With hunters continuing to take to field, forest, marsh and swamp in the closing days of the current resident-game, migratory birds and waterfowl seasons, state wildlife biologists and managers took the first steps in setting the dates for the 2021-2022 dates for all game.

The proposed dates were revealed during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting in Baton Rouge.

While most of the forthcoming season’s dates mimic the current ones, there is one major change.

Duck hunters will take to blinds later this year in a new two-zone, three-split framework in the West Zone, a combination of the current season’s Coastal and West zones, a two-split season in the mostly remaining intact East Zone.

Goose hunters will also take to fields in different shifts, a departure from the current seasons statewide dates, for East and West zones, and a continuing daily limit of three on the highly prized speckbelly geese. There is a corresponding change in the Conservation Order season on blue, snow and Ross’ geese.

For Sunday’s edition, bird hunters will be able to look at the proposed dove, teal, duck, goose, rail, gallinules, snipe and woodcock seasons. Next week will focus on the resident-game seasons, dates for deer, squirrel, rabbit and quail.

So, here are the proposed 2021-2022 migratory birds and waterfowl seasons dates:

DOVES (three splits): South Zone: Sept. 4-18, Oct. 16-Nov. 28 and Dec. 18-Jan. 17; North Zone: Sept. 4-26, Oct. 9-Nov. 14 and Dec. 24-Jan. 22.

TEAL (statewide): Sept. 11-26.

SNIPE (statewide): Nov. 2-Dec. 5 and Dec. 18-Feb. 28.

DUCKS, COOTS, MERGANSERS: West Zone, Nov. 13-Dec. 5, Dec. 18-Jan. 2 and Jan. 10-30 with youth-only & veterans-only weekend, Nov. 6-7. East Zone, Nov. 20-Dec. 5 and Dec. 18-Jan. 30 with youth-only and veterans-only special hunts set Nov. 13 and Feb. 5.

GEESE (includes blue, snow & Ross', specklebellies & Canada species, but take of Canada geese prohibited in portions of Cameron & Vermilion parishes): East Zone, Nov. 6-Dec. 5 and Dec. 18-Jan. 30. West Zone, Nov. 6-Dec. 5, Dec. 18-Jan. 2 and Jan. 10-Feb. 6.

CONSERVATION ORDER/GEESE (limited to take of blue, snow and Ross' geese only. No daily nor possession limits. Hunters allowed to use electronic calls and shotguns capable of holding more than three shells): East Zone, Dec. 6-17 and Jan. 31-March 6. West Zone, Dec. 6-17, Jan. 3-9 and Feb. 7-March 6.

RAILS/GALLINULES (statewide): Sept. 11-26 and Nov. 13-Jan. 5.

WOODCOCK (statewide): Dec. 18-Jan. 31.

Other changes

Either by legislative acts or Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recommendations, there are notable changes in hunting regulations for both public and state/federal lands.

Some of the major proposed changes include:

-Moving Washington and St. Tammany parishes into Area A for the 2022 spring turkey season;

-Allowing the use of air rifles and bows/arrows to take raccoons and opossums;

-Removing the requirement to obtain a LDWF permit to take nuisance wildlife and outlaw quadrupeds at night during hunting season on private property, but continues the need to advise local law enforcement of the nighttime hunting;

-Changing the tagging requirement that “ ... once a harvested deer has been tagged and validated, the hunter will no longer be required to possess antlers or sex organs as long as the tag remains with the carcass.” This move allows a hunter to have to retain fewer body parts to transport a deer, which reduces the potential of the spread of CWD from infected body parts;

-Allowing the use of battery-operated trolling motors in the limited access areas on WMAs designated for waterfowl hunting;

-Allowing tracked ATVs and UTVs on wildlife management areas’ ATV/UTV trails as long as the vehicles meet current LDWF length and width requirements for those trails;

-Replacing the youth lottery deer hunt with an open youth-only deer hunt on the Atchafalaya Delta WMA;

-Removing the mandatory check regulation for all deer and feral hogs taken on the Atchafalaya Delta WMA (this WMA already has a self-clearing permit requirement for all game taken there);

-Adding a woodcock season on Elbow Slough WMA, which is in a major winter flyway for this migratory bird;

-Removing the ability to use dogs to hunt small game on the Marsh Bayou WMA;

-Allowing sport fishing on the Pomme de Terre WMA after 10 a.m. during the September teal season;

-Closing waterfowl hunting at 2 p.m. on the Salvador/Timken WMA;

-And, closing turkey season in the part a previously open season in East Carroll Parish.

The kit & kaboodle

The full notice for the 2021-2022 proposed hunting seasons and regulation changes are posted on the LDWF’s website: wlf.louisiana.gov/resources/category/commission-action-items.

You’d best set aside a couple of hours to go through the entire package.

Public comment will be taken during a yet-to-be-announced Zoom meeting, during Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meetings in February and March, and by phone, mail or email through 9 p.m. March 4.

Tommy Tuma is the LDWF contact for comments. His phone number is (225) 765-2349; email: ttuma@wlf.la.gov; and address: Tommy Tuma, LDWF Wildlife Division, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA. 70898-9000.

Rainbows

Wildlife and Fisheries are scheduled to stock rainbow trout in ponds across north Louisiana Friday, then are set to do the same for 10 south Louisiana ponds come Jan. 21, to include:

Burbank Park, Baton Rouge; Bogue Chitto State Park, Franklinton; Zemurray Park, Hammond; Bayou Country Sports Park, Houma; I-10 Park, Jennings; Girard Park, Lafayette; Joe Brown Park, New Orleans; Purple Heart Memorial Park, Ragley; Sidney Hutchinson Park, Walker; and, Southside Regional Park, Youngsville.

LDWF managers said the rainbows will range from 1-2 pounds each. Daily creel limits will be posted at each site, and, if you’re 16 or older you must have a current state basic fishing license.

It’s part of the agency’s Get Out and Fish! Program.

A ride along

Registration for Bassmaster Elite’s “ride along with the pros” opportunity – folks who do it are called “marshals” – began last week and gives anyone interested in highly competitive bass fishing a chance to get up close and personal with the Elite Series anglers.

It’s costs $99 per tournament, and you’re guaranteed at least two days on the water in the four-day events. The bonus is Elite-sponsor AFTCO fishing hands out a goodie bag (the announcement touted “shirt, hat, sun mask, gift card and other items”) for each marshal.

OK, so marshals are not allowed to fish, but they report on their angler’s catch and act as witnesses for their day on the water.

If you’re not a B.A.S.S. Lifetime or Nation member (already open), then online registration begins Tuesday (bassmaster.com), or Thursday by phone (877) 227-7872.

This year’s Bassmaster Elite Series schedule begins Feb. 11-14, on the St. Johns River, Palatka, Florida. The rest of the tour includes: Feb. 25-28, Tennessee River, Knoxville, Tennessee; April 8-11, Sabine River, Orange, Texas; May 6-9, Neely Henry Lake, Gadsden, Alabama; May 20-23, Lake Guntersville, Scottsboro, Alabama; June 10-13, Pickwick Lake, Florence, Alabama; July 8-11, Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont; July 15-18, St. Lawrence River, Waddington, New York.

-By the way, COVID-19 forced B.A.S.S. to move the Bassmaster Classic from March to June 11-13, but continuing with its Fort Worth, Texas destination.