Second split opens with a bang; LDWF says more ducks in the state

Most waterfowlers were happy with the first-split hunting, and that trend looks to be holding as the second split gets into high gear.

“The second split looks to have way more birds than the first,” LouisianaSportsman user muddGrappler reported on the waterfowl forum. “We limited out Sunday morning (Dec. 19) before the sun was completely up. Saturday we killed out limit in about an hour and a half.

“Although (the bags were) mostly teal, I am satisfied.”

Quick limits are to be expected as more ducks move into the state. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries aerial survey this month, the estimated number of ducks in Louisiana has ticked up to 2.17 million.

“The estimate of 2.17 million ducks on this survey is 34 percent higher than the 1.62 estimate in November and similar to the most-recent five-year average of 2.25 million …,” the LDWF report states.

The survey was conducted Dec. 8-15.

However, the agency pointed out that the survey results are still 22 percent below the long-term average of 2.82 million ducks.

“The total estimated ducks on this survey is the same as the 2.16 (million) estimated in December 2009,” the report continues.

Click here to read user reports from the waterfowl forum.

Diving ducks (scaup, canvasbacks and scaup) made the biggest strides, with their numbers increasing more than 1,127 percent to 451,000 birds.

Ringnecks represented the largest number of divers with a total of 302,000 of these birds estimated to be in the state. That was followed by canvasbacks (76,000) and scaup (73,000).

Southeast Louisiana held the most divers, with 196,000 of the birds estimated to be in the region. The rest of those diving ducks were divided almost evenly between the Southwest (128,000) and Catahoula Lake (127,000).

On the dabbler side of the equation, green-winged teal increased 260 percent in a month. Of the 388,000 green-wings estimated to be in the state, 206,000 were found in the Southwest Louisiana ag fields and marshes, while the southeastern part of the state were housing 170,000. The remaining 12,000 were located around Catahoula Lake.

Mallards also jumped in a dramatic fashion from only 49,000 birds in early November to 102,000 in early December. Of that number, 70,000 mallards were found in the southwestern portion of the state. Catahoula Lake held the second-most greenheads with 19,000, while the southeast were wintering another 13,000.

Shovelers were right behind mallards, with the 118,000 estimated birds representing a 207-percent jump. The vast majority of these ducks – an estimated 109,000 – were found in Southwest Louisiana.

But the most-numerous ducks in the survey remained gadwalls, with 793,000 of these birds distributed around the state. Again, the southwest held the majority of greys with 448,000. The Southeast Louisiana wetlands carried another 330,000 and 15,000 were found around Catahoula Lake.

Pintails numbers remained fairly flat at 165,000 this month compared to 169,000 last month. Catahoula Lake held most of those birds (109,000), while 39,000 were counted in the Southwest and 17,000 were found in the Southeast.

Blue-winged teal numbers fell sharply, with only 75,000 remaining in the state.

Of note is the fact that the 209,000 ducks counted at Catahoula Lake reflect the highest numbers since 1999, when 370,000 were found.

In addition, another 119,000 ducks and 56,000 geese were counted in “selected habitats” of Northeast Louisiana.

“That is about the same number of ducks and slightly more geese than November 2009, when the fewest number of geese were counted in the last five years,” the report states.

Biologists attributed this relative dearth to dry conditions.

Another 10,200 ducks were found in Northwest Louisiana.

With all the data considered, LDWF biologists say there should be even better hunting to come as the season ages.

“Although we have an average number of ducks in the state relative to the last five years, large numbers of blue-winged teal with low numbers of diving ducks and mallards suggest we are still very early in the migration,” the report states.

And, as always, the agency pointed out everything about duck hunting is weather driven.

“Cold weather and blizzard conditions in the Dakotas during the last week in October and the associated cold weather in Louisiana the first week of November certainly moved birds into the sate, but those conditions have moderated and daytime temperatures have been well above normal the past week across the Dakotas and Minnesota,” the report states.

JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month

Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and