That blue-winged teal numbers have dropped again — 16 percent less than last year — doesn’t dampen a young local waterfowl hunter’s passion for duck hunting and Saturday’s special teal hunting season opener in Louisiana.
“With the teal population down a little bit, if the birds move, I think it’ll be a little better this year. I hope everybody shoots a bit more than last year because last year wasn’t great,” Ben Derouen of New Iberia, ever the optimist, said Wednesday afternoon as he warmed up to one of his favorite subjects.
The 15-year-old Catholic High School student said he can’t wait for the opener of the teal season scheduled for Sept. 14-29. Derouen, the son of Skipper and Angela Derouen, plans to be on a lease with his father when the green light goes on to shoot one-half hour before sunrise opening day.
“I love it,” the younger Derouen said about any day in a duck blind. “We love it. We shoot a few birds and, even if we don’t, we enjoy the time out.”
The special teal hunting season is lagniappe ever since it was started in the Sportsman’s Paradise. It whets the appetite for duck hunters before the start of the regular season, which is Nov. 9 in the Coastal Zone and West Zone, Nov. 23 in the East Zone.
Derouen enjoys looking down the barrel of his Beretta A350 Extreme shotgun, tracking a zig-zagging teal and pulling the trigger in the middle of September. It doesn’t matter to him if the humidity’s in the 90s and the temp’s closer to 100 than 90.
“Oh, it is very exciting. I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days,” he said. “We’ll go any time. You’ve just got to bear with the heat right now.”
The father and son waterfowlers pulled out their decoys Wednesday afternoon “to see what we had,” he said.
Without fail, usually every year at this time, they purchase a dozen or so new decoys, which they did that day, ordering decoys from Avery Outdoors and Higgins Lifelike Duck Decoys. They will arrive in time for some serious waterfowl hunting and, for Faith, their chocolate Labrador retriever who will be hunting his third season, some serious waterfowl retrieving, according to Derouen.
How do they use the decoys? Sometimes, he said, none is better than some.
“We kind of go by what the birds do. If they’re not reacting to the decoys, we put less. If they’re coming straight in, we don’t put any,” he said, adding he likes that the erratic flying birds come in from any direction.
The Derouens hunt with four other waterfowlers on the lease around Little Prairie, which is near Pecan Island. They have been in it for the past three seasons and before that were on another lease — also near Pecan Island — for two years.
They hunted near Boston for the longest time before settling into their lease at Little Prairie.
The younger Derouen said he started duck hunting with his dad when he was about 6. They’ll renew the tradition this coming week when they leave after school lets out Friday, play host to a barbecue at the camp and leave at 5 a.m. to get in the duck blind.
His enthusiasm remains high despite memories of last season, which was subpar.
“Last year started out slow for the (special) teal season. Two, three, four … As the weeks came it did get a little better during the duck season. It got a lot better,” he said.
“We shoot teal all year long. We just love the thrill of them coming in real fast, just in the moment, and knocking them down. Then we send the dog out. We’ve been hunting her since her first year,” he said.