From the sounds across the central and south parishes Saturday, it appears Louisiana hunters welcomes migratory waterfowl into our state with a 2,100-gun salute.
Or was it 21,000 guns?
Whatever the count was for the opening day of this special 16-day teal season, the lingering question will be if the abundance of the four-teal limits reported from all corners of the state is any indication of what might come when the 60-day duck season opens in November.
Reports from the Biloxi Marsh to marshes east of the Mississippi River near Buras to Catahoula Lake and surrounding rice fields to the marshes and rice fields in the southwestern parishes were that hunters hauled out four-teal limits.
The rare exceptions to those limits, it seemed, came from hunters who were a tad rusty with their guns.
There certainly were enough birds.
State biologists and game managers said water levels were lowered in Catahoula Lake to hold just enough water for teal to find food.
Other hunters from Welsh to Klondike through Gueydan west to Lake Arthur and southward to Little Chenier reported seeing teal enough to limit hunts to 30 minutes in the rare mid-September 60-degree morning. (Part of these reports were that the rare chill wasn’t enough to quiet mosquitoes).
The only problem — and a problem all wild waterfowlers celebrate — is that pintail filled the skies in some areas on Catahoula and in the northeast rice fields, that there were enough tree ducks around to stymie hunts in the southwestern parishes, and that mottled ducks, the state’s only native duck, were enjoying the company of their smallish teal brothers in flyovers in the southeastern parishes.
Yes, pintails are early migrants; tree ducks, “squealers” to Louisiana hunters, will soon move south; and, mottled ducks will live up to their modus operandi and soon become wise and shy to decoy spreads and men holding smoking poles.
Amidst this early success is that most hunters know that federal estimates released in July showed Louisiana had the most waterfowl hunting success in the country last season.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s report numbers were that 2.7 million ducks fell to Louisiana hunters in the 2010-2011 season.
In fact, that count was higher than the USFWS estimates for the entire Atlantic Flyway or the Central Flyway.
Louisiana accounted for 18 percent of the total duck take last season, or about 30 ducks per hunter.
Arkansas was a distant second at 1.4 million ducks.
“That is a big increase in our hunter success from the year before,” State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds said.
“Last season provided some great duck hunting in Louisiana, and given the increased populations and wetland conditions on the breeding grounds, we are hoping for another excellent season.”