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Lack of Ducks continued.....

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I know this topic has been hammered more than any other and at the same time draws out very passionate opinions. This is just my own micro observation.

To the opinion below..yes the farmers almanac did predict a mild wet winter which they were spot on. Combine that with a high river and you have an almost unlimited supply of wetland/flooded timber habitat for fowl from the Midwest on.

With that being said, I’d like to share just one micro example of a challenge I think our sport faces. I was down in Venice for the youth weekend. Had another buddy and his kid. That morning it was like the “old days”. We had bird after bird, flight after flight, of greys , widgeon, pintail, and teal dive bombed the spread. Me and my buddy were foaming at the mouth. The boys shot over 2 boxes of shells and we had a blast.

Knowing where the birds were holding, we went the following Friday to observe the flock of birds we had found...yes on public land. We were awestruck by what we witnessed. Boat after boat would just drive through the resting birds (well over a few hundred). They’d get up and eventually set back down. Till the next boat...or the same one...not really sure...would ride back through them. We witness this until the flock got up not to return to the area.

Opening morning we shot a handful and Sunday we scratched. I think this is a micro example of the lack of birds. No doubt there may be a large number of birds diverted because of other factors but I also have to imagine that with the invention of a machine (I’m the owner of one) that allows the hunter to access every nook and cranny of the waterfowl habitat has to have some impact. Outside of a no hunting refuge, birds really have no area to rest and may have finally given up on the marsh.

I know this topic has been debated time and time again. I don’t know what the solution is as I’m all about innovation. Our seasons have gotten progressively worse over the last 10 years especially where we hunt, Venice and south shore of lake p. Maybe we are in a cycle and next year will be a banner but based on what I’m hearing and seeing across the state...it’s not looking good.

Charles
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Charles, we also had A HELL OF A LOT more grays and teal on my leases in early to mid November. For youth weekend it was flock after flock and opening weekend was good also. Now its almost one hundred percent divers. There are too many people riding around harassing birds. The grays are pushed from the pressure to the open bays. All of Delacroix is private and leased land. Why go riding around someone elses land when you have no business being there. There is no reason to go riding thru other peoples leases.
Another problem is the bow fisherman with the huge LED lights at night going into duck ponds, some with loud airboats!
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There are no ducks in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas ect. That experience the pressure they do here. In Southeast La it’s duck hunters all day, fisherman all day and as Mike said, airboats bowfishing at night. The birds are pressured 24hrs a day. Just take Arkansas for example, the ducks don’t see fisherman all day and air boats all night like we do. There’s more to it than local pressure as to why we don’t get what we used to but the constant pressure doubt hurts us in a big way.

I’m not a doom and gloom guy but a realist. Enjoy it now. Despite what some say, it’s over with for southeast Louisiana. May squeak a few for decent seasons but the overall numbers that come here will continue to decline every season. I’m not just speaking of this season (El nino year I get it). I mean as a whole. You can drink the kool-aid that it will get better but that’s not happening. There is a professional duck hunter who travels the US to hunt. He said a few years ago it’s over for Louisiana and it’s too late to change it because of what the states to the north of us starting doing years ago. Birds have no reason to come here. Why would you drive two hours to get a flank steak at Golden Corral If you could go 15 min and get a filet at Mr John’s? And those who work for local and stats government and other organizations know it, they just can’t say it.
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I hunt Limited Access Areas and no birds, so there goes to whole riding around pressure theory.

Charles has mention that their kids shot two boxes of shells on youth weekend. If one blind is shooting an average of two boxes, multiply that by a thousand. There's your hunting pressure on the birds. We need to do away with youth weekend. There wasn't a youth weekend in the early 90's when I first started duck hunting and things were a lot better back then.

