Waterfowl season is now open statewide in Louisiana, and for the most part, hunters appear to be enjoying better success than they did last season. Much improved duck numbers are being reported compared to last year’s counts, and this has many Louisiana waterfowlers optimistic for a strong finish.
According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), duck numbers in the December survey were up considerably compared to the November estimate and last season’s survey results at this time of year.
“The 2.57 million ducks in our December survey is 2.5 times higher than the November estimate of 1.04 million birds and 32 percent higher than last December’s estimate of 1.94 million birds. However, the total estimate was still 8 percent below the long-term December average of 2.81 million birds,” explains LDWF Waterfowl Study Leader Larry Reynolds.
Blue-winged teal were the only species in the survey that have declined since November, while gadwalls, ring-necked ducks, and mallards showed increases. However, Reynolds notes that duck distribution was highly variable across the survey area.
“There were a few very large concentrations of birds with broad expanses that had very few ducks. The most extreme example was in southeast Louisiana, where large numbers of ring-necked ducks were counted in the freshwater marshes of upper Terrebonne Parish south-southeast of Amelia, then there were very few ducks on the next four transect lines and the line just south of New Orleans,” Reynolds says.
Steve Stroderd hunts the area around Johnson Bayou in southwest Louisiana. “It’s been a roller coaster. One day we have a great hunt, and the next day we see only a fraction of the birds,” he reports. Stroderd notes that waterfowl numbers are mixed, with some areas of the marsh holding good numbers of birds while the rice fields in his area appear to be holding fewer ducks and geese than normal.
Captain Ryan Lambert, of Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, reports that the first split was slow in his area. He notes that intense hunting pressure appears to be driving ducks offshore and making them nocturnal.
“The winter tides are higher at night, allowing the birds to flee the pressure to offshore waters and return to the marshes at night,” Lambert explains.
Lambert has seen a recent increase in numbers of gadwalls and pintails. His advice to hunters is to minimize disturbance of ducks in the marsh as much as possible. “Hunt smart and the season will be better for everyone,” Lambert says.
In keeping with the increased mallard counts, hunters have been reporting good shooting in parts of north Louisiana. “The birds are finally starting to show up with these continuous cold fronts,” says Glen Wilson, who hunts near Shreveport. “We’re hunting a little longer, but it’s paying off with some good mallard and pintail shooting.”
Jeff Simmons, of Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop, has also been encouraged by what he has seen this season. “Duck hunting can be great, or it can be lousy. We just don’t know when it will be good or bad. But this year has been pretty good so far. In fact, it’s already better than last season altogether,” he says.
A warm-up is expected over the Christmas holidays, but more cold fronts will hopefully be on the way, and with luck, more ducks will make their way south to Louisiana to start the new year.