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Ducks everywhere

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I went to my duck hunting spot today. As predicted, at least 7000 mallards and pintails.
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   tas123
fields have been drained for farming season. its congregating the ducks. that and lack of pressure.
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   jjoojj
Good.
Let them get good and fat for their trip to the north! Hopefully they make plenty babies!
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Went back today and saw approx 10,000.
Tas123: The farm fields remain flooded for rice and crawfish.
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   tas123
i meant north of us (corn). most of the fields i have seen (northeast Louisiana) are dry.
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   DaDucks
.....It's a funny thing that happens when the guns go silent and the mud motors are parked.
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LMAO!!!!
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Out of curiosity why don't you try and tell us as best you can your opinion as to why you think these ducks are now all of a sudden on your lease... give some context as to the habitat on your lease, size of your lease, location, and proximity to restricted hunting areas ect.
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   Ricky Pon
I think he hunts in Evangeline Parish
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   jjoojj
I'd imagine that most folks here that have a lease have a lot of ducks on it right not. Not because 'new' ducks are down, but because hunting season is over and they aren't getting blasted everyday. Our lease sure has piles of birds. Fortunately it did during the season as well.
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jjoojj, That is a huge part of it I think you are correct. Hunting pressure can have a pretty predictable impact on general duck movement. Id be curious to look at things such as food availability and food selection based on hunting pressure as well. It would be interesting to see if hunting pressure limits the foraging of ducks in a given area. for example in late season most high value food reserves have been eaten, grains, seeds, and various SAV and emergent vegetation species especially in areas of restricted hunting where duck density is likely higher ie areas like white lake. In areas of high hunting pressure though consistent hunting pressure could limit foraging on higher quality food sources and in a weird way retain them till after the season closes. when the pressure is removed ducks can access these sources without pressure... This is just a thought for a research and I have not looked up anything to support it yet. Im sure a large portion of what we observe after season is simply ducks spreading out and foraging more naturally instead of huddling up in protected areas.

Im not confident that food availability alone explains what the original post is seeing with his 10,000 mallards and pintails..... but if he is insinuating that these birds are still migrating south in early mid February to wintering areas I suggest he brushes up on some waterfowl ecology, factors influencing migration, life history, seasonal patterns, factors influencing wintering movement patterns ect...
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   jjoojj
Agreed. I wouldn't be scared to say that by thanksgiving, the ducks that are in Louisiana are the ducks that we are going to have in Louisiana for the entire season. After that weather and wind patterns will determine the movement of the ducks. Vegetation and hunting pressure coincide with areas having birds or not having birds. As observed in the aerial survey data, there were hardly more birds in late January than there were in early November.

