Preliminary numbers from January’s aerial survey show increase in ducks

But more birds have relocated away from hunting pressure, Reynolds said

The number of ducks in the state has remained pretty consistent this season since Larry Reynolds started conducting aerial surveys last November, but his most recent flights earlier this month indicate larger concentrations of birds have begun locating in areas away from hunting pressure.

“The biggest concentration of ducks I saw in Southwest Louisiana was sitting in the middle of White Lake,” said Reynolds, the waterfowl study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “It was every species of duck that winters in the state. I don’t know if there were 30,000 birds or 50,000 birds – it was a big pile.

“There were mallards, pintail, greenwings, bluewings, gadwall, widgeon, ringnecks and scaup. There was every species of duck piled up out there.”

A steady barrage of two months of shooting, combined with a very wet start to 2015, has spread the birds out across the landscape, he said.

“The big concentrations we saw were on Lacassine Pool, a big no-hunt area. We saw big concentrations of ducks sitting out on the open water and we saw big concentrations of ducks sitting on sewage lagoons near Crowley and Rayne,” he said. “One thing we think we saw when we got all that rainfall in late December and early January, a lot of birds redistributed to the flooding ag fields.

“We’re in that typical late season, ‘You gotta be where they want to be because it’s hard to talk them out of being somewhere else’ mode.”

Preliminary figures from the January survey, which is only about 80 percent complete because of poor flying conditions, indicate the number of ducks in the state will be higher than December’s count of 3.204 million, mainly because of a big increase in scaup and canvasback.

When final tabulations are done, Reynolds said the January 2015 survey could show the highest number of canvasbacks in the state since 1978, or perhaps the highest number ever recorded.

Preliminary figures, which do not yet include numbers from Catahoula Lake, already show 3.295 million birds  in the state’s Coastal Zone, which is above the most recent 5-year and long-term averages. November’s survey indicated 3.125 million birds, while December’s number bumped up to 3.204 million.

“I think it’s been a good season,” Reynolds said. “But I don’t think there’s any doubt the hunting right now is spotty, and it’s probably been spotty since Christmas.”

The state’s West Zone hunting season concludes this Sunday, Jan. 18, while the East and Coastal Zones wrap up on Sunday, Jan. 25.

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Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and