Louisiana’s opening weekend of teal season played out a lot like a beginner’s class in real estate basics: It all boiled down to location, location, location.
It’s tough to paint an accurate picture across all regions of the state, especially when a flock or two of teal could make the difference between a great hunt and a mediocre or poor one, but generally more positive reports seemed to come from the southwest part of the state.
Capt. Nick Poe, with Big Lake Guide Service, said his clients easily limited out both days in marsh near Sweet Lake in Cameron Parish.
“It started slow on Saturday. I didn’t see a teal until 7 o’clock,” Poe said. “But when they decided to fly, it was what you would expect. We saw probably several thousand birds.”
He said about 4 dozen decoys and one Mojo did the trick.
“We killed ‘em before they really started doing it right,” he said. “Whenever I was leaving and packing up, they were coming in groups of 30 to 40 constantly.
“Usually all those birds are in the rice. Once the shooting starts, then they make their move and head south to get to the marsh. That’s why it took us until 7 to see one, because they hadn’t gotten out of the rice yet.”
In Welsh, David Faul with Bin There Hunting in Welsh said he was pleased with opening weekend, especially considering some of the poor reports he’d heard from the area.
“It was actually a lot better than I anticipated,” Faul said. “It wasn’t the opening day that I’m used to, but we did pretty well. We had 23 hunters and 115 birds Saturday, 19 hunters with 71 birds on Sunday and this morning, I had five hunters and we all limited.”
Although the birds weren’t as thick as he was hoping for over the rice fields, he was just happy to have birds to shoot.
“We’re one of the lucky ones. It’s been pretty bad in some places around here,” he said. “I’ve heard horror stories of people not even taking their guns off safety.”
It wasn’t that bad for Jared Serigné, the producer of Sportsman TV, but he posted a less-positive report in the Waterfowl Forum on LouisianaSportsman.com from the Caernarvon area in St. Bernard Parish.
He reported seeing only about 100 birds on Friday, but they didn’t show up on Saturday.
“It was all in vain as we had a repeat of last year’s cruddy opening day,” he wrote. “We had six hunters and six teal were killed in our group. I hope a late blue-wing migration does not become the norm.”
Larry Reynolds, the waterfowl study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who completed another low September aerial survey last week, said recent data indicate that could very well be the case.
“I fear it’s becoming the new normal,” Reynolds said Friday afternoon. “The lowest six September estimates have come in the last seven years, and it’s happening like that with the November survey for the entire coast. The seven lowest September surveys on record have come in the last ten years.
“We’re kind of building the case that ducks are moving to Louisiana later in the year.”
Another late spring on the breeding grounds means a lot of birds simply haven’t started heading south yet, he said.
“I called my colleagues in North and South Dakota last Tuesday, and they said, ‘Hey man, we’re covered up with teal. We’ve got blue wings everywhere,’” Reynolds said. “My colleague in North Dakota said the birds weren’t showing any obvious signs of wanting to move out of there.
“Hopefully they’ll change their minds in the next couple of days.”
That didn’t happen for LouisianaSportsman.com user “tido,” who didn’t see many birds this weekend near Houma.
“It was a slow morning on my lease, but the two of us killed a one-man limit. I was just happy to get a few,” he wrote. “We killed six out of the seven that came into gun range.
“We saw a few pairs flying and a flock of about 20 on the way out.”
Capt. Gene Dugas, with Rather Be Fishing/Hunting Adventures out of Hopedale, said there weren’t many birds flying in Delacroix over the weekend.
“We didn’t do anything. The most I heard was about 10 or 12 birds from anybody in Delacroix,” Dugas said Monday. “We didn’t even go this morning. We’re fishing.”
Two blinds Saturday produced three birds, and on Sunday both blinds bagged a total of four birds, he said.
“The tide is high right now and that’s not helping,” Dugas said. “They just don’t have any numbers, no concentrations of birds.”
At Pointe a’ la Hache in Plaquemines Parish, user “mileypop” reported a better day Sunday than on opening day, when five hunters bagged only four birds.
“The front passed late in the evening and the winds picked up. The same five guys hunted Sunday hoping the windy conditions would help and they did. Water was still on the high side, but the group ended up with 18 teal for the day. That’s more like it!”
On Catahoula Lake, Brett Herring with ShellShocked Guide Service in Pineville said hunting pressure made for a pretty crazy opening morning.
“I’ve never seen that many people up there. It’s a public lake, but at the same time you’ve got to respect somebody who has taken the time and work to put in a blind, decoy it and brush it,” Herring said. “Then you get somebody who sets up 60 or 70 yards from you. It’s unsafe, and unfair to the person who spent all that time and did the work.”
In spite of the large number of hunters, Herring said his three groups limited out on Saturday. But all the pressure made for slimmer pickings on Sunday.
“I had two of three groups limit on Sunday, and one group killed 13. But that was pretty good for what they did on the lake,” he said. “I guarantee you this. There were more shotgun shells on Catahoula Lake Saturday morning than there were teal - 100 percent no doubt in my mind.
“We probably lost 75- to 80-percent of the birds Friday evening into Saturday morning.”
Reynolds emphasized that the blue-wing migration is a fluid process, and just because one area of the state didn’t have birds on opening weekend doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that way for the next two weeks.
The season ends on Sunday, Sept. 28.
“We have a much higher probability of more birds moving in than we do birds moving out, especially with the good habitat conditions we have,” Reynolds said. “So birds are moving around.
“The opening weekend is always a crap shoot. We’ll see how it plays out after that.”