Following a heralded first split, Louisiana duck hunters had high hopes for the second portion of the 2011-2012 waterfowl season. Despite weather that was largely devoid of frost, most hunters were not disappointed with plenty of birds taken right to the closing bell.

Though lack of water still hurt some, many drought-stricken hunters were able to salvage the season following rainfall in late December and January.

Late rainfall was particularly timely for hunters in Northeast and Northwest Louisiana, although for some it was too little too late. Reports from the area remained spotty at best throughout the season despite 11th-hour storms slowly bringing water to dry sloughs and backwaters.

Nevertheless, some hunters were able to get in on some good hunting where there was water, with gadwall and woodducks being the most prevalent. Adding insult to injury was the lack of severe fronts that left the state with one of the lowest wintering mallard counts on record, a species many hunters in the area heavily rely upon.

However, Capt. Jeff Poe with Big Lake Guide Service (337.598.3268) reported a good season in the marshes near Big Lake despite the lackluster hunting weather.

"We had a good year, with plenty of gadwall and green wing teal," the Poe said.  

Poe noted that they started to see some blue-winged teal show up at the end of the season, as well.

Goose numbers weren't as high as in recent years, however.

"We killed a good many specklebellies in the marsh, though I'd say overall their numbers were down in the area," Poe said.

Like many folks, Poe noted that days with no wind often combined with fog made for a few tough mornings, but overall his hunters enjoyed good harvests.

LDWF's Larry Reynolds reported some of the best hunting to be on lakes and other impoundments in the region, as the ducks were congregating wherever there was ample water.

Roland Cortez of Cajun Fishing and Hunting Charters (985.414.4997) in Terrebonne Parish said he had a great season in the marshes below Houma.

Recent LDWF surveys in the area noted particularly high concentrations of gadwall and divers in the area, and Cortez's bags reflected that.

"It was a really good year for us, with lots of ducks in our marshes," he reported. "We had plenty of gadwall and pintail, but also a lot of divers like redheads and canvasbacks."

Cortez also reported some good hunting on local public lands like Salvadore and Point aux Chenes WMAs.

"One bird we were disappointed in was the mottled duck," Cortez said. "We just didn't see the numbers of them we're accustomed to in the area."
Mike Smith of Louisiana Marsh Guide Service (504.682.1966) closed out the season with a bang in the marshes of Delacroix and Reggio.

Following a banner first split, Smith had hoped the birds would show up in force at the tail end of the season, and he wasn't disappointed.

"We had plenty of gadwall in our marshes, especially on the Reggio side of the area," Smith reported.

His bags consisted of about 80 percent gadwall, but he noted an unusual abundance of redheads that stuck around for the second split as well.

"We were lucky enough to kill just about everything that comes down this way, including goldeneyes, canvasbacks, buffleheads, scaup, you name it," Smith said.

The author recently joined Smith and his long-time friend user "Spooner 2" on a hunt in the Chef Pass/Bayou Bienvenue area, and had a great trip with plenty of gadwall in the area. Reports from this area continued to be strong throughout the second split.

Venice followed in line with the majority of southeast Louisiana, having a very strong second split following a bountiful first split. Reports from the area included bags of pintail, gadwall, and teal along with divers like redheads and canvasbacks. Many local hunters attribute the ability to hold ducks throughout the season to the increased aquatic vegetation in the region, a result of the largely storm-free summer and influx of fresh water  in the area.