There’s a bug in the Beaullieu family, and no matter how hard the scientists working in the Center for Disease Control try, it’s unlikely they’ll find a cure.
Worse yet, it’s spreading. There were 12 more victims fanning out Friday from Pecan Island.
“It gets in your blood,” Ted Beaullieu Jr. said. “I know my dad passed it on to me and my whole family.”
This particular strain is spread by ducks and geese, and Beaullieu knows uncles, in-laws and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren are infected with a strain the CDC soon will identify as the “Pecan Island Flu.”
It’s been around a long time, and Ted Beaullieu Sr., now a month shy of his 88th birthday, said the first signs showed up almost 80 years ago.
“My dad had his grandfather’s squirrel gun and he wanted me to use it,” the senior Beaullieu remembered last week at a gathering of hunters in Pecan Island.
“He showed me how to make a goose decoy out of a newspaper, using a rubber band to make the head and wad up the rest, and sent me out in the field near the camp,” he said. “You’d weigh it down with mud. He knew I could hunt alone, and there was a (goose) flyway in the marshes near the camp. So he sent me out there with a 12-gauge shotgun and this decoy. And it worked.
“I came back to the camp with the gun over my shoulder and held up the goose for my dad and uncle to see, and he hold me they’d watched the whole thing from the porch on the camp. I was sure proud.”
He was 10 years old.
“That’s the way he is today,” Ted Jr. said. “We hunt as much as we can together. We’ve had bad (duck) seasons, good seasons and great seasons. No matter how the season’s going, it shows how much dad loves to hunt and be around the other hunters.”
Friday was that chance. There were three days left in the first split of the state’s Coastal Zone duck season, and, as conditions go, it wasn’t supposed to be a good day. After more than two weeks of bone-chilling cold and north winds that had sent millions of ducks into Louisiana, warm weather and light easterly and southerly winds sat on the marshes. As any wild waterfowler knows, that ain’t good.
When the two Teds topped the steps at the camp, six hunters’ smiles told them all they wanted to know.
“Had a good day? We did,” Ted Sr. asked and stated.
All six men had taken their six-ducks-per-day limits, mostly gray ducks, spiced with as many as seven other species that overwinter in the Vermilion and Cameron parishes rice fields and marshes.
Only two of the eight two-hunter teams came in with less than limits. One pair came close with nine ducks, all teal.
It wasn’t always like that at Pecan Island, and no one seems to know why this waterfowl-hunting paradise — old-timers remember bust-em-up hunting there well into the 1970s — before a dearth of ducks on the northern breeding grounds forced limits to three-per-day during the 1980s and early 1990s.
“Birds were sparse,” Ted Jr. said. “There were fewer limits in those days. It wasn’t good.”
He admitted that the family moved hunting locations several times during those years, but there was always Pecan Island, and the love of a place that held so many family memories.”
“My dad exposed lots of other family members to hunting here, and they’re still hunting today,” Ted Jr. said. “What’s good is that they’ve found other places and we’ll trade off hunts with each other. It’s been a tie that’s held our family together many, many years.
“It goes back to the childhood memories, and being here every weekend,” Ted Jr. said. “Even when I was playing football, there was the camp on the weekends. The dads and the boys took turns cooking and that’s where all this started.”
And the folks hunting with the Beaullieus last week showed their hunting experiences are spread far and wide, far beyond the marshes and fields between the Beaullieu’s Lafayette home and their home away from home.
The it-goes-unsaid part is that the ducks simply are a reason to gather old friends and make new ones.
Yes, there were Acadiana area friends, but in Ted Jr.’s waterfowling travels, hunters from western Canada and Maryland’s Eastern Shore were among the folks bagging limits of “Louisiana” ducks.
“We’re having a great season,” Ted Jr. said. “There are lots of birds and it showed (Friday). There have been years when, under these conditions, we wouldn’t have fired a shot. We got the weather we needed up north, and the birds are here. And we hope it stays good for the second split.”
No matter what happens for the rest of the season, Ted Jr. said he can count on one thing.
“We’ll wrap up the season and a couple of weeks later dad will be asking about the date the season opens the next year. He wants to know when the teal season will be and the big duck season,’ Ted Jr. said. “And that’s when I know it’s been another memorable season.”
The survey says
Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Shane Granier’s latest wildlife management area duck hunters’ survey shows the Atchafalaya Delta and Pass a Loutre WMAs continue to provide first-rate public waterfowl hunting.
Wednesday’s report identified the Wax Delta area on the Atchafalaya Delta as the hot spot there with an average of 3.4 ducks per hunter with more of the take made up of bluewing and greenwing teal and smattering of redheads, spoonies, grays, pintail and canvasbacks.
The count at Pass a Loutre was higher, a 5.4 ducks per hunter with bluewing teal and grays making up 75 percent of the ducks in the bags.
The take at Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA fell to 2 duck per hunter with dos gris making up the bulk of the take, while the fact that no hunters showed up at the Salvador WMA is an indication that the area is holding few, if any, migratory waterfowl.