Last week’s rain and fog delayed the December waterfowl survey, but there’s likely a silver lining in those clouds that brought much-needed rain to the state’s western parishes.
The stormy weather and foggy mornings left Larry Reynolds and his State Waterfowl Study crew grounded and unable to fly the areas where ducks and geese are counted in the southeast and southwest coastal areas, the rivers and reservoirs in the northwestern parishes and the ag fields and backwater swamps in the northeastern parishes.
The question is whether the weather delay would have given Reynolds a clear picture of what Saturday’s second-split opener would hold for Coastal and East zones hunters?
The first splits across the state’s three waterfowl zones opened after the passage of two cold fronts, systems cold enough to push tens of thousands of bluewing teal from Louisiana marshes farther south into Mexico and Central America. But there were more than enough gray ducks, pintail, greenwing teal and spoonies to take up the slack.
Then warmer conditions returned and ducks shuffled from the coastal marshes, especially the southeastern marshes, on east and southeast winds. The surprising part was that scaup, the species south Louisiana hunters call “dos gris,” began to show up in daily takes. The species usually is a late migrant into south Louisiana.
It’s likely Reynolds and his crew would have found the same slim pickings the duck hunters were finding in the closing days of the first splits.
With the coldest winter blast due to arrive in the state by Monday, and freezing or near freezing morning lows in the forecast for this week, it’s likely hunters will find a much different layout for Saturday’s opening of the second split.
The Ducks Unlimited website reported last week that the continue warm weather in the eastern two-thirds of the country held mallards and other late migrating ducks in the northern states. DU reported as many as 750,000 mallards continuing to find South Dakota a good place to hold.
That was last week: Check out the weather since then and you’ll see that far-north climes that enjoyed 50-degree afternoons Thursday faced daytime high temperatures in the teens and 20s this weekend. That’s the cold front that’s headed our way.
“It should make a big difference in what we’ll see this week,” Reynolds said. “A cold front like that changes lots of things.”
Even a percentage of those 750K mallards are pushed this far south could make a difference, and pushing more species like grays, pintails, wigeon, canvasbacks and dos gris into compression mode in Louisiana’s more than hospitable environs will more than take up the slack most hunters saw in the final too-warm days of the first split.
Reynolds said last week’s rain refreshed the water in most areas, especially the low-water conditions in southwestern marshes and ag fields and the still-dry northwest parishes. It also helped in spots along the Mississippi River where water levels continue to be extraordinarily low for this time of year.
That’s just the start: More ducks is the first part, and hunters must know that they have a bigger hand in making the lengthy late-January run to the end of their 60-day season a boom or a bust.
Remember these new arriving ducks have been hunted since early September and, for the most part, have heard every call, seen just about every decoy set and know what blinds look like.
“Two things for late-season hunting,” Reynolds said, “is to be better covered and better concealed.”
That means rebrushing blinds to make sure your blind best blends in with the surroundings. Greenery around your blind when all the vegetation around you is brown is a no-no. Hunters should also take note that camo clothing that worked in the first split might not provide the concealment for second-split action.