No doubt Louisiana can make some changes and we need to. Maybe banning boats in the marsh during waterfowl season, restricting them to main waterways (on WMA's) would help. Doing away with youth weekend. Have a two-split season to ease pressure on birds.
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Think I made clear the boat pressure isn’t the only deal but it’s part of it. You think every duck that comes down goes to a limited access area? States north of us over the years have continued to build Ag/duck habitat and we lose it by the day. It’s not rocket science.
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Concrete now since you mentioned it I too truly believe the youth weekend hurts the opening weekend of the regular season. A former editor of Wildfowl magazine believes it does also. I have grandkids too and would surely bring them opening weekend of the regular season.
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Charles k. Ive been hunting in venice for a long time and have been saying now for the last 5 to 7 years the mudboat capitol of usa, better known as venice Louisiana is being ruined by these boats. the ducks get ran out of the entire marsh day after day. 2 seasons ago we sat on the edge of an open bay that typically holds a tremendous amount of ducks. We were fishing trying to catch some catfish for dinner at our camp. This was the Friday evening before opening day. My friend had a fish counter on his console and started counting. He clicked 47 mudboats that ran in and out of the bay while we fished for alittle over 2 hours. 47!!!!!!!!!!!! All day every day the mud boat marathon begins down there. Its disgusting to watch. Anyone who does not believe that this is keeping birds out of your marsh is kidding their self. Yes people still kill ducks there, but you don't see the birds sitting in the marsh and ponds resting. Nope as soon as they are sitting here comes dragster #1 then dragster #2 and so on running the piss out of them. If something isn't done about this with all these mud boats ruining the hunting down there. Which they wont its gonna get worse and worse. And as far as the youth hunting pressure. Get real about it. Been taking my son on youth hunts since he was 8 years old and this was his last one. We have always said its amazing you only see a few guys taking the kids when only they can kill them. Hearing a few shots here and there killing a few ducks. But boy the following Saturday every mud boat has any kid, neighbors kid, friends kid, or any minor old enough to hold a gun to be able to add to the duck kill. Bad enough after the limit is killed by 8am. Man now we have to ride around with one guy looking at google maps for any pothole, pocket, pond, while the other is driving the hopped up lawn mower motor 35 mph til we almost out of gas and out of time to make the evening hunt. Remember when you would pull up to a pond have ducks sitting in them at dark. Paddle in they would leave and come right back. Whens the last time you heard or saw resting birds in the pond you were going in.
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We all know that the number of ducks do not come to Louisiana like use to. But when they get here they are shoved out all day every day. The farming practices that are allowed up north for these guys to be able to legally hunt is ridiculous. Sure run your $750,000 combine over this corn and all these remnants weren't picked up so we can flood these fields with water and hunt them. WOW THATS GREAT. You go put corn in a pond and get caught you will be hung. Dam our pond frozen over what are we going to do. Hell we get one of them ice eaters and take care of that. Anyone ever hunt a pond with all frozen ice all around except your mechanically made pond. Stupid with ducks. I have a personal friend of mine that was at a waterfowl banquet in Arkansas this year. He told me that a giveaway prize was after the hunting season was over. 2 weeks after it closed an area of your choice a plane would fly over and flood the area with 5,000 lbs of corn to give the ducks migrating back a place to stop and eat and imprint in their brain that theres food and a reason to come back. This was a prize guys. Face the music guys we are in a losing battle on this and nothing will be done about any of it to help this state. Between the migration shifting west, agricultural fields legally baited and hunted, all that ducks unlimited does to help those poor guys figure out how to help them from keeping them from coming down south, baiting the fields for them to imprint their brains on the way back north, defrosting completely frozen ponds for hunting purpose, and then when what finally comes down to us gets ran out by the 30,000 mud boats across the state. That number is probably low.
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Duckbuster2013 that’s is why I gave up duck hunting years ago and is a shame. never in a million years thought that would happen. I could see the writing on the wall back then. who knew it would get this bad. When people post how excited they are to have a few dosgris, well to each his own. Don’t get me wrong I’ll both shoot and eat them but for what it costs today to maybe only if your lucky see a few dosgris knowing that has now become your targeted species I’d much rather spend my money elsewhere.
My two cents on mud motors. The birds have to be down here in the first place before they are run out by mud motors. Our area gets little to no traffic and is quite large. Would hold thousands and thousands of ducks all season long. Since early 2000’s less and less were showing up year after year even though survey numbers were increasing by the millions nationwide. We’d be hard pressed to find anything other than mottled ducks in our area today. Nothing has changed to our marsh except for the fact they just don’t show up anymore
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Last Cast is no doubt spot-on as we drove all around his Reggio property just a week ago and he showed me tons of blinds that have not been hunted in many,many years,guess why-not a chance at a duck and this was fine property that I would be willing to bet was loaded with greys,teal,widgens,etc and probably hardly anyone back then targeted scaup,bet they joked with the guys shooting scaup and now folks target them!!!I only have maybe 22 years hunting experience and where I hunt mudboats never allowed and the hunting pressure is virtually non-existent and still very few ducks-we gotta face it they are NOT migrating here like just a couple of years ago they were.Last Cast and I might start targeting WMA's in other states,possibly NLA but bet LA is off limits for migrating ducks,they have gradually and about permanently shifted or even stopped migrations,instead staying up north with grain everywhere and NO frozen ponds,lakes,etc,forcing them to migrate S where there is abundant grass.Where I hunt,I typically pick up over a lb of grass per decoy,ya can't tell me it is habitat,that is pure and simple BS,it is migratory patterns shifted or stopped all together,trust me there is about zero pressure where we typically hunt and we take pride in not only our concealment tactics but our scouting,targeting non-pressured areas,etc.

