Duck numbers way below average…for now

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Early duck estimates are down, but there are brighter days ahead for Louisiana duck hunters!

The first 2018 Waterfowl Population estimates from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are in. And they back up what most teal hunters found out on opening weekend. There are more mosquitoes than teal. Or than any type of ducks, for that matter.

State Waterfowl Leader Larry Reynolds reported on the September aerial survey results. Here are some of his comments:

The estimate of 59,000 blue-winged teal from this survey is 84% lower than last year’s estimate of 373,000, 32% below the most recent 5-year average of 183,000, and 75% below the long-term average of 236,000. It is the second lowest estimate for blue-winged teal on record for this survey with only the 50,000 estimated in 2013 being lower. The bluewing estimate for SW LA is also the second lowest on record, and the estimate for SE LA the third lowest behind the 500 in 2016 and the 4,000 in 2013. In contrast, the 6,000 blue-winged teal counted at Catahoula Lake was the highest since 18,000 were counted in 2012, but is still just 2/3 of the most recent 10-year average of 9,000. The 16,000 estimated mottled ducks is down substantially from the 25,000 estimated last September and the most recent 10-year average of 29,000. It is also the second lowest estimate on record for this survey with only 2016’s estimate of 12,000 being lower.

The overwhelming majority of bluewings counted on this survey were in agricultural habitat, with the only notable flocks in SW LA seen in flooded fields south and west of Gueydan and southwest of Crowley.

At Catahoula Lake, habitat conditions were much improved over 2017 when rainfall from hurricane Harvey flooded available habitat. Cracks in the soil at the center of lake were visible through the water indicating a complete drawdown during the dry summer conditions before recent manipulation to raise water levels to within management targets. Extensive growth of moist-soil vegetation was evident, and food production for migrating and wintering ducks should be very good if water-level targets can be maintained.”

As for other birds, it’s way too early and way too hot. The survey showed zeroes for mallards, pintails, gadwalls. widgeons and canvasbacks. But with cooler weather and more water, it’ll get better. So don’t let early reports scare you off. Get that blind ready, the dog worked and your gear in order. Opening day for big ducks will be here before you know it.