All of Louisiana’s waterfowl zones are open, but not all the hunting has started with a bang. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ (LDWF) completed its November aerial survey just before the Coastal Zone Opener on Nov. 7. The survey showed Louisiana was holding just over one million ducks. To put that into perspective, that number of ducks is about half of the five-year long-term average which is at two million.
Larry Reynolds, Waterfowl Program Manager for LDWF, summed it up this way, “Hunting success has been spotty so far.” As all duck hunters are keenly aware, being on the proverbial “X” can make all the difference in the world. That’s been the case across all three zone openings this November.
“Around Pecan Island lots of gadwalls (were taken), especially after the cold snap last week on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Reynolds said. “But at the same time there are other places where hunting remains slow.”
Drew Mire saw the spotty results first hand on his leases in the Delacroix area.
“Whether you hunted on the inside or outside, some guys managed limits and other blinds didn’t pull the trigger,” Mire said.
The popular WMA’s are demonstrating the same hit-or-miss harvests. The LDWF hunter participation harvest summary done on Wednesday, Nov. 20, only showed .8 ducks per hunter on Atchafalaya Delta WMA. While at the same time, hunters on Pass a Loutre WMA were taking 2.8 ducks per effort. Blue-winged teal, grey ducks and dosgris made up the majority of the coastal zone hunter’s take in these surveys.
Despite surveys and hunting reports, the chance for a productive waterfowl season isn’t over. The most updated November bird surveys showed Louisiana has above average numbers of birds in Northwest and Northeast Louisiana. Last weekend on Catahoula Lake, LDWF did bag checks on over 400 duck hunters. Hunters kicked off their opener with a success rate of 4.07 ducks per hunter.
Last weekend’s front had coastal duck hunters seeing noticeably more birds. Hunters in Grand Chenier reported big numbers of diving ducks showing up. Mire had similar observations of the weather’s impact in Delacroix, “By far we saw more birds moving on Sunday with the North wind than we did on Saturday.”
The rest of the season
Because of the chaotic distribution of hunting success, Reynolds said it’s tough to predict what duck hunters can expect the rest of the year.
“My perspective at this point in the season, is we are in a late November kinda thing,” he said. “The birds are moving around trying to see where the good habitat is; where the bad habitat is.”
Given the haphazard results of this year’s kick-off its likely to see the bird’s distribution continue to evolve depending on weather, hunting pressure, and optimal habit. That could mean no birds on your favorite hole one weekend and full straps the next. It’s probably going to take duck hunters moving around as much as the birds do in order to fill bag limits. But you won’t know unless you go.