Mandevillian
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Last cast that's exactly what Larry Reynolds posted in a topic not long ago. From 1996 to 2000 there was 6,500,000 birds in the Mississippi flyway and 60 percent came to Louisiana. Now the last 4 year study was 7,500,000 in the flyway and 35 percent make it here. It will probably get worse. I had a guy and his 3 friends run by and putt putt around in a pond that came in front of us while we were hunting 4 times. On the 4th time I paddled out waved a paddle in the air to get his attention to come to us. When he came by us I asked him what the f... are you looking for so I can help u find it so we can finish our hunt. Finally left and didn't see him the rest of the hunt. The pressure that the surface drives put on public land and parish owned land is absolutely insane. Social media has ruined what we once knew as paradise. Its almost like a summer resort but in the fall. Try and find a place to stay in venice 4 or 5 days before the opening day. Trucks and trailers are parked on the main road. The entire area has been overtaken by Alabama and Georgia. Don't blame them. If I had to travel to their state to hunt so be it. To all and anyone who starts whining when 3 boats are parked in your favorite spot that you have been hunting for years. Just remember to say your welcome to them after you shot a 5 or 6 man limit by 730 am and couldn't wait to put it all on facebook or duck forums and be sure to remind them you killed these in venice and my god it was all on public land.
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Pro-drives can’t scare away what isn’t there. Mandevillian said it best - road around the marsh in Reggio all day - almost will guarentee you he was in a mud boat of some sort - he didn’t run out anything. If the ducks are here, they will be where the food source is. Boats running through them will not keep them away. Simply just make them get up and go back down. Prime example: Lake Bouef - lake boeuf is a small lake located in Lafourche parish that on a normal year holds thousands of pouldo. The pouldo flock to this particular lake because it is covered with SAV - mostly all hydrilla, which the coot love to eat. On opening day or thereabouts, thousands of people make their way to that lake for the annual “coot shoot” - there are more mud motors riding around in there, starting the night before than one could imagine. They shoot em, run em, do what ever it takes to get as many coot as the law allows. You would think they would all leave, right? Nope, go back the next day and there are just as many coots, with just as many people chasing them and killing them. Why? Because there is the right vegetation in there. They are hungry....

Point being: if the habitat is right and there is an abundance of food, i do not believe that the people riding around all day will scare em. The will come back as long as there is a food source.

