By Chris Holmes, WF360 Louisiana Migration Editor
With only a few days left to the season, some Louisiana duck hunters are licking their wounds and planning for next year. However, others enjoyed a great season and are hoping to squeeze in a few more outstanding hunts. The Coastal and West zones close this Sunday and the East zone runs through January 28. Youth hunts are on January 28th in the West zone and February 4th in the East zone.
Mixed weather patterns throughout the season made for unpredictable birds. Unfortunately, the dominating factor was unseasonable and sometimes record-breaking high temperatures. Major cold fronts were few and far between.
The duck counts remained good throughout the first two months of the season, but the birds moved around often. However, the January duck count shows a sharp decline. The 2.05 million ducks estimated on this survey is 11 percent higher than last January’s estimate of 1.85 million. However, it is down 43 percent from the December survey total of 3.61 million,” says LDWF waterfowl study leader Larry Reynolds. The decline between December and January is the largest on record. "This is the second consecutive year the January estimate has declined markedly from the December estimate, something that has happened only seven times since 1977-78.”
No matter what the bird counts or thermometers read, die-hard duck hunters will be in the blinds combing the sky for their final fix of the season.
Captain Jimmy Corley of Waterfowl Specialist Guide Service spent most of the season hunting the Delacroix and Caernarvon areas. "The season started off great with easy limits, but lately we’ve had to work harder and stay later. It’s been foggy, hot and still. The birds that are around have been sitting still. If they get up, they go right back down to the same spot,” says Corley. The eastern parts of the Coastal zone saw a big decline in the January survey with most of the ducks shifting to the west. "There’s a storm coming through tonight so we’re planning to start a little later tomorrow and hoping to finish out with a good hunt on Sunday,” he adds. Corley rates his season as average with a lot of happy clients.
Up in the northeastern part of the state, Colby Daniels of Top Gun Guides reports that the ducks in his area must not have seen the recent survey. "We had great hunts this morning in both the fields and cypress breaks. The hunters in the fields shot mallards, pintails and gadwalls and the cypress break produced all gadwalls,” he says. With a little over a week left to his season in the east zone, Daniels is looking for some colder weather next week to put the finishing touch on what he says has been an above average season. "We were swamped with ducks in the early parts of the season, but there are not as many now. However, we’re still having really good hunts. In addition to the ducks, we have quite a few specklebellies and a million snows.”
Captain Joe DiMarco guides for Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, Louisiana. The lodge maintains a daily blog for each day of the 60-day season. In addition to results from that day’s hunt, a season total and bird/hunter average is continuously tallied. "Up until last week, we were averaging over four birds per hunter and sometimes over five. However, the fog and low water has really slowed things down. There are lots of birds around, but they are sitting in the open water with no reason to come in,” he says. With nearly 2,300 birds taken so far during the season, DiMarco says it’s been a good year considering the warm and dry conditions.
Louisiana duck hunters know they are blessed, even when their current season is not as good as some prior years. Considering the weather conditions, many still had an average to above average season. However, they live and breathe ducks and closing day begins the countdown to opening day.
A lifelong resident of southeast Louisiana, Chris Holmes is a freelance writer, avid waterfowl hunter, and fisherman. He will be providing Louisiana migration, habitat, and hunting alerts to Waterfowl360 throughout the 2016–2017 waterfowl season.