Despite low opening day numbers, teal hunters remain optimistic
By JOHN K. FLORES
Cory Toups, along with his girlfriend Kelsey Beadle and buddy Dylan Vaughn, set up well before daylight along a sandbar on the Wax Delta side of the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area and waited for legal shooting light. For those who aren’t accustomed to hunting the delta, above the sand is a layer of soft mud that’s gooier than silt and creates suction much like a toilet plunger when you try to walk it.
It can be taxing on the faint of heart. But, the delta, with its high quality feed, is prime habitat for waterfowl.
By the time the hunters picked up their decoys at 8 a.m., they only had five blue-winged teal in their bag to show for their efforts.
To some, five birds might not seem like much. But, considering the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reported last week the September waterfowl population estimates were the lowest on record following their flyover just days prior to the opener, the trio actually had a big day compared to some.
“We had a couple of teal sit in the decoys and visited before legal shooting time,” said Toups, a Patterson Chapter Ducks Unlimited Committee member. “We bagged five teal and knocked down one other that left my lab in confusion after diving into some thick grass, never to be seen again. This may not seem like the best bag to most, but compared to the teal season we had last year, I was happy to share the five bird stringer with a buddy and girlfriend.”
September waterfowl population estimates were 74 percent below 2012 estimates and 79 percent below the long-term average.
According to the Hunter Participation and Harvest Summary conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries on opening day on the wildlife management area, Toups and his two partners did about as well as everyone who hunted the delta. The survey estimated that 350 hunters harvested 265 blue-winged teal, or 0.8 birds killed per hunter.
The week prior to opening day, Berwick resident Michael Broussard was busy evenings after work building a blind in a honey hole he found during the 2012 early teal season in the Atchafalaya Basin. The year before he and a couple of buddies had a good shoot both days, opening weekend up river from Morgan City.
However, 2013 was a different story.
Somewhat disgusted, Broussard said, “Nothing — not anything at all. All we had was a bunch of wood ducks light in the decoys.”
The highest concentration of teal counted before opening day once again was in the southwest part of the state, where biologists estimated 43,000 blue-winged teal.
Rick Moore, owner/operator of Rick Moore Farms, offers day hunts to waterfowl hunters.
Again, as in years past, the farmer says his hunters were doing better than fair compared to others.
Moore, who has 12 blinds available to hunters on his rice and crawfish farm near Welsh, said, “We shot 175 teal opening day. So we did pretty well. Thirty guys hunted and nearly every one limited and most were in by 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. I’ve heard of a couple goose eggs around Gueydan last weekend. But, I’ve been well satisfied with what we’re seeing, that’s for sure.”
Reports from other areas across much of central Louisiana were similar, where some hunters in the Forked and Pecan island areas reported not firing a shot or killing one or two teal, well below what many were accustomed to shooting during 2012 when duck numbers totaled 189,000 in the state compared to a paltry 50,000 estimate in 2013.
In spite of the poor opening weekend, hunters remain positive. Moore said, “We haven’t had a good cold front to really push the birds down. Even though we did pretty well, we’re not seeing the numbers we saw last year. I really don’t think the big bunches have arrived yet. We also had birds still here in May. I don’t ever remember having birds in the spring that late. You can’t tell me they’ve had enough time to go back north and raise little ones and get back down here in September. I look for it to get better later in the teal season — especially if we get a cold front.”
Toups also is positive, saying, “I can recall last year sitting on the same sandbar during the 2012 September teal season and not seeing a single teal. We stayed faithful with positive thoughts and did more scouting to reassure the lack of birds wasn’t a reflection of poor location. We headed home two separate Sundays empty handed. We spent one of the three weekends in the Atchafalaya Basin and finally shot our limit. But, overall the 2013 opening weekend looks promising. We are looking forward to heading south for the second weekend and hopefully improving our numbers.”
For those interested in booking a hunt with Moore, he can be reached at 337-540-5211.