Knowing the decades-long trend among duck hunters is to report — even to the point of bragging — when they have ducks, and not say too much — maybe except to complain — when they don’t see many on opening weekend, it’s easy to note that only “good” reports streamed in Sunday and Monday about the Coastal Zone’s opening weekend successes.
If you were on successful short end, then all is not lost: If you didn’t have ducks last week, then help is on the way.
Sunday’s cold front that blew into south Louisiana, coupled with the strongest northerly blast that moved in Wednesday night moved more ducks, and some big ducks into the state for the Coastal Zone’s second weekend, and for Saturday’s West Zone opener. And East Zone hunters will get a taste of what’s to come for their Nov. 21 opener during Saturday’s one-day youth-only waterfowl hunt.
Roger Brown’s missive told the story of Coastal Zone opening-day successes: “We got a four-man limit by 8:30 (a.m.) on opening day in rice fields south of Abbeville. Mostly teal, some scaup and spoons. All in all it, was a great day. The guys in the marsh behind us sounded like they did well, too.”
Brown’s report was echoed by a dozen more reports from the rice fields and marshes in Vermilion and Cameron parishes.
While there were similar reports from the southeast, notably from the marshes off the east side of the Mississippi River from Buras south to the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area, six-ducks-per-hunter limits were not as common there as from the southwest marshes.
The preseason survey from the State Waterfowl Study group gave the answer: To be brief, the report showed an estimate of 1.21 million ducks, a number down 61 percent from the November 2014 survey’s 3.13 million birds. This November’s count is 44 percent lower than the state long-term average of 2.15 million from the year’s first statewide survey and is the fourth lowest November estimate since the state began its aerial survey in 1969.
It was easy to know the reason, too. This first survey is conducted the week before the opening weekend, and, for the last handful of years, the Coastal Zone’s opener has come on November’s second Saturday — it was Nov. 15 last year, the third Saturday of the month — and usually coincides with the season’s first major cold front.
In last week’s report, State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds noted, “Weather conditions in the Mississippi Flyway have not been conducive to moving larger numbers of birds into Louisiana, and the near absence of mallards, scaup, and canvasbacks show we are still very early in the typical migration.”
As for that Buras-south line, the state report showed 85 percent of the ducks in the southeast marshes were sitting in that area.
The biggest change for the coming weekend is the weather. Temperatures in the upper 40s and 15-knot northerly winds will replace the 70-degree, mosquito-filled morning that greeted hunters last Saturday.