Duck phtoo

Sage, a retriever belonging to Ty Hibbs’ hunting buddy Jonathan Allen, helped Allen, Hibbs and a hunting buddy nab a six-per-hunter limit on opening morning of duck season in the Coastal Zone.

Ty Hibbs is a newly married young man with no kids, but when it comes to duck hunting, Hibbs is as old-school as a 19th-century market hunter.

He eschews the new-aged devices that have made duck hunting as easy as a Saturday afternoon in an easy chair watching college football, opting instead to scout out productive areas and paddle in with a pirogue.

But Hibbs doesn’t hunt the old way because he’s a purist. He actually feels it’s more productive.

“Every now and then I’ll hunt with somebody who’s got a boat blind, but I can’t stand being in a boat blind,” he said. “Everybody’s got a boat blind, and every bird has seen Fast Grass from Canada down.

“Even pull-in blinds that people build — I think those are a little better, but there’s something about being in the marsh covered up with good brush that’s just really effective.

“I’ll use laydown blinds a lot when there’s not a lot of water in the marsh, and those are just awesome because you can just cut a little marsh grass and blend it in with you.”

But what about these days when Louisiana marshes just don’t seem to attract and hold as many ducks?

“Especially with us not having as many birds as we used to, I’m not taking any chances,” Hibbs said. “I want every hunt I make to be absolutely perfect, every blade of grass just right; I don’t want anything out of place because it’s already hard enough to (shoot ducks).”

That’s the technique Hibbs and his hunting buddy Jonathan Allen used to shoot a limit opening morning near the St. Bernard Parish town of Delacroix. The bag included a pintail, gadwall and mottled duck, but was rounded out with bluewing and greenwing teal.

“The last couple of years, it’s been pretty much like an extension of teal season on opening day, but there are no complaints from me about shooting teal,” Hibbs said. “Last year’s opening day, we had more teal in our area. We got done in no time, and so did everyone around us. This year, we were still done at 7:30 (a.m.), but it took longer than last year.

“We saw a lot more dos gris this year, but I think that’s because these recent cold fronts have been pretty big.”

Because he’s not hunting from a fixed blind, Hibbs is able to shift his focus area based on the behavior of the birds or which type of ducks are hanging out on his lease.

“The spot we hunt opening weekend is pretty much a bayou with a wide flat on each side,” he said. “Those teal just love to fly bayous, so if there are mostly teal around, and you’re fine with shooting teal, focus on something with a bayou connected to it. It creates a flyway.

“And with teal, I’m not throwing out many decoys — maybe a dozen or so. I’m a fan of keeping things as minimalistic as possible. Everybody seems to love to pull in a pond and cover every square inch with decoys, but I just watch the birds and see how they set up. You don’t see too many big bodies of birds on the water down here anymore.”

But in his decoy spreads, Hibbs will deviate from his purist mindset. Though he’s not a fan of spinning-wing decoys, he loves a particular technology-based product that adds motion to his spread.

“I started using those Flock A Flicker things, and I think they really work,” he said. “I’ve flown my drone over lots of ducks, and from a hundred feet up, you’ll see the birds shaking their feathers and preening themselves. You can recreate that with those Flock A Flickers. It looks the same.”

Because of his minimalist style of hunting, Hibbs travels throughout southeast Louisiana, often setting out spreads on Pass a Loutre and Biloxi Marsh Wildlife Management Areas as well as Delta and Big Branch National Wildlife Refuges.

He said the network of hunters with whom he corresponds did well on those public tracts opening weekend, but mostly with small ducks.

“Pretty much everything I’ve heard from the east side of the river is all teal,” Hibbs said. “I talked to a couple guys in the Red Pass and Tante Phine area (near Venice), and they didn’t shoot much of anything, but my buddies down at Delta (NWR) and Pass a Loutre (WMA) shot a bunch of teal.

“I talked to two or three people who hunted the Biloxi Marsh, and they only shot four or five grey ducks. I had never really hunted the Biloxi Marsh much because it was such a competition with mud boats, but the year they banned the mud boats, I really started hunting it hard. The two years after they banned the mud boats were some of the best duck hunting I’ve ever seen anywhere around as far as grey ducks go.”

And, Hibbs said he’ll make his first foray into the public tract soon, real soon.