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Author: Don Dubuc Created: 1/30/2009 4:11 PM
Don Dubuc, outdoorsman, conservationist, columnist, broadcaster, journalist, speaker and host of “Outdoors with Don Dubuc Radio Network” and the Outdoors with Don Dubuc television programs has spent years fishing and hunting the woods, swamps, marshes and bayous of the southeast. He has combined his knowledge and love of the outdoors with a unique ability to provide both experienced and novice sportsmen with techniques and hints for successful hunting and fishing in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Normally this column deals with hunting, but this month there is an issue that crosses over to hunting known as “bow fishing.” Bow fishing, simply put, is shooting a fish with an arrow propelled from a bow.  A line attaching the arrow to the bow allows for retrieval. It is really more like hunting than fishing, but those who participate in it are required by law to have a fishing license, not  a hunting or archery license like bow hunters who hunt deer. It requires stealth and shooting skills. What began as a survival skill has evolved into a sport, one which is primarily done at night since it is more conducive to seeing the fish. Bow fishing is as old as primitive man, but there is a movement afoot to end it.

You see, Louisiana Senator Dan Claitor has authored Senate Bill 573 that would eliminate the taking of red drum with bow and arrow. It's nothing new. There was a similar attempt a few years back that failed to become law. This bill is slightly different in that its only rationalization is that...

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                Now in its 12th year, the light goose (includes snow, blue and Ross’s geese) Conservation Order was implemented by the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reduce the number of these three species which had dramatically increased over the last couple of decades. Light geese have pretty much become a problem to themselves as well as humans. 

Consider the following. These birds have been extremely successful at adapting to agricultural practices in the Midwest and southern United States. When migrating birds began to find abundant food supplies in the form of waste grain, especially rice, they were returning to their northern breeding grounds in better physical shape. This meant they began to produce larger clutches. Additionally, light geese, as opposed to Canada geese which are considered “grazers,” are “grubbers.”  This means they pull out a plant by the roots, destroying it rather than cropping off the top. As a result, large areas of tundra were stripped of vegetation and U.S. Fish & Wildlife...

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                Has there ever been a better match up than the rabbit and the beagle?  Not Godzilla versus King Kong.  Not Ali versus Frazier.  Not even Frankenstein versus Dracula can equal centuries of classic confrontations between relentless, barking canines and the elusive, long-eared jumpers. From Europe to North America, there have probably been more hours spent by small game hunters following packs of beagles pursuing bounding bunnies than anything else.         

Louisiana offers a long season running from the first Saturday in October until the last day in February and a generous 8 per day bag limit.  But it's only after the weather cools enough for dogs and hunters to chase all day and especially after a vegetation-killing frost, that rabbit hunting reaches its peak.  Deer and duck hunting usually take preference in November through January.  That still leaves a full month of prime rabbit hunting. 

By far, most rabbit hunting happens in bottomland hardwoods lined with creeks, briar patches...

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        “Don’t feed the Bears.” Not only are you likely to find that popular sign in zoos and wildlife parks, it’s also a message that the La Department of Wildlife & Fisheries wants to get out to hunters. In a special “Hunters Edition” of Bear Safety in Mind brochure there’s information regarding historical facts about black bear in Louisiana, how to prevent hunter/bear conflicts, what to do should you encounter a bear and laws protecting bears. 

The yet unsolved killing Sunday December 20, of a female Louisiana black bear that was found dead by a hunter on Three Rivers Wildlife management Area in Concordia Parish, is the last in a growing list and proves the need for more and better education about these unique, endangered mammals. 

According to Enforcement Division's Lt. Col. Keith Lacaze the bear was shot. "This is the fourth illegally killed bear on a WMA to date for the 2009-10 hunting season. Three others have been killed on Red River WMA,” he said.  “This is the fourth illegally killed bear on a WMA to date for the 2009-10 hunting season.  This bear, along with her three cubs, was moved in 2006 as part of the multi-agency Louisiana Black Bear Reintroduction Program. She denned on Three Rivers WMA and produced two cubs in 2009. The status of her orphaned cubs is unknown. ...

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December is the hunter’s rush hour. Ducks, geese and deer seasons are in full swing, and it is not easy working as many trips in as possible between all the playoff football games and family holiday gatherings. For the more serious hunters it is the other way around.    

