A steady stream of boats, hunters, and dogs crowded the local launches Saturday morning as the Louisiana duck season officially opened. Adams bayou, the Vinton Drain ditch, Cow Bayou, and Highway 82 towards Holly Beach looked like a parade route as local hunters descended on the marshes in anticipation of legal shooting light and the first flight of ducks. As expected it was a very hit and miss proposition to say the least. The current state of the marsh is very different than in normal years due to the increased levels of saltwater that have been a mainstay for most of the year. Drought conditions have kept freshwater dependant vegetation from growing and that has definitely altered the plans of many hunters. Ponds and flats that have historically been magnets for ducks have seen very few birds come into the area and stay.

Now if you are fortunate enough to have available food sources like some local hunters then it’s just a matter of time before you have birds. The reports from the Louisiana opener proved that theory out in a big way. Hunters that were much deeper in the marsh and affected less by the saltwater had great numbers of birds and outstanding hunts. The hunters closer to the rivers and bayous struggled somewhat but did manage to take a few birds. Teal and Gadwall made up the majority of the ducks taken for most hunters while a few were fortunate enough to take pintail, widgeon, and even a few mallards. The big surge of hunting pressure certainly changed the way the birds worked but look for that to settle down as the season continues and the number of hunters gets back to a normal level.

Perhaps the hunters most affected by the opening day pressure were the goose hunters who set up on fields with good populations of speckle bellied geese. Almost every hunter I spoke with who was chasing geese said the birds were really spooky and hard to decoy. Most of the hunters who shot any numbers of birds keyed in on small groups of birds rather than big bunches in order to get them into shooting range. Look for these birds to also calm down as the hunting pressure evens out. The amount of geese coming into the area on a daily basis certainly gives local hunters something to look forward to. In the weeks ahead a few things are going to become more important as the weather and conditions get progressively colder and more difficult.

For now the long range forecast looks very good for local waterfowl hunters as cooler temps appear to be here for a while and that’s always a welcome change. The strong north winds have pushed a few birds out of the areas but look for those numbers to build back up soon with new birds just now entering our area plus many will return once the big north winds die down and slowly swing south and east. Water levels in the tidal marshes will be a concern for a few days as the tides are extremely low right now courtesy of the north winds associated with this last front. Many areas that are prime habitat become expansive mud flats at this time of the year and are only accessible with a surface drive motor or long tail. When the water levels return the ducks won’t be far behind. If the first few days are any indication of how the season is going to turn out then it may be time to stock up on shells because this has all the potential to be one to remember.

Local hunters continue to do well in both Texas and Louisiana marshes. RECORD PHOTO: Chuck Uzzle