With that said, if the ducks aren’t here, then there wont be any concentrations. Like stated before, there is water and mild weather up and down the flyway. They do have ducks down here, mostly ringnecks and dosgris, though. Probably because those type ducks don’t pile up in flooded trees or agriculture fields, but rather feed in coastal areas, fresh water marshes, etc..
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You just made a comparison using pouldeau. Just to be clear on that.
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It's a combination of factors. But the constant boating disturbance (kayaks, flats fisherman, mud boats ect) isn't helping. I still kill birds but mostly in isolated land locked ponds. This year has been especially bad for sure. I doubt this is the beginning of the end for SELA though. But birds, especially grays do shift to areas at the brackish/fresh divide cause that's where the wigeon grass is. Thus places that were great years ago like Reggio aren't as good now. Pressure is up, non-hunting pressure is WAY up with the proliferation of redfish tournaments, fly/flats fishing ect. On private property I guess you can block your trenasses otherwise I don't know the answer. On the other hand there is an up and down cycle to duck harvest in LA and in thinking it will get better from here, pressure will drop due to folks aging out or just quitting, the prairies are more productive when water returns after a dry spell, a less inundated lower flyway maybe some timely cold and things can turn around.
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Also it's worth remembering that not all SAV is equal so just because there is so much grass in a pond that you need a push pole in 3 feet of water doesn't mean that it's what ducks want. At any rate I'm back at it in the AM!
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Well,just to be completely accurate,Last Cast and I were in his 20 ft Bay Boat and we drove all over his Reggio property and my eyes are still more than excellent,even at 60 years young,and about all we spotted,other than piles of scaup on open water bays,were a smattering of greys,some teal,and not as many mottled ducks as ya might expect.As far as the grass the ducks want,more than adequate widgeon grass,coon tail,other grass that ducks enjoy and the mallard holes have a distinct grass(T Wayne Brewster hit me on private e-mail last year)and there are about zero mallards where just last year one woulda suspected I was hunting Arkansas in her hay-day,there were so many mallards circling me.As far as social media,so be it,plenty of folks never post and there are tons of ponds where I hunt that NEVER get hunted,at least not on days I hunt NShore Marsh and I typically hunt Wed,Th,Sat,Sun(the only days refuge open to waterfowl hunting).Hope Last Cast and I are able to secure a hunt in Pecan Island Hunt club this coming Sat and hope to get in some decent local duck hunts,though the prospects are dismal at best.I probably hunt almost as hard as lotta guides and this ole body getting worn-out from plenty of DNF hunts and other hunts where the only ducks we spotted were in the stratosphere!!Crazy thing is Lake P loaded up with buffleheads and scaup and where I choose to hunt,rarely if ever see scaup or buffleheads,not that I am complaining!!!

Mandevillian
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I just don’t think that there are the same number of birds here as in previous years. I agree that riding around in the marsh all day probably doesn’t help with the few birds that are around. With that said, if they had tons of birds down like in the past, and there would be an abundance of duck food, i think you would be able to ride in the marsh and still have successfull hunts.

I’m also not the guy who thinks man can alter migration patterns. I’m also not the guy that thinks man can destroy the bass population by keeping 10 bass full of eggs during the spawn. So take what i say with a grain of salt.

I was in Arkansas for opening weekend this season; November 18-21 - at Bayou Meto in Stuttgart, which typically is a prime area. There were huge numbers of birds in the area; however, the hunting was less than spectacular to say the least. The guides said that on a typical year, they can flood certain areas to concentrate the birds, allowing for better hunts. On this particular year; however, every field in the entire area was flooded, fields that have never had water before had water. The birds were scattered, the hunting was not very good.

I suspect this is the cast - with what the issue is for us. Except on a whole flyway.

Again - just my opionion - i like good conversations about duck hunting ! It’s my passion
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Pressure is extremely critical especially when bird numbers are low. This year has been different for us but not necessarily bad. We too had a bunch of greys during the youth hunt and opening weekend which proves that some did migrate to SE La, but they quickly became extremely skittish and hard to finish. We have a small lease in the Pointe A la Hache area and we purposely limited the pressure we put on our ponds and it seemed to have paid off. We have a big chunk of marsh just south of us that is never hunted and consist of nothing but dead end canals and pot holes which seems to limit boat traffic. We also have been dealing with the river silting in most of our canals which also slowed down fishing due to muddy water and treacherous navigation, which I think has helped our area hold birds all year. We must realize that the hunting pressure applied up north has significantly increased in the last ten years and because it has, most of the young and dumb juvenile birds never make it this far south. With that being said we can no longer look for easy pickings by doing what we have always done as this year and the previous ones have proven this game that we target was designed with the canny ability to adapt, if not we would have wiped them out a long time ago. We are just 7 birds shy of matching our best season total this year and considering the low success rate for the area as a whole we have had a tremendous year not necessarily by design but actually by default due to the changes that are happening around us.
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Surface drives and social media have been the kiss of death for Louisiana duck hunting. If you own a surface drive then you're obviously biased and will grasp at any justification for your investment. Please explain to me why Delta NWR which prohibits surface drives consistently holds thousands of ducks throughout its marsh, whereas Pass a Loutre which is just 5 miles south and has the same terrain has slim to no ducks, yet used to be fantastic before the explosion of surface drives. My guess is that if the majority of guys who rely on surface drives had to get out in a pirogue and push across a mud flat half a mile or so, they would just start deer hunting. It would be a huge win to get them banned on all WMA's like biloxi marsh did. The hunting off Southeast pass would finally pick up again.

