Duck hunting improves mostly

Duck hunters in most of the state’s waterfowl spots improved during the week.

The exception appears to be the Barataria Basin, where north winds have shoved water levels so low that ducks, mostly teal and grays, have found isolated ponds to their liking. That means hunters have been forced to move from what were prime locations off the main bayous and bays to small three-acres-or-less waters. In turn, that has restricted the birds’ movement, especially on days like Saturday when strong north winds kept the birds seeking shelter from the chilling winds.

Otherwise, tidal movement, the push to high tide later in the day, meant places like Pass a Loutre and Atchafalaya Delta wildlife management areas have slowed action in the early morning hours and much better shooting when the tides push in later in the day. News from the Atchafalaya Delta is that more diving ducks, species like redheads, canvasbacks and ringnecks, are moving onto the delta’s flats on the late-day rising tides.

The southwestern parishes continue to provide first-rate morning action on grays, pintail, greenwing teal, spoonies and late-arriving mallards along with increasing numbers of ringnecks.

Action on geese is up, too, in the Gueydan-to-Hackberry vector, and mallards, grays and pintails are showing up in big numbers in the flooded timber and rice fields in the northeastern parishes and along the Mississippi River. Heavy rains since the weekend before Christmas has brought much needed water along the river north of Vidalia. The wood duck count is up in that area, too.

Dos gris have been filling limits, too, and Sam Pernici’s report about seeing increasing numbers of this species showed in his pre-Christmas hunts in the Pecan Island area. He said he took his first dos gris with a band. After reporting his band, he said he learned his banded bird was “three or more years old and was banded a year-and-a-half ago on the Minto Flats near Fairbanks, Alaska.”

If you take a banded duck or goose, all you have to do is call toll-free (800) 327-BAND (2263). Operators are on duty 24 hours a day throughout the hunting season. The operator will ask the for the band number and location where the bird was taken. The band is yours to keep, and you will receive a report similar to the one Pernici received for his band recovery.

Deer

Most every hunter contacted in the lower reaches of State Deer Area 1 and throughout State Deer Area 6 announced that bucks are in the midst of the primary rut. It appears the peak of the rut arrived since Christmas and could linger into New Year’s Day.

A handful of trophy bucks have made their way to social media postings since Christmas Day. Remember The Advocate’s Big Buck Contest. Access information via the website: http://www.theadvocate.com.

Along the coast

Fishermen noted the decreased water levels in the coastal marshes when most took advantage of the holiday to take school-aged kids for trout and redfish trips.

With two strong cold fronts sweeping into south Louisiana in the past week, most folks have had trouble finding speckled trout.

The winds have taken the fish off food sources (the winds scattered the few remaining shrimp in the marshes and scattered schools of baitfish) and catches shifted to redfish and sheepshead.

For folks who can find live shrimp, that’s the best offering. Live cocaho minnows are next, followed by fresh market shrimp.

Working drop-offs near run-outs with the bait 2-3 feet under a cork is the best presentation. When you can find reds gathering in deep holes, putting live minnows on the bottom is a proven fish-catching method.

Cold conditions and high barometric pressures should keep the fish near deep holes for the next several days.

Hunting 2013

The rules setting for the 2013-2014 hunting season begins during Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting at 9:30 a.m. at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center on North Flannery Road. State wildlife biologists will unveil proposed hunting-season changes along with the Marine Fisheries Section proposed Declaration of Emergency for the 2013-2014 recreational reef fish seasons.