Day 56: A washout
We’ve got four days left in the 2018-19 season to hunt ducks in the East Zone of Louisiana. Wednesday was a fitting example of how the season has gone, and the two inches of rain most of the area got just gave the ducks a few more places to go hide from us.
We didn’t go, but we’ll be out there the rest of the days giving it our best shot. Ducks are here one day and gone the next. Hopefully some of those seen in the attached survey will show back up now. Stay after them. And be safe out there!
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Our report is a bit short, but we can share with you the highlights of the latest LDWF aerial survey results that were reported by Waterfowl leader Larry Reynolds this week about the number of birds in the state for January. Here goes:
The 2.05 million ducks estimated on this survey is little changed from the 1.94 estimated last month, 33% below last January’s estimate of 3.07 million, and 31% below the long-term average of 2.99 million.
Distribution of ducks was skewed toward SW LA with 63% being counted in that region compared to the nearly even distribution in December. Water level at Catahoula Lake increased markedly since the December survey and was 17 feet
above management target during the survey. The 4,000 ducks on this survey were the fewest since 2009 when only 3,000 were counted, and are only 4% of the most recent 10-year average of 79,000 ducks.
Another 18,700 ducks were counted on the Northwest Louisiana survey, primarily on the locks, lakes, oxbows, and fields along the Red River and upper Toledo Bend reservoir.
In Northeast Louisiana, 221,000 ducks and 153,000 geese (5% white-fronted) were counted on selected habitats during the traditional cruise survey that was standardized in 2005. That is an 87% increase from the 118,000 ducks and a 26% increase from the 121,000 geese counted in December. Similarly, those counts are over twice the 103,000 ducks and 68,000 geese counted last January
when ice covered much of the surveyed area. The duck count is 18% higher than the most recent 10-year average of 187,000, but the goose count is 31% lower than the 10-year average of 221,000.
Ring-necked duck (70,000) was the most abundant duck species that along with gadwall (64,000), pintail (31,000), mallard (24,000), canvasback (13,000), and shoveler (12,000), accounted for 97% of the ducks counted. The surveyed area continues to be far wetter than normal with increased backwater flooding in all river systems and flooding in agricultural habitats since the December survey. The largest concentrations were 69,000 mostly gadwalls, pintails, ringnecks and mallards in the Bonita/Mer Rouge area; 35,000 mostly ring-necked ducks and canvasbacks at Catahoula NWR.
Photo- Brendan Tubbs