After the Thanksgiving holiday, the weekend before Christmas is the most-hunted weekend of the year, and it appears Mother Nature has sent Louisiana hunters an early holiday gift — cold weather.
Deer and duck hunters will benefit. South Louisiana deer hunters get the benefit of taking to the fields, forests and swamps after the coldest morning of the season, a frosty 34 degrees is predicted for the areas north of the 30th parallel on Saturday morning. (New Orleans is situated squarely on the 30th parallel).
With the late-in-December rut coming, whitetail chasers get a double benefit in the south-central and southeast parishes. The advice from veteran hunters is to get into the stand early and stay there throughout the day.
The only big problem will be the wind, so make sure the predicted east winds won’t carry your scent into the prime spots where rutting deer could move into shooting range. If your stand does not favor an east wind, change your location.
Even taking a stand on the ground is a good choice, but only if you’ve let other hunters know your plans for your ground blind.
“If that’s your choice, make sure to wear Hunter Orange throughout your stay on the ground.
For wild waterfowlers
Another double dose of good fortune awaits waterfowl hunters taking to marshes, fields and swamps for Saturday’s second-split opener in all three of the state’s waterfowl zones.
“It looks good,” State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds said Wednesday.
That’s saying a lot. Reynolds shies away from making such bold statements, only because “it looks good” assessments often lead hunters to believe can’t-miss limits await.
But Reynolds knows with two cold fronts during the week leading up to a second opening day added to the Waterfowl Study team’s second numbers-up aerial survey of the season, should lead to improved hunting for more Louisiana hunters.
“It looks like the ducks migrated into Louisiana without major cold fronts,” Reynolds said, adding, “because the survey we took last week in the coastal area and Catahoula Lake gave us an estimate of 2.67 million ducks, which is slightly higher than the long-term average for the December survey.”
Reynolds said the fly-overs showed a “big influx of ringnecks into upper Terrebonne (Parish) and a big influx of gadwalls (gray ducks) into the Delta Farms area south of Lafitte.”
He said ducks piled up in open water near White Lake.
While Reynolds said the official report will be ready Friday, he said the preliminary numbers showed all migratory species numbers increased from the dismal 1.207 million November numbers with the exception of a downward turn in pintail numbers and the usual decline in bluewing teal, which usually migrate to Central America in early December.
Reynolds said the aerial survey in the northeast parishes showed ducks increased 50 percent over the November survey and “goose numbers are a lot higher.” He said central Louisiana should benefit from an increase from 23,000 birds in November to 83,000 on Catahoula Lake.
As usual, most of the Catahoula Lake numbers were ringnecks and late-migrating canvasbacks.
When Reynolds mentioned the presence of birds despite the absence of cold weather, he’s referring to the unusually warm and wet conditions in the northern reaches of the Mississippi Flyway.
Migration reports from as far north as Iowa note rains have covered most of the harvested agricultural fields in that state and the absence of ice and snow, which have left that state perfect stop-over, and apparently stay-over, conditions for mallards.
Reynolds said Iowa waterfowl biologists reported this week that greenheads were “dispersed all across the landscape without hunting pressure.”
Back in south Louisiana, reports persist about high water throughout the coastal marshes, a situation that has eased since the first split, but, Reynolds said habitat conditions remain good for attracting and holding ducks.
While scanning a couple of recent Ducks Unlimited releases, there were a couple of helpful notes for Sportsman Paradise hunters.
The first was about wind, not that it will be a problem this weekend — maybe it will be a problem if you don’t like hunting easterly winds — but for those days when there’s no wind.
The tip came from South Dakota hunter Ben Fujan. If you’ve never seen that state’s duck-hunting landscape, it’s remarkably similar to Louisiana’s marshes.
The major difference between the two states is potholes and wide open ag fields.
Here’s DU’s report from Fujan: “It seems that both ducks and geese don’t decoy as well on those days with little or no wind, but it’s also a case where there’s little predictability about how they are going to finish. So if there is no wind, I’m going to move the entire decoy spread out in front of the blinds, leaving just enough to cover the backs of the blinds ... by having the spread out in front I know that if the birds finish from behind, left or right, there’ll be a shot.
“The strategy is especially true, if a hunter is using a spinning-wing decoy.”