There were lots of smiling duck hunters Saturday, but not from the guys hunting the Atchafalaya Delta nor most areas east of the Mississippi River.
The smiles came from hunters along a swath from northeast to southwest, from the Catahoula Lake area across the central parishes to the southwestern rice fields and marshes.
“We have Hurricane Isaac to thank,” Drew Keeth said after taking four-bird limits on the opener of the 16-day special teal season.
Keeth is the boss guide for Honey Brake Lodge, the upscale retreat south of Jonesville. Honey Brake is near enough to Catahoula Lake to call that home, but Delta Farms is the heart and soul of the lodge.
“We had 25 hunters and everyone limited out in 30 minutes. We were on the farm (Delta) and we trying to film a video, but we were finished before we had enough light for video,” Keeth said.
“We had a guy in the blind who said this was the best duck hunt he’s ever been on in North America. He said hearing all the wings of the birds (teal) flying over were so loud that it was like hearing waves on the shoreline at Orange Beach (Ala.).”
Honey Brake manager Paul Ferrell said Catahoula Lake hunters had to work harder than those on the farm, but harder was more a comparative than a descriptive Saturday.
Wednesday’s state Waterfowl Study survey of Catahoula Lake showed 18,000 bluewing teal on the water, and Ferrell said, “Everybody did well and got birds, but it was later shooting.”
Keeth said the best Catahoula hunting came on the north end, and that hunters had to spent up to 90 minutes to get limits. When you take limits in 20 minutes, 90 minutes is harder.
“We’re thanking Isaac for the birds, but can we send those tiger mosquitoes Isaac sent up here back to you down south,” Keeth said.
Go southwest from Jonesville and flooded ag fields in the central parishes had more than their fair share of teal. Whiteville hunters had their limits and any place with water in the Krotz Springs area west along U.S. 71 had birds, too, and hunters had limits.
Stay on the same heading until you get to Welsh and Gueydan, and the reports were the same.
“It was a great morning to start the season,” Doug Sonnier said from Doug’s Hunting near Gueydan. “We saw a lot of birds and most of the hunters were done by 7:15 (a.m.), some had to wait until 8 o’clock, but it was all over for everyone by 8:30. There were birds everywhere.”
Clarence Vidrine, the manager at Oak Grove on Little Chernier, completed the southwestward swing: “We had a terrific hunt. Teal were here by the thousands, more than we seen in years past ... 7 hunters, 7 guides, shooting time at 6:28 and everybody finished by 5 minutes to 7. Guys up (north) at Sweet Lake told us they had their limits in 10 minutes.”
The bad news came later in the day. Hunters working the Atchafalaya Delta area had few teal, and most hunters east of the Mississippi River fared poorly, too.