Talkin' Outdoors

We thought the Saints got royally shafted in the NFL playoffs a couple of weekends ago. No doubt they did and there were lots of duck hunters who took to their blinds to get the bad taste out of their mouths over the no-call on the blatant pass interference that almost certainly knocked the Saints out of the Super Bowl.

Duck hunters found very little to cheer themselves up, unless they packed cameras instead of shotguns and got some nice photos of a sunrise or two. The ducks, like the NFL referees, didn’t cooperate that weekend nor did they do what they were supposed to do throughout the whole season.

Dr. Bill Tanner, Ruston Urologist, is an avid duck hunter who has been hunting in the Jones/Mer Rouge area for the past quarter century. Here is Dr. Tanner’s assessment of how his duck season went…. "The last weekend of the season, we had two hunters in one blind on Saturday and five hunters in two blinds Sunday. Total bag for the weekend — two teal. I’ve been hunting here since 1992 and this is the worse season I’ve seen. I never killed the first mallard.”

Larry Reynolds, Waterfowl Study Leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, had a similar take on the duck season which mercifully ended January 27.

“From my personal perspective and from reports I have been receiving, I’d put this past season among the worse. We did have a strong cold front just before opening weekend when hunting was pretty good. However, it went downhill from there. During our first aerial survey, we only got to fly southwest Louisiana because of bad weather and our survey was the poorest on record. We started this survey in 1969 and this season’s was the lowest on record by a large margin,” Reynolds said.

What went wrong this season? Why was duck hunting so poor over the whole state for the entire season?

“Three legitimate reasons come to mind. First, we had poor reproduction for the last two years. Surveys up and down the flyway showed 30 to 40 percent below the long term average. Then we had above average temperatures to prevent freezing weather up north to send ducks our way. The main culprit,” Reynolds opined, “was water. There was water everywhere and when a duck flew down, he could pick any spot he wanted to sit down.”

Reynolds said that there was an e-mail exchange between himself and waterfowl officials in the other 13 states that make up the Mississippi flyway indicating that Louisiana was not the only state with problems.

“All the officials in these other states reported the exact same thing as we had down here; they all reported poor duck hunting this past season. Regarding water, the river systems up and down the flyway got out of their banks very early this past year. All the states had excessive flooding that gave the ducks all the water they wanted to choose from,” he said.

Another matter of concern to Reynolds was the makeup of the population of ducks that did show up in the surveys.

“Hunters are especially interested in dabbling ducks with mallards being the main quest. The surveys showed more diving ducks, less desirable species, than dabbling ducks this year, which was unusual,” Reynolds commented.

Next year, we are hopeful that the Saints can put the injustice they endured behind them and win it all next time around. Same thing can be said for duck hunters.

Larry Reynolds summed it up with a statement coach Sean Peyton of the Saints could have also said, “There’s always next year.”