Nobody knows exactly what Saturday morning’s season opener will bring to duck hunters across Louisiana’s coastal marshes and rice fields, but conditions now look a little more promising than they have in recent years.
Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said Friday he was getting reports from colleagues up north of birds on the move.
That news, combined with a blast of Arctic air pushing south in the coming days, had him looking forward to flying this week and conducting the state’s annual aerial waterfowl survey.
“I’m getting lots of reports of birds on the move the last couple of days. We had a halfway decent migration in to the state last weekend,” Reynolds said. “I got a number of reports from Southwest Louisiana and a couple from central Louisiana of birds showing up.”
For the first time in almost 40 years, the opening day for coastal zone hunters was pushed back to the third Saturday of November because of public outcry requesting a later date. Normally the season opener would have been this past Saturday, Nov. 8.
“I got my normal migration report from Iowa that included information from South Dakota, Minnesota and Missouri. All those states are reporting birds on the move,” he said. “So I don’t know how far south they’re going to come, but we can’t ask for anything better in November.
“And now we’ve got this cold mass of Arctic air that’s going to freeze the Dakotas and Minnesota, so you would expect that would drive a bunch of birds down here.”
If and when the birds arrive, Reynolds said habitat conditions here are pretty good.
“We had a fairly dry October, but we had a very wet summer,” he said. “So we’re actually in pretty fair shape going into this season. I think out habitat conditions are solid — they’re not fantastic, but in some places in the southwest they are very good. But certainly we’re above average for habitat conditions, and we’ve got plenty of good news.
“But we had plenty of good news last year, too.”
Weather-permitting, Reynolds will fly the coastal survey today through Wednesday, and then fly Catahoula Lake on Thursday. Unless he encounters weather issues, he said he expects to have the complete report finalized on Friday afternoon, and it will be availalbe shortly thereafter on LouisianaSportsman.com.