For the first time in almost 40 years, waterfowl hunters in Louisiana’s coastal zone will not be in their blinds on the second Saturday in November for opening day of duck season.

Citing public comment overwhelmingly in favor of pushing the season back, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission on Thursday approved moving opening day back one week to Nov. 15 this season, with the youth hunt now slated for Nov. 8-9.

New season dates for the coastal zone’s first split will be Nov. 15 through Dec. 7, with the second split running from Dec. 20 through Jan. 25. Opening dates for the east and west zones were not changed.

“We received 263 public comments, and 81 percent of them wanted a later season in the coastal zone,” said Larry Reynolds, the state’s waterfowl study leader. “And so that is why the Commission decided to push the season back one week.”

Reynolds had originally proposed the traditional second Saturday start, but said the public outcry mandated the move.

“It certainly wasn’t biological because the harvest data show clearly we kill more birds in the first split than we do in the second split, that we have our best hunting success of the year during the first couple of weeks of the season,” he said. “So my recommendation was the same as it’s always been — to open it on the second Saturday in November.

“But when you propose dates for public comment and your public comment comes in at 81 percent to do something different, it’s pretty difficult to ignore it.”

Although the change in tradition from the second-Saturday opener is significant, Reynolds said as far as season dates are concerned, it’s really not that big of a deal.

While the second Saturday in November this year falls on Nov. 8, the earliest date possible, next year the second Saturday will be on Nov. 14, just one day earlier than this year’s opening date on the 15th. 

“This is the first time in almost 40 years that hunters in Southwest Louisiana, in Cameron and Vermilion parish in some of our biggest duck-kill areas, will not open on the second Saturday in November. So in that respect it’s a pretty historic change,” Reynolds said. “But from the respect of season dates, and because the calendar is as early as it can possibly be this year but will shift late next year, hopefully it won’t be that big a deal.”

The 74-day goose season in the coastal zone also was adjusted, with the first split Nov. 15 - Dec. 14 and the second split Dec. 20 - Feb. 1.

“It kind of confounded the goose season a little bit because now we had to run the goose season for one week of the two-week (duck season) split, but we had to make a choice” Reynolds said, noting the extra week would have pushed the end of goose season all the way to Feb. 8. “By that time, the white-fronted geese are almost impossible to hunt and have converted to green forage instead of eating waste grain in the fields.

“So we ran goose season for one week into the split. That will make most goose hunters happy.”