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22
Hunting season close
Posted on August 19, 2004
Early sightings of teal across southwest Louisiana are hardly overshadowed by the whistling wings of doves, but both seasons are set to open very shortly in September.

As I was driving towards Eunice lately, I was delighted to witness a pod of several bluewings cruising along just a tad above the westerly horizon — turning and twisting in unison about six feet above a small rice pond.

With this relatively cool August weather, I expected this phenomenon to occur as I have seen these birds arrive even earlier during some years.

"We´ve got a couple of places that I know of where teal are showing up in Louisiana," explained Kerney Sonnier with District VI of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). "I have heard of teal already reported within the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Deltas, in Pass L´Outre and Atchafalaya Delta WMAs, respectively."

The Louisiana early teal season opens on Sept. 18 and runs to Sept. 26. The reason for the nine fewer days in this year´s teal hunting calendar has to do with nesting pairs counted in the prairies this past spring.

Overall, the blue-winged teal breeding pairs counts demonstrated a decrease of 26 percent over last year´s breeding census. Green-winged teal numbers were also down some eight percent over 2003.

Waterfowl study leader Robert Helm is quick to observe that the best hunting for teal in Louisiana probably occurs over the hundreds of thousands of acres of rice fields scattered over the parishes of Acadia, Jeff Davis, Vermilion, Calcasieu and Cameron.

I can attest to his opinion, as I have never known this area to produce a "poor" season in terms of wingshooting for these early migratory fowl. Therefore, I expect that the lion´s share of Louisiana teal will again be harvested here in the southwest — unless these early cool fronts turn to cold fronts in September. But that´s certainly doubtful.

In preparation for the teal season, many hunters often take advantage of the farmer´s second crop of rice and place their blinds strategically near open sections of the flooded fields.

During August, hunters are often sitting with farmers as they draw up plans on where to place blinds before the second planting.

Between now and the Sept. 18 kickoff of this year´s nine-day teal season, expect many thousands more teal to descend upon Louisiana.

As for doves, Louisiana´s seasons are set to begin on Sept. 4.

Usually it´s the local birds that are first harvested, as those that migrate south are mostly taken during the second and third splits of the season.

"I´ve seen many family groups . . . mostly local birds," agreed biologist Sonnier. "Although during our banding studies, biologist Tony Vidrine has witnessed as many as 200 birds on the bait on our trapping sites.

"We´ve been obtaining birds as a banding sample in the parishes of Avoyelles, Iberville and St. Mary. We have also obtained samples at Sherburne WMA across the river from Krotz Springs. Therefore it looks as if we had a great rate of recruitment of local birds in these areas."

During the August meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife Commission, the Louisiana dove seasons were again amended and the dates are as follows: First split Sept. 4-12; Second Split Oct. 9-Nov. 14; and the Third Split Dec. 18-Jan. 10.

Sonnier and other LDWF officials are now actively trying to lease local agricultural fields from farmers and landowners for public dove hunting opportunities.

"We need a minimum of 40 acres," explained Sonnier. "With a suitable site available, we will draw up a lease with landowners and/or farmers. But we have to look over possible sites prior to leasing the land."

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