Milder temps haven’t chased waterfowl away _lowres

Photo provided by TIM KELLEY And the beat goes on Despite warmer conditions and southerly winds, south Louisiana hunters continue to take limits of ducks this week in the southwestern parishes' marshes. From left, Baton Rougeans Stephen Babcock, Angele David Kelley and waterfowl guide Clark Cormier show off their take of a dozen mallards, four pintails, a redhead and two greenwing teal with a bonus of two specklebelly geese from the Cherry Ridge Club between Gueydan and in Lake Arthur.

How good are these first splits in the duck season?

Good enough that enough ducks arrived on the extra-strong November cold fronts that this week’s warm weather hasn’t had the same disastrous hunting results as runs of foggy mornings, light southerly winds and 70-degree afternoon have had on past seasons.

The one problem hunters on the east side of the Mississippi River have run into is that higher waters levels in the marshes have allowed ducks to take to ponds that were sucked dry by strong north winds in the first two weeks of this first split in the state’s Coastal Zone.

Sunday marks the final first-split day in the East and Coastal zones. West Zone hunters go through Dec. 14. The East opens its second split Dec. 13 while the Coastal and West begin second splits Dec. 20.

East Zone hunters can continue to hunt during the Conservation Order run next Monday through Friday for blue, snow and Ross’ geese only.

Except for the occasional specklebelly goose flying near blinds, geese are off the board for wild waterfowlers.

“There are too many ducks here to worry about setting up all the decoys you need for goose hunts,” Bobby Brandon said after his hunt near Sweet Lake in the northern reaches of Cameron Parish.

“We’ve seen it all here,” Brandon said. “We read the numbers from the (state) survey about a few thousand mallards in our marshes, and that’s not what we’re seeing this week. The cold fronts pushed a lot of big ducks into our area. The only thing you have to do with big ducks is wait them out.

“We’re seeing ringnecks and teal and spoonies (shovelers) at shooting time, but if you want to take a mallard or a pintail or a gray (gadwall), then you have to wait until after sunrise,” Brandon said.

Other hunters have said it’s tough to pass on shots of hard-charging teal at the half-hour-before-sunrise shooting time, and settle on finishing out their six-per-hunter daily limits with those big ducks, which means two hunters leave the blind with 4-8 teal and the balance of grays, mallards and pintails.

“Don’t get me wrong about the geese, though,” Brandon said. “There are a lot of them around and we’ve taken six speckbellies this week.”

Duck Stamp increase

The Duck Stamp Act needs only President Obama’s signature to become law after the Senate passed the bill Tuesday. The major part of the act will raise the cost of the Federal Waterfowl Stamp from $15 to $25 for the 2015-2016 season. It’s the first increase in duck stamp fees since 1991.

Ducks Unlimited’s top executive Dale Hall praised Sen. David Vitter, R-La., for his work in the Senate committee and the floor to push the act’s passage.

“The additional duck stamp funding provided by waterfowl hunters and other conservationists will not only conserve critical waterfowl habitat, but will also help ensure the future of our waterfowling traditions,” Hall said.

M1 Garand Clinic

Doug Bowser from the Southwest Gun Club in McComb, Mississippi, said the club has set a 9:30 a.m. Dec. 13 date for a M1 Garand Rifle Clinic that will run through lunchtime. Bowser said shooters need to bring a lunch, including drinks.

It’s a full-blown clinic covering the history, operation, field stripping, maintenance, proper ammo and safety procedures of and for the Garand. Shooters will need eye and hearing protection.

The $50 fee covers use and ammo of and for the M1. There’s a $10 fee to join the McComb-based club.

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