When Louisiana’s East Zone duck hunters hit the field this weekend, they will be joining those in the West and Coastal Zones, which opened one and two weeks ago, respectively. Enthusiasm is high, but hopes are tempered by reports of mixed success since seasons in Louisiana’s other zones began.
Jared Serigne hunts the Coastal Zone near Caernarvon. After back-to-back years with little success, he was pleasantly surprised with that zone’s opening weekend. “We had limits all opening weekend with a mixed bag of gadwalls, bluewings, redheads, scaup, and just a few greenwings. By midweek, the numbers had dropped some and the birds were already responding to pressure. I think a lot of our birds are only stopping here for a few days before heading elsewhere. Aside from bluewings and scaup, I don’t think they intend to spend their entire winter here,” he says.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) aerial survey of Catahoula Lake was conducted two weeks ago, just a few days before a big Arctic blast came through. Reports have been mixed on how well the front impacted duck movements into the state, but hunters in the East Zone from Baton Rouge to the north are reporting good numbers.
“The 103,000 ducks counted at Catahoula Lake is about the same as the most recent 10-year average, with more diving ducks than normal for November. Water level was about one foot below target for opening of the waterfowl season during the survey, and foraging conditions were excellent for dabbling ducks. Moist-soil vegetation was much improved from the September survey, and habitat conditions appear very good if water levels can be maintained within management targets,” reports Larry Reynolds, LDWF Waterfowl Study leader.
Jared Mophett is the head guide/habitat manager at Honey Brake Lodge near Jonesville. Hunting vast expanses of agricultural lands and moist-soil units, Mophett predicts a good opener for their hunters. “We’re looking good right now and holding quite a few birds. We do need a good rain, though, and I would like to get two inches or so. The habitat looks good and I’ve also received a few other good reports, but also a few poor ones too,” he says.
One common theme has been that ducks that are here are in specific areas. Hunting down south near Venice, James Johnson says some areas are loaded and others are barren. “We’ve found more birds on the west side of the river and hardly any on the east in the Baptiste Colette area. There are just not enough birds to go around for everybody, so scouting is important,” he says.
Based in north Louisiana, Ducks Unlimited biologist Michael McVay spends much of his time in the field. “Duck numbers have held really well the last several weeks during the most recent cold snap. Places like the Jones, Bonita, and Mer Rouge areas are holding many birds in fields that are holding water. Ducks I have been seeing include mostly gadwalls and shovelers, with some teal and mallards among the mix. This area has been holding tens of thousands of geese over the last several weeks. Personally, it’s the most I’ve seen this early since I have hunted here,” he says.
Consistent reports of large numbers of geese in the central and northern areas of the state have been the norm. “Two weeks ago, the area along Highway 15 south of Monroe held several thousand geese just in the fields where my group hunted during the early goose season,” McVay says. “In this area I also saw large numbers of blue-winged teal, shovelers, and pintails, with gadwalls and mallards in the mix. Duck numbers in that area have since dropped significantly during the last week with warmer temperatures, but white-fronted goose numbers are still holding relatively strong.”
Learn more about Migration and Wintering Distribution.