Tips for legal, safe duck hunts

Wear a PFD and practice gun safety

Duck, coot and merganser seasons kick off in November. Louisiana is divided into three zones: coastal, west and east.

The coastal zone youth only weekend is Nov. 4-5. The first segment of the season opens on Nov. 11 and runs through December 3. The second segment is Dec. 16-Jan. 21.

The west zone season dates are the same with the exception of the youth-only days of Nov. 4 and Jan. 27.

East zone dates are youth-only on Nov. 11 and Feb. 3. First segment dates are Nov. 18-Dec. 3, with Dec. 16-Jan. 28 for the second split.

Check the 2017-2018 Migratory Game Bird Schedule for goose seasons and other migratory game bird information.

The daily bag limit for ducks is six, with no more than four mallards (no more than two of which may be females), two canvasback, one mottled duck, one black duck, three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, and one pintail.

Are you old enough to remember the point system for duck limits? In the late 70s a pintail was a 10-point duck, and a legal limit could include 10 pintails. Ah, the good old days.

The daily limit of coots is 15 and five for mergansers (only two of which may be hooded mergansers). Merganser limits are in addition to the daily bag limit for ducks. The possession limit on ducks, coots and mergansers is three times the daily bag limit.

In September we talked about doves and the legal areas where they may be hunted. As stated, doves may be hunted over areas where agricultural crops or other feed are grown and distributed or scattered, but solely as a result of manipulation of the crop or feed on the land where it’s grown or solely as the result of normal agricultural operations.

The law is different for waterfowl, which may be hunted over standing crops or flooded standing crops (including aquatics); standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested croplands, or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice. In plain language, with doves you can grow it, mow it and hunt it. For ducks, you can grow it, but must leave it standing or harvest it before hunting.

During my career the typical duck hunting violations were for using bait, being over the limit, using unplugged guns and shooting after sunset — all of which are intentional or due to carelessness.

But tagging violations were also pretty common, particularly at hunting camps and due in part to either being unaware of the law or not understanding it.

Remember that no person shall give, put or leave any migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the hunter’s name and signature, his address, the total number of birds involved by species and the date the birds were killed.

Use any piece of paper or card stock to make your own tag, or go to page 115 in the 2017-2018 Hunting Regulations booklet to find the one provided.

Let’s move on to some safety concerns associated with waterfowl hunting.

At the top of the list are boating accidents and death from exposure associated with on-the-water mishaps. When traveling to the blind before dawn, always comply with navigation light requirements and wear a personal flotation device.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the PFD. Heavy coats, layers of clothes, hip boots and waders mean no chance of survival for anyone who falls from the boat without one.

In the event of a mechanical failure or loss of the boat, never try to swim or wade to shore.

Several years ago on Catahoula Lake, two men travelled to their duck blind by boat. They placed the boat in the stall at the rear of the blind but forgot to tie off. They went up front to the shooting box and began hunting. Later they noticed the boat had drifted away in the wind. Since the PFDs were in the blind, the decision was made to put them on and swim for shore. It was a fatal decision for both. They died of hypothermia before ever getting near land.

Practice gun safety as well. Never transport loaded guns in the boat, and set up clear zones of fire for each hunter when in a group or shooting from a blind. Be particularly careful when chasing down cripples.

Finally, take the time to report banded birds ( I harvested the first in many years last fall, a wood duck hen. The hen had been banded in Illinois during the month of September of the previous year. Harvest information is very helpful to waterfowl managers.

So do your part, be safe and have a great season.

Got a question? Ask Keith!

If you have a question about wildlife and fisheries enforcement, shoot a note to Keith LaCaze at

About Keith LaCaze 100 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.