You think trying to please everybody coaching football is hard? You should be Larry Reynolds, Migratory Waterfowl Program Manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. No matter what he says or what the data says, hunters that only recognize one thing: how many ducks are their over the barrel of the shotgun? It doesn’t matter if the number of birds are down or they just aren’t good duck hunters. It’s Larry’s job to get them ducks. Or at least that is the way many of them see it.
We are just going to call Larry “Dr. Duck.” He has duck hunted for more than 30 years, flies monthly aerial surveys to estimate ducks, taken part in numerous duck symposiums and think-tank meetings and talks more duck than Paul Finebaum talks football. Louisiana is lucky to have someone like him, even though many duck hunters don’t always agree with him.
We don’t give duck hunters their do much here on this site, mainly because are about fishing and lake life. But duck hunters matter, too. So we spent a lot of time last week with Larry. What he had to say wasn’t really what most duck hunters want to hear, but like Sgt. Joe Friday, just the facts, please. Here you go with part 1 of a three part series on what Dr. Duck had to say in presentations made in West Monroe, Ruston and Bossier City.
Let’s start with last year. As Larry’s slide says, “Last season was awful”. That’s no news to duck hunters, but it may be some consolation to know you were not alone.
Check this out: An estimated 506,000 ducks were killed in Louisiana last year, which was 53% lower than 2017 and, wait for it — the lowest since 1988. But, sometimes we get spoiled. Louisiana was still the fifth highest state behind California, Arkansas, Texas and Washington. Only Iowa had increased hunter success and they killed about a third of the ducks we did.
Larry said that he hears all the time that states north of us are short-stopping the ducks, keeping us from getting the ducks. Consider this from our flyway. Illinois success was down 42% last year, Missouri down 35%, and Arkansas was about even.
One disturbing trend with ducks is that in the harvests, we are seeing much higher adult-heavy ducks especially with mallards. When you have poor reproduction, there aren’t as many ducks to hunt and the ducks that are being hunted are more mature. The harvest to age ratio has been unfavorable for a couple of years now.
At the North America Duck Symposium, where all the “duck heads” get together to share information, review data and think tank the waterfowl situation. There is obviously a distribution change in where the ducks are going. Consider this. 60% of the ducks in the Mississippi Flyway once wintered at least, in part, in Louisiana. Today that number is about 39%. The percentage of mallards in the flyway wintering in Louisiana was once 30% and it’s down to 5-7% now. Since the 1990’s there has been a sharp decline in ducks using the coastal LA. Mallards pintails and widgeon’s are down, Gadwalls have shown a slight increase and ringneck seem to love the declining state coast because their numbers or up.
tomorrow, part 2…