By Chris Holmes, WF360 Louisiana Migration Editor
Louisiana's early teal season opened last week with high expectations, but the actual results varied across the state. Days before the opener, a cool front moved in and hunters reported seeing good numbers of blue-winged teal. Their confidence was bolstered by an aerial survey that showed four times more bluewings in the state than were counted before the season last year. While some hunters have experienced good success, others have been disappointed.
Jeff Simmons of Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop writes a blog during hunting season to keep his customers current on what is going on in his area. In his first teal report of the year, Simmons deferred to Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). "Clearly, conditions have been conducive to moving a larger-than-average number of bluewings into Louisiana. Although wetland habitat conditions are good in states to the north of us, early cold fronts provided unseasonably cool weather over the past week," Reynolds wrote in his initial preseason survey report.
However, Reynolds has personally experienced subpar teal hunting success so far this season. "I had the worst opening weekend of teal season in the last 13 years, I think due to high water in the marsh, high temperatures, and no wind, but also fewer than normal birds in my particular area," Reynolds reports.
Nevertheless, some hunters have been fortunate to be where the birds have wanted to be. Jon Despino of Shell Shocked Lodge & Guide Service is beating the odds and counting his blessings. "We started off a little slow and had to scout to find the right area," he says. "However, I have two blinds that have consistently produced limits while other hunters nearby are struggling."
With low numbers of birds in the area, Despino knows what is contributing to his success. "I found an area that has shallow water that is filled with snails and other invertebrates. There are many species of birds feeding there, and the teal are coming there too," he adds.
Despino saw something today that has him even more optimistic about the remaining days of the season. "We had several groups of teal come in today, and each group had some greenwings mixed in. These are the first greenwings I've seen this year and we shot several," he says.
Hunting the marshes in southeast Louisiana near Cocodrie, Captain Anthony Kyzar of Cajun Fishing & Hunting Charters is also enjoying a good season. "This year we have plenty of grass and were loaded with teal in August. All of our blinds shot limits opening day, and since then we are averaging 10 to 12 birds per blind," Kyzar says.
Kyzar is optimistic not only for the remaining days of teal season, but also for the regular duck season. "In years past, when we've had this many teal and this much food, we have had an excellent big duck season as well," he adds.
Reports indicate that teal hunting success has been mixed in other parts of the state. Some blinds are on fire and some can't buy a bird. The heat, high water, and a lack of wind have been common denominators.
Reynolds notes that LDWF personnel who have been collecting samples at picking sheds in southwest Louisiana have witnessed far fewer birds being processed than in previous years. In addition, the harvest has included a larger proportion of adult females than usual. Since these birds are typically the last birds in the population to migrate, it suggests that early cold fronts before the season opened may have pushed a good portion of the bluewing migration through the state. "Hunting success the next 10 days will bear that out or not," Reynolds says.
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.