It’s hard to imagine there could be a more varied collection of duck hunting reports than those that were offered during the first split of the 2006-07 season. Their subject matter and spirit shifted with each passing day. “Couldn’t be better,” were the jubilant cries of opening weekend. By Tuesday of that week, those cries turned into sobs of “Couldn’t get much worse.” The end of the first split was punctuated by the coldest weather so far this winter, but many were left lamenting, “Too little, too late.”
The first split began with thousands of teal concentrated in Southwest Louisiana, and opening-day limits were made up with bluewings rather than greenheads. Hunters from Lafayette to Lake Charles didn’t have time to miss the big ducks, though, as they were so busy limiting out on teal within the first 20 minutes of shooting time.
In Southeast Louisiana, it wasn’t much different. Hunters around Reggio, Caernarvon, Hopedale and Slidell had fun with the teal the first couple of mornings, then they set their sights on some grey ducks that found Southeast Louisiana to their liking.
North Louisiana got started on Nov. 18, and hunters on Catahoula found the skies full of pintails, divers and teal, which kept them busy enough until the major front near the end of the first split finally pushed some greenheads to the lake.
Around Ferriday, things began kind of slowly, but hunters soon found some good early action with ringnecks, wood ducks, greys and widgeon. And, like Catahoula Lake, the mallards started piling in the last day of the first split.
“Our entire opening week was totally awesome,” said David Faul with Bin There Hunting in Welsh (337-734-3593). “We were limiting on teal every day. Early, we had 98 percent teal every day — even spoons were hard to come by.
“However, things began to fall off by the next Saturday (Nov. 18). We went from getting our limit every day to taking three or four birds per blind on a good day.”
The push of birds that Faul was expecting with the late split cold front never materialized as he watched the first split end with a thud.
“I heard all the ducks that came down with the front stopped north of Alexandria and Natchitoches,” Faul said. “But I understand they had some good hunts on the last weekend around Ville Platte.”
Capt. Steve Himel (985-543-0388) hunted around Reggio and Caernarvon, and he reported having a great opening weekend followed by a lull the second week. However, things picked up dramatically for him the last week of the split.
“We hunt two hunters and a guide,” Himel said, “and we averaged about nine or 10 ducks a hunt during the first split. Forty percent were grey ducks, 50 percent were teal, and the other 10 percent were a mix of everything else.
“I wouldn’t rate what we did as great, but I’d say that from what I’ve heard, we did better than most.”
While many hunters were anxiously awaiting the early December cold front, Himel said things actually started picking up for him on Tuesday of the last week (Nov. 28).
“We had some new birds move in on Saturday and Sunday,” he said, “but things turned around for us earlier in the week.
“It might have been a local thing, but we went to a place we hadn’t hunted much other than on opening day, and found a bunch of ducks that were on some feed. We pounded them heavy the final week.”
Himel explained that his property was 75 percent land and 25 percent water before Hurricane Katrina, whereas it is now 75 percent water and 25 percent land.
“There are a lot of broken areas of marsh out there,” he said, “and some feed developed in some of those new scours. I guess it was kind of like turning over a garden, and there were some nutrients and dormant seeds exposed. The only problem with these kinds of areas is that we can’t hunt them when the tide goes out.”
Things were a little different farther north, as Kevin Conway related. Conway guides on Catahoula Lake (318-487-8176), and he hunted every day of the first split in the east zone. While Conway admitted Catahoula got off to somewhat of a slow start, hunting picked up at a rapid pace as the split wound down.
“We shot a lot of divers and bluewings the first couple of days,” he said. “Then, it was like the sky opened up. We could tell when it got right the last week of the split because the mallards were coming in 35 to 40 at a time, and the greenwings were in balls of 15 to 20. We were shooting all day the last week — or at least until we got our limits.”
A bit farther to the east near Clayton, Hunter Shaffett with Cypress Point Hunting Lodge (225-301-7335) said hunting was fair during the first split with a slight upswing toward the end.
“We shot a lot of ringnecks, wood ducks, widgeons and greys,” he said. “We had some mallards early on, but they were a little slow. We absolutely pounded the widgeon and greys the last couple of days.
“That front that came through right at the end of the split brought in a lot of mallards, but they didn’t really show up until Sunday afternoon (Dec. 3).”
For all the good reports for the first split there were even more fair and poor reports. Hunter success depended heavily on location and the weather. Faul mentioned that he spoke with a warden that was tracking a mallard with a neck collar. The agent revealed that the duck had made 13 trips from coastal Louisiana to North Arkansas.
Optimism remained high for the second split, however. Some pointed to the numbers of ducks indicated in the preseason counts. Others pointed out that a two-week reprieve combined with the new ducks that came in with the latest front could make the opening weekend of the second split one worth waking up for.
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