In Welsh, there’s at least one rice farmer who prefers some company.
The open rice field made Rick Moore’s hail call ring off into the distance with no bounce back — just fading notes — much like those coming from one of his blinds just east of us. We were working the same group of birds, and from the volley of gunfire that followed, what the ducks saw in their set up must have looked better than what they saw in ours.
No matter. That’s duck hunting in the open expanse of Southwest Louisiana, where nearly every farm with suitable habitat has a pit blind buried somewhere along its levees. It’s always just a matter of time before the next volley fired just might be from your blind, where your neighbor a few hundred acres over — this time — will be looking on.
Essentially, few places in North America offers what Louisianans have and get a chance to experience each fall when it comes to the waterfowl migration in this region of the state. And Moore, like a lot of farmers, offers his property to hunters who are willing to pay a modest fee as a way to supplement farming income.
Moore, 56, recounts that he started duck hunting in the area when he was 6 years old with a BB gun. At age 7, he graduated to a .410, And started hunting with a 16-gauge at 10, when he and his father would go nearly every weekend.
He has been guiding and leasing property to hunters for the past 20 years.
“It was an opportunity to subsidize my farming,” he said. “Farming had gotten so bad at one time people were looking for other things as a way to generate revenue. So that’s the reason we crawfish and the reason we hunt. If we were making good money farming, we’d probably just farm. They go hand in hand here because naturally you’ve got land, you’ve got water and you’re in an area with a good flight.
“But people don’t realize the work that’s involved. I have 14 blinds, and some of them are leased for the entire season. I’ve got to get all of them ready — it’s a real chore. You don’t start two or three days before the season, I promise you that.”
Rick Moore Farms is located in Welsh just west of Jennings in Jefferson Davis Parish, within sight of and just north of Interstate 10. With several major wildlife areas due south, it’s in the sweet spot for birds flying to and from the marshes, looking for food.
“This has been a natural funnel for ducks forever through here,” Moore said of his place along Pecan Orchard Road. “You sometimes can go a few miles down the road east of here and there won’t be any ducks. But in the marshes south of here you’ve got Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, White Lake Conservation Area, Grand Lake and all of Miami Corporation. All of that is a straight shot south.”
Moore pointed out that just prior to the opening of the first split of the season there were farms to the north of his where ducks were stacked up. The entire state of Louisiana has been drier than normal this season, and anyone who had water seemed to have ducks. Once the season got under way though, like in past seasons there was no shortage of ducks for those who hunted with Moore. Twelve of his 14 blinds limited.
“It was just stupid with ducks opening day here this year,” Moore said. “There were ducks stacked up to the north of us, but the pattern as you get into the season is they come to the rice fields to feed at night and they go back to the marsh in the day to rest. But you’ve also got new birds migrating in all the time during the season.
“Geese come later. Usually around Christmas is when we start getting geese. What happens with geese is they come in each fall, and the large bodies are down around Gueydan and places south. Then as they begin to feed their way out is when we start getting them north of I-10.
“In January it’s a steady goose flight. That’s when we get big bunches of blues and snows. What you have is big mobs, with 10,000 in a bunch. But our goose hunting is only average, where our duck hunting is good.”
Rice-field hunting can be a treat and welcomed reprieve for hunters who are accustomed to the stress and struggles of hunting the marsh and also making it ideal for kids and older fellows. More often than not, rice-field hunts are simply a short walk or four-wheeler drive down the levee to a waiting pit blind.
Twelve-year-old Marc Hebert from Moss Bluff is one of those kids with an infectious smile. His father and several of the guys gathered around ribbing him following their hunt at Moore’s farm called him Mr. 80-percent.
Marc had opportunities for a decent hunt that morning, and was enjoying the banter coming from the older fellows, but what did the nickname mean?
“Yesterday I caught 80 percent of the fish when my dad and I were fishing,” he said. “And today I had 80 percent of the misses at the ducks.”
Typically, Moore will keep both sides of the levees where his four-man pit blinds are located flooded with water. He and his guides will put out approximately 200 decoys with enough space placed between bunches to allow ducks to land, but also to create shooting lanes.
Like anywhere, the southwest rice field country has its ups and downs where waterfowl hunting is concerned. Bluebird days with calm winds can leave birds flying high for short periods during the early morning, where decoy spreads that have zero movement have little draw or enticement for birds to work. Moreover, ducks notice little things like clear water that isn’t normal.
Wet, windy and inclement days can have birds on the move providing a banner hunt. Foggy days can have ducks on lock down, but geese will be more receptive to your calls.
“Ducks are always leery in the fog,” Moore said. “They don’t want to move because they can’t see.
“And if you ever fly over and look down at a pond and see clear water, you know that isn’t ducks down there. You’ve got to buffalo it and keep it worked and muddy, so it looks like it has duck activity. You want it to look natural if you can.”
Hunters should call ahead when considering booking a hunt. Quite often if a weekday getaway is possible, hunters can catch a passing front and with it the possibility of a limit of ducks, where conditions are more favorable.
Rick Moore Farms gets high numbers of quality ducks like pintails, mallards, gadwall and teals. Late-season second-split birds are in full plumage, and mounting any one of these species will leave you remembering your hunt for a long time.
For more information, call (337) 540-5211.
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