By Chris Jennings, Ducks Unlimited Magazine, Web Editor
Louisiana's early teal season is ending with a bang, thanks to the arrival of good flights of bluewings during the latter half of September. The strong finish comes after a disappointing start for many Louisiana teal hunters. In fact, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries tallied a record low number of blue-winged teal during their early September survey.
"Our habitat was excellent, so when we did the survey we were a little surprised," says Larry Reynolds, Louisiana waterfowl program manager. "The lowest count we had on record was 96,000 blue-winged teal. This year, we posted the survey results with only 50,000 bluewings counted. We knew it would be a low number, but not that low. The long-term average is 238,000, if that puts it into perspective.
Reynolds' phone began to ring the moment the survey results were posted as hunters explained to him that they were seeing good numbers of bluewings in their traditional hunting areas. Following opening weekend, however, those same hunters called him back apologizing for questioning the numbers – the bluewings just weren't there.
"It was frustrating for some hunters. The vegetation looked good in their ponds, millet was headed out, and everything looked right," Reynolds says.
Fortunately, some hunters enjoyed success on opening weekend, especially in southeast Louisiana. Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, reports that the marshes near Venice have some of the best submerged aquatic vegetation in a long time, and these habitats have been holding good numbers of bluewings all teal season.
"Our teal season has been spectacular and a lot of that has to do with the high river levels," says Ray Stansberry, manager of Cajun Fishing Adventures. "Typically, we lose the high river in June. This summer, the river didn't begin to drop until August. That fresh water in the marsh helped our habitat around here."
Throughout the state, blue-winged teal numbers increased after opening weekend. Reynolds began hearing reports from hunters about increasing numbers and quality hunts. By Wednesday of last week, the entire state was enjoying decent shoots.
Ducks Unlimited Television traveled to Honey Brake Lodge in central Louisiana on Tuesday, September 24. The crew is looking to wrap up the first shoot of the year this weekend. Below is a brief migration update from the guys on location.
With teal season ending on September 29, this weekend should be enough to hold Louisiana duck hunters until the regular waterfowl season opens in November. Throughout the state, habitat conditions are good to excellent, and barring a late tropical storm, these conditions will hopefully set the stage for good waterfowl hunting.
"Our coastal marshes are all in good shape. Catahoula Lake was very low, but we received more than two inches of rain recently, and now that habitat could be considered excellent," Reynolds says. "I'm not going to tell people to stock up on shells. But we have every reason to be confident and optimistic about the upcoming regular duck season. We have the habitat, but we know that we need the right combination of weather and habitat to dictate this year's fall flight."