By Chris Holmes, WF360 Louisiana Migration Editor
Teal, it might not be what's for dinner. The 16-day special teal season opens on September 10, 2016. Coming on the heels of the wettest August on record for Louisiana, there's no shortage of water, but reports of these winged rockets are scarce.
Early August saw the devastating rains in south central Louisiana from an unnamed storm, followed a couple weeks later by high coastal tides. Hurricane Hermine passed close enough to raise tidal water levels before turning and landing on the northwest coast of Florida.
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Waterfowl Study Leader, Larry Reynolds was in the middle of the September surveys at the time of this report. "I've flown 21 lines of the Coastal Survey and the teal numbers are very low. Lots of water, but few ducks," he reports.
With more areas to fly, Reynolds cautioned that it's risky to comment until all the available data is in and the numbers are "crunched." However, only one bunch of teal nearing1,000 was spotted near Gueydan. If the rest of the survey follows suit, Reynolds expects "one of the lower September surveys on record."
Reynolds' scientific observations are mirrored by those of hunters scouting and prepping blinds in various areas of the state. William Lane Stephenson lives in Shreveport and is a Drake Waterfowl Field Expert. Stephenson chases waterfowl across several states and is not impressed. "I was in southeast Arkansas and only saw about 200 birds. Terrible," he says.
Things aren't much better in the coastal areas. Jared Serigne hunts and guides for teal in the Caernarvon area and says the birds have yet to arrive. "Unfortunately, there's no good news to report. We are remaining hopeful, but it could be a week or so before they start to show," he says. The good news is that despite the high water levels, the habitat is in great shape. "The ponds look great with lots of feed, so when they get here, we should be able to hold them," he adds.
Quack Heads Outfitters has leases across a wide swath of southeast Louisiana and although they saw some teal a few weeks ago, they either left or are hiding out. "We were covered up in some areas a couple weeks ago, but they left or are scattered about. Our guides in other areas are only seeing a handful," says owner, Jared Hall.
Teal can move in and out in the blink of an eye, and with a full moon taking place in mid-September, hunters are remaining optimistic. While all signs point to a slow opener, there's always hope that they will magically appear. Serigne sums up what it means to be a teal hunter in Louisiana: "They haven't shown up in our area, but that could change overnight. We're going regardless."
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.