With the annoyance and ravages of Hurricane Isaac slowly becoming a closed chapter in Louisiana’s history, a series of new hunting seasons got under way this past week with others only days away. Like the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, the show must go on, where Old Man Time marches on and respects no one.
The storm delayed the opening of the 2012 East Zone Alligator Season until this past Saturday, while the West Zone opened Wednesday as scheduled. In spite of the delay, there has been no shortage of reptiles caught in the first few days.
Wendall Nunez from Perry has been buying fur and alligator hides for more than 50 years. Learning the trade from his father, Nunez proudly says he bought his first hides when he was just 12 years old.
Nunez said, “After school, when I got home, there would be a couple hundred dollars my dad would leave on my dresser for me. Back then it was the heyday, and we bought a lot of fur. He’d say, ‘Treat the trappers fair — you don’t want to cheat anyone — and try to get a good grade of fur.’ When I was in high school — 15 to 18 years old — I bought a lot of fur and alligator hides before I went to college.”
World economic conditions still remain uncertain and the majority of large-scale tanneries are overseas. Alligator hide prices, though better than the past few years, still remain largely suppressed with the larger hides garnering the better prices.
Nunez said, “The alligator farmers have figured out ways to grow them bigger than in the past. And, alligator skins are sold by belly width to the tanneries, where a big 5-foot farm gator is quite often equal to a longer wild gator. Sometimes, you have to catch a good six- or seven-foot wild alligator to equal the belly width of the farm gator. The wild gators seven-feet and up are worth more per foot than the fives and sixes.”
What’s helping prop up prices in 2012 is meat value, possibly due to the popularity of television shows like Swamp People, Gator Boys and Gator 911 that places Louisiana’s culture in the national spotlight. According to local buyers, prices for 6-foot alligators ranging upwards and more than 10-feet are running anywhere from $14 to $32 per foot, depending on length.
Dove season also opened this past week and wet weather made it difficult for hunters who targeted them.
Rick Moore, owner and operator of Rick Moore Farms, held his annual opening weekend hunt for those willing to make the trip to Welch. Though Moore’s dove fields in Jefferson Davis Parish were well out of the path of Hurricane Isaac, the region wasn’t without rain.
“It was not one of my better opening days,” said Moore, who actually doesn’t hunt Saturday morning of opening weekend because of the noon closing time. Instead, Moore hunts Sunday, where hunters can come in for lunch and refreshments that he provides and go back out in the afternoon, making it a full day hunt.
“We had about 50 hunters come in, and a lot of them killed 12 to 15 birds, which wasn’t bad, but it took them all day to do it. I’d say it was a fair hunt, but not one of our better opening days — it was way too wet. We had one little field that was dry enough and was solid goat weed that they hunted.”
Hunters will get a chance to continue their marksmanship when the 2012 Early Teal Season opens Sept. 15. With the highest breeding number of ducks on record dating back to 1955 when surveys began, the much-anticipated opener should be a good one.
Moore said his Sunday morning dove hunters were treated to arriving flights of teal just before daylight that was nothing short of spectacular ahead of the upcoming season.
“The teal were coming in by the hundreds,” Moore said. “The dove hunters were gathered outside in the yard around 6:30 a.m. and literally by the hundreds, the teal were flying north to south. It was impressive. It was as many teal as I’ve ever seen in my lifetime at this point in time before the season is set to open. I’ve only got 10 of my teal blinds worked so far and I’m booked solid for opening weekend.”
September is also the month when various state lottery hunt announcements are made. Numerous Youth Lottery Deer Hunts are available to choose from, but a word of caution — Sherburne, Floyd Ward McElroy and Sabine Wildlife Management Areas all have Sept. 7 deadlines. Applications must be postmarked no later than Sept. 7 in order for them to be eligible for these particular lottery hunts.
Other Youth Deer Lottery Hunts and their respective deadlines are Buckhorn WMA (Sept. 21), Dewey Wills (Oct. 5) and Red River (Oct. 5). Those interested in the various youth hunts should go to the LDWF website and download applications to mail in. To book a teal hunt with Rick Moore Farms, contact Moore at 337-540-5211.
Fall fishing in the coastal bays and marshes can be nothing short of spectacular as the Atchafalaya River is typically at its lowest and salinity levels tend to increase in coastal waters, bringing in redfish, flounder and speckled trout. There’s nothing like a morning teal hunt, followed immediately afterwards by some excellent red fishing, doing a little blast and cast as they say.
With September the month when things out there in the wild are biting, flying or running, it’s a big month for outdoorsmen in the Sportsman’s Paradise. So, don’t give Old Man Time the upper hand. Let the show begin.
If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story to share, contact John K. Flores at 985-395-5586 or email@example.com.