Duck hunters were stunned in July when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a four-per-day limit for scaup.
Don’t know that species? Hunters across south Louisiana call them “dos gris,” and “bluebills” on the East Coast.
The revelation that dos gris numbers had rebounded from all-time lows of four and five years ago (when the daily limit was two), was welcomed among the folks hunting the southeastern parishes, where lots of open water lures dos gris by the tens of thousands.
And because dos gris are late migrants, this species often fill limits when the more plentiful teal have evacuated the state for Central America beaches.
But dos gris are seldom found west of the Atchafalaya River delta in large numbers, which is why avid waterfowler Sam Pernici was astounded to see so many of them around their Pecan Island blinds.
He and his buddies hunted four days, from Saturday’s second-split opener through Tuesday: “Still plenty of gadwall (gray ducks), but we were covered up in scaup. The biologists and the group that does the population counts were on target in projecting a good hatch … and granting hunters a four-bird limit.”
Pernici said he took a banded dos gris during Sunday’s hunt.
“I’ve never seen a banded scaup/bluebill in 30 years of hunting Pecan Island,” Pernici wrote.
What’s more, state biologist Shane Granier estimated 55 percent of the 1,288 ducks taken over Pointe-aux-Chenes Wildlife Management Area marshes were dos gris, which made up 7-8 percent of the take on Atchafalaya Delta, Pass a Loutre and Salvator WMAs.
Gadwall and bluewing teal were the next-most prominent species in the open-day haul on these public lands.
What the State Waterfowl Study found earlier this month during its December aerial survey followed a trend established years ago. November’s survey turned up 24,000 scaup. This month, the count is 156,000, but that number is down from the 188,000 estimated in the state this time last year.
Here are other points Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds gleaned from the early December survey:
- December’s estimate of 2.06 million ducks is a 41 percent increase over November’s 1.46 million, but 15 percent lower than last year’s 2.42 million.
- The count is 10 percent lower than the most recent five-year December average of 2.3 million and 23 percent below the long-term average of 2.68 million.
- Despite Thanksgiving week’s first freeze of the season, weather along the Mississippi and Central flyways has been mild.
Coastal transects flown were before a strong cold front, and additional migrants may have arrived.
- Except for pintails, estimates for all species were similar or higher than November, with the biggest increases seen for ringnecked ducks, scaup, mallards and canvasbacks. The estimate for pintails fell from 303,000 to 219,000 despite a big increase at Catahoula Lake because of declines in both southwest and southeast portions of coastal Louisiana.
- Estimates for canvasbacks, scaup, and ring-necked ducks are above long-term averages.
- Except shovelers, all dabbling ducks were below their long-term average.
- Catahoula Lake’s overall count was more than double the previous month because of large increases in all species, especially canvasbacks and ring-necked ducks. Large concentrations of pintails were seen on the shallow-flooded edges.
The southwest continues to hold more birds than the southeastern parishes.