Here come the ducks

Avoid these common violations of waterfowl regulations

Louisiana’s 2018-19 duck season begins on Nov. 10 in both the West and Coastal Zones. The first segment runs through Dec. 2, and reopens on Dec. 15 for the second split, which ends on Jan. 20.

East Zone dates are Nov. 17 through Dec. 2, and Dec. 15 through Jan. 27. Youth hunt dates are Nov. 3-4 in the Coastal Zone, Nov. 3 and Jan. 26 in the West and Nov. 10 and Feb. 2 in the East.

The daily limit for ducks is six, no more than four of which may be mallards (no more than two hens). Other species limitations are no more than three wood ducks, three scaup, two canvasbacks, two redheads, one mottled duck, one black duck and two pintails.

That’s pretty generous compared to bag limits we’ve seen in the past: Last year, we were limited to one pintail. Possession limits are three times the daily bag limit.

License requirements are a basic hunting license ($15), La. duck ($5.50), Harvest Information Program certification (free) and the federal duck stamp. The federal stamp goes for $25 at the post office and duckstamp.com. It can also be obtained from LDWF license vendors, on-line licensing and by phone at 877- 447-1318, but it will cost $27.22. Anyone planning to pick one up at the Post Office better get it early: I waited a little too late last fall and went to three before finding a stamp.

Youth waterfowl hunts
Youth waterfowl hunts are Nov. 3 and 4 in the Coastal Zone, Nov. 3 and Jan. 26 in the West Zone and Nov. 10 and Feb. 2 in the East Zone.

Common waterfowl violations

As one might expect, wildlife agents in Louisiana do a lot of waterfowl enforcement work. I suspect the vast majority would agree the top violations are shooting hours, exceeding the daily limit, baiting and failure to tag.

Shooting hours and limits

Legal shooting hours for migratory game birds end each day at sunset. That is a half hour earlier than for resident game, deer for example. The primary reason for the sunset cease fire is identification. It is difficult to distinguish between ducks in the fading post-sunset light. Another reason is ducks don’t begin flying to roost until well after sunset. But in a good roost, they really pile in and are very vulnerable to illegal gunning.

Wood ducks, given their tendency to roost in shallow wooded areas, are frequently shot illegally after sunset. With a daily limit of three in recent years, and two for many years prior, poachers apprehended for late shooting are frequently also exceeding the daily limit. Another downside to this violation is that due to full darkness by the time the shooting is over, many of the illegally killed and crippled ducks are never recovered.

Baiting

Baiting for waterfowl is not nearly as prevalent as it once was. This is due in large part to better training and equipment for wildlife agents. During training, agent cadets receive extensive instruction in waterfowl ID, bait detection and investigative techniques needed for effective prosecution. Field agents are well-equipped with the boats and ATVs needed to access hunting areas.

We have talked about bait regulations for doves, and how crops grown in the field may be mowed or manipulated for those birds. But crop manipulation is not permitted for waterfowl hunting. Ducks may be hunted on harvested crop fields or over crops that have been grown in the field and left standing and undisturbed. But mowing, rolling or scattering of grain or other feed is not permitted for ducks.

The daily bag limit on ducks may include up to three woodies.

Possession limits and tagging

Many hunters seem to be a bit confused about possession limits and tagging. Maybe it’s because we sometimes refer to a “possession tag” when discussing tagging. So let’s try to explain it and keep it simple: The possession limit is the maximum number of ducks anyone may possess anywhere at any time. This includes homes, as well as camps, hotels or other temporary abodes.

Since the daily bag limit is six and the possession limit is three daily bag limits, 18 is the maximum number of ducks anyone may have, anywhere. Let’s set that aside and move to tagging.

Before giving, putting or leaving any migratory game birds at any place or with another person, the birds must be tagged by the hunter with his name, address, the date the birds were killed, the number of birds and the species. And he must sign the tag, which is not any type of official form. It may be any piece of paper, card stock or container on which the required information is legibly written.

Here is a simple example: A hunter is at the camp. He hunts today and returns to camp with his ducks. He stays overnight and goes out to hunt again the next morning, leaving the ducks in a cooler at the camp. Before leaving, he takes a piece of card stock, writes the information on it, signs it and ties it to the ducks with string. That hunter is in compliance with tagging requirements. It’s as simple as that.

Take the time to read the section on migratory birds in your free 2018-19 hunting regulations booklet, or at wlf.louisiana.gov.

Have a safe and successful duck season.

Keith LaCaze
About Keith LaCaze 97 Articles
Retired Wildlife Enforcement Lieutenant Colonel Keith LaCaze spent 34 years with the LDWF beginning in 1977. LaCaze is happily married to wife Mitzi and the father of two children.