Wind chills in the single digits won’t last long, not where most of us south Louisianans live. But if there’s something else we can bet on, it’s that when those conditions invade our otherwise more than bearable winter climes, it’s that ducks by the thousands punch their tickets for our coastal marshes when Arctic cold penetrates as far south as the 30th Parallel.
If you use maps, then the 30th runs smack dab through New Orleans, and that map marker is customarily the northern demarcation line for the tropics in the Northern Hemisphere.
Enough of the geography lesson, especially when this Arctic invasion comes almost a year to the day when another, equally as cold blast, saved the 2013-2014 duck season.
Remember the dearth of ducks during the first 40 days last season, and that most hunters had packed away their gear on the news that fewer than 2 million ducks were in the state.
Last January’s week-long chill sent tens of thousands of ducks and geese into the state — mostly because water was frozen into northern Louisiana and snow and ice covered the ground — and hunters saw the first mallards and enough pintails, grays, canvasbacks and wigeon that left them wishing the deep chill had come sooner.
Today, with state biologists estimating more than 3 million ducks in the state, and more coming on this blast, hunters should be able to finish the season strong.
Among them is Crescent City hunter Louis Schwartz, who continues to hope ducks find his two main hunting areas.
Since the early days of the first split back in November, Schwartz has reported the paucity of ducks in the Delacroix marsh (between Aux River and the back-levee canal) and on a private lease on the north shore in the middle of the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge.
“Results have been fair to spotty,” he said singling out his blind in Delacroix “Results a big ZERO,” at the Big Branch location.
“The marsh is beautiful, the water is beautiful, the vegetation is abundant, but no birds,” Schwartz said. “Prior to Katrina, we shot mallards, greys, teal, pintail and on top of that geese.
We just cannot figure it and these few years with bad results have half of our members giving up on the area. And it has been that way for a couple of years.”
Maybe Benny Grunch and The Bunch will have to add Schwartz’ report to his next revamp of his post-Katrina classic, “Ain’t Dere No More.”
Schwartz’ report mimics what folks who hunted the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area and found teal, grays and pintail in the WMA’s southern marshes, and mallards, wigeon and woodies in the hardwoods and cypress swamps on the WMAs northern acres. Dem ducks ain’t dere no more either.
On the WMAs
Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area continues to produce high daily duck limits. The count last week was an average of 5.6 ducks per hunter with grays and teal making up near 75 percent of the take. The Pointe-aux-Chenes Unit in the Pointe-aux-Chenes WMA average 5 duck per hunter, while the Atchafalaya Delta WMA was down to a 2.6 average and the Salvador WMA continued to have few ducks.
Lots of poule d’eau showed up in the count, so it must be time for a coot-and-andouille gumbo.
Missing the mark
An interesting discussion came up earlier this week. It started when a hunter complained he couldn’t hit a deer despite sighting in his rifle on several occasions this season.
The likely answer is that his 9-year-old scope (no point in citing the brand) has taken a beating and could no longer hold the aim when he took his rifle from range to field.
That same day, the hunter confirmed the reticles did not hold, that carrying the rifle on his ATV rack was too rough a ride and jostled the scope enough to alter the aiming point he’d set at the range.
Time for a new scope.