Larry Reynolds knew last week he was in for tough week this week.
After he and his State Waterfowl Study crew flew the coastal parishes and Catahoula Lake between Sept. 9-12, and put numbers to paper, the estimate of 50,000 teal in those areas came out to be the lowest state biologists have ever counted in the days leading up to the special September teal season.
It was 74 percent lower than last year’s near 190,000 estimate.
“I expected to have more birds move in, but they didn’t and the reports continued to be pretty poor,” Reynolds said Wednesday.
His reference point was Saturday’s opening day, and reports that hunters on the usually productive Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area had an estimated take of a half-a-teal per hunter. A better average, like 3.3 ducks per man came from Pass a Loutre south of Venice off the Mississippi River, but Salvador and Pointe aux Chenes WMAs were at or less than one teal per hunter.
Reynolds had firsthand knowledge of the Cameron-Creole area, where he and his son took seven birds Saturday and 11 Sunday on a weekend when Louisiana hunters were going for the new six-teal-per-day limit, up from four-per-day that had been the norm since the special season was set up more than 40 years ago.
“I guess the people who were taking birds are not calling me, but I get the impression that hunting is pretty slow,” Reynolds said.
He traced that to a number of factors, and first mentioned Steve Cordts , his counterpart in Minnesota, who reported the state’s lowest-ever teal count.
“Steve said everything appears to be late this year, that there was a lot of water on the breeding grounds later than usual and a cool spring delayed the cycle,” Reynolds said. “He made the point that his state still had flightless ducks, that young birds had not fledged out and that successful (nesting) females had not completed the molt.”
Fledging is when young birds grow their flight feathers and molting restricts adult birds from flying because they have not regrown their flight feathers.
Reynolds said Cordts told him that the 34-degree mornings predicted in Minnesota later this week should push more birds to the Deep South.
Reynolds also reported that Midwest states have come through the near two-year drought and there’s more water in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Kansas reported “tens of thousands of teal in central Kansas,” with no significant cold fronts to push the birds southward.
“From the harvest report, central Kansas had the highest number of teal taken for an for opening weekend,” Reynolds said.
At Catahoula Lake
Several hunters complained of falling water levels on this unique waterfowl holding area in central Louisiana.
Reynolds said the multi-agency plan is to hold the level at the 27-foot mark, which demands late-summer season drawdowns to continue on a plan to reduce encroaching woody vegetation, mostly tallow trees, from taking over the lake.
“We need to have the lakebed dry enough to get the equipment in there to complete our management program,” he said. “We had one-and-a-half inches of rain in September and that pushed the (water) level up just before the teal season.”
He said work is being done from the Diversion Canal to the French Fork area where bushhogs and sprayers can kill unwanted vegetation.
“Cutting the grasses will provide much better food crops across the lake in the moist-soil areas,” Reynolds said. “We have dozens of emails from hunters there who say that bushhogging helps stimulate (vegetation) growth in the (Catahoula Lake) sanctuary and that helps hold birds on the lake in the big duck season.”
Construction of a new bridge crossing the borrow pit at the levee, a detour has been posted for hunters exiting Interstate 10 and wanting to access the Sherburne WMA’s South Farm.
The new access route follows the I-10 Ramah exit, then north on La. 76 for 5.2 miles to Musson Lane, then left on Musson 1.1 miles to the East Guide Levee Road, then left (south) for 3.5 miles to the South Farm check station.
The LDWF advisory indicated the bridge should be completed by May 2014.
A Great Nature Project
Louisiana’s Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve and National Geographic are sponsoring a photo contest to run Sept. 21-29. For details, go to website: www.greatnatureproject.org.