Responses to LDWF’s mailing suggest hunting has suffered
Every five years, Larry Reynolds and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries conduct a detailed informational survey with the state’s waterfowlers, partnering with the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources.
This year, the LDWF got 8,218 “valid” responses. Of that group, 44.4% were very dissatisfied, and another 24.6% were dissatisfied. One of the main reasons was they strongly believe that the annual migration the past several years has greatly decreased.
“It shows what we already know for this year,” Reynolds said. “It was just a crappy duck season.
“From looking at the preliminary results, it is obvious that a large number of duck hunters think the quality of duck hunting has declined substantially since we did the same survey in 2015. Only 8.5% of the respondents said they were very satisfied.”
When hunters were asked to rank the contributing factors, the response was all over the board. Coastal wetland loss was the most important — a 3.94 average rank (from 1 most important to 10 least important) — and overharvest due to liberal hunting regulations was the least important (8.68), with warmer winters and increases in unharvested crops (4.03), and changes in rice agriculture and increased rice north of Louisiana (4.23) also seen as very important.
Despite what you hear about spinning-wing decoys, the increase in harvest of juveniles due to spinning-wing decoys was the second least-important with a score of 7.33. While spinning-wing decoys are an issue with hunters in some states, they are not with a majority in Louisiana.
Overcrowding on WMAs
Reynolds said the survey shows there is growing support for more restrictions to improve duck hunting on the state’s Wildlife Management Areas. That includes more lottery hunts and limiting open days to four days a week, according to the survey. Overcrowding is an issue with many WMA hunters. Other interesting results show that a growing number of hunters — up from 2% five years ago to 11% this year — are interested in more restrictive white-front goose limits.
The survey said that the average hunter spent 13 days hunting and killed 30 ducks and 4 geese. When hunters were asked what they would expect in a “good” season, they responded with an average of 14 days, 51 ducks and six geese.
The 12 parishes hunted most frequently were: Cameron (12.1%), Vermilion (9.6%), Plaquemines (6.7%), Terrebonne (5.3%), St. Bernard (4.1%), Jefferson Davis (3.7%), Avoyelles (3.2%), St. Landry (2.9%), Morehouse (2.5%), Calcasieu (2.4%), and Catahoula and Ouachita (2.2%).
In the 2019-2020 season: 44.9% hunted in the Coastal Zone, 36.2% in the East Zone, 9.6% in the West Zone, and 9.1% did not hunt in 2019-2020 — but had hunted at least one year in the past 5. Over the past five seasons, 59% of valid respondents hunted all five, 11% hunted four and 9% hunted three.
Results are important for the future
The survey results are very important, because the LDWF will be compiling all available data later this summer to recommend what types of zones and splits Louisiana will have for the next five seasons, beginning in 2021.
“We really do try to get as much input as we can from hunters, and this survey helps greatly,” Reynolds said. “I wish we could get more data, but a lot of hunters won’t respond or give us incomplete responses. But you can’t play with people who don’t want to play with you.”
The next major step for the state’s waterfowl group is to finish analyzing the data, get ready to present it to the full Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission this fall and submit zones/splits recommendations for the 2021 through 2026 seasons.
“That’s where we are at this time with the 2020 Waterfowl Hunter Survey,” Reynolds said. “There will be more study to come, and these numbers should not be considered final in any sense. It’s really a first look.”