Hunters: Duck success spotty this season
By Chris Berzas
EUNICE - Clifton “Tee” Clause, Jr. of Eunice is one of more than several southwestern Louisiana duck hunters experiencing not a great duck season – but at least a “decent” one.
“We’ve killed a few wood ducks during the first split in the Calcasieu River Basin,” said Clause referring to several hunts shared with his son and son-in-law.
Clause has been in the woods recently during the second split, but he has noticed - as have many other duck hunters - that no “new” birds have arrived. For the novice to the sport, “new” birds are those migrants that precede cold fronts coming into Louisiana.
“I did see my first couple of greenheads (mallards) recently, and I’m hoping that the rest of the second split gets better here soon,” added Clause.
According to the hunter, there has been little variation in water levels and temperatures within the Calcasieu River Basin - other than the recent rare snowfall that enveloped Acadiana just recently.
As for the rice bowl and marsh areas to the south, hunters here too have experienced mixed success and relatively fewer “new” birds during the second split.
Skip Kovach of Sunset enjoyed some duck hunting in the marshes of Cameron Parish this season where success has been described as somewhat spotty.
“I could describe the season here as more good than bad,” said Kovach. “The last third of the first split was poor compared to the rest.”
Kovach and his crew of hunters found mostly greys in their daily bag with a few blue-wings in other areas of the marsh. Pintail numbers were common, and Kovach’s group were able to take a pintail each for every day they hunted during the season.
According to Kovach however, some new ducks did arrive during the break between the splits, and these ducks soon foraged much of the limited grass available in the marsh prior to the opening of the second split.
“The first couple of days of the second split produced ducks for us,” said Kovach. “But following those days, success dropped off sharply.
“Every day seems to be a different day when duck hunting this season,” admitted the hunter.
Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries agreed with the hunters above in terms of their perception of the current duck situation in Louisiana.
“The reports I’ve received from the rice-field areas in southwestern Louisiana were spotty, but generally fair to good for the first split,” said Reynolds. “Although I don’t have survey data, I would expect those areas (rice fields) to have a pretty decent second split because of the negative impacts of Hurricane Ike (reduced food available) in the marsh habitat to the south.
“That being said, the early reports from the second split have not shown a big influx of birds from the cold weather of last week,” agreed Reynolds. “I think many hunters were disappointed by what they saw Saturday morning, December 13.
“Hunters had very good success at Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge during the first split,” added Reynolds.
Like may other duck hunters statewide, Clause and Kovach will be searching the forested interior for greenheads and wood ducks for most of the remainder of the second split of the duck season in the east and west zones.
Clause hopes to find his birds in the Calcasieu River Basin, whereas Kovach will be hunting within the Atchafalaya Basin to the east. Clause needs more water in the Calcasieu area, whereas Kovach has just enough water for some timber hunting for mallards.
In the west zone, the second split of the duck season runs until January 18, whereas the season ends on January 25 in the east zone.
Consult the 2008 Louisiana Waterfowl Regulations pamphlet for a description of bag limits and species.
And let’s hope Santa brings more greenheads to Louisiana for Christmas!