Combine that with the high water/ warm weather and this is what you get every time.
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I think all comments made on this thread about the contributors of no ducks are valid. Surface drives and pressure are probably the worst local issues in my opinion. The amount of boaters on the water, surface drives and human development are reducing habitat and generally running ducks to large open water areas thus making them largely nocturnal. In my neck of the woods anyway. I don't think we can discount warming temperatures and corn refuges up North either. We hammered the mallards last year in Missouri on a refuge that was just created in 1991. This refuge has about 2,000 acres of flooded corn (unharvested) and about 20-40K ducks during peak wintering when it isn't froze over.

In my opinion the variable that is effecting ducks the least is youth hunting. I don't think its fair to try to blame hunting one weekend (2 days) before the main season as a reason for lack of ducks. Yes, youth will shoot a lot, but kill less than adults. Yes, youth will hunt, but what percent of youths actually hunt compared to adults? If I had to guess I would say youth weekend has half to three quarters less pressure than opening weekend....And.....Youth are the future of the sport. We need to get them hooked and advocating for the rights of all hunters in the future.
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pushpaddlebang that's exactly the truth spot on. all the surface drive owners frown on the truth. Your comment about the Delta nwr been seeing that for awhie. When the row of pilings were across the bay and labeled the refuge with signs, to the right of the refuge where all the surface drive run rampid and wild no ducks. Get on the inside of the pilings 3/4 of a mile and thousands of ducks. I guess the grass on the refuge taste better than it does off the refuge. Pass o loutre is a joke now. But again we talk to the conservationist that does the duck count on that wma. He puts the duck count tablet in our hands at the camp and shows you his data sheet. Where he stopped guys on the no motor restriction area the hunters are killing limits or close to a limit. Off the restricted area where the mud boat marathon or dragster race begins little to no ducks are killed. Again there must be something different in the feed in that area for people to be killing ducks there. This is data from the main duck count man in the area. His exact words are if they don't do something about these machines this place will be ruined to. In my opinion too late.
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Duck enticer spot again spot on. That's where the ducks are. They are sitting out in wide open bays in 5 feet of water without a piece of land around them. They are sitting in the gulf of mexico. East bay has thousands and thousands of ducks mile or miles out with no way to get to them. zin zin bay same way . open bays off of grand pass. Wonder why almost every big open water area are stacked lousy with birds but they don't want to come in the marsh til dark to eat and leave. It cant possibly be the pressure can it. And yes with the youth hunt. I stated in a post above you go on the youth hunt and there are a few guys that take them by there self. But on opening weekend every boat, camp, hotel room, houseboat, or trailer is rented out with 2 to 10 people in it. The 20 kids that are hunting on the weekend before does no damage
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I don?t have a problem with mud motors, especially from a property owner point of view. They can be an invaluable tool used responsively. At one time I had twin 23 hp long tails on back a 18 ft go-devil boat and could go anywhere I wanted on our property regardless water level or boat load. But just because I could doesn?t mean I did. I?m sure had I just rode around all day all season long my neighbors wouldn?t have minded. It?s just plain common sense which apparently many are lacking or too lazy to paddle a pirouge. Ducks are no different than deer when it comes to pressure. They go where there is none especially when numbers are low. All that said I would be in favor of restricting use of mud motors to private land/leases and get them off the WMA?s unless they are limited to certain canals or bayous within the WMA?s
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The key is personal responsibility. I am lucky enough to hunt a private lease and use a surface drive boat to hunt. The key is personal responsibility. We get in and out.

However, I have had hunters from boarding leases run up ducks sitting on my lease and set back up and hunt on their lease. I try to stop this, once again bad behavior.

