open Saturday (Nov. 12) and the East Zone follows one week later, offering hunters a shot at the hordes of ducks reported to make up this year's fall flight.

Promisingly enough, timely cool fronts since late September have helped push birds down to the Bayou State, though many hunters are still rain dancing in desperation in this late hour. As an understatement, water is at a premium – even more so than this time last year – and this factor will play into the success of hunters just as it did in the 2010-2011 season.

The author toured the agricultural areas between Krotz Springs and Bunkie over the weekend for the opening of East Zone goose season, and it was very apparent that water is at a premium for those unable to pump from a river source of some kind. Many fields that normally are flooded by this time are bone dry.

As a result, the ducks and specklebellies in the area, though plentiful in some places, were very concentrated in flooded fields. Ducks observed included strong numbers of pintail and spoonbills along with green wing teal and a few mallards.

Hunter Shaffett with Whispering Oaks hunting lodge (225.301.7335) also is seeing how available water, or lack thereof, is impacting the distribution of arriving birds. Fortunately, he is lucky enough to have water on his leases near Vidalia and the birds have taken right to it.

"We're seeing a lot of spoonbills and teal in the fields, with some wigeon and pintails mixed in," Shaffett reported.

He also noted that, upon recently flooding their timber leases, the gadwall showed up in force.

"On Sunday we were loaded up with grey ducks after only flooding for a couple of days," Shaffett said. "We can't wait to get out there!"

Capt. Jeff Poe with Big Lake Guide Service (337.598.3268) is likewise excited to get after the ducks in the marshes off of Southwest Louisiana's Big Lake.

"It's looking good over this way for us," Poe said Monday afternoon (Nov. 7). "We've got water, and quite a few birds have shown up like mottleds, teal and gray ducks."

Poe also noted that he's seeing quite a few pintail flying around on his fishing trips in the area. Though the snow geese are still fairly scarce in the area, the specklebellies are showing up nicely.

"The amount of birds we're seeing looks to be on par with what we'd expect at about this time," he said. "We're looking forward to seeing what Saturday morning brings."

Roland Cortez of Cajun Fishing and Hunting Charters (985.414.4997) in Terrebonne Parish also was very optimistic for opening weekend.

"The marshes of Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes are looking good, with a lot of birds already here," Cortez reported.

He indicated that his West Zone youth hunters took bags of quality ducks like pintail and teal over the weekend and had plenty of shooting opportunities. Overall, Cortez said he's seeing pintail, wigeon, gadwall, and quite a few teal throughout the marshes below Houma.

"Pointe Aux Chenes WMA is also looking good, with birds holding in the area," Cortez said. "It should be a good opening weekend down here on the Central Louisiana coast."

Farther to the east in the marshes of Delacroix and Reggio, Mike Smith of Louisiana Marsh Guide Service (504.682.1966) reported happy youth hunters after Saturday's West Zone youth opener.

"We had three blinds take youth hunters, and all enjoyed plenty of shooting opportunities, with gadwall and teal making up the bags," Smith said.

He noted that his guides reported strong numbers of blue-winged and green-winged teal on the Delacroix side, and gadwall showing up in numbers on the Hopedale side of the highway in outer St. Bernard Parish.  

Reports out of Venice indicate that all is well in the Duck Capital of Southeast Louisiana, with strong numbers of early migrators like gadwall, teal, wigeon and pintail showing up. Louisiana Sportsman's Andy Crawford reported throngs of ducks spotted in the downriver area, particularly around Delta NWR during a recent trip to Venice.

With yet another timely front forecast to again pass through prior to Saturday's West Zone opener, hunters should see a fresh batch of arriving birds just in time to kick things off. Time will tell if the train of timely fronts continue through the first split, bringing lower temperatures and desperately needed rainfall.

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