Halftime report for coastal zone duck season
By JOHN K. FLORES
The 2012-13 Duck Season opened in a big way, but since that second Saturday in November, it has somewhat fizzled for many across the coastline.
In the southwestern part of the state, where vast marshlands lie just below agricultural areas, the hunting has been tough, according to David Smith, owner/operator of David Smith Hunting.
Smith, who hunts south of Jennings, points to the weather as the biggest problem this year.
Smith said, “It’s been tough the first split. If we can go out and get 10 to 15 birds, we’ve done well. Opening weekend we had nine people limit out. That’s nine limits — 54 birds by 7:40 a.m. We thought we were in for an incredible season. Sunday of opening weekend it dropped a little, but we still did good.
“Since, we’ve had seven weeks of drought, and we’ve had incredible water expenses. The only people who are putting water on the fields are crawfishermen and duck hunters, because the cost is so high. The farmers keep plowing and plowing their fields, where generally they are too wet to plow, and they’ve got feed on them that hold ducks and geese. But, if you notice the jet stream, it’s up in Canada right now, and we haven’t had any fronts to push new numbers of birds in.”
Echoing Smith was Josh Sonnier, owner/operator of Feet Down Guide Service. Sonnier, who hunts the Lake Arthur area, said, “The first split was a little tough with the weather pattern. It’s mostly just been stagnant weather with few cold or windy days. We’re down 10 to 15 percent from our 5-year average with what we normally kill. But, it’s been stagnant warm weather with not much wind, and we fought the weather the whole first split. We did shoot good numbers of speckle bellies, but the ducks overall were kind of scarce.”
Across Vermilion Bay, closer to St. Mary Parish on Pecan Island, others fared a little better. Maurice resident Daniel Gaspard and his family did well but said in sheer numbers they are down from the year prior.
Gaspard said, “It’s a lot slower than last year and kind of disappointing really. At my camp, we’re 50 percent off of last year’s numbers, but it wasn’t bad. Sometimes you’d just have to stay in the blind longer, and it sort of drags on a little, but that’s better than a lot of people. Some say they didn’t even fire a shot. It’s hit or miss, really, and people were still getting limits. You just had to hunt a bunch to get them on the good days.”
Closer to home, the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area has produced quite a few birds for hunters willing to work for them.
During opening weekend, an estimated 1,230 hunters averaged 3.8 ducks. And, for hunters like Berwick resident Michael Broussard, the season has been a good one.
Broussard hunted the Atchafalaya Wildlife Management Area last Saturday, where his father and a friend all limited out on Gadwalls in a little hole he scouted.
Broussard said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d have to say the season has been an 8 considering we’ve had almost all blue bird days. It’s been very warm, but if you find a place that has some birds, you do pretty good.”
A non-anecdotal perspective that reflects what hunters have been saying comes from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Waterfowl Study Leader Larry Reynolds, who flew the southwest transect Monday.
Reynolds said, “It’s my impression that there is less water on the landscape, especially in the agricultural areas, than in November. And, there is about the same number of birds. Monday, we saw fewer green wings and more mallards. For the Coastal Zone, the season has been pretty good but not as good as last year. And, the paucity of blue wings has been noticeable but so has the large numbers of scaup than in previous years. The split started out strong but slowed substantially in many areas. We could really use some cold and rain.”
Halftime is always good to take some time to reflect on how to improve your odds in the second half — when the second split opens. For waterfowl, it doesn’t get easier as most of the young, stupid birds have been cooked in gumbos by now. The birds that migrate between now and the end of the season are educated birds, having been called and shot at for nigh on to a couple thousand miles in some cases.
Though hunters can’t do much about the weather, they can improve by changing up a little and doing what others don’t necessarily do.
One suggestion is to use robo decoys less. Sure, your girlfriend or wife just got one for you for Christmas, but wise ducks are used to them and know that every spread with a flapping wing decoy they try to land in shoots at them.
After sunrise — not the early legal shooting light — hunters should try picking robos up if ducks seem to flare.
Second, try calling a little less. The best callers up and down the Mississippi and Central Flyways have been hammering comeback calls at ducks.
Soft mallard chuckles, pintail whistles or blue wing teal calling may work better.
Lastly, late season is when you should abandon larger box-type blinds and get in the grass. Ducks must watch Sesame Street because the old learning song, “One of these things just doesn’t belong here” applies.
Big box or popup boat blinds often stand out rather than conceal.
For those wishing to book a hunt with David Smith Hunting, call Smith at 337-305-1956 or email davidsmithhunting.com.
For those interested in booking a hunt with Feet Down Guide Service, call Sonnier at 337-329-3900 or email email@example.com.
If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story you wish to share, contact John K. Flores at 985-395-5586 or firstname.lastname@example.org.