LAFAYETTE, La., July 22, 2011 –
Waterfowl hunters harvested more than 2.7 million ducks in Louisiana
during the 2010-11 waterfowl season, more than any other state, according to the recently released annual U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Migratory Bird Hunting Activity
and Harvest report.
"Conserving waterfowl habitats
in Louisiana has long been one of Ducks Unlimited's highest priorities," Bob Dew, DU manager of conservation programs, said. "More ducks were harvested in Louisiana last season than in the entire Atlantic or Central Flyways! If that doesn't convey the continental importance of Louisiana as wintering waterfowl habitat, I don't know what does."
Louisiana's harvest accounts for 18 percent of the United States harvest. Arkansas had the second highest harvest in the Mississippi Flyway with 1.4 million ducks. Factoring in hunter numbers, Louisiana's harvest equated to 30.6 ducks harvested per hunter for the season.
"That is a big increase in our hunter success from the year before," Larry Reynolds, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Waterfowl Study Leader, said. "Last season provided some great duck hunting in Louisiana, and given the increased populations and wetland conditions on the breeding grounds, we are hoping for another excellent season."
However, waterfowlers should remember there are a multitude of factors that influence migration patterns as well as individual hunting success. Weather patterns are often the greatest driving force for waterfowl, and last winter's weather patterns pushed waterfowl south with hard freezes and snow cover to the north. Local habitat conditions, particularly local rainfall patterns that influence habitat availability, also play a critical role in hunter success.
Last fall and winter there were significant efforts related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster to provide habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. The effort resulted in significant habitat in southwest Louisiana throughout fall and winter due to the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative, while southeast Louisiana marshes were under the influence of a high river with open freshwater diversions.
"Ducks Unlimited's partnership with private landowners, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service put about 80,000 acres of water on the ground in drought-stricken southwest Louisiana in time for the fall flights," Dew said. "And the freshwater pouring into southeast coastal marshes encouraged excellent submersed aquatic vegetation growth, an important food resource for waterfowl, in that portion of the state."
Last year's breeding populations were above long term averages for most species, so waterfowl production should have been very good. Add to that late fall and winter weather patterns that pushed ducks south where they were greeted by locally excellent habitat conditions, and you have great harvest potential. Additionally, USFWS data also suggest that Louisiana had an increase in hunter numbers last year – more than 9,000 more than the previous year – and an increase in hunter effort – more than 130,000 more days afield – and the result is a near perfect combination of factors leading to Louisiana's record harvest.
The coming waterfowl season is shaping up to be promising as well. The breeding ground population surveys and wetland pond counts showed great breeding pair numbers and habitat conditions. Flooding along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers has provided significant freshwater inputs, and river levels remain high so stands of submersed aquatic vegetation attractive to ducks should be developing nicely. Also, most of the habitat created through the MBHI program will be provided again for waterfowl in the rice prairie region.
"With the wet conditions on the breeding grounds, duck hunters should be excited about the upcoming season," Dew said. "But some areas of Louisiana are very dry and very salty, which will have an effect on habitat conditions locally. Keep your fingers crossed for some rain and cold fall and winter weather up north."
Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.