Jack Cousin drove around the rice country where he works as a professional goose hunting guide, beside himself at what he was seeing on the ground Thursday morning in southwest Louisiana.

A couple thousand geese, mostly speckle-bellies, in the fields along the road seemed to be laughing at him, mocking him, giving him the bird, if you will. After all, he was powerless to gun any of them down with a shotgun, which was readily available, because the goose hunting season is on hold.

The 27-year-old New Iberia outdoorsman was making the rounds around the Sportsman Charters LLC lease south of Gueydan in an effort to stay on top of the geese and be aware of their movement. That’s his livelihood.

Cousin will have the last laugh, just like he did in the waning days of the first split for goose hunting that began Nov. 6 and ended Dec. 5. The geese, however, won early.

“When it opened it was so bad the first couple of weeks, by far the slowest start I’ve ever seen,” he said, noting geese weren’t down in numbers and rice crops were a few weeks late, plus it was a very dry year and, at least early in the season, water is critical for geese.

The goose hunting blues disappeared after the first few weeks, however.

“Luckily for us, the last week of 10 days or so (of the first split) were about as good as good gets any more in this area. Phenomenal. It’s really crazy the way it changed. Thank God it did,” Cousin said.

How good? During that stretch run of the first split, Cousin and his clients often relished knocking down 15 to 18 speckle-bellies in a two-hour period.

The better days, he said, were the clear days with south winds. That’s when the big birds decoyed like they meant business.

“The last five days of the split when he had that fog we put up some good numbers on those days,” he said.

One of his most enjoyable trips so far this season was with local outdoorsmen Dr. Kenneth Brown, Dr. Donald Henagen, Troy Comeaux and Dr. Buddy Donaldson of Georgie, formerly of New Iberia. His father, Jacques Cousin of New Iberia, has yet to hunker down in a goose blind with his son but plans are in the works to have him shouldering a shotgun soon over there.

As good as the goose hunting got in the first split, the duck hunting success, well, there was little to none to speak of in what once was billed as the Duck Hunting Capital of the World. State waterfowl biologists pointed out before this waterfowl hunting season opened the majority of the ducks in the region were in the marsh along the coast.

And, apparently, based on field reports over the past decade, the flight path of ducks has altered to the point their wings rarely pass over that part of southwest Louisiana.

Cousin is optimistic about goose hunting during the second split, which begins Dec. 18 in the West Zone, and the third split, which starts Jan. 10 and ends Feb. 6 in the West Zone. There are plenty of geese down already and he believes the numbers will increase.

“Overall, I’m definitely seeing a lot of birds around here now. The goose numbers are really good — blues, a lot of specks. Right now, I think I’m pretty comfortable with what I’m seeing,” he said. “I think we have a pretty healthy number of birds down now. We can expect more (following each cold front). I think more are on the way. Usually, January is when we have the biggest number of birds.”

Cousin, a Catholic High School and University of Louisiana-Lafayette graduate, has emerged as a highly successful goose hunting guide following a few years right out of college as a project manager for a crane company in Lake Charles. Unlike others, he refrains from adding goose decoys as the season winds down.

He sticks with anywhere from six to perhaps three dozen decoys. He believes placement is more important than numbers and setting them out upwind of the goose blind, 30 to 50 yards away, is the key.

Why? He believes decoys are like air traffic controllers on the ground directing the waterfowl where to land or make a final pass.

Lifelike decoys are a must, which is the reason he uses Avery Greenhead Gear and Blue Collar Decoys.

Cousin is one of eight full-time waterfowl hunting guides at Sportsman Charters LLC, which hunts 2,000 acres south of Gueydan. John Saucier, the owner, is one of the waterfowl hunting guides.

There are approximately 12 goose blinds set up across the lease, according to Cousin, the former goose calling champion from New Iberia. From time to time he and the goose hunters with him have to stay in the goose blind longer these days.

Again, why?

It still bothers him the state raised the bag limit for white-fronted geese (speckle-bellies) from two to three birds. The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries increased the limit in 2019-20.

“There’s no reason for us to have a three-bird limit. It’s tough enough as it is,” he said, citing the extra hunting pressure. “They don’t get a chance to rest, ever, with all the extra shots over a time period.”

Cousin takes it in stride and pours all he has into the sport he loves inside and outside the goose blind.

“I’m just enjoying this, man, for sure, because it ain’t going to last forever,” he said.

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