Louisiana certainly lives up to its billing as a sportsman's paradise. Its marshes, bayous, and backwoods teem with wildlife and fish. And no place in North America holds more wintering waterfowl. In the fall, millions of ducks and geese funnel into this state, where they are pursued by some 90,000 license-buying hunters celebrating generations-old waterfowling traditions.
The blue-winged teal are the first to show up here. These early migrants
leave their northern nesting grounds at the first hint of cold weather, usually in late August or early September, and hustle down the flyways toward wintering grounds that range from the Gulf Coast into South America. Because most of these small ducks are long gone by the time general waterfowl seasons open later in the fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers a special early teal season in many mid- and southern-latitude states, Louisiana included.
Teal hunting in September is a big deal in these parts, perhaps second only to LSU football in popularity. The 16-day special season provides bonus time afield and a chance to tune up the shooting eye and the barbeque grill before the regular season comes in. The opening of teal season typically draws a large, enthusiastic crowd, and Pat Beaullieu is usually among them.
Pat travels a good distance to get here. Though he now lives in Colorado
, he returns frequently to Acadiana—the region of the Cajuns—to hunt and fish and maintain ties with family and friends, which shortens the miles between these two states. "Being in the outdoors is in my blood," he says. "And coming back here keeps me close to so many people . . . and the traditions that I treasure."
This weekend Pat has reserved the Grosse Savanne Waterfowl and Wildlife Lodge (grossesavanne.com
), and he's invited 17 family members and friends to join him. The two days will be jam-packed with teal and dove hunting, redfish and flounder fishing, Cajun cooking, sports talking, beer drinking, and the joy and laughter that emanate from such a fertile combination of fun.