Doves, snipe and woodcock are often overlooked as late season game. Doves are without a doubt the most forgotten late season quarries.  Dove hunting is regarded as a late summertime hunting season kickoff.  It is usually associated with freshly harvested grain fields lined with hunters and their dogs. It’s a social event. Leg band recoveries since 2003 show approximately one-third of the banded doves are taken by hunters on opening day. Another third of these banded birds are taken by the end of opening weekend. I contend those figures are not the result of a lack of birds later in the year but a lack of hunters going after them. 

Well, for a very few of us who some might consider anti-social, late season is the most enjoyable time to hunt doves.  Think about it. The September opening in Louisiana is usually in 90 plus degree heat complete with bugs and a guy next to you who thinks his 20 gauge has the range of an anti-aircraft gun and whose dog you’d like to be left alone with for just 2 days.  Not only do few hunters venture out for doves; most don’t even realize we have a mid December to early January season. No, there won’t be a freshly mowed field to stand in and for sure you won’t see as many birds but you won’t feel any bug bites and won’t have to put up with Joe Yahoo. You probably won’t hit many because the fact they’re alive and flying proves that no one else has managed to hit these fast flyers either. And they haven’t gotten any slower. The key here is finding and setting up on their natural flyways. Food sources are slim this time of year, look for whatever they’re feeding on and they won’t be far away.  Another late season dove tactic is to jump shoot them. Look for small feeding flocks to be well hidden in thin straw-type grass that has those tiny black seeds late in winter. These patches are often found in clear cuts. Tallow tree groves will also hold birds feeding on their dried seeds. At last some useful purpose for these unwanted exotics that have been swallowing up St. Tammany woodlands for the last 30 years. But that’s another story for another day. 

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 On a Saturday morning twelve years ago, I remember fifteen year-old Trey Steen, shot a full six-duck limit his first time out. What's even stranger is he did it a week after the season closed. No, Trey didn’t break the law.  His hunting trip was perfectly legal.  Jan 24, 1998, was designated as the first Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day in Louisiana. It was such a success that 3 years later it was expanded to 2 days and became even more popular when it was moved to the weekend BEFORE the regular seasons. This means the weather and number of young and unwary birds available should be much better than at the end.





In an effort to introduce more youngsters to the sport of duck and goose hunting, Louisiana followed a national trend in establishing a special season outside the regular season for young hunters. On these days only hunters 15 and younger accompanied by an adult 18 or older are allowed to participate. Only the youngsters are allowed to shoot, the adults are only along for supervision....

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            This latest generation of hunters, not surprisingly, might ask, “Were there ever any quail and quail hunters in Louisiana?” They read the hunting regulation pamphlet and see where we have a lengthy 14-week open season (Nov 21-Feb 28) with generous 10-bird daily and 20-bird possession limits. Yet no, or very few, hunters they know actually hunt quail.

            Not that Louisiana ever has had the long-standing upland bird hunting traditions found in neighboring Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, but there’s no escaping reality.  Louisiana quail hunters are at an all-time low. From the heyday of quail hunting in the mid 1970s, when there were 25-30,000 of us.  Our ranks have dwindled to a fewer than 3,000. Sure, here in the sportsman’s paradise, our hunting roots are deeply planted in squirrel, duck and deer traditions, but that’s never stopped us from finding time to stalk less popular game species.

            For those of us who have had the pleasure of participating in the “gentlemanly...

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As my retriever returned with a fine drake pintail my buddy whispered from his end of the duck blind, “Check him for jewelry!”  It took a second for what he was saying to sink in but as usual this bird had no leg band. Well, there was a double-banded snow goose I’m certain I shot but was quickly scoffed up by a claim jumper next to me in the goose pit but that’s another story for another day. 

You would think after 40 plus years of shooting quail, doves, woodcock, rails, gallinules, mergansers, snipe, coots, ducks and geese, it would be harder for me NOT TO HAVE shot a banded bird. I’ve got hunting buddies who have collected so many leg bands they’ve made necklaces and bracelets. I’ve sat next to them in blinds, on levees, in fields and swamps and watched as the birds they’ve shot brandish their special “jewelry.” But for me, no such luck.  Just once I’d like to make that toll-free call to report details of my kill and learn the life story of my quarry – hasn’t happened, at least not yet.