My humble opinion
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the total number of ducks may be relatively consistent from that time on, im not sure. but as seen in the aerial surveys we do get fluctuations in species composition like BWT. Most bwt teal continue to central and south america... I was really looking forward to hearing how bloodandguts convinced 1 out of every 20 mallards and pintail in the whole state to land on his lease, hunting pressure or not HA! 10,000 pintails and mallards when there is only 200,000 in the whole damn state.
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AK
The field I hunt is 180 acres. It is basically a rice field that is now CRP. Most trees are 5-6 ft. So the food source is native grasses and seed. I am surrounded rice fields, crawfish ponds, etc. this is Evangeline parish, so I'm talking about 20-30 miles around me is rice fields, bottomland hardwood and pine plantation. Every acre is hunted. There is ample water and food in the area from Sept. on. On my place I close the main drainage gate in July. So I have water from Sept on. We didn't see nor shoot a bird in Sept or November-so there is no 'pressure'. I start seeing a few ducks around Christmas, and from there on, more.
Now this story of mine reflects the experiences of hunters for a 50-75 mile radius.
The hunting gets exponentially better from Jan 1 till the end, but gets insanely better the last 2 weeks: killing limits early and seeing large amounts of high fliers headed south. The birds I killed did not appear to be 'old birds' that had been hanging down south. A wise old man once told me that bright orange feet meant newer ducks (compared to dull orange). True or not, I don't know??? These ducks decoyed fairly well and, for the most part, were not paired up.
Now I've been hunting this same area for forty years and the hunting experience in late Jan. is identical to the hunts we used to have in early November (pre-2005).
Now when I say that there is approx 10,000 sitting in this field right now, i am not exaggerating. That 180 acres is saturated with birds. They will be there up until April, when I drain it.
I believe that most birds follow a certain flyway. If these are resident birds, why did they follow a different route when migrating back north??
My philosophy , as well as all the other hunters in this 'area', is that new ducks, in this area, are still showing up at the end of the season. I see the same thing in property I own in north LA. You can't apply what goes on in the marshes, especially in SE, to central LA-totally different flyway, in my humble opinion. I don't know why it is so difficult for some to believe that some birds arrive later. I know about aerial surveys , reports, etc. (the red snapper is still endangered).
Look, I'm not a biologist nor claim to be an expert. Just reporting the events as they have repeated, consistently, over the last 10 years. I am not asking to kill ducks in Feb. I am not mad at DU.
I am thankful that we had an extra week to put some fat birds in the freezer.
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Hears that all the time as well but it's not that they just arrived but the legs get more color towards the end if her season for breeding purposes. Ducks get more colorful towards breeding season and feet and even bill color changes. You will notice park mallards with bright legs in April and May
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BWO: I hear you. I have killed some bright legged ones in November. ???
Jjoojj: I respect you based on past reports. Do you really think that the migration is over in November? Rest assured, in my area, it is not.
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   lanco1
So the answer to what is happening here is pretty well hashed out. During satellite tracking survey (mallards) the tendency is ducks move south with advancing cold weather till roughly the winter solstice. After that they will begin to hunker rather than move south with additional cold weather. In November and early December birds reaching Louisiana tend to head coastal first with a gradual trend inland after Christmas. The thought is that the birds are following a pretty traditional patern based on the typical availability of habitat. In other words on average inland habitats (flooded timber and fields) tend to be drier in the fall and then flood with the rains of winter and the birds natural patterns are based around this. The 'redlegged northerns' thing is not real. As stated earlier hormones are the thing there. The birds you are seeing on your lease from Christmas on are 'new' birds they are just not coming from the north but rather shifting habitats within the state. Find the old mallard tracker data, don't take my word for it. Also as stated local migration (within LA) from areas that drain fields after the season is also a factor. An old market hunter I met in the early 80's (he was in his 80s at the time) said the best months for duck hunting were February and March! But that is because it is essentially the 'duck rut' and the feast before northward migration. It took a literal act of congress to get the season to the end of January and the USFWS is not going to allow a spring duck hunt in the foreseeable future.
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Alright, so it appears to me you have been privileged to some less than accurate information. So don't take any of this as an insult, its not but for future reference this may be of use. Migration and winter movement are two different things commonly miss construed as another poster eluded to. Migration is referring to the large scale movement north or south breeding to wintering grounds and vise versa. Out side of migration birds will continue to fly considerable distances based on any number of influences weather, food, hunting, ect. The birds you are seeing fly high and south in January are not migrating south they may very well be moving that direction but they are not still migrating.

I won't address the feet more than saying another poster is correct coloration gets distinct and brighter towards the end of the season as males begin to try to pair up to follow a female back to her breeding grounds. coloration changes significantly between individual birds and different species. Take a look at a ruddy duck's bill in mating season if you want to see a dramatic color shift.

Northern migrations may be delayed based on weather but the two largest pushes of ducks north towards the breeding grounds occur in the first full moon of February and March. Pintails are usually the first of the dabbler ducks to head north as well and should be incubating as early as late april! Turns out that ducks who lay slightly earlier in the season are more likely to have a successful nest so it is actually beneficial to get there as soon as weather and food resources permit. Pretty cool, but I'm sure you have also observed that we will get a sizable influx of bwt in the spring too, they are coming all the way back up form central and south america and will be on average the last of the birds to reach the breeding grounds.

As far as 'flyway'maybe this will help almost all of Louisiana is in the Mississippi 'flyway' but ducks will seek out different habitats and locals at different times. the ducks may very well be new to you, they are however not new to the wintering grounds. I don't think that anyone is doubting that your birds come to your property later but I think it is a common miss conception about bird movements.

