When Advocate assistant news editor Kay Gervais found her great-grandfather’s hunting license, she knew she had a treasure.
The 1919 permit cost Albert Baye one dollar, and allowed him limits hunters can only dream about 93 years later.
More than likely it was because there were fewer hunters, surely more available hunting lands and, possibly, more game.
Certainly fewer hunters, a less mobile citizenry and weaponry were factors, but hunters were hunters and it’s certain Mr. Baye, then 53 years old, was a waterfowl hunter. Evidence is that he bought his license in advance of the duck and goose seasons, but not seasons for upland game.
And it’s waterfowl seasons that astounds today’s hunters.
Mr. Baye could take up to 25 ducks a day in a Nov. 1-Jan. 31 season, and add to that a 25-a-day limit combined among poule d’eau, gallinules and rails, which is less than what’s allowed hunters today.
There’s more: Hunters were allowed to take plovers, curlews and sandpipers and something called a “chorook,” a species of sandpiper, up to 12 a day in the aggregate of those birds.
It’s doubtful that Mr. Baye took part in putting gros bec, the yellow crowned night heron, on the table.
Yes, taking gros bec was legal in 1919. The season ran July 1-Nov. 1 and there was a 15-a-day limit.
Talk to older south Louisiana folks, those who came through the Great Depression, and they’ll swear there’s no finer eating bird than a gros bec, especially a young gros bec.
That alone would have made hunting near his Lafourche Parish home a dream.
Still there’s more: While hunters were allowed to take 10 geese, similar to today’s daily limit on blue, snow and Ross’ geese, that 1919 limit included all geese, including speckledbellies and Canadas. As if that wasn’t enough, there was a 25-a-day limit on snipe, though it’s doubtful any subsistence hunter would have used shotgun shells on such a small bird.
Dove hunters had a Sept. 15-Dec. 31 season with a 25-a-day limit; quail hunters could take 15 a day in a Nov. 15-Feb. 29 (a leap year in 1920) season — when wild quail were much more abundant than the 8-per-day take now, although the season is just as long — and there even was a Nov. 15-March 31 turkey season with a limit of one per day.
Back in 1919, robins were protected along with many other songbirds and wading birds, but species like turkey buzzards and comorants, great horned owls, the English sparrow, crows, grackles and blackbirds and kingfishers, when nesting in levees were considered “outlaw birds” and could be taken any time during the year.
For upland game, a bear season was the oddity. It ran Nov. 1-Feb. 15, but trapping was prohibited.
Elk, newly reintroduced into the state, were off limits, and there was a five-per-season, one-per-day limit on deer. The season was divided into zones with the state’s Northern Zone running Sept. 15-Jan. 5 and Southern Zone hunters getting their shots Oct. 1-Jan. 20.
Back 93 years ago, hunters could take 15 squirrels a day between Sept. 15-Feb. 15 and sale of squirrels was allowed during this period. Current law prevents selling squirrels.
Because it was not listed, rabbits could be taken throughout the year.
The Louisiana Department of Conservation also made an effort to advise about a “hunting ethic.”
The last two paragraphs of Mr. Baye’s hunting license read: “Every true sportsman will encourage and aid the Department of Conservation in the enforcement of the law, discourage and report infractions thereof.”