With the East Zone wrapping up the first split last weekend and the West Zone set to close this weekend, hunters around the Bayou State are enjoying a great start to the duck season. That is, so long as you have water to hunt over. The drought continues to plague Louisiana waterways with some hunters facing dry ag fields, sloughs and even marsh ponds. Though recent frontal passages have brought some much needed rain and cooler temperatures, the rain is still a mere drop in the bucket only serving to dampen parched hunting grounds. Nevertheless, for those with water, the first split has been one to remember.

Hunter Shaffett with Whispering Oaks hunting lodge (225-301-7335) near Vidalia is having a great season, fortunately with the drought playing into his hands.

"We've been doing really well, with lots of grays," Shaffett said.

He noted that the grays have really showed up in the timber and even a good many mallards, by first split standards. As is the case for many, because the club is holding water they're able to hold their share of birds, especially since the surrounding area is so dry.

"The food in the fields is really paying off for us with pintail, wigeon and a few teal holding on the property, but we're also seeing a lot of specklebellies," he added.

Capt. Jeff Poe with Big Lake Guide Service (337-598-3268) is wrapping up a solid first split in the marshes near Big Lake.

"We've had a really good first split down here. Though I'm only seeing a few mallards right now we're killing an awful lot of gray ducks and green wing teal," the guide said. "It's been limits or near-limits most every day with only a few slow days due to fog or lack of wind."

Poe added that the latest cold front looks to have brought some more birds to the area and he looks forward to the forecast front next week.

Roland Cortez of Cajun Fishing and Hunting Charters (985-414-4997) in Terrebonne Parish was thrilled to report a very strong first split in the West Zone.

"It's been awesome! That's all I can say," Cortez gushed. "We had a lot of teal early but then the gray ducks showed up and we've been hammering them for most of the split."

Cortez noted that the hunting has been a little slower on cloudy days but the clear days with a little wind have just been incredible with birds decoying beautifully.

"I'm also hearing some good reports from the Lake Cataouatche and Lake Des Allemands areas as well," he added. "For sure, this is the most birds we've had in the first split in a very long time and I definitely think the dry weather has helped us out a lot down here in south Louisiana."

Mike Smith of Louisiana Marsh Guide Service (504-682-1966) is having a banner first split in the marshes of Delacroix and Reggio.

"It's been non-stop with plenty of gray ducks and, surprisingly, quite a few redheads," the long time St. Bernard Parish guide said. "It's not too often you take limits of redheads then have to hold your fire waiting for the grays but that's what we've been doing lately.

"I'd give this first split a 9.5 out of 10 as it's been a much better than average few weeks for us down here. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the second split brings."

Following reports of hoards of birds showing up down river before the opener, the Venice area has not disappointed with rampant reports of very good hunting the area is long known for. As usual, ducks like gadwall, teal, wigeon and pintail are making the bulk of the bag along with a few divers starting to show up toward the end of the split.

Clearly the flyway-wide drought has been both a bane and boon for Louisiana hunters. Lack of water north of the Bayou State has put the duck migration on fast-forward along with the help of a few timely cold fronts, with the latest plowing through the state just prior to closing the West Zone's first split. Hopefully the upcoming break will bring much needed rain so more hunters can get in on the action.