take a typical day from this past duck season and try and capture the true essence of a duck hunter. Hopefully, it will
help explain the joy, challenge, and rewards that a duck hunter receives each time he goes on a hunt, and at the
same time provide a little insight into why we do what we do.
on my porch thermometer and the wind was from the South-East at around 20 mph. A typical duck hunting day,
except we seldom get easterly winds.
the bed and gave me the same heart-warming send off she usually does, …. “you must be crazy” she muttered.
clerk suspiciously looked over my camouflage attire and black grease paint on my face. I noticed him closely watching
me as I stepped back in my pickup to drive through total darkness and icy rain to our duck camp while constantly
watching the road and ditches for deer that apparently love to jump in front of my vehicle.
smelly Labrador retrievers, and the ever present scent of lake mud, sweat, and burned biscuits hanging in the air like
across the dining table and hit a drowsy hunter just below his worry lines.
down at the table to enjoy another cup of coffee along with the rock-hard biscuit.
costs several thousand dollars a pound after you factor in all expenses. We are all loaded up with our blind bags,
shotguns, shells, extra 6-volt and 12-volt batteries, and the ever present thermos of coffee. Dawn was just breaking
as we all started our walk down the 300 foot home-made dock that was bouncing on its barrels like a thrill ride at
SixFlags amusement park. This same walk seemed a lot easier 40 years ago.
Labrador retrievers added to the dangers of negotiating the slippery surface by constantly bumping our legs while
awaiting to load into a boat.
fellow hunter, not wanting to miss seeing someone slip, trip, fall, or slide into the cold lake. This type of face-first
plunge would have drawn hysterical laughter from all of the hunters and duck blind conversation for all our
I repeat never, do something that may be classified as stupid on a duck hunt. You will never hear the end of it!
This brings up the subject of duck blind conversations. This is a series of talks about memorable hunts, and
embarrassing moments that happened to someone else on a hunt, or in our case, the conversation might turn to the
morning that Will fell off the dock and sunk up so deep in the mud that it took 3 of us and a hoist to get him unstuck
and back onto the walk, or the morning that Kim fell off the blind while trying to kick his lab for retrieving decoys.
Anyway, back to the hunt at hand. We were all loaded into our boats and headed out to the blind.
to hunt the open water tank blind, let’s go hunt the woods blind.”
top of metal pipes that are driven into the lake bottom. These motorized spinners are strategically placed among our
stools of floating decoys so that their movement will attract ducks from all directions.
a mojo mounted on top of one of these metal pipes. I reach out and grab the pipe just as the boat suddenly dips
down between swales. The pole bends, I loose my grip, and the mojo catapults off the pole out into the dark abyss.
duck flew past one of the mojo’s and Will put so many holes in that spinner that the wings began to whistle as they
dragging a dozen decoys behind us. They have gotten wrapped around the motor, caught on the boat, and tangled in
the prop. We continue on, leaving a single-file trail of decoys in our wake.
stools of decoys. Earlier in the season we had skillfully arranged our decoys to imitate ducks resting and feeding in a
spot that was better than the other million spots all over the lake – or at least that’s what we were determined to
make the ducks think.
waited for a flock of mallards to appear.
as camouflage. Our collars were turned up while we sat and sat and sat.
packed up our gear, loaded back into the boat and eased out to retrieve our recently mounted mojo.
dislodge it from the pole. It had formed a layer of ice which caused it to slip from my hands launching up into the air
and back down to the bottom of the lake.
tethered we began the heart-testing trek back up the long, now ice covered dock, each with 50 pounds of equipment
strapped over our shoulders and a disappointed Labrador retriever that was apparently still trying to trip me.
that plunged off the dock and to the bottom of the lake.
of our mind’s problems might find a scientific term for this behavior, they might even write a thesis for one of them
nut-case journals. A psychiatrist might even conclude: “One reason they put their bodies and minds through extreme torture and return year after year to continue this punishment is because they are crazy!”
we really can’t afford for you to hunt with Bob anymore.”
According to Dr. Larry Reynolds, Waterfowl Study Leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the per hunter kill on the four Wildlife Management Areas in Southeast Louisiana that do regular bag-checks was down about 25-30% but in Southwest Louisiana at the White Lake Wetland Conservation Area bag was the same or better than in the past. The private Coastal Club in the same are was similar to last year but the Cherry Ridge club was down about 30% according to one of the land managers.
A few things are certain. Warm temperatures and extensive flooding shifted the mid-winter population estimates to the north. Louisiana and Arkansas were below average; Mississippi was right at average; Missouri was over twice their long-term average; and Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky were above average.
Dr. Reynolds is fairly certain that hunting was below average, but he has received few direct complaints. He suspects that below average hunting has to do with the combination of extensive flooding and 80-degree temperature at Christmas.
Goose hunting is greatly reduced in Louisiana. The January Snow Goose census in Louisiana was 287,000 compared to the flyway count of 2,235,000. The Louisiana total was approximately half the 2011-2015 average.
More information about the 2015-2016 season will be available in coming months as Dr. Reynolds and his team collect data from their annual waterfowl hunter surveys.