By Chris Holmes, WF360 Louisiana Migration Editor
Louisiana duck hunters are entering the home stretch of the 2017-2018 regular duck season, and the new year brought heavy migrations and good shooting to many areas across the state. The frigid weather that set in across most of the country over the New Year’s weekend pushed large concentrations of waterfowl into the Bayou State.
The northern parts of the East Zone saw hard freezes, which kept the ducks on the rivers and big water. But as soon as the thaw began, flights of new birds spread across the area. “Once things thawed out a bit, we started seeing more ducks than I’ve seen in a long time,” says Jeff Simmons of Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop. “We had a variety of ducks, including more pintails than we’ve had in quite a while.”
During the deep freeze, Simmons and his hunting partners have had to put in extra time in the duck blind to give the ice a chance to thaw and the ducks time to move. “The story is, you stay late, you kill ducks. You go home early, you probably don’t,” Simmons says. With little thawing expected to the north, good hunting should remain through the end of the season, which closes on January 28 in the East Zone.
Along the coastal areas, some ducks moved in before the cold weather came, providing good hunting between Christmas and New Year’s. As the cold moved in, however, the water moved out and many tidal areas went nearly dry. “A lot of water left with the big front, but when the water started coming back, the ducks came with it,” says Jared Hall of Quackheads Outfitters.
According to Hall, the Venice area has been booming for the past week with mixed bags of pintails, gadwall, teal, canvasbacks, and scaup. “Teal are fun, but when you shoot pintails you know you are doing something right. Our customers ask for sprigs, and that's what they are getting. The ducks are down and we are ready,” he says. With more cold fronts predicted, Hall is optimistic about a great finish to the season, which closes in the Coastal and West Zones on January 21.
The freezing weather hasn’t been good for everyone, says Jon Despino of ShellShocked Guide Service near Catahoula Lake. “We lost a lot of birds with the freeze, especially geese,” he says. “They just left the area.”
Despino says that in the days leading up to the big front, many of his clients were taking nice limits of mallards and pintails. “There are still a lot of canvasbacks on Catahoula Lake,” he says. He adds that with more than two weeks to go in the East Zone season, there is still plenty of time for other ducks to return to the area as they move around in response to hunting pressure and changing weather conditions.
Captain Anthony Kysar of Cajun Fishing & Hunting Charters says that while the big front didn’t bring a flurry of new ducks into his area, “the hunting has been steady, with a lot of divers around.” Hunters in his area are taking mixed bags of bluebills, redheads, green-winged teal, and gray ducks. “We’re also killing some nice canvasbacks,” he says. “Divers move around a lot, and I expect the good hunting to continue until the season closes.”
Kysar hunts in the Chauvin and Cocodrie areas near Houma, where the good fishing allows his clients to enjoy some nice cast-and-blast outings. “There has also been a lot of poule d’eau [coots] in the area, and they are providing some great shooting action over and above the duck hunting. My clients love that,” he adds.
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.