With the dog days of summer approaching their loudest bark, it’s a good time to catch up with the season’s biggest news stories for outdoors folk: Duck season regulations
Buoyed by record wet conditions on the breeding grounds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week confirmed liberal frameworks for the 2011-12 waterfowl seasons. That means Louisiana hunters will enjoy a 60-day, six-ducks-per-day season for the 16th consecutive year.
The daily bag this year allows four mallards (two hens), four scoters, three wood ducks, two redheads, two hooded mergansers, two scaup, one black duck, two pintails, one canvasback, one mottled duck, and one fulvous whistling duck.
So Thursday the WLF commission is expected to ratify the following proposed dates:
West Zone: Nov. 12-Dec. 4, and Dec. 17-Jan. 22.
East Zone: Nov. 19-27, and Dec. 10-Jan. 29.
The proposal to move the youth weekends to the season split has drawn little support, according to Larry Reynolds, leader of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Waterfowl Study. So expect those special hunts to remain the weekend before the opening of each zone.
The change was the idea of northeast Louisiana hunters, who complained the traditional early youth weekend dates often find the agricultural fields they hunt still too dry for birds. Reynolds said comments from West Zone hunters were running 3-to-1 against the change, and East Zone hunters were 2-to-1 against the move.
Still, a third option could be discussed Thursday.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service says we can hold the Youth Weekends as early as two weeks before the opening of the regular season, and as late as two weeks after the closing — which would put that into February,” Reynolds said. “That’s something that hasn’t been done in years, but maybe something people will want to consider again.”
If the idea is to attract youngsters to the tradition by giving them a crack at a quality hunt (read: a time when the birds are less wary), then my vote would be to move the youth weekend to that spot two weeks before the opener. That date would also give the habitat, and the birds, two full weeks to recover from the two days of shooting.
Of course, the long-range solution to the concerns of those north Louisiana hunters is to realign the state’s waterfowl zones, creating a new zone for those areas. That was Reynolds’ push this offseason, but Service concerns about some of the supporting research will delay any action until next season.