Duck hunting season opens in Mississippi and Louisiana

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ducks take flight at the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is one of several locations in the Miss-Lou where hunters will have the opportunity to hunt ducks. The Mississippi season opens Nov. 25, and the Louisiana season opened Saturday. (Submitted photo)

NATCHEZ — It’s the time of year for Miss-Lou hunters to grab their duck calls, pack up their decoys and call their best retriever to prepare for the opening of duck season.

Duck, merganser and coot season opens Nov. 25 in Mississippi, and the Louisiana season for ducks, mergansers and coots opened Saturday.

Mississippi hunters will only get a taste of duck season in the coming weeks. The first opportunity for hunters is Nov. 25-27. The season will open back up on Dec. 2 and last through Dec. 4. Then on Dec. 7 the season opens and lasts until Jan. 29.

The sporadic seasons give hunters the best chance at good hunting within the allowed federal framework, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks program biologist James Callicutt said.

“We have meetings where we meet with biologists across the (Mississippi) flyway, and we make recommendations on season lengths,” Callicutt said. “Hunters are allowed to hunt 60 days this year. The federal council made a set framework, and we can be as liberal as that framework allows.”

The Louisiana season runs from Nov. 19-27 and from Dec. 10-Jan. 29, 2012.

Callicutt said hunters would need to have a state small game license along with state and federal duck stamps to hunt ducks in Mississippi. Hunters will also need to purchase wildlife management area permits for $15 if they choose to hunt at state WMAs.

Callicutt said there have been both positive and negative signs for the potential success of hunters this duck season.

“The numbers from the breeding grounds were excellent,” he said. “Whether or not they sow up en mass in Mississippi has a lot to do with the weather. Right now, we have dry habitat conditions, so semi-permanent wetlands are best. If it has water, typically it will have some ducks. I would say hunters should expect the first part of this season to be similar to last year.”

Callicutt said hunters should hope for cold weather north of Mississippi to push ducks further south.

Callicutt said the biggest tip he could provide duck hunters this season is to look for good habitat in advance.

“The big thing this year is finding some habitat with water in it,” he said. “(Hunters should) get out, and scouting will be key to find areas that have birds. Getting out and putting in the time and effort in scouting will help a whole lot.”

Callicutt said many hunters prefer to hunt on private lands, but there are also several WMAs in the state for duck hunters.

“Our wildlife management areas have a lot of great public waterfowl opportunity, especially in the Delta,” he said.”

Callicutt said there are also federal wildlife refuge areas such as St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge that provide opportunities as well.

St. Catherine Creek Refuge Manager Bob Strader said many people use the refuge for duck hunting each season.

“Duck hunting is pretty popular on the refuge,” he said. “It kind of comes and goes to some degree with the population and hunter success. Last year hunter success was high throughout the season, so we had quite a few people hunting.”

Strader said on a given day there are generally 12 to 15 groups of hunters, and the groups range from one to five hunters each.

Strader said water levels on the refuge play a huge role in the abundance of ducks.

“We have pretty good hunting at times as long as we have ducks,” he said. “Last year it was actually pretty good. This year it’s been low, but we haven’t had any water, and we don’t have as much food as we’d like to have, because the river was up so high (during the flood) we couldn’t grow grain crops.”

St. Catherine Creek also requires a $15 annual public use permit to hunt on the refuge. The refuge is open to hunting on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the season. Hunters can begin 30 minutes before sunrise and hunt until noon. Hunters, decoys and blinds must be out of the refuge by 1 p.m. each day.

“We close a couple of days (each week) to let the ducks rest,” Strader said. “Basically we need a lot of rest areas for the ducks, because if you shoot every day in the same spot you don’t have any ducks in those areas.”

Strader said there are also duck hunting opportunities at Bayou Cocodrie NWR, Three Rivers WMA, Red River WMA and Homochitto National Forest.

There will also be a youth waterfowl weekend in Mississippi after the season ends, Callicutt said. The first weekend of February will be the youth waterfowl weekend.