I hope you don't take offence to this and I'm glad the you actually had a few good weeks of hunting late in the year. Im sure it gets annoying to see people killing them in November when you don't have birds quite yet. Oh and if you still have pintails in april take a picture and post it I want to see it!
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   lanco1
Unlike red snapper waterfowl management is pretty biologically sound and in our state it's run by a pretty accessible gentleman. The state will be considering adjustments to our zone lines shortly. E-mail Larry Reynolds with concerns you have about the effectiveness of your areas current zone. It is certainly true that the coastal zone has dates selected to optimize killing of typical coastal duck: gadwall, teal, spoonies and ringnecks. These birds migrate early and most (though not all) coastal waterfowlers have greater sucess in November than any other month. It may be that if you and most other Evangeline Parish waterfowlers are seeing good late season mallard action and poor early season 'marsh duck' action that a move into the east zone would be beneficial. Have all waterfowlers in your are be sure to fill out the upcoming waterfowl season survey (Mr. Reynolds will announce the survey on this site) and add thier location and desire for rezoning in the comments section. If you have late season mallards and geese you could probably leverage that and trade hunts with some of us marsh rats for better early season action! Go get some geese and be sure to contact Larry Reynolds and participate in the survey.
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So if Im sitting in a pit blind in mid January on the LA Ark line . so close to the line that I can see it across the field and I look up and watch wave after wave of mallards and pintail come from across the line which is from the North . that's not a migration? its 'movement'?

the type of hunting in south la is night and day compared to north la hunting. this is why i think the big difference in opinion is so vast. yes we kill large groups of migrating mallards in January and we are on the state line. its a whole different world , once you see it with your own eyes you will understand why we like to hunt Dec- until the last day of Jan if we can.
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   lanco1
DB you aren't wrong, but the original discussion was about Vermillion parish. I don't think anyone is arguing that a late season works in extreme northern LA. But most coastal hunters fair better with more November days. I guess movement vs. migration is a bit if a semantic arguement. The point being if birds are sitting on a ND reservoir on Christmas day then they probably won't make Venice that year. Obviously AR holds lots of birds and the freeze line can move them to Bossier ect. But large scale, long distance movement is usually done by late December. As I suggested to the OP if he feels his area is seeing lots of mallards and few 'marsh birds' then he should get his neighbors together and e-mail Larry Reynolds about the situation since we are up to redraw zone lines. The coastal zone is designed to take best advantage of gadwall, teal and pintail migration. If OP's area is consistently no longer getting in on that (or never was frequented by grays&teal) then a move to the Easter Zone would no doubt help them.
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OP should have been in the East zone from the start. I hope the powers to be leave the season dates alone and let us East zone hunters have a late start and late ending.
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   lanco1
No one is arguing leaving the E zone it's setup. OP is in a coastal parish but apparently an inland/above sea level part of the parish. Kinda a sticky wicket. No line will please every one unfortunately.
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   lanco1
Wait,sorry got my wires crossed, OP is in Evangeline Parish. So yeah getting into a later opening and later closing zone should be pretty feasible. Good luck to y'all. On the other hand my November hunts averaged 5+ birds per hunter effort while my January hunts averaged 2 birds per hunter effort. So I sure want to keep a November heavy season on the coast.
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   Lreynolds
If the OP is in Evangeline Parish and in the Coastal Zone, then he has always had the same traditional season dates until this past year. The season dates in the old West Zone and the new Coastal Zone did not change until this past year.

When the zone boundaries changed in 2012, the only hunters in Evangeline Parish who saw a change in season dates were those in the small NW corner who became part of the new West Zone. All other hunters in that Parish either stayed in the East Zone or became part of the new Coastal Zone, which until this past season had the same traditional season dates they ever had.
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   Lreynolds
Because the LWF Commission changed the season dates from the proposed traditional dates to 1 week later in the Coastal Zone, there has been a backlash.

The most common communication I have received since the season closed, including from some Commissioners that support it, is of a growing effort to get the opener of the Coastal Zone on Nov. 7 instead of the traditional second Saturday, which is Nov. 14.

That is as wrong as last year's decision to move the traditional dates later. The hunter-participation and harvest data clearly show the value of the early season days over the late season days, and the traditional dates have always been a fair compromise between those wanting to hunt earlier and those wanting to hunt later.

