The first couple of weeks of the East and West splits of the 2019-2020 Louisiana waterfowl season were, as Forrest Gump would say, “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”
Reports went from great to fair and seemed to change every day. But overall, the opening in north Louisiana areas, including public lands, was good with plenty of ducks. That’s much better than last season’s early report when floodwaters spread out an already low number of ducks and made access to many prime areas difficult if not impossible.
“We didn’t have all the floods to deal with this year and the weather has cooperated,” said Blake Soileau of the Full Strap and Stringer Guide Service out of Deville. Blake hunts the popular Catahoula Lake and surrounding areas. “We’ve had a good number of birds, too. We had a great start. The first three or four days we were really doing great and getting limits. But then we had a couple of warm, still days and we got beat up pretty bad. We still got some birds, but not limits.”
The LDWF checked 403 hunters who harvested 1,642 ducks on opening weekend on Catahoula Lake. That’s a 4.07 ducks per hunter ratio. There was also great diversity in the harvest with the top five being green-winged teal, ringed neck duck, blue-winged teal, canvasback and shovelers.
Then, entering the second weekend of the season things have started picking up again, he said. There are a lot more mallards, pintails and other big ducks showing up. That’s always a sign that good things are coming.
“The warm weather and no wind shut down new birds coming into the area the middle of the first week,” Blake said. “Wind always brings fresh birds. By that I mean birds that haven’t been here long enough to be acclimated to every little spot where hunters go. The good news is that our habitat is in much better shape than last year. In fact, it’s as close to being right as it can be. We just need some more ducks pushed down by cold weather to finish the season.”
Reports from across the North Louisiana area were similar. There was plenty of water for the opening weekend and hunters were very successful. It slowed down some, but seems to be picking back up.
“Overall, the first part of the season was fair in the Monroe region,” says Mitch McGee, who helps oversee the massive Russell-Sage WMA. “The numbers of birds were higher the week before the season started but hunters still managed to have success opening weekend.”
McGee pointed out that youth hunters on Boeuf and Wham Brake public areas also had excellent hunts. That hunt was the week before the regular season opened.
“Birds are still using the flooded agricultural fields and not really coming into the flooded timber areas in great numbers, which is expected this early in the season.”
While goose hunting is as good as it has ever been across most of the northern part of the state in agricultural fields, the only good results hunting geese on the area’s WMA’s was the South Bosco Tract of the Boeuf area. Most of the area is dry, although nearly 1,000 acres were planted in either beans or rice on the farm this year. That should draw geese in bigger numbers after we get more rainfall.
What’s to come?
Looking ahead to the second split, Soileau is optimistic things will be good and much better than last season.
“The weather pattern looks good,” he said. “There is supposed to be a cool front during the split and even though that can change, it looks good. Catahoula Lake is at pool stage just like we like it. There is no significant rainfall coming so things are in good shape. We just need a good freeze up north to get a push of new birds.”
The number of hunters and duck harvest was up over last year on Lafayette region WMA’s as well, said Tony Vidrine, with the LDWF.
“Most of the WMA’s in the region had double the number of hunters over 2018,” he said. “The best harvests were reported on R.K. Yancey and Spring Bayou WMA’s.”