A note of caution came from the National Weather Service and waterfowl organizations this week: Duck hunters, especially the guys who tackle large open-water area and the Mississippi River to pursue wild waterfowl, need to pay attention to the wild weather system moving into the state.
Warnings came Wednesday after country singer Craig Strickland, 29, and his hunting buddy Chase Morland failed to return from a Sunday hunt in northern Oklahoma during the height of the latest winter storm, named Goliath.
CNN reported Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers found the body of 22-year-old Morland at Kaw Lake. Troopers reported find a capsized boat the hunters used, found Strickland’s retriever alive, but called off the continued search for Strickland at nightfall Tuesday. The CNN report indicated no life jackets were “in use.”
Gale-force wind speeds, decreasing temperatures and mixed precipitation dominated Sunday’s weather in northern Oklahoma.
Strickland is a member of the band, Backroad Anthem.
This incident points to other Louisiana tragedies in recent years: Hunters venturing into rough, open water in shallow-draft boats and pirogues, most times not wearing life jackets, and getting swamped while wearing heavy boots and waders. There have been deaths even when hunters could stand up in the water, but were unable to retrieve a boat blown away from them in high winds.
If you do venture out, remember to file a Float Plan, and make sure those at home know where it is.
It’s no deep, dark secret that by the time Louisiana hunters venture into the final weeks of the duck season that they’re hunting migratory waterfowl that’s been called hundreds of times and seen all manners of decoy spreads, not to mention the wayward shots of hunters.
In short, they’re more than wary.
But if you want to try something a little different in your decoy spread, try using confidence decoys.
Veteran duck hunters know the value poule d’eau — “coots” outside south Louisiana — and know they can attract ducks to a blind. Problem is they can raft up a couple hundred yards away from your blind and ruin what had all the promise of a great hunting trip.
OK, so get your own poule d’eau decoys and make sure to tie three or four on a 30-yard green line. A dozen decoys should give you three or four lines. Tie a 3-4 ounce weight on the bottom of each decoy, then tie one decoy to the end of the 30-yard line, skip 3-4 yards and tie the next one. Repeat for others on that same line, then run the line back to your blind. During windless days, tug on the line at your blind to mimic the bobbing motion of this duck. The weights should keep them apart (and keep them from bumping into each other) on windy days.
Want more? Try using a blue heron or a white egret decoy in your spread, too. You never see one of these birds in an area when hunters are present.
Snapper, gag grouper
The state’s recreational red snapper season will close at 12:01 a.m. Friday, effectively making New Year’s Eve the last day for a recreational catch this year.
Earlier this year, the LDWF’s Marine Fisheries Section recommended, and the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved, a Nov. 20 opening of a fall red snapper season to allow fishermen to take the 88,823 pounds of red snapper not taken by private anglers and for-hire charterboat operations from the state’s historic annual catch rate.
Outgoing LDWF secretary Robert Barham said the 2016 state recreational red snapper season dates are on the commission’s Jan. 7 meeting agenda.
Also announced was the annual recreational Jan. 1-June 30 closure for taking gag grouper to conform with federal regulations in federal waters for this species. The release also included a note that recreational take of yellowfin and yellowmouth groupers and fish in the black groupers and red groupers families will be closed Feb. 1-March 31 seaward of the 120-foot curve in the Gulf of Mexico.
Flooding along the Mississippi River has forced the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to close deer hunting in a area in east-central and northeast portions of the state for one week beginning Sunday.
The LDWF identified the area “from the Arkansas state line, east of U.S. 65 to Vidalia, and west of the Louisiana-Mississippi border.” All or portions of East Carroll, Madison, Tensas and Concordia parishes are in this closed area.
Barring continued flooding, the deer season in this vast area is scheduled to reopen at 30 minutes before sunrise Jan. 11, but the LDWF also indicated lands “from the levee to the Mississippi River in this area will remain closed until further notice.”
Turkey season hunts
Be the first on your block to get your application in for “regular” turkey lottery hunts on 10 wildlife management areas and any of 14 youth-only lottery hunts during the spring season.
The application deadline is Feb. 5.
Lottery hunt forms, and the dates and locations for the hunts are available on the LDWF website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/lottery-hunts.
Just a reminder, the special statewide youth-only and physically challenged hunter turkey season weekend is March 19-20, and the state’s three turkey hunting areas open March 28 on private lands.
For more, email Cody Cedotal: email@example.com.