I can already say that I will be proposing the traditional dates in the Coastal Zone. And because the calendar shifted back to later (the last Sunday in January is the 31rst instead of the 25th), while Thanksgiving is 1 day earlier, I will also be proposing the traditional dates in the East Zone, which includes a return to a 12-day instead of the 5-day split we've used the last 2 seasons.

But, as always, of course, ..... I'm not in charge.
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I think Larrys comments are accurate. The traditional opener makes the most since for the coastal zone. Which is the second Saturday in November. The last few years, the second crops of rice have been slow to mature and cut late. Lots of rice field hunters fields were cut during the first 10 days of November, barley in time for the opener. So in hindsight, moving last seasons opener back one week was a very good decision. We hunt in the rice fields in the southwest part of the state. Spread out from near Kinder all the way down to Gueydan on seven farms. We are fortunate enough to hunt on prime property, and did well from day one through day 60. Yes, late season tactics have to be changed up to be successful. Just my 2 cents.
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That's correct. Evangeline Parish. The only point I was making is that we don't see ducks until Christmas and then progressively, thereafter. The later date made a huge difference in our season, for which we are thankful and look forward to it again this season if the powers permit. I think its a good balance because some do well early and some do well late.
'Old ducks, new ducks', the debate continues. All I know is that not a duck flew over until mid-December and by mid-Jan, its crazy.
And yes the pond is still full of mallards and pintails...thousands. Please come by and see.
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I can just about guess which direction the season dates will go for next year. They will probably go back to where they were for the 2013-2014 season. Why? Because every person that did not speak up before and was not in favor of later dates will speak up now. I just pray it does not actually go earlier than traditional! But it wouldn't surprise me.
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   lanco1
Coastal zone will run till 1/24, east will run to 1/31 not sure about the west
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   lanco1
Hopefully LR will respond with what his exact recomendations will be. It's likely his recommended date will stick this year since callendar condition are perfect to end the later zone(s) at the 31
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   Lreynolds
Coastal Zone: Nov. 14 - Dec. 6 and Dec. 19 - Jan. 24.

East Zone: Nov. 21 - Dec. 6 and Dec. 19 - Jan. 31.

West Zone ....... I'm not so sure.

If I had my way, we would propose and set the dates at the August LWF Commission meeting with no comment period except for those present at the meeting.

But as always ..... I'm not in charge.

We are hoping to get the 2015 Waterfowl Hunter Survey out in the next couple of weeks (if LSU will quit holding up the contract for meaningless trivia). The Commission has decided to pursue zones/splits changes for the 2016 season, which means we need a decision by December 1, 2015. That means we will be doing waterfowl hunter workshops and public meetings across the state between August and November, so there will be plenty of opportunity for hunters to contribute their views.
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I would like NOV. 21 to JAN.31 IN THE COASTAL ZONE Y MORE DUCK OR IN BY THE 21 GIVEING US A GREAT OPENING AND AS FOR THE JAN. 31 I LIKE BECAUSE THE BIG DUCK COME DOWN LATE LIKE THE GRAYS.
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   lanco1
Strongly disagree, we kill plenty grays in November and by January it's slim pickings in Hopedale. I would rather see another week in November. But the 14th is a happy medium.
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Gray ducks aren't late ducks they are early migrators
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may be were you hunt outdoors, but were I hunt in the deep south we kill only teals and a few blacks we do not even see a gray on open day not till the 2nd half it's almost all grays and a teal here and there i guest it all were u hunt.
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Gadwalls are some of the first to leave the breeding grounds and first to arrive in south Louisiana minus blue winged real if course. And mottleds are what u have not blacks
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   lanco1
Speckle chaser you can't really hunt 'deeper' south than Hopedale and grays show up there in November.
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Wright off the beach next too our camp that about as for south you can go.
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Open day yes blacks and mottleds no blue only green wing teals this was one of our hunt on one of our lease's NOV.- 29 11 GREEN WING TEALS.On JAN 24 WE HAD 7 GRAYS 1 BLACK WE WERE NOT SET UP WRIGHT SHOULD OF EASEY GOT 4 MORE.
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