Does it not make you a bit jittery when somebody tells you he has good news – and bad news for you? When this happens, which do you prefer to hear first? I usually like to get the bad stuff out of the way so I can look forward to hearing something good that follows.
If you're a duck hunter, I sort of hate to switch things around for you but it seems best to start with the good and hope the bad won't be too much of a let down.
Earlier this week, I visited with Larry Reynolds, the Waterfowl Study Leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for his forecast on what duck hunters can expect when season opens in November. First, some super-good news....
"We probably have the largest fall flight in our lifetime coming our way," Reynolds said. "The hatch this year was great, both in Canada and the northern states. They had rainfall up there and the wet conditions persisted through the nesting season.
"I was up there in September doing some monitoring work and even then, we were seeing flightless mallards, which meant there was a good solid re-nesting effort with good length to the nesting season. In a word, there is a great population of ducks poised to head our way," Reynolds added.
"I had already started getting calls from folks around the state telling me about the ducks they're already seeing. One gentleman from northwest Louisiana called me last week to report seeing a good bunch of teal, pintails and gadwalls showing up in that part of the state. I also received calls from southwest Louisiana saying basically the same thing."
With all this good stuff about record numbers of ducks headed for our part of the world, what could possibly be the bad news?
"The bad news," said Reynolds, "is that we're dry just about everywhere in the state with the exception of some of south Louisiana. Conditions are, in a word, bad.
"Last year, we had dry weather during duck season but we ended up with a duck harvest that was outstanding. One reason for this is that it was also dry all the way up the flyway last year. This year, those states north of us have had more precipitation than we have and it's possible the wintering ducks will settle down more in those areas than down here where it's so dry," he added.
What conditions would be optimum for us down this way to take advantage of the record number of ducks that will migrate south?
"Up in your area," he said, "the ideal would require over-bank flooding of streams in northeast and northwest Louisiana with all the major river systems filled, lots of water in back-water areas, all green tree reservoirs watered and spreading out onto our agricultural landscape."
With north Louisiana steeped in drought conditions and a long-range forecast not looking good for much improvement anytime soon, what are the chances that we'll have optimum habitat conditions when duck season kicks in.
"If I had to guess," Reynolds noted, "I'd say less than 20 percent."
Good news; bad news. I suppose we'll have to just wait and see which wins out. Unless we get lots of rain and soon, I'm afraid I know the answer.
(The 60 day duck season for Louisiana for 2011-12 is as follows: WEST ZONE – November 12 – December 4 and December 17 – January 22. EAST ZONE – November 19 – 27 and December 10 – January 29. Daily bag limit – 6 which includes no more than 4 mallards, only 2 of which may be females; 2 pintails, 1 canvassback, 1 mottled duck, 1 black duck, 3 wood ducks, 2 scaup and 2 redheads.)
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