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 There was a time when I thought I was the only person who chased the purple ghosts of the bayou. Well, truthfully I never really thought I was the only one but very often I wondered who the handful of other hunters might be who took advantage of the white-meat answer to poule’ deau known as gallinules.

That was until those lean years when duck hunting bottomed out with a 30-day season and a three-bird limit and a halt to the season’s appetizer, the teal season. Now things are different, or the same again, depending how you look at it. 16-day teal and 60-day, six-bird duck seasons have been, and continue to be, the norm.

Right now you’re probably thinking, have I seen these things before? Let’s get down to what is and what isn’t a real honest to goodness gallinule. Even before the days of reduced waterfowl action I was out there stalking, paddling the bayous off Lakes Salvador and Des Allemands. The dead-end pipelines make perfect hiding and feeding places for these shy, wily members of the shorebird...

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During the hot summertime months most hunters are in the planning mode. You know,    securing leases, designing food plots, making plans for stands and blinds maybe even reserving vacation dates at lodges. But it’s a safe bet very few are strategizing their upcoming nutria hunts. Recreational nutria hunting really hasn’t caught on even while the state’s program designed to control an explosive population to reduce or eliminate damage to our wetlands has been a rousing success. It’s also proof-positive that putting a price tag on wildlife can put a serious dent in populations. In most cases this would be a bad thing, but in the case of nutria, a good one.

 

Now in its 7th year, the LA Department of Wildlife & Fisheries’ Coastwide Nutria Control Program concluded its 2008-09 season crediting 262 participants with taking out 334,038 of the orange-toothed, rat-tailed critters. These registered “bounty hunters” bagged 25,826 more than last year bringing the total since the program began to 1,790,829....

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Never could decide if catching frogs is hunting or fishing so I just call it “frogging.” In Louisiana we have a 10-month open frog season. Only a valid fishing license is required. April and May are the only months when frogging is not legal.   Size limits are measured from tip of muzzle to posterior of body between the hind legs, and are 5 inches for bullfrogs and 3 inches for pig frogs. Not being a catch and release sport (at least not intentionally) there are no limits on how many frogs you can take home. No firearms are allowed when frogging, but it’s ok to take them at night with lights, gigs, spears, nets, etc. The best method is determined by the species hunted and the terrain. Bullfrogs (at 5-15 inches, the largest frogs in North America) are more common in swamps and along rivers and bayous that have high, dry banks. Pig frogs (3-7 inches and named for their “hog-like” grunting sounds) are more common in marshy terrain like duck ponds. Sometimes their territories overlap allowing you to catch both species...

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 “I want your job,” say people I meet all the time. “You can’t have it, I’m not ready to give it up,” I always reply.

After all, hunting, fishing, and then writing and talking about it on TV and radio certainly has appeal. And although that description of my job as an “outdoor writer” is a gross oversimplification it represents the dream of many. But the cemetery is full of wannabee writers. With newspapers on the ropes, TV shows plentiful as gnats on a calm day in Hopedale, and the internet headed who-knows-where, the future of aspiring young outdoor writers is shaky at best. But I guess there will always be places for those of us who love to make their living in and telling stories about the outdoors.

To create an interest in outdoor journalism and help prepare future writers, our Louisiana Outdoor Writer Association sponsors an annual Youth Journalism Contest. I’m encouraging parents and teachers to encourage students to participate in this event. It’s open to all students in two essay categories:...

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It’s no secret that statistics have shown a steady decline in hunting license sales for a number of years. The reasons are numerous and varied: no place to hunt, younger would–be hunters are preoccupied with ball sports or “indoor pastimes” like computers, I-pods, video games, etc. True, we have become a more urbanized society and nation than ever, and a hunter’s first thoughts might be; “Good, now it won’t be so crowded in the woods and more game for the rest of us.”

 

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February stinks. Well ok, I guess many folks are happy because there is Mardi Gras and King Cakes, but at least for hunters and this goes for fishermen too, February really does stink. It’s cold and dreary, the only water left by the low tide is muddy and almost every hunting season is shut down. Yeah sure, there’s snipe and the goose conservation order, but those aren’t exactly the most popular seasons. But it is a good time to take a look at the future of our hunting and shooting heritage as we get past the inauguration of a new president and administration.

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