By JIMMY WATSON | The Times
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Louisiana duck hunting this winter has offered a mixed bag of success, although some corners of the state have had better harvests than others, according Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries waterfowl study leader Larry Reynolds, as well has hunters who frequent the state's hotspots.
“Overall around the state, hunters did pretty well in the first split, but not so much in the second split,” said Reynolds, who regularly visits with hunters statewide. “After the first split, we had a lot of warm, stale, windless days and the lack of wind didn't blow the birds around the state. It appears it was good along the coast until the rain last week.”
Reynolds said he talked to one group of coastal hunters who harvested 19 ducks on Friday, 12 on Saturday but just one on Sunday.
“They said they were looking forward to doing some more deer hunting,” Reynolds said chuckling.
Kelly Haydel, who primarily hunts the marshes around Lake Charles and the Sabine Wildlife Refuge, said successful duck hunting has been dependent on the weather. The two early cold fronts the state received brought a big push of birds south.
“Unfortunately, we got some south winds that pushed the birds back up past the freeze line,” he said. “The weather we're getting right now should help shift the birds. The migration of 200 to 300 miles is usually controlled by the wind. We look for the weather changes to refuel the birds in the southwest.”
Mike Smith, operator of LA Marsh Guide Service in Saint Bernard (New Orleans area) hasn't had a problem finding ducks for his customers.
“It's been the best hunting we've had in years – the best season since 2011. We've only had one slow day and that was the day after Christmas,” White said. “We're getting a lot of redheads and gadwalls, along with some teal. We've killed every species except ringnecks.”
White said the dearth of water in southern Arkansas and North Louisiana has helped his business.
“Cold weather and a lack of water in North Louisiana is a recipe for good duck hunting on the coast,” he said.
Bossier City's Lloyd Webb has been hunting the Red River since 1992 and his success this winter was decent early, not so much of late.
“We'd call the early hunting average, but we didn't get many gray ducks and that's our bread and butter,” Webb said. “We had a better than average number of mallards on certain days.”
Webb said the birds he and his friends are finding right now are local birds.
“The only way to get them is you have to know where they are and set up there,” he explained. “We'll be lucky to get any more flight days this year. It's just about over. We live for the flight days, but we missed a lot of flight days this winter.”
Northeast Louisiana also encountered a mixed bag, according to LDWF Commission member Ronny Graham of Ruston, who hunts on land in Caldwell Parish.
“I didn't have much success on my land, but I know others did,” Graham said. “But there are the same number of ducks we had 20 years ago with probably twice as many hunters and twice as much water. The ducks have a lot more opportunity about where to go.”
Reynolds said he talked to another group of hunters who hunt on the McGowan Break (near Bastrop) and they said they've had their best season in years.
“It's like that sometime,” Reynolds said.
Haydel, who said he has seen a lot of pintails in Cameron Parish, said hunters north of I-10 have done well on mallards.
He has a friend who found success on Caddo Lake after the first few cold fronts, but not much since.
“If the season opened a week earlier, the earliest possible day in November, it would help things up here more,” Haydel said. “In the marsh for us, we don't get many mallards,” he said.
Salvinia on the Red River has affected the duck hunting there, along with pressure of hunters seeking a public venue for their hunts, Haydel said.
Reynolds recently released his latest aerial waterfowl report and it included 82,000 ducks counted in the Catahoula Lake area (east of Alexandria). The number was significantly lower than the 144,000 birds counted in November, but greater than the 76,000 counted in December 2013.
“There hasn't been a lot of food production in that area,” Reynolds explained.
The survey was conducted two days after the close of the first split of the duck hunting season, and “that likely influences the counts compared to past surveys conducted after more than a week of closed season due to 12-day instead of just 5-day splits,” the report said.
Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com