The 2022–2023 Louisiana duck season is in the home stretch. The entire state is open and closes on January 29. The weather since the new year has been the typical roller coaster, from freezing lows to record highs.
The January LDWF aerial waterfowl survey continues to show numbers below the long-term average. The most recent survey totaled just under 2 million ducks across the state. The survey included the southwest, southeast, and Little River Basin (formerly named Catahoula Lake) areas.
“The southwest Louisiana count of 1,227,000 ducks is 12 percent higher than last January’s estimate (1.1 million) but is 4 percent and 14 percent lower than the most recent 5- and 10-year averages, respectively. The count was also 12 percent below the December 2022 survey total,” said Jason Olszak, LDWF waterfowl program manager. Approximately 62 percent of all the ducks surveyed were located in the southwest region. “Green-winged teal were the most abundant species in the southwest (28 percent), followed by gadwalls (22 percent),” Olszak said.
In the southeast region, the January estimate of 675,000 ducks was 4 percent lower than the December 2022 survey total but showed a huge 481 percent increase from the November survey. “Southeast Louisiana comprised 35 percent of the total duck estimate in January, up two percentage points from December. Canvasbacks were the most abundant ducks (22 percent) in southeast Louisiana, followed by pintails (18 percent), ring-necked ducks (17 percent), gadwalls (13 percent) and green-winged teal (12 percent),” Olszak said.
The 86,000 ducks counted in the Little River Basin was the highest estimate of the year, based heavily on the arrival of canvasbacks on Catahoula Lake. Duck numbers increased significantly from 42,000 birds in November and 29,000 in December. “A few large rafts of canvasbacks that totaled 85,000 birds were nearly the only ducks on the lake at the time of the survey, aside from a few scaup, ringnecks, gadwalls, and mallards mixed in,” Olszak said.
Northwest Louisiana rounded out the survey with a total of 25,700 ducks counted. Habitat conditions were noted as favorable with most areas holding abundant water. However, the area north of Shreveport along the Red River to the Arkansas line was extremely dry.
Brent Smith hunts in southeast Louisiana in the Pointe-a-la-Hache area. “The birds have been a bit hard to find and move in and out with the changing weather patterns. We’ve had an overall good year with plenty of limits if you’re patient enough to pick the good days and wait the birds out,” he said. Smith further reports that the bags have been mixed, but few wigeon or mallards have been encountered. “If it wasn’t for teal, it would be hard getting limits. Most of what we have been taking is green-winged teal and gray ducks,” he said.
Avid duck hunter Sarah Giles kicked off the opening of the west zone third split at Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras. She and Don Dubuc were filming a segment for Don’s local outdoors show, Bayou Wild TV. “Our four-person blind with guide Captain Ryan Lambert took a mixed bag of teal, wigeon, canvasbacks and pintails,” she said.
Located on the banks of Larto Lake and encompassing thousands of acres of the old Louisiana Delta Plantation, Honey Brake Lodge is a duck hunter’s paradise. Head guide and habitat manager Jared Mophett reported great success so far. “We have had a great season, and things look good for the rest of the year. It’s January and there will be some good days and slow days, but the conditions look good,” he said.
Larry Caldarera and friends have been hunting a mix of public and private land in eastern St. Bernard Parish. Gadwalls and green-winged teal have made up the majority of their bags. “We hunt private and public areas in the Biloxi marsh. The water levels have been higher this year. We’ve had some good and some not so good hunts,” he said. As noted by many hunters we talked to, versatility and adaptability are the keys to success when the numbers are low and the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Jeff Simmons, owner of Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop, tries to spend all 60 days of the season chasing ducks. “Duck hunting has been a little tough the past few days and there were more mosquitoes flying in most places Wednesday than there were ducks. In fact, there were not many folks hunting. But fortunately, we haven’t had many of those this season. We're hoping that this weather change gets the ducks moving a little bit more. We’ll have to wait and see,” Simmons said.