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Lake life

Duck numbers are low with few exceptions

If you are a duck hunter, these numbers will be of interest. The LDWF completed its’ November aerial survey this week and things look good for hunters with water. Hunters without good water will be scrambling….

NW Louisiana
In northwest Louisiana, management drawdowns along with moderate drought conditions
affected the amount and quality of waterfowl habitat available. Lakes Bistineau, Wallace, and
Black (Campti) were all drawn down. Agricultural fields and pastures with flood potential were
dry, and most managed impoundments on both private and public lands were dry as well. Region-wide only 3,000 ducks were observed (-52% from last year’s 6,600 and -58% from the most recent 5-year average of 7,700), most occurring on privately owned, managed impoundments near lock 5 and the Lower Cane unit of the Red River NWR complex. Other concentrations were observed on Grand Bayou Reservoir (400), along the Red River between Natchitoches and lock 5 (500) and just over 100 on Lake Bistineau. This is the second lowest November count since the standardized survey began in 2005, surpassed only by the 2,500 birds counted in November 2016. Two-thirds of this year’s count was made up of three species; gadwall (1,000), mallard (700), and green-winged teal (500).

NE Louisiana
A flight conducted over agricultural areas and managed wetlands in northeast Louisiana also
revealed abnormally dry conditions across the region. Consequently, the total duck count (34,000) was the lowest it’s been since another notably dry November when 21,000 were counted in 2005. A comparison to last November’s estimate, which was compromised by an equipment malfunction, would be invalid but this survey represents an 86% decline from the most recent 5-year average of 260,000 from 2015 to 2019. Sixty-two percent of all ducks were observed in the Cheneyville and Bunkie area agricultural fields. Smaller numbers (≤4,000) were counted around the south end of Boeuf WMA and the agricultural fields east of Bonita, Mer Rouge, Hebert, and Russell Sage WMA, and south of Vidalia. The bulk of the dabblers (62%) were gadwall (21,000), followed by pintail (4,000), northern shoveler (4,000), and green-winged teal (3,500). Less than 2,000 mallards were counted. Most available water being shallow, only 31 total divers were observed, all ring-necked ducks.

Geese
Goose numbers in the Northeast were up slightly to 74,000 from the 70,000 counted last
November. Though this count also represents a 51% decline from the 5-year average (2015-2019).

The largest concentrations of geese were in the agricultural fields east of Bonita & Mer Rouge
(38,000), Hebert (2,000), and the fields east of Russell Sage WMA (14,000). Just over 53% of
goose species counted were white-fronted geese, with the remainder identifiable only as light geese.

Rain is forecast for North Louisiana in the near-term, though not likely enough to create
landscape scale improvements in wetland availability for noticeable increases in duck distribution. Although the southern Canadian prairies have begun to freeze, near-term future forecasts for northern tier states continue to show daytime highs well above freezing despite occasional dips into the 20’s and teens at night, and mid-latitude states may maintain highs in the 50’s for some time. Survey and hunting reports in states farther up the flyway have been below average to average. Notwithstanding the spring drought in the prairie breeding area, mild weather to the north, a dry fall in Louisiana, and hurricane impacted coastal areas, duck numbers in the coastal area of this survey were better than
would’ve been expected.

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