Duck reports mixed across coastal zone
Jason Connor-Flores, left, with Danny Womack show their opening day harvest with Womack’s dog, Scout, a Boykin Spaniel especially bred for waterfowl. (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of John K. Flores)
The alarm clamored like a fire alarm when it went off at 3 a.m. of the opening day of duck season Nov. 9.
Startled by the ugly report, I clumsily reached for it trying to shut the dang thing off before my wife woke up. It was too late; she groaned as she rolled over, pulling the covers a bit more over her shoulder.
From that point, much of the morning was a blur. I seem to remember my son and I were out the door by 3:30. I also remember driving over the Calumet Bridge and commenting to my son how the landing looked like downtown Las Vegas, with so many people putting overboard. They were all heading south to the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area where hunting blinds and pre-selected locations are on a first come, first serve basis.
By contrast, I decided to accept my friend Danny Womack’s invitation to join him on his lease near Forked Island. His phone call implied that opening day of the 2013-2014 waterfowl season looked to be about two rungs on the ladder above promising. And it was.
Outside of losing a couple hours of sleep for something I was going to do anyway, our two-hour drive west was worth the cost of a few yawns. My son and I were heading home at 9 a.m. with our limits of six birds each.
Corey Toups and three of his friends were among an estimated 1,040 hunters who hunted the Atchafalaya Delta WMA on opening day. And according to the 2013-2014 Hunter Participation/Harvest Summary, these diehards harvested 2,575 ducks, averaging 2.5 ducks per hunter.
Though down from 2012-2013, where hunters averaged 3.5 ducks per hunter, Toups said, “Opening day was full of action and due to north winds, the water fell hard. We did our homework, and we planned for it and made sure our blind was located in water deep enough to hunt. We headed out extra early due to the crowd for opening day.
It’s a good thing we did. Hunters piled in all morning to get a piece of the action. We shot a four-man limit and very few birds escaped our decoys once they committed. I wouldn’t say there was an abundance of birds, but we finished up with our limits due to some great shooting and decoy placement.”
By Sunday morning, weather conditions changed. When Toups and one of his friends returned for what he referred to as a second helping, the pair of hunters had more teal, according to Toups, but less big ducks. Still, the hunters managed to limit two days in a row.
Rick Moore, owner/operator of Rick Moore Farms near Welsh, had a similar opening weekend hunting report, saying the nine blinds that he offers for day hunts killed 178 ducks. What’s more, his harvest numbers really haven’t dropped off with the exception of a couple foggy days when the birds just didn’t fly.
In spite of these good reports from opening weekend, there have been far more that are bad.
Moore said, “We had one day this past week when it was real foggy and we killed three ducks. The day before, in my blind, we killed 18 birds, and 18 the day before that — beautiful ducks. But I’m hearing from Kaplan and Gueydan they’re doing nothing. Little Chenier is doing absolutely nothing. And, I’m talking to people who have gone two or three times and not killed a duck. That’s all south, along the marsh.”
This past weekend, friend Glynn Harris and I had a duck-hunting trip scheduled with Gotta Go Charter Captain Sammy Faulk. Faulk hunts a tract of land near Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, a hot spot most years.
When we arrived Friday evening, Faulk’s report wasn’t good and asked if we minded changing plans, at least for Saturday. The Sportsman Paradise being what it is, we opted to spend the day on Big Lake fishing and hunt Sunday when a front was scheduled to come through.
While we were catching red fish and specks, Faulk was reading text reports from guides. Not much was happening in the rice fields with foggy conditions. Our decision to fish instead of duck hunt was the right decision.
Sunday morning we hunted a freshly buffaloed soybean field with Lacassine Company Land Manager Jude Zaunbracher. With plowed dirt on one side and a flooded field on the other, it was the perfect setup. But by legal shooting light, there were no ducks.
However, what we did have were speckle-belly geese — lots of them. And Zaunbracher, who was born on the very farm he managed, called them in for us like you would a kid for supper. Harris and I limited before 7:30 a.m.
Weather plays a major role when it comes to waterfowl hunting. A mild winter in the upper Midwest can delay the migration, and if there is enough moisture up the flyway with mild conditions, it can short stop ducks, especially where there is also plenty of feed.
Like the early teal season, where birds didn’t really show up until the second week of the special season, the first couple weeks of the coastal zone duck season seem like a repeat.
There’s plenty of season left to hunt ducks, and all it takes is a couple good cold fronts to change things up. Stay tuned.
For those interested in booking a hunt with Rick Moore, call (337) 540-5211.
If you are interested in booking a fishing trip, hunt or combining the two this fall with Captain Sammie Faulk, call (337) 540-2050.
If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story to share, contact Flores at 985-395-5586 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.gowiththeflooutdoors.com