Crystal Coak, daughter of John Flores, with a limit of white-fronted geese and some bonus ducks. The season seems to be off to a fair start.
—John K. Flores
Attitude is important as duck season begins
Sitting across from my grandson last Friday night eating Chinese food at Panda Buffet in Lake Charles, we talked about the ducks and geese we had seen an hour earlier while setting out decoys. I had put him in for Cameron Prairie’s youth lottery hunt, where he drew out for opening day.
By all indications things looked promising. We saw a number of white-fronted geese flying about and a pair of northern shovelers that wanted to drop into our pond while we were working.
Earlier in the day I received a couple of aerial survey reports from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries that they had just compiled. On one hand, the report from LDWF Waterfowl Study Leader, Larry Reynolds, didn’t sound like much. The report estimated 1.54 million ducks were scattered along the coastline and Catahoula Lake.
In short, Reynolds stated the estimate was roughly half of last year’s November survey which showed 3.06 million ducks. The estimate was also 23 percent below the 5-year long-term average of 2.0 million. But, 968,000 or 63 percent of those ducks were reportedly in Southwest Louisiana. In other words, my grandson and I were in the right place.
Towards the end of our meal the waitress brought us a couple of fortune cookies. Mine was so bland I don’t even recall what it said. But, my grandson’s read like a prophet’s omen stating, “Attitude is more important than the facts.”
I told him, “I’m not so sure if I like the sound of that,” to which we both got a good chuckle.
Saturday morning found us settled in our pit blind along Highway 27 near the refuge headquarters a few minutes before legal shooting light. It was going to be a beautiful fall bluebird day. But, there was one problem already. No wind.
A bluebird day with not even the slightest breeze means no movement in the decoy spread — something that is really important when it comes to wary birds. After all, most of these ducks and geese have been shot at since September, when they left the upper reaches of the flyway.
The second problem came at legal shooting light. There were absolutely no birds flying. However, as the crow flies, not five miles away to the south below the Intracoastal Canal, around Little Chenier, Creole, and the Big Burns, it sounded like a war.
Right then I told my grandson, “Surely with all of that shooting down below, we ought to get a few birds up this way.”
And honestly, we did have a few opportunities, when a small flock of green winged teal sped past the blind just outside our decoy spread. I didn’t call the shot, because it was marginal at that distance.
Our second chance came when a single speckle belly goose responded to my call, flying directly over the top of the blind 40 yards up. I told my grandson not to shoot. The goose acted like it would work and I felt like I could get it a little closer. It didn’t happen. The goose left unscathed.
Later in the morning, a lone drake mallard acted like the speckle belly and made several — just out of range — passes teasing us.
Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged. I wanted my grandson to have a good shoot and told him, “Sorry buddy. I was hoping we’d have a big opening morning and cleaning birds this afternoon.”
That’s when he replied, “Pops, attitude is more important than the facts.” So it goes, when it comes to waterfowl hunting. Sometimes the birds want to be where you’re not and as good a youth hunt as Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge is, the ducks preferred the region just to the south of us.
More locally, Hunter Andras, owner of DukNutz Decoy Anchors, had a great-opening morning on the Atchafalaya Delta WMA with limits of both ducks and red fish afterwards.
Steven Poole, a dog trainer friend from Laurel, Mississippi, reported that he and a buddy hunted near the Delacroix/Hopedale area below New Orleans and scored quick limits. It took the two just 15 minutes to get their 12 ducks which consisted of mainly gadwalls and blue winged teal.
Several outfitter friends, south of Welch and near Thornwell, did well with geese last weekend. Benjamin Page, Grant Henning and Jacob Hagen all reported their clients harvesting limits.
LDWF Coastal Natural Resources Division Biologist Supervisor, Shane Granier, in his opening day Hunter Participation/Harvest Summary reported out of 481 hunters checked the actual kill per hunter on the Delta was 2.8 ducks. Sixty percent of those ducks were teal; 39 percent blue wing and 21 percent green wing, respectively.
Overall, in spite of low November duck numbers, the 2017-18 waterfowl season has gotten off to a fair at best start. Those are the facts. But, it’s your attitude that’s more important.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Flores is The Daily Review’s Outdoor Writer.If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story to share you can contact Flores by calling 985-395-5586 or e-mail at email@example.com.