Commission hears significant waterfowl news from waterfowl leader

(Photo by Burton Angelle)

Commissioners hear about upcoming restrictive scaup season, new zones and splits options and very poor 2018-2019 waterfowl season.

Members of the Louisiana wildlife and fisheries commission heard a bit of bad news regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 waterfowl season regulations resulting from the recently released 2019 federal waterfowl population status at their monthly meeting Thursday, Sept. 5, in Baton Rouge.

“We’ll have a 16-days September teal season (2020-2021),” said Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

He also reported that another 60-days regular season with a six ducks daily bag limit will be allowed for 2020-2021 with the pintail daily bag remaining at one per day, and canvasback limits at two per day.

Continental populations of scaup declined another 10% and 28% below their long-term average ushering in a hybrid season of 45 days with a bag limit of 2, and 15 days with a bag limit of 1. A more conservative 60-days 1 scaup daily bag limit is also an option.

Scaup season and bag restrictions for 2020-2021

There is bad news regarding scaup (dos gris) however — as a more restrictive season will be the case for Louisiana waterfowlers in 2020-2021.

“This is going to be painful, and it’s one of the things in harvest management that we can’t stand but we end up with,” Reynolds said. “And that is the scaup regulations are a hybrid season (for 2020-2021). Those are our restrictive regulations.

“And that hybrid season is 45 days with a bag limit of 2, and 15 days with a bag limit of 1.”

Reasons for future restrictions have to do with populations of scaup declining another 10% from last year and 28% below their long-term average.

“We can be more conservative if we want to just go 60 (days) and 1 (scaup), that’s fine,” he said, offering commissioners that possibility.

Geese seasons look to remain unchanged for 2020-2021.

Options of changing Louisiana waterfowl zones

According to Reynolds, the commission will also have the opportunity to change Louisiana’s zones and splits options as this chance is available only once every five years.

“The options may be expanded to include two zones with two splits,” Reynolds said. “Currently our options are 4 zones with straight seasons; 3 zones with split seasons . . . or if we want to split the season twice like Arkansas and Mississippi do — we have to go to statewide seasons and give up our zones.

“So at the most recent flyway meeting, we passed a recommendation that the Fish and Wildlife Service allow an additional option that we could have up to 2 zones and split the season twice. That way we wouldn’t have to lose our east and west — our Mississippi alluvial valley and coastal prairies and marsh zone divisions — for the opportunity to split the season twice.”

Reynolds expects to hear back from the FWS in October regarding the recommendation.

The 2018-2019 Louisiana waterfowl harvest numbers were 506,000 ducks – the lowest since 1988.

2018-2019 waterfowl harvests lowest since 1988

 “Last season (Louisiana) was awful,” Reynolds said. “Our harvest estimate was 506,000 ducks which was 53%, less than half of the year before (2017-2018) — and our lowest since 1988.

“We’re the fifth highest (in waterfowl harvests) in the nation behind California, Arkansas, Texas and Washington,” he said. “Louisiana is not used to being fifth in the nation in waterfowl harvests.”

The biologist reported Louisiana hunters averaged only 13.9 ducks for the 2018-2019 hunting season.

“That is 40% lower than last year and the lowest since 1993. And in 1993 we had a 30-days season with a 3-duck limit. It’s the seventh highest in the nation behind those Pacific Flyway states that have 107 days seasons and 7-ducks limits.

“It was an awful season everywhere,” Reynolds said. “Only the state of Iowa saw increases in their harvests last year.”

“We were down 54%, Mississippi down 42% and Missouri 35%,” the biologist said. “Every single state saw their hunters be less successful.

“It’s pretty clear that we are having an issue with reproductive success on the breeding grounds as the population has declined, and the pond numbers have declined,” he said. “And last year was particularly special because there was water everywhere.”

2019 Dingel Act Provision adding two days for certain veterans and active-duty members of the armed services

Reynolds also made commissioners aware of certain provisions of the recently passed Dingell Act of 2019 allowing states including Louisiana to offer an additional two days of waterfowl hunting to certain veterans and members of the armed forces on active duty including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty.

These additional days can be either separate or combined with the two days already allowed for youth hunters.

These additional days for certain veterans, members of active-duty armed forces, National Guard and Reserves will be considered by the commission for adoption in future meetings.