An earlier version of this Migration Alert incorrectly listed the LDWF survey indicated 7.9 million teal in Louisiana. The actual number is a little more than 373,000 teal were counted in the LDWF aerial survey.
By Chris Holmes, WF360 Louisiana Migration Editor
The early teal season in Louisiana began today (Friday, Sept. 15) and reports from a recent Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) aerial survey showing more than 373,000 teal, along with local hunter reports, indicate this season could be a good one.
There was an estimated 7.9 million blue-winged teal surveyed in the 2017 Duck Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners in early summer—an 18 percent increase over last season. Teal season began a week later this year and that has many Louisiana waterfowlers hoping that the delayed opener gives more time for birds to arrive. While the later opening date appears to be generally favored by most hunters, it does come at the expense of one weekend hunting day.
Due to the calendar this year, LDWF Waterfowl Study Leader Larry Reynolds began planning for this possible opportunity before last year's teal season had even ended. "The calendar next year provides an opportunity to get in the full 16 days with a later opening date. If that's what we choose, we'll not only have five weekend hunting days, but also get the advantage of more time for the birds to show up," Reynolds says.
On the ground reports from across the state indicate that many bluewings and even some greenwings have indeed arrived. "The birds are here," says Rod Haydel of Haydel's Game Calls. "Everything is on par for a good opener. Birds are in the rice. Water levels are high, so I'm sure they will be scattered," he adds.
Unlike last year, there are no reports of water shortages, and if anything, some areas may have too much water. Southwest Louisiana was spared the torrential rains from Hurricane Harvey that devastated much of south Texas, but the region did receive 5 to 15 inches over a couple days.
"We've had a few weeks for the coastal water levels to recede, and the water in most of the agricultural fields is now back at normal levels," says avid waterfowler Jim Sutton. "There will be some wet fields that are normally not flooded, and these may draw some birds from other areas."
As usual, hunters in the Venice area are reporting good numbers of teal, but not many giant flocks. "I was down there last week and saw steady groups moving around. Three, four, five, six birds at a time, but they're there," says veteran southeast Louisiana teal hunter Eric Pendarvis.
Pendarvis adds that there is plenty of duck potato in the marsh, and with no local tropical storm activity so far this year, the area is in great shape to host arriving bluewings and other waterfowl.
Teal are notorious for being here today and gone tomorrow, and that's exactly what Jared Hall of Quackhead Outfitters has observed. "I'm hearing and seeing mixed reports. Last week you couldn't ride around without seeing teal in the sky. This week, the numbers went down on the northern end of Plaquemines, but picked up further south. No big concentrations of birds, but 10 to 15 here and there."
Hall has received reports that the western part of the state has big numbers of bluewings and that Venice is beginning to pick up. "As of right now, it should be a much better teal opener than we had last season. Hopefully, this later opener and the next front will push more birds down to us," he says.
Louisiana's early teal season ends on Sept. 30, 2017.
Note from LDWF:
Roseau cane is a favored blind material for many south Louisiana duck hunters. However, several areas are seeing expansive cane die-offs caused by a tiny insect, the roseau cane scale. In efforts to limit the spread of this insect, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is urging hunters and fishermen to take the following simple precautions:
Do not transport roseau cane.
Do not tie boats up to roseau cane.
Remove all roseau cane debris from boats prior to leaving local marinas.
Wash and drain boats at or near the marinas with soapy water.
The public is encouraged to report areas of stressed cane and the presence of roseau cane scale at www.surveymonkey.com/r/phragmitessurvey .
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 2017–2018 waterfowl season.