In my opinion, the lack of presence by LA Department of Wildlife is a key to this bad behavior. This year I have listened to shooting 20 minutes before legal time. Last week I watched a boat chase resting ducks and shoot them from a boat. No presence from wildlife officers in my area is disappointing. Finally, ran hunters off setup on my lease hunting without permission.

So, how does this explain the difficult season? Just one part of the equation. We must do a better job with the younger hunters and provide them with guidance as it relates to sportsmanship and following the law. Our society is in need of help.

Be safe this weekend and Finish Strong!
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Thank God Big Branch Marsh,once a mecca for ducks but definitely not this season,outlaws mud boats except for the folks that have private lease-holdings within the Refuge boundaries.Not that long ago,I had a conversation with Mike Downie,Jr,at the time one of the Enforcement Agents out there,and he told me there was a move to allow mud boats on Big Branch and he and I both agreed that it would be the ruination of most of that Marsh,especially the mallard ponds that are more than a chore to get to.Not that many weeks ago,perhaps 3-4,on just about every hunt I made in this one general area,I routinely would see upwards of 70-100 ducks when my buddies,hunting elsewhere would be lucky to see more than about 10 max!!!I started getting a tad closer to this area and finally got to about exactly where these ducks had both been emerging from and heading to and unfortunately,the damn salvinia is ridiculously thick and not sure why it was there but saw oil boom,stretched across a big section of the area tad W and S of where these ducks head to and now there are about zero ducks headed to and emerging from this area.Salvinia,out there at least,is yet another detriment and hope something is done about it pronto or this once pristine area,hard to access except for those like me willing to bust it to get to,will be devoid of ducks,except for possibly gallinules!!!Just last year,about the time Arkansas froze up,Bayoubob and I made a few hunts out there,had to break through ice to set decoys and his pond was loaded up with mallards and on one hunt I had at least 20-30 mallards in one flock circling me-fast forward to this year,no Arkansas freeze-up and definitely no mallards in Big Branch,at least for the most part!!I know we have serious Arctic front headed our way and hopefully just in time to send some mallards our way,greys never did migrate,I never count on greys as their migrations lately about non-existent,at least where I choose to hunt.I personally love the aerobic exercise afforded by a paddle,sometimes as much as 1.5-2 miles and that definitely gets ya away from pressure but when ya got no ducks anywhere,not much point in exerting yaself dat much.I remain cautiously optimistic that with this brutal front headed our way,perhaps a few migrating ducks show up and I have maybe 4 Big Branch Hunts left in this ole body!!

Mandevillian
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I definitely agree with you on the “scouters”, and I use that term loosely. All these mud motor people that have boats with loud exhausts and stereo radios should joy ride in places where there are no ducks. I don’t care what some people might say; a lot of em are tearing up an already fragile marsh. When I hunted we used airboats; and only to brush blinds and to go to and from the blinds. These days some use these mud motors to see how bad a situation they can get in and out if. It’s almost as bad as the ones with 4x4’s mud riding. What they create is a small ditch that eventually ends up getting larger and larger. Airboats might mash a few grasses down but they don’t tear up the roots. Something needs to be done about all these “joy riders”. They are not only tearing up the habitat, they are driving the birds away. I can care less about the criticism I get for saying this. Cause you know they will come down on me. So be it. They take a valuable tool for duck hunting and turn it into a high priced toy. That’s my $.02.
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international harvester,Amen,brother,love my Big Branch hunts,even though the pickings have been the slimmest of slim in over 20 plus years of hunting out there!Love the fact that mud boat 'jockeys' not allowed(special exemptions for those with private in-holdings)and I pride myself on hunting the most remote,non-pressured areas that USED to hold ducks,just not any lately and might have to scoot Eastwards to some areas that I understand just MAY be holding some greys and assorted other species,other than my favorite divers!!!Many,many moons ago,there was a gent advertising airboat duck hunts in the Big Branch Marsh,not sure how successful this gent was and that dried up about two years after I recalled seeing his advertisements!!There should be decent amount of woodies in Pearl River WMA,might spend some time there before close of East Zone!!Love finding pockets of willing ducks,just have had about zero success this year,save for a few decent mallard trips where the greenies cooperated and I will gladly target mallards over any other species!!!Good luck to all balance of season!!!

Mandevillian
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