OUTDOORS: September teal opener good - depending on where you hunted

By: JOHN FLORES
Just a couple months ago everyone who puts pen to paper of the outdoors persuasion, were marveling over the 2011 spring waterfowl breeding numbers and pond count reported by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Due to the fact that blue wing teal hit an all time recorded high 8.9 million birds counted, everyone expected plenty of birds to go around for the Special September Teal Season, which opened this past weekend.

There’s never a guarantee, when it comes to waterfowl hunting. You can scout out a great spot, complete all the necessary preparations, and show up at the perfect time before legal shooting light.

You can also pay a reasonable day fee to an outfitter and try to increase your odds of getting a limit. But, even then Mother Nature has a lot to say before the last shotgun shell is fired by sunset.

“I’ll put it this way,” said Greg Andrus, owner and operator of Catahoula Lake Guide Service. “Last year on Catahoula Lake the September flyover just before the teal season showed we had 49,000 blue wings. That was last year. This year the flyover showed we had 4,000 blue wings. So, that kind of correspondingly shows how the season started — we’re really slim.”

Andrus mentioned that when he brought in his group of hunters Saturday, Wildlife and Fisheries agents told him only four boats had come in with limits and the parking lots at French Fork Landing, Stock Landing, and the Diversion Canal were all full of people.

The game changer for much of Louisiana that has seen record drought this year could possibly have been Tropical Storm Lee that blew through Labor Day weekend.

Andrus said, “I think that had a lot to do with it — I really do. The Louisiana Delta Plantation, which is a commercial guide service, they didn’t have a lot of water, but the rain we had a week before put a lot of teal over there. The flyover at Louisiana Delta showed they had 6,000 blue wings.”

Other outfitters in the southwest part of the state had plenty of birds. But, for outfitter David Smith, owner and operator of David Smith Hunting, the opening day bluebird morning caused the group he guided for some problems.

“There were 1000’s and 1000’s of teal — a lot of teal,” Smith said. “I seen things this morning that I’ve never seen before — just 1000’s of teal. It sounded like a war out here. We ended up with 15 in our blind. But, the birds were not working and there was no wind. Singles came into the decoys. And, you’d see groups of 15, 20, 25, and 30 birds. The big groups were constantly moving. They flew the edges of the pond and didn’t want to work to the call at all — it didn’t make a difference.”

Some outfitters like Smith seem to think the fall teal migration hasn’t peaked just yet.

Smith, who hunts just south of Jennings said, “You talk to the farmers in the area and they’ll tell you the ducks just got here three days ago. Overnight they came in like blackbirds — 1000’s of them. The ponds had been sitting there all summer and a few days before the season started the big flights of birds came in. Two weeks ago somebody said they saw about 100 birds. I figured we’d limit in a few minutes they had so many birds, but it was just an irregular morning.”

By contrast, in the rice fields near Lake Arthur and Gueydan, hunters did extremely well. Doug Sonnier, owner operator of Doug’s Hunting Lodge, said all of his hunters limited, opening morning.

“Opening day everyone limited out in an hour or less,” Sonnier said. “And, Sunday morning it dropped off to about 70-percent of what it was opening morning. But, still we had guys limiting — so it wasn’t bad. It was good here and not just at my camp — everybody did well. Our marsh was good too. We only hunted two blinds in the marsh, but both did good and limited out in no time.”

The Wax Delta side of the Atchafalaya Delta WMA, where my son and I hunted opening morning wasn’t good for us. On the extreme western side of the Delta where we set up, we saw few birds flying and none within our gun range. Moreover, shooting was sporadic and seemed to be further south and east from us.

One credible report I received was one of those friend of a friend things. His buddies told him their group of four killed eight teal on Saturday and 10 on Sunday out on the Delta — not bad all things considered. With so much water in the state, the birds that have arrived are fairly scattered north to south it appears.

On a side note, why not combine your September Special Teal Season with a marsh bass excursion immediately afterwards? Though my son and I didn’t do well on the Wax Delta with teal opening morning, we did run a short distance and fished a few bayous and canals in the vicinity for marsh bass slaying them — a featherless consolation prize. But, goes to show if you adapt a little a poor day hunting can turn into a great day fishing.

To book a hunt with Doug’s Hunting Lodge in Lake Arthur, call Adrienne at (337) 536-7902 or e-mail them at: dougsldg@bellsouth.net or visit their website www.dougshuntinglodge.com To book a hunt with David Smith call (337) 305-1956 or go to www.davidsmithhunting.com To book a hunt with Catahoula Lake Guide Service call Greg Andrus at (318) 466-9657 or go online to his website at www.duckhuntlouisiana.com

If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story you wish to share you can contact John K. Flores by calling (985) 395-5586 or by e-mail gowiththeflo@cox.net.

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