If you took time to check weather for the past six months far north of south Louisiana — and that means farther north than the U.S.-Canadian border — you watched snowfall January through March, then rainfall through April, May and June.
There was so much water on the ground that floodwaters lingered in the Dakotas and Minnesota into July.
Bad for the folks there, but great for ducks. And what’s great for ducks is good for duck hunters.
Earlier this month, and a bit earlier than usual, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its annual Duck Breeding Population Survey and all that wet weather on those far north breeding grounds could mean another banner year for Louisiana waterfowl hunters.
While Louisiana hunters are all too familiar with year-to-year variations in flight and weather patterns that move migrating ducks into the state, the numbers from that annual survey are clear: For the 18th consecutive year, waterfowl hunters will have a 60-day, 6-ducks-per-day season, the most liberal framework allowed for states in the Mississippi Flyway.
The survey of 10 duck species showed a total of 49.152 million, up nearly 2.5 million from last year, and a number that’s 43 percent above the average count taken in the same breeding areas for the past 58 years. The mallard estimate is 10.9 million, a figure that’s pushing an all-time high.
Those numbers prompted State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds to unveil preliminary season dates for duck hunters in the state’s three waterfowl zones to discuss before the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission ratifies duck seasons and bag limits at its Aug. 7 meeting in Baton Rouge.
Reynolds dates included:
- Nov. 8-30 and Dec. 13-Jan. 18 splits for the state’s Coastal Zone, with a Nov. 1-2 youth-only weekend;
- Nov. 22-Dec 7 and Dec. 13-Jan. 25 with Nov. 15 and Jan. 31 youth-only days in the East Zone;
- Nov. 15-Dec. 14 and Dec. 20-Jan. 18 with Nov. 8 and Jan. 24 youth-only days in the West Zone.
Reynolds said the Coastal Zone dates reflect more opportunity for hunters when recent data shows more hunter success. He admitted recent hunter surveys showed hunters’ preference for more days later in the season.
“It’s the Coastal Zone that gives me lots of heartburn, because we want to set as (many) early dates as possible,” Reynolds said. “And we expect to have lots of public comment about those dates.”
Reynolds told the commission members of other Coastal Zone options, like Nov. 15-Dec. 7 and Dec. 13-Jan. 18 or Nov. 15-Dec. 7 and Dec. 20-Jan. 25 split-season dates with both options carrying Nov. 8-9 youth-only days.
Reynolds said the only other decisions on the duck season will come from the Mississippi Flyway Council meeting, where limits on individual species will be finalized. He said a 3 percent decline in pintail breeding numbers this year might force a one-pintail limit in this year’s overall bag limit (it was two-per-day last season).
Another possible decrease could come in scaup, a species local hunters call dos gris. Scaup numbers continued to lag 8 percent behind long-term (1955-2013) averages, and hunters could see a reduction from last year’s three per day to a two-per-day limit for the upcoming season.
Reynolds is accepting public comment at (225) 765-0456, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The LWFC approved Sept. 13-28 special teal season with a second year of a six-per-day daily take.
Lottery dove hunts
Dove hunters have until Aug. 8 to submit applications for one of 40 spots each for Sept. 6 afternoon and Sept. 7 morning lottery hunts on the Elbow Slough WMA in Rapides Parish. The application is available via website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/lottery-hunts.
After the lottery hunts, the WMA will be open for dove hunting Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays only through Sept. 28. Nontoxic shot is required for all hunting on Elbow Slough.