Louisiana duck hunting, which is as popular as college football in the South, got underway Saturday, much to the delight of hundreds of Teche Area waterfowlers who hunted on opening day of the first split in the Coastal Zone.
Waiting for them, based on an aerial waterfowl population survey earlier in the week, were an estimated 954,000 ducks in southwest Louisiana and southeast Louisiana, according to state waterfowl study leader Larry Reynolds. The veteran state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries waterfowl biologist flew transect lines along the coast Monday and Wednesday.
Area duck hunters hopeful of getting their limit settled into duck blinds before sunrise, shotguns with steel shot shells at the ready for the start of the 2019-20 waterfowl hunting season in the Sportsman’s Paradise.
Reynolds, as always, delivered on his preseason report just before the opener. He noted it was a preliminary report because northwest and northeast regions would be surveyed this week.
The estimated 1.04 million total ducks counted in this past week’s survey is the third-lowest November estimate since the survey began in 1969, ahead of only 2008 (958,000) and 2013 (1.02 million), Reynolds said in his report released Thursday. And, he said, the total is barely half the most recent five-year and long-term averages of 2 million ducks.
However, the waterfowl biologist said, the November 2018 survey was incomplete because of inclement weather and comparisons with this year are available only for southwest Louisiana. The 597,000 ducks estimated in the region many of our area waterfowlers hunt is more than twice the 247,000 estimated in November 2018 but remains the lowest in the region in at least 10 years, 40 percent below the 2008-2017 average of 994,000, he said.
There are large concentrations of ducks in a few areas, which is encouraging. Also, more ducks could be headed this way because a strong cold front forecast to push through the region early this week.
What do the latest numbers show?
Reynolds said estimates for all species except mottled ducks were higher than last November in southwest Louisiana. At the same time, over the entire surveyed area, all dabbling ducks except shovelers were below long-term averages, and except for blue-winged teal (166,000 vs. 183,000), they were less than half the long-term average, he said. Also, all diving duck species were above their long-term November averages.
Notable concentrations of ducks in southwest Louisiana were mostly gadwall spotted on the west side of Rockefeller National Wildlife Refuge, and in the marsh south and east of Calcasieu Lake. In southeast Louisiana, the largest flocks of mostly blue-winged teal were in the marsh north of Pointe-a-la-Hache